By Jake Donovan
As has become the norm these days, a simple Tweet from a celebrity developed into groundbreaking news.
For Miguel Cotto, the words he typed in two separate messages of 140 characters or less officially confirmed a homecoming for one the sport’s premiere action fighters.
“I will be back in the ring on Oct(ober) 5th on HBO, with Top Rank and Freddie Roach in my corner,” Cotto announced over the weekend. His ring return will take place somewhere in Florida – either Orlando or Miami – against an opponent to be determined. “With this in mind, I will continue to keep working hard for the best benefits of me, my family and my company (Promociones Miguel Cotto).”
The bout – which may or may not come against former 154 lb. title challenger Delvin Rodriguez - will serve as a prelude to HBO’s first pay-per-event of 2013, which comes the following weekend when Tim Bradley faces Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas.
Cotto’s decision to turn to Roach is the lone new bit of business in the aforementioned tweet. The other two-thirds of the message meant a reunion with two entities who played a large part in transforming the Puerto Rican from a promising prospect fresh out of the 2000 Summer Olympics into a formidable superstar.
The decade or so since Cotto’s first appearance on HBO in 2003 have watched the former three-division champ develop into arguably the biggest draw in the North American boxing scene outside of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
But that’s not why he’s back where he began. Or at least not the entire reason.
“Miguel still has a lot to contribute to the sport,” insists Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank and a key factor in bringing the widely popular Puerto Rican back to his company’s stable, if only for one fight at a time. “He’s one of the biggest names in the sport. He entertains at the highest level of the sport. He lost to a difficult style in (Mayweather) and then to (Austin) Trout.
“He did what he had to do to make those fights. I see a lot of opportunities for him for as long as he wants to fight. I think the fans have a few more years to enjoy him.”
There were no hard feelings when Cotto decided to move on from Top Rank heading into 2012. The move came on the heels of his Dec. ’11 revenge-fueled rematch win over Antonio Margarito, the first man to defeat him though the circumstances under which the fight took place remain suspect, though suggestion of any wrongdoing remains speculative.
Cotto believes to this day that Margarito entered their July ’08 encounter with illegal hand wraps, similar to what was discovered prior to the Mexican’s eventual knockout loss to Shane Mosley in his very next fight. That belief became an integral part of the buildup to the rematch, a stance that promoter Bob Arum wasn’t willing to publicly support.
That a promoter would remain neutral is understandable, but was no secret that it didn’t sit well with Cotto. His rematch with Margarito came at a time when a decision was still up in the air as to whether or not he would return to Top Rank. Proof that his eventual decision wasn’t personal was found in the form of said scenario remaining on the table in 2012, until Cotto decided to move on purely for business reasons.
“Miguel and I have always had and continue to enjoy a really good relationship,” duBoef states. “I understood the move to secure the Mayweather fight. It was a civil situation.”
Cotto decided to go about securing a Mayweather fight on his own, given the frigid situation between the sport’s top fighter and Top Rank, for whom the unbeaten pound-for-pound king used to fight before severing all ties for good in 2006.
Even in the seven years since moving on from Top Rank, Mayweather still speaks highly of duBoef. The same can clearly be said of the Top Rank prez and Cotto.
“It’s never an all-or-nothing scenario with me,” duBoef insists, one of the few in the industry able to separate business and pleasure. “I have a great deal of pride in the product we created in Miguel. He did what he had to do to make the Mayweather fight happen. We were both responsible for the lack of communication after that.”
The loss to Mayweather was Cotto’s last affiliated fight with HBO. Cotto spent the rest of his 2012 campaign continuing to work with Golden Boy Promotions, with whom his own promotional company has enjoyed a working relationship on the regional level.
That relationship parlayed into a one-fight return to Showtime, delivering strong ratings though in a losing effort to Trout, his first ever loss at Madison Square Garden after seven straight wins in the world’s most famous arena.
The event didn’t carry the same feel as Cotto’s previous appearances at the venue, leaving the boxing superstar to seriously ponder his future. Eventually came the decision to return to his roots.
Cotto has enjoyed 18 fights on HBO - along with several more pay-per-view undercard showcases - dating back to his 4th round knockout of Joel Perez way back in April ’03. October will mark his 19th appearance on HBO, though his first with Roach and also his first in Florida, where he normally sets up training camp. This time, the opposite will prove true as he heads West to hook up with Roach before returning to the Sunshine State only long enough for the fight and its accompanying promotions.
“Florida as a whole has a huge Caribbean influence, especially in Miami and Orlando, which boasts the largest Puerto Rican population anywhere in the United States outside of New York,” duBoef points out, when asked why there and not New York, where most of his career has taken place when not spent at home in Puerto Rico. “Aside from the fact that the New York venues we were looking at aren’t available for that time, we feel that we can put together something big in Florida for this event.”
All it took was for two old friends to catch up.
“It was a refreshing moment for both of us,” duBoef recalls of when he and Cotto were able to meet following the fighter’s temporary – albeit amicable – split with Top Rank. “We had a long conversation. I just wanted to be at peace, regardless of what happened.
“Now we can finish together. I love every time Miguel fights. Boxing fans are engaged when he’s in the ring. I’m glad we are going down this road together. It’s good to know that relationships prevail.”
For HBO, Top Rank and for boxing fans, it also means that a hero gets to return home.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.