Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Way I See It: Cotto's Next Step

Joe Roche

After his brutal beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, what is next for Miguel Cotto?

On Saturday night Manny Pacquiao made history by becoming the first boxer to ever win seven world championships in seven different weight classes by defeated former WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. It was a virtuoso performance by Pacquiao who displayed an iron chin and granite fists as he pummeled Cotto for most of the 11+ rounds that the fight lasted. Immediately after the fight the crowd began to chant "We want Floyd" and it's obvious where Pacquiao should go from here – but the question of where Miguel Cotto now stands is a little more complicated.

The Way I See It: Miguel Cotto (34-2, 22 KO's) finds himself in a strange position. A quick glance at his record shows an accomplished welterweight who has fought all of the top competition and been competitive against almost everyone. In the last three years Cotto has beaten Paulie Malignaggi, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Alfonso Gomez, and Joshua Clottey. His only loses have been the questionable yet brutal beating at the hands of Antonio Margarito and a one sided washout against Manny Pacquiao. Essentially there isn't a top fight at welterweight that Miguel Cotto hasn't already had and won – other then Margarito and Pacquiao and neither of them should be mentioned for a rematch (for differing reasons of course).

It's an interesting position that Cotto is in because he's almost penalized for being so willing to fight the top guys in his weight class. He's left with few new match ups and even fewer interesting rematches. Let me just discount immediately the idea that Miguel Cotto may retire after losing to Pacquiao. Cotto is not even 30 years old yet, and while he did lose in convincing fashion to Pacquiao, there isn't another Pacquiao out there so Cotto should still be favored over most of his potential competition moving forward. I also hate the idea of a warrior like Cotto going out in the fashion that he did on Saturday so for the sake of this argument let's talk about the potential avenues that Cotto could go down as he tries to rebuild his career in 2010 and beyond.

1. Shane Mosley/Andre Berto. This is the most obvious place to start because Mosley and Berto round out the top five welterweights in the world right now (along with Cotto, Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr.). It also fits that these two are going to meet in the ring on January 30th because it would leave the window for the winner to take on Cotto for sometime around June 2010 (coming off the heels of Pacquiao's next fight – with or without Mayweather Jr.). Obviously the interest in a fight between the lose of Mosley/Berto and Cotto would be much less, especially if it's Berto but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a fight worth watching. The bigger money fight would be Shane Mosley coming off a victory over Berto taking on Cotto and trying to redeem his loss from 2007. If Berto beats Mosley then I still think HBO could market a Mosley/Cotto rematch because there is enough history there to make for an interesting fight (although if Mosley loses to Berto there is a chance Mosley will hang up the gloves for good). A Berto/Cotto fight doesn't strike me as something that is to enticing even if Berto does beat Mosley – although I'm sure HBO would love to have that fight, and it's still better then most of the alternatives. I think if Cotto remains as a welterweight (more on this in a moment), then one of these two guys will be on the docket for 2010 even if it's not his first fight back from the Pacquiao loss.

2. Issac Hlatshwayo (29-1-1, 10 KO's). Right off the bat the biggest problem with making a fight with "The Angel" is that Hlatshwayo won't sell many tickets. That wouldn't be a major issue if the fight took place during Puerto Rican Independence weekend in New York City where Cotto can draw a good crowd and Top Rank could pull in decent numbers. Hlatshwayo is the current IBF welterweight champion and he fights again on Dec. 12, 2009 against Jan Zaveck. Assuming Hlatshwayo retains his title for that fight I think a Cotto fight might not be the worst idea for either guy. If Cotto can beat Hlatshwayo he'll have a championship
back and he'll be on his way to rebuilding his reputation, meanwhile if Hlatshwayo could up-end Cotto he'd have a legitimate victory on his resume to stake a claim to bigger and better fights in 2010. I don't think this would be a bad fight for Cotto because having seen Hlatshwayo in action there is simply no way that he could hang with Miguel Cotto – even a diminished Miguel Cotto should be able to beat "The Angel" and frankly it's a better fight for Cotto's career then another stopover fight with Michael Jennings.

3. Paul Williams. No, no, no – one hundred times no. By law anytime you write a column about potential opponents for anyone who weights between 147 and 160 pounds you have to mention "The Punisher." Frankly I don't want to see this fight for two reasons, the first being that I don't think Williams should be fighting at 147 anymore and I'm not sure he will, so it's out the window right there. The second reason is that for Cotto to make a comeback he'll have to do it against someone who has a style that works with his, and Paul Williams throwing 120 punches a round isn't exactly the guy you want to make a comeback against. One thing working in this fight's favor is that it would be a pretty fantastic fight. I mean Miguel Cotto has never shied away from fighting anyone and what better way to prove it then by fighting the guy that nobody wants to fight in Paul Williams. If nothing else this would be a war.

4. Yuri Foreman (28-0, 8 KO's). Hear me out. For Cotto to fight Foreman he'd have to move up to 154 pounds. After talking to a few people who were at the weigh in the other day for "Firepower" they said that Cotto looked a little drained in his face, which leads me to believe that cutting to 145 pounds was not the easiest thing for him to do. I know that Cotto has never gone above 147 pounds, but isn't this the perfect time to move up in weight? And isn't Foreman the perfect opponent to move up against? Think about this for a second – in Miguel Cotto's last three fights he's been brutally beaten by Antonio Margarito (fairly or unfairly it doesn't change the outcome), he handily defeated Michael Jennings, he was in a vicious war with Joshua Clottey, and he was pummeled by Manny Pacquiao. That's three very difficult fights out of four in the last year and a half. Maybe Miguel Cotto just doesn't have it in him to be an elite welterweight anymore. Perhaps he's reached a point in his career where he will struggle with all of the top tier fighters at 147 pounds – and if that is true would it make more sense for him to remain as a welterweight and fight second tier competition or try his hand at moving up in weight and challenging for titles in a less stacked division like 154 pounds? From my perspective Cotto has always seemed like someone who could handle putting on a little extra weight, and the jump from 147 to 154 isn't so much that I think it'll hurt him in the ring. I also think that Foreman is the perfect guy to test the weight jump against because he won't threaten Cotto's chin with his power. The other reason I love this fight is because it would do very good in New York City – oh what you don't think the Rabbi world champion and the Puerto Rican hero could sell tickets in NYC? Give me a break this would be a license to print money for Top Rank in the Big Apple and if you throw JuanMa Lopez on that card you'd probably have to turn people away at the door. Of all the potential match ups for Miguel Cotto this is the one that most interests me and if I was a better man I'd say this idea at least gets floated around the Cotto camp after he's had a chance to recover from Saturday night.


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