Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Ball Is In Miguel Cotto’s Court – Mayweather or Canelo?


Following his loss to Austin Trout, one could never have envisioned Miguel Cotto back atop the boxing world. On Saturday night, Cotto shocked the world and taking the middleweight crown Sergio Martinez. Cotto now surveys the landscape from 147 to 160 pounds. His opponent: whoever he wants.

Coming into Saturday, the residual after effects from his loss to Antonio Margarito were clearly evident. Margarito’s fingerprints were all over Cotto’s past performances. He was cautious at all times. He abandoned an explosive offensive style that made him a star, and instead looked to bully his way to the inside so he can land counter-shots. He became defense first and abandoned punches that would leave him vulnerable.

All of that changed when Miguel Cotto began his partnership with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Roach proved why he’s highly sought after by erasing the past that held Cotto back. Through Roach, Miguel Cotto was brought back to square one and rebuilt from the ground up. No more hesitation. No more caution. No more fear of letting his hands go.

Watching Miguel Cotto on Saturday was like watching a carefully constructed machine. Everything he did was precise. There were no wasted movements. It was all perfect. From the 3 knockdowns in the opening round to his heavy left hook that continually rocked Sergio Martinez.

There are certainly arguments one could make for Cotto looking so spectacular. Martinez wasn’t the guy he once was, his knees were shot, etc. The thing that counters all of that is the eye test. Miguel Cotto looked like Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning. Sure, there was a freak chance he could have given up a Luis Gonzalez bloop single, but Mariano in his prime was unhittable. Above that, he got even better as the pressure increased. That look you saw in Rivera’s eyes. The way his warm up pitches looked. That dread you felt if you were a fan of the other team. That’s what you saw when you looked at Miguel Cotto on Saturday.

Cotto showed no respect or sign that he was intimidated by an elite middleweight with power. Cotto showed no hesitation to go to the body and let his hands go. We hadn’t seen Cotto on that level since 2008. But there was one change. Unlike the Cotto of old who often got caught when he was on the attack, this Cotto was defensively sound. It looked like everything he’d learned from  former trainers Pedro Diaz and the late Emanuel Steward all came together under Freddie Roach. With his victory on Saturday, Miguel Cotto enters his 2nd prime. He enters with the middleweight title and all the leverage to negotiate a fight with whomever he wishes.

The 1st and most obvious choice would be a rematch with Floyd Mayweather. For a long time, we’ve all wondered how another Freddie Roach fighter would do against Mayweather. With Cotto, there are no barriers to that fight like there are with the other guy. Cotto does not have a contract and is free to fight who he wishes. Freddie Roach has already begun the promotion for the fight by telling reporters after Saturday’s fight that the Miguel Cotto trained by him will knock Floyd Mayweather out.

Why would Mayweather take this fight? Well, first of all he’s already beaten Cotto. With the exception of 4 rounds, Mayweather absolutely dominated that version of Cotto. Cotto was consistently beaten to the punch and made to pay for his misses. Cotto was even wobbled in the final round. Mayweather knows he can beat Cotto. Add onto that the opportunity to become a champion in 6 divisions and to hold 2 lineal titles at the same time. It’s an attractive offer.

The question of whether or not Mayweather is willing to go to 160 pounds, giving Cotto the edge in weight, could be enough to deter Mayweather away. Also, Mayweather has already gotten himself locked into a date at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for September 13th. Would he be willing to move the date (possibly to December) to give Cotto an extra couple of months of recuperation? (Suddenly, a Maidana rematch doesn’t sound so hot.)

The biggest selling point for this fight is this: Cotto arguably won 4 rounds off Mayweather without Freddie Roach in his corner? What’s possible for him with Freddie Roach?

Mayweather has proven that he always chooses his opponents by looking at who is coming off the hottest victory. Who’s got everyone in boxing talking. It was Maidana following their close fight in May, but now it’s unanimously Miguel Cotto. The rematch could shatter pay-per-view records if they go through with it.

Should Mayweather not happen, Canelo Alvarez is the next best option for Cotto. Canelo has proven he’s a legit star in the sport, and though his game plan against Mayweather was a bit underwhelming, he’s an explosive combination puncher with heavy hands. Floyd Mayweather said in the post-fight press conference after the Maidana fight that Canelo hit him with a left hook that he still felt to that day. A guy with heavy hands can never be discounted against Miguel Cotto.

The Puerto Rico vs Mexico narrative would be rekindled. Imagine Madison Square Garden if Cotto dropped Canelo. Imagine MGM if Canelo dropped Cotto. These are the type of events that make great fights special. With Canelo and Cotto, there’s something special. An opportunity to have thousands of screaming fans lose their minds. An opportunity for a young star to win a legit world title in a higher division. Or maybe the opportunity for Miguel Cotto to score yet another unlikely win. These 2 promise a potential fight of the year on paper.

It’s tough to argue which fight makes more sense. Financially, it’s probably the Mayweather fight. On every other level, it’s gotta be Canelo. Canelo is naturally bigger. He’s the darling and future of boxing. His style is conducive to the kind of war that would have boxing fans talking for years. That accomplishment could live forever, though taking Mayweather’s undefeated record is perhaps the greatest accomplishment any fighter in the sport could achieve.

Regardless of Cotto’s choice, if there’s one thing we know about Cotto, it’s this: he’s an excellent businessman. He abandoned Showtime following the loss to Trout to come back and chase Sergio Martinez. A plan so perfectly executed that it may have overtaken the heist in Oceans 11 as the smoothest plan ever laid. Cotto knows how to negotiate, to promote himself, and to put himself in position to be successful. Whatever the choice may be, it will certainly afford him the greatest opportunity for himself and his family.

And if that’s not enough, he’s got Freddie Roach in his ear. If there’s one man that knows how to carefully pick opponents, it’s him.

Tags: Boxing Canelo Alvarez Floyd Mayweather Miguel Cotto