WHEN Miguel Cotto was outfought and outfoxed by Austin Trout in his Madison Square Garden lair to close out a depressing 2012 (he’d already lost to Floyd Mayweather Jnr in May that year) it was tempting to read the Puerto Rican idol his last rites as an elite world title fighter.
However, he ditched former Cuban Olympic coach Pedro Diaz (who made a highly positive first impression for Cotto’s successful revenge mission against Antonio Margarito, but now seems to have found the perfect fit in his former amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux) for the esteemed mitt work of Freddie Roach and the sweaty aromas of Los Angeles’ famous Wild Card Gym. Now Cotto has rarely looked better.
His one-sided, four-round shellacking of former two-time middleweight king Daniel Geale on Saturday night – albeit a potentially weight-drained version of the Tasmanian stylist after the pair agreed to a 157lbs catchweight – was an emphatic warning shot to all in the vicinity of the middleweight kingdom.
Miguel weighed in under the 154lb light-middleweight limit for his latest destructive outing and so is not a fully-fledged middleweight. He had been out of the ring for 364 days since he upset the then WBC champion Sergio Martinez to snatch the iconic green belt off the brilliant, but ageing Argentine. But Cotto showed no hint of ring-rust at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Trout’s methodical number on the Puerto Rican warlord seemed to scupper all plans for an assumed Saul “Canelo” Alvarez unification bout. You’d have been lying then if you said three years on from that debacle, the same Canelo match-up would arguably be the biggest draw in the sport, and that includes Mayweather’s yet to be announced dance partner for the 49th and supposedly final fight of his Hall of Fame career.
Tantalisingly, following Canelo’s recent bludgeoning of the ultra fan-friendly, but slightly over-matched, and increasingly inactive James Kirkland in front of 39,000 fans in Houston last month, we find ourselves in just such a scenario.
The public groundswell for Cotto to tackle Canelo is soon to be deafening. However, with the protagonists seemingly open to swapping their spiteful leather and both sets of promoters emitting agreeable soundbites, a huge autumnal showdown to coincide with Mexican Independence Day in September looks inevitable, and vastly more lucrative than it would have been two years previous.
Whilst fistic fate has played a blinding hand to conjure up a brilliant pick’em match-up here, generally speaking, leaving fights to linger is a perilous situation. Of course, the recent Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao super fight was an exception to this convention, growing into a monster that sold 4.4 million pay-per-views, almost doubling the previous record for Mayweather-Alvarez in September 2013. Mayweather, boxing’s shrewdest operator, played the waiting game to perfection, topping up The Money Team coffers with surgical-like precision when winning by unanimous decision.
However, the managers, promoters and match-makers can get it badly wrong when daring to dream of riches beyond the avarice. Top Rank supremo Bob Arum was certainly guilty of such insatiable yearnings when prolonging the seemingly inevitable clash of his two featherweight world champions Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa in early 2011. Unfortunately for Arum, Mexican hard case Orlando Salido had other ideas, making a mockery of the 11 losses on his highly unprotected 47-fight ledger to brutally finish ‘Juanma’ in eight savage rounds, before repeating the feat in a 10-round barnstormer the following spring.
Gamboa was left without a golden ticket to riches that the unification fight would inevitably have produced, and potentially pay-per-view stardom. The former Cuban Olympic gold medallist seemed to lose motivation thereafter and his subsequent inactivity and promotional fall-out with Top Rank accentuated his fall from grace. Although he claimed interim straps at both super-feather and lightweight, his ferocious speed had evaporated and his sparse ring activity was cruelly exposed by rising Nebraska star Terence Crawford last year.
Another more famous example of a golden meal ticket gone begging was Mike Tyson’s calamitous reverse to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in February 1990. Evander Holyfield’s ringside perch must have made for particularly uncomfortable viewing given the vast riches he’d been promised as Iron Mike’s next box office foe. Of course, “The Real Deal” would get his man twice later in the decade, but he’d be significantly short-changed in comparison to the proposed 1990 blockbuster showdown and half an ear worse off for his Sin City troubles.
Cotto may have Trout to thank for boxing’s latest box office catch, but we can only hope that the pair’s second chance at insatiable riches is swiftly reeled in, for waiting on a third would just be plain greedy.