COMMENTARY | Despite a two-fight losing streak and the tell-tale signs of wear and tear from twelve years spent at the highest levels of the sport, Miguel Cotto remains one of boxing's biggest draws.
Behind Mayweather and Pacquiao few fighters can pack a U.S. venue or attract TV ratings like the three-division world champ from Caguas, Puerto Rico. Always honest and earnest in his ring efforts, fans have come to expect compelling performances from the Boricua battler, and Cotto rarely disappoints.
A very old 32, Cotto is now entering into the last stages of a very distinguished, most likely Hall of Fame, career. Still a draw and still competitive against all but the most elite of the sport, Cotto is a promotional free agent calling his own shots and won't have to turn himself into a stepping stone for younger fighters in his last days as a pro. Unlike other former champions, who spend their final years in boxing collecting paychecks as big-named, full-time opponents, Cotto still has plenty of options-and from recent reports, retirement doesn't seem to be part of his plan.
A September 28 clash with former IBF junior middleweight titlist, Cornelius "K9" Bundrage has been rumored, but nothing has been set and it's clear that Cotto is still actively exploring other options.
One possibility, mentioned by a member of his team, involves facing the winner of the July 19 clash between IBF junior middleweight champ, Ishe Smith and top contender, Carlos Molina.
Last February, Smith, a slick, well-schooled stylist, realized a life-long dream by capturing the IBF title from Bundrage via majority decision. He's now set to make his first defense of the belt against perpetual underdog spoiler, Molina in Las Vegas. The winner, of course, will move on to bigger and better things- and there would be few fight options "bigger and better" for either low-drawing pug than a chance at Cotto.
"He likes the idea of a fight with the winner of Smith-Molina, seeing as how it takes him directly to a title," a source close to Team Cotto told ESPN Deportes. "He has a plan A and a plan B. A bout with Bundrage has been talked about, but the winner of Smith-Molina is a very good choice for Miguel."
Not only would this route take Cotto directly to another world title, but contests with either Smith or Molina are infinitely winnable. And since neither is a big puncher, both would also be relatively safe options for a fighter who has taken more than his fair share of beatings over the years.
There's also the possibility that he may still fight Bundrage and then move on to face the winner of Smith-Molina in 2014. Bundrage, a physically strong fighter with a relatively low ring IQ, is also not much of a one-punch powerhouse and would likely lack the skill and temperament needed to beat even a faded version of Miguel Cotto.
From there, there are still many options available for the Puerto Rican star. Assuming he's victorious against Bundrage and also against the winner of Smith-Molina, he could move right into a big ticket clash with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez by mid-2014.
Even if Alvarez loses his upcoming September 14 bout with Floyd Mayweather, he will remain a star in the sport and will eventually reclaim his spot at the top of the junior middleweight division when a victorious Mayweather decides to return to the more comfortable welterweight division. Cotto-Alvarez would be a box office hit under any circumstances, although it would be a tough stylistic match-up for Cotto at this stage of his career.
But Alvarez isn't necessarily part of Cotto's immediate future. Match-ups against mid-level opposition could go on for years or Cotto may choose to cash-out for the right money one division higher against one of the well-regarded middleweight champs. At this point, even a rematch with Mayweather, who was genuinely challenged by Cotto during their May 2012 clash, is a possibility if Cotto can recapture gold and earn a couple of solid wins.
So, don't expect the end to come anytime soon for Miguel Cotto. He's paid his dues in the sport and has earned the right to control his own destiny. Expect the same intense Cotto to make his way to the ring, but with much smarter matchmaking behind him.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Source: ESPN Deportes
- Sports & Recreation
- Miguel Cotto
- Ishe Smith