By Jake Donovan
Saturday’s middleweight championship showdown between Miguel Cotto and Daniel Geale is no longer a weighty issue. Both combatants came within the contracted 157 lb. catchweight in place for their headliner at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Cotto tipped the scales at a lean and ready 153.6 lbs. Geale brought about a collective sigh of relief after weighing in right at the catchweight limit of 157 lbs., his lightest weight in more than eight years.
There was weeklong concern over whether or not Geale (31-3, 16KOs) could come within the contracted weight agreement. Eyebrows were raised when he tipped the scales at 167.5 lbs. during the World Boxing Council (WBC)-mandated 7-day pre-fight safety check (Cotto holds the WBC belt in addition to his recognition as the World lineal middleweight king).
Geale and promoter Gary Shaw have also expressed their displeasure over having to agree to the catchweight. Cynics note that they could have said no, but such a stance would have resulted in missing out on the sizeable payday that comes with fighting Cotto.
With the scale drama now behind him, the 34-year old Aussie can move towards becoming a three-time middleweight titlist. Geale claimed each of his two previously held titles on the road, scoring split decision wins over Sebastian Sylvester (May ’11) and Felix Sturm (Sept. ’12) in Germany.
The win over Sturm made Geale the first ever Australia-born fighter to become a unified titlist. His two-belt reign lasted only as long as his next fight, however; an agreement to a rematch with countryman Anthony Mundine meant having to dump one belt, as his bout with Sturm came with the condition that the winner would have to face Gennady Golovkin.
Geale eventually faced Golovkin, but not after losing his title to Darren Barker in his stateside debut nearly two years ago.
The loss to Barker also marked his first appearance on HBO, faring far better than was the case last summer when he was knocked out in three rounds by Golovkin at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He has since won a 12-round decision over countryman Jarrod Fletcher last December.
Cotto (39-4, 32KOs) made history when he claimed the World middleweight crown exactly 52 weeks ago. A shockingly one-sided 10th round stoppage of Sergio Martinez made him the first ever fighter from Puerto Rico to claim major titles in four separate weight classes, having previously served as champ at junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight.
Originally in store for his first title defense was to be a mouthwatering clash with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The bout was heavily discussed for Alvarez’ return to HBO, with the two eyeing a fight date in May. However, Cotto decided it wasn’t the right time for such a fight, with his stance during the negotiation process not sitting well with many in the boxing industry.
Such a fight is back on the table for this fall. A deal was reportedly reached, as per the terms in HBO agreeing to air Cotto-Geale, a fight in which the network was not interested as a one-off event.
The 34-year old defending World champ additionally made headlines earlier this year after signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. The news came as a shocker to many, as he had previously reconciled with Top Rank after breaking from his longtime promoter for a two-fight stint in 2012.
His reunion with Top Rank had also come with his joining forces with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Only two fights have followed—a 3rd round stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez in Oct. ’13 to end his two-fight losing streak (dropping decisions to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout), and then last year’s championship winning effort over Martinez.
Saturday’s bout will serve as a standalone feature on HBO, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET. It also marks Cotto’s first under the Roc Nation banner, as well as the company’s first HBO-televised event after making its official debut earlier this year.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox