Cotto retiring in December, Canelo, GGG & Lemieux options
By Dan Ambrose: Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) made it clear on Monday that he’ll retire at the end of December. Cotto has a tough fight in front of him this Saturday night against the powerful but limited Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Cotto and the 34-year-old Kamegai will be fighting for the vacant World Boxing Organization junior middleweight title. Normally, this would be a slam dunk win for Cotto, but with him being out of the ring for 2 years, it might be too much for an aging and inactive fighter to handle. The WBO has given Kamegai a very, very generous ranking with their organization. You can argue that Kamegai is more of a bottom fringe level contender that should be ranked at No.15 with the WBO, but definitely not at No.6, especially when you consider that the talented Erickson Lubin is ranked No.10 with the same organization.
Cotto isn’t saying who he’ll fight at the end of the year, but his trainer Freddie Roach wants him to face the winner of the September 16th fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez. Roach does not want Cotto to face the loser of that fight, which figures to be the popular Golden Boy Promotions star Canelo. Cotto vs. Canelo 2 would likely make more money than if Golovkin-Cotto.
Former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux is another name that has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Cotto in December. Lemieux is signed with Golden Boy, and they obviously want to build him up so they can put him in with Canelo in a big pay-per-view fight on HBO. Lemieux would be very dangerous for Cotto given the size differences between the two fighters. The only way Cotto-Lemieux makes sense is if Lemieux agrees to fight at a catch-weight of 155 or 156. A rehydration clause would also be something I would foresee in a Cotto-Lemeiux fight so that Lemieux doesn’t rehydrate to 180 lbs. and walk into the ring with a 15-lb. weight advantage over Cotto on the night of the fight. With all those handicaps working for Cotto, he’d likely beat a depleted Lemieux. Without weight handicaps, Lemieux will likely crush the much smaller Cotto in the same way he did Curtis Stevens. Lemieux is too powerful right now for a small, aging fighter like the 5’7” Cotto. The inactivity that Cotto has been dealing with puts him at more of a disadvantage against a guy like Lemieux.
”I think that 16 years is enough, and I have other things to do in my life,” said Cotto. “I’m taking care of my family better, and that is the biggest and only reason that I have to stop boxing and quit boxing and retire after December 31st this year. No. The decision is already made. I’m leaving on December 31st, no matter what happens with my career,” said Cotto.
It’s best that Cotto leave the sport while he’s still fighting at a fairly high level rather than him staying on and ending up taking more losses to the younger lions. With Cotto out of the ring for 2 years, he’s probably lost a great deal from his game. You stay out of boxing for that long and not lose a significant portion of your skills and stamina. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cotto loses to Kamegai. If Cotto fights the winner – or loser – of the GGG-Canelo fight in December, he’s likely going to lose. If Cotto continued to fight beyond this year, he would have to be matched carefully to keep him from getting beaten. That’s my view.
It would be a bad idea for Cotto to fight David Lemieux. Cotto gets hit a lot in his fights, and it would be bad news to stick him in with a guy with the kind of one-punch power that Lemieux possesses. Although Lemieux does tend to wear out in the second half of his fights after 6 rounds, he usually has knocked out his opponents by that point. Lemieux is still incredibly powerful even when exhausted. The only thing that changes is his work rate. When Lemieux is tired, he doesn’t throw as many punches, but he remains just as dangerous as he was in the early rounds in terms of his punching power. Unless Cotto got Lemieux to agree to a catch-weight and rehydration clause, I think this fight would be a massacre with Lemieux winning quickly by knockout. I see that fight as another Julian Jackson vs. Terry Norris type of fight. Lemieux would be Jackson and Cotto in the role of Terry Norris. Jackson destroyed Norris in 2 rounds on July 30, 1989. Lemieux has Jackson-like punching power. He doesn’t have his hand speed, but he hits every bit as hard as him in my opinion.
“We are going to do what we always do, you know? Then we’re going to pick and choose the best challenger out there, and we are going to face him,” said Cotto in talking about deciding his next opponent after the Kamegai fight on Saturday.
It’s likely that Cotto will choose to fight Canelo again in a rematch. I don’t think it matters if Canelo gets knocked out by Golovkin on September 16. I still think Cotto will fight Golovkin for a couple of reasons. First off, it will give Cotto his biggest payday to retire on. It’s important for fighters to make chooses that make the most business sense for their boxing careers. Canelo vs. Cotto 2 sells. It would be a big fight on HBO PPV. Their previous fight together in 2015 brought in over 900,000 PPV buys. They both made good money. Cotto won’t likely get a lot of money in comparison if he faces Golovkin, who isn’t a PPV attraction in the way that Canelo is. Cotto isn’t going to get a huge paycheck for his fight against Kamegai this Saturday night, as the fight will be televised on HBO World Championship Boxing and not on PPV. The second reason why Cotto will fight Canelo is because he’s too small to fight the 5’10 1/2” Golovkin, who is a true middleweight. Canelo is only 5’8”, and he’s close enough to the height of the 5’7” Cotto for the fight to be competitive. Golovkin would be able to use his height and reach to jab Cotto from the outside in the same way he did against the 5’9 1/2” Lemieux in their fight in 2015. It’s a better size match-up for Cotto to be fighting Canelo than bigger, stronger and longer-armed Golovkin. The only thing that gives Canelo an advantage over Cotto besides age is the weight.
Canelo rehydrates to the 170s, and some boxing fans believe he walks into the ring in the low 180s. The reason Cotto lost to Canelo in their 2015 fight was based on the weight advantage the Mexican fighter had over him. Canelo looked a lot heavier than Cotto. It’s unclear how much more Canelo weighed than Cotto, because he chose not to have his weight listed by HBO on the night of the fight. Just looking at the two fighters, Canelo appeared at least 15 lbs. heavier than Cotto in my estimation. It was a significant difference in size between the two fighters. But, Cotto still was getting the better of Canelo when he was using his jab and boxing him in the first six rounds of the fight. Where Cotto lost his way was when he started slugging with Canelo in the second half of the fight. That was a mistake. If Cotto had kept his head and continued to box, he probably would have won the fight, because Canelo was helpless when he was getting jabbed from the outside. Cotto showed that Canelo still hasn’t learned how to deal with a fighter that jabs. I don’t think Canelo ever will though. He doesn’t have the arm length and the mobility to handle fighters that jab a lot.
”All I want to do is finish my career in the best way possible,” said Cotto. ”That’s the reason that I’ve been working hard at this stage of my career. And all I want for me is to finish this in the best way possible. We are going to do the fight with whichever is going to be the best option on the table.”
Cotto’s admission that he wants to finish his career “in the best way possible” suggests that he’s going to go for the biggest fight possible. I think that means Canelo will be the option for him. The only way I see Cotto not fighting Canelo again is if someone like Floyd Mayweather Jr. decides to return to boxing and give him a rematch. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Mayweather seems to be only interested in fighting Conor McGregor for paydays instead of fighting boxers. Mayweather vs. Cotto wouldn’t be a huge money fight compared to Mayweather facing McGregor in a rematch in the octagon or even in a boxing ring. There are so many casual boxing fans that want to see Mayweather fight McGregor. I don’t think that interest will go away even if Mayweather destroys McGregor this Saturday night.