35-year-old Miguel Cotto’s history of violence has taken plenty of hard knocks along the way. The latest were the insulting scorecards that handed Saul “Canelo” Alvarez a lopsided victory after 12 close rounds, causing the Puerto Rican veteran to storm from the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas ring in disgust, and his trainer Freddie Roach to rage at officials in utter disbelief. That’s not to say that Alvarez didn’t deserve his triumph in Las Vegas – he did – but the scores of 117-111 (John McKaie), 118-110 (Burt A. Clements) and 119-109 (Dave Moretti) were indeed perplexing after a top-drawer scrap that swung both ways.
Miguel Cotto opted to not attend the post-fight press conference, such was his disappointment, leaving a seething Roach to field questions from the media. “I thought my guy fought a good fight,” he said. “We had a game plan to outbox him and I thought we did that. His [Cotto’s] defence was impeccable and he threw lots of good combinations. I don’t know what those scores were about. It was a good, close fight, a competitive fight… There’s four members in our team and not one of them thought he lost. The scoring was bad. There’s no f****** way we lost by that much. We won the fight.”
The esteemed coach – credited with turning the Puerto Rican’s career around in recent years – did admit that Cotto gave away a few rounds, but when asked by a young reporter which ones in particular, Roach suddenly snapped.
“What rounds?” he asked, aghast. “I don’t know. I don’t keep a scorecard in my pocket. What kind of a question is that? Jesus Christ.”
From this viewpoint, youth and strength eventually pushed the pendulum in Alvarez’s favour, and to a 115-113 success. The older man boxed elegantly at times, his jab and trailing right were busy, but too often he failed to throw the required punches after his footwork had guided him into position. Nonetheless, after the eighth – which began with a savage exchange and saw the veteran unleash a divine four-punch volley – there appeared nothing in it. The intensity of the bigger and louder blasts from Alvarez increased as the fight wore on, and towards the end Cotto, his shaven head bruised and swollen, looked uncomfortable under fire; the lessons Canelo learned from a 2013 loss to Floyd Mayweather were clear to see.
Despite the scoring controversy, the electric event and outcome – the younger, hungrier fighter emerging victorious – provides huge positives for the sport of boxing, particularly in the wake of the disappointing Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao superfight in May. This bout, refereed by Robert Byrd, was enthralling from start to finish and, though not quite a classic, largely delivered on its promise. And while many yearned for 35-year-old Cotto to add another layer to his legend, a victory for the ageing star would not have been beneficial in the long term: he has never really fancied the idea of facing Gennady Golovkin (his failure to comply with the WBC’s plans for the winner to meet “GGG” next year triggered a chain of events that led to him being stripped of the middleweight title and only Canelo could claim the belt), and his insistence on fighting at 155lbs was making a complete mockery of the middleweight division he presided over.
The Mexican – very much the crowd favourite in Sin City – is eager for the Golovkin showdown and, if made, would be the biggest fight in the world.
“A lot of people were asking me about Golovkin before the fight, but out of respect for Cotto I did not say anything,” said Alvarez through a translator. “Now I can talk about it. I’m ready for Golovkin. I know him very well and he’s a friend of mine. I’m not afraid of anyone, and I’m not afraid of him. If you don’t believe me I’ll get in the ring now and go 12 rounds [with him].”
Things may not be that easy, though. Before the victor arrived, his stubbly Golden Boy promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, was less committal about the “GGG” megafight, yet confirmed that Alvarez, arguably now the biggest star in boxing, will fight in May and September next year – traditionally the slots for Mayweather events before he retired.
“Of course he’s going to fight Gennady Golovkin,” said De La Hoya. “But we’re going to let him rest and see what is for the best. We need to decide if we stay at middleweight, or drop back to super-welterweight.”
Moments later, and unaware of his promoter’s comments, Alvarez emphatically ruled out a move back to 154lbs.
The fighter’s desire to make the Golovkin contest is genuine and should be applauded, but whether De La Hoya shares that ambition is up for debate. Alvarez is the chief revenue-maker at Golden Boy, and the Kazakh could ruin it all.
But against Cotto, the redhead proved he belongs at the very top level and, importantly, his broad-muscled body looks suited to middleweight warfare. His right hand is already one of the division’s most dangerous weapons, and several times in the latter stages, he arced it around and through Cotto’s guard. One suspects that may be the last we see of the future Hall-of-Famer, at least in events of this magnitude.
“He still has a future in boxing,” opined Roach about his charge. “He has a couple more fights in him if they’re the right fights, but he’s had a great career, so we’ll see. He works so hard in the gym and I don’t think it’s over, but we will have to discuss that. We’ll have a long talk about it and make a decision. I care about my fighters and if it’s over, it’s over.”
Cotto deserved better from the scorecards but should not complain about the loss, and if it is all over, the warrior’s baton has been passed to good hands.