By Jake Donovan
For years we've demanded more big fights on a consistent basis. Boxing finally delivers, only for fans to demand more. Tune-ups and showcase bouts need not apply.
This can be the only excuse for boxing fans souring on the thought of a proposed April HBO doubleheader featuring Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito in separate bouts. The design of such a show is obviously to serve as a prelude to a Cotto-Margarito summer showdown, providing Margarito were to get past former linear welterweight champ Zab Judah and Cotto conquers Season One Contender fan favorite Alfonso Gomez.
It's the thought of a Cotto-Gomez bout that has fans cringing.
No, the bout isn't exactly a pick-'em matchup, but damn, isn't even a young, undefeated lion like Miguel Cotto entitled to a perceived soft touch every now and then?
Yes, fights against Floyd Mayweather or Paul Williams would be far more ideal, or even an all-Boricua showdown between Cotto and Kermit Cintron. But until those fighters make themselves available for such a fight, Cotto needs to keep busy. We're talking about a fighter who, in an era where two fights per year is considered staying active, still shows up 3-4 fights-per-year template.
His 2007 campaign was by far the most impressive of his seven year career, grinding out wins over a trio of Top 10 welterweight contenders (ranked at the time of the fight) in Oktay Urkal, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, the latter two headlining separate HBO PPV events at Madison Square Garden. Throw in his December 2006 stoppage win over Carlos Quintana, and Cotto managed to squeeze in wins over four legitimate Top 10 contenders in less than 12 months.
Going from Champion to number 10 using BoxingScene's welterweight rankings, the following a breakdown of how the ranked fighters records against one another, as well as ranked contenders in other divisions. Wait until you see who owns the best record.
Champ: Floyd Mayweather 2-0 (W12 Zab Judah, #7, 147; W12 Oscar de la Hoya (#4, 154)
1) Miguel Cotto 4-0 (W12 Shane Mosley, #5, 147; TKO 10 Judah, #7, 147; W12 Paulie Malignaggi, #2, 140); TKO7 Ricardo Torres, #3, 140)
2) Paul Williams 1-0 (W12 Antonio Margarito, #4, 147)
3) Kermit Cintron 0-1 (L TKO5 Margarito, #4, 147)
4) Antonio Margarito 1-2, 1NC (L12 Williams, #1, 147; TKO5 Cintron, #3, 147; L10, ND1 Daniel Santos, #9, 154
5) Shane Mosley 3-5 (L12 (2x) Winky Wright, #3, 160;, L12 (2x) Vernon Forrest, #2, 154; W12 (2x) de la Hoya (#4, 154; L12 Cotto, #1,147; W12 Luis Collazo, #6, 147)
6) Luis Collazo 0-2 (L12 Mosley, #5, 147), L12 Ricky Hatton, CHAMP, 140)
7) Zab Judah 2-3 (L12 Mayweather, CHAMP, 147; L-TKO10 Cotto, #1, 147; TKO9, L12 Cory Spinks, #1, 154; W12 Junior Witter, #1, 140)
8) Andre Berto 0-0
9) Joshua Clottey 0-0
10) Isaac Hlatshwayo 1-1 (L12 Kendall Holt, #7, 140; W12 Nate Campbell, #4, 135)
Surprise, surprise. Keep in mind, Cotto's four wins over presently ranked contenders have all come within his last seven fights, covering a span of just 26 months. Urkal and Quintana were also ranked at the time they stepped in the ring with Cotto, which essentially gives Cotto just one tune-up over that stretch – his 8 th round stoppage over Gianluca Branco in March 2006.
Simply put, the kid is long overdue for a break.
But let's not completely dismiss Alfonso Gomez, who has made a career out of overcoming adversity and defying the odds, dating back to his upset win over Peter Manfredo in the inaugural episode of The Contender three years ago. Gomez remains a fringe contender at best, but has enjoyed far more post-Contender success than any of his fellow alumni, retiring Arturo Gatti last summer and ending his 2007 campaign with a thorough points win over welterweight trialhorse Ben Tackie last October on ESPN.
Those who insist that Cotto and his promoter, Bob Arum, are taking the April assignment in haste, no longer reserve the right to question the business end that has plagued the sport for far too long. Team Cotto targeted two fights – Mayweather (the one superfight boxing fans crave) and de la Hoya (the one other fight that puts Cotto in a much higher tax bracket). The former claims that the Puerto Rican isn't quite yet ready for him, while the latter forced him to play the waiting game while taking the holidays and then some to decide who gets to stand in the opposite corner on May 3.
Wouldn't you know that it could possibly be Mayweather once again?
Once Arum caught wind of the rumor, he decided to move on, as any sensible promoter would do. With HBO dates filling up quickly, he targets an April 26 date for Cotto.
Before you complain about Gomez, keep in mind his options. Paul Williams is locked in for a February 9 HBO Boxing After Dark headliner against Carlos Quintana (whom Cotto stopped in five rounds 13 months ago), with Andre Berto appearing on the undercard. Joshua Clottey , once rumored as a possible Cotto opponent for a March slot that has since been given to Don King, is now in line to face Kermit Cintron . Two birds, one stone. Looking around at the rest of the Top 10, Cotto's already fought Mosley and Judah, the latter whom is rumored to face Margarito as the co-feature to Cotto-Gomez.
That leaves Luis Collazo and Isaac Hlatshwayo, neither of whom have done much of anything in the recent past, and from a styles perspective don't figure to bring the same entertainment value (if even competitive action) a Cotto-Gomez fight would surely produce.
After you sit down and think on it for a while, a Miguel Cotto-Alfonso Gomez isn't that bad of a fight. It keeps Cotto busy, something sorely missing among today's best fighters. It will appear on HBO and not PPV, an important step in continuing to build Cotto's fan base.
Best of all, it certainly beats the alternative – Cotto sitting around, waiting for fights that most likely never materialize.
So cut Miguel Cotto some slack. Either the big fights will come, or Cotto will continue to make big fights on his own, regardless of who's in the other corner.
Isn't that boxing the way it ought to be?
Jake Donovan is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and presently serves on the Tennessee Boxing Advisory Board. His column runs every Tuesday on BoxingScene.com. Please feel free to submit any comments or questions to Jake at [email protected]