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Miguel Cotto vs. David Lemieux possible for December 2

David Lemieux Miguel Cotto

By Dan Ambrose: Former 4 division world champion Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) could be facing former IBF 160 lb. champion David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) on December 2 in New York on HBO IF Cotto defeats Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs) in their fight on August 26 on HBO World Championship Boxing at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. #1 WBO Cotto and #6 WBO Kamegai is fighting for the vacant WBO 154lb title even though Cotto hasn’t fought in the last 21 months.

Lemieux is going to be a nightmare for Cotto. I think this fight could end with Cotto on the canvas one or another. I would hope that he doesn’t take a knee to escape the punishment like he did in his loss to Antonio Margarito. It could be much worse than Cotto taking a knee.

Lemieux is in his prime and is probably the hardest puncher in the middleweight division right now. Even Gennady Golovkin doesn’t have Lemieux’s punching. Lemeiux has genuine 1-punch power. The only way Cotto would have a chance against Lemieux is if he can weaken him somehow by having him melt down to 154 to take the fight or if it’s at a dreaded catch-weight. I don’t think for a second that Cotto will fight Lemieux at the full weight for the middleweight division. That’s likely a non-starter.

If Lemieux wants the payday fight against Cotto, I see him having to agree to a strength draining catch-weight of somewhere in the region of 156 lbs. Given that Lemieux is draining himself just to make 160, you can imagine how weak he’ll be by the time he gets down to the catch-weight to face Cotto. Lemieux would be dead at the weight, and easy pickings for Cotto to beat during the fight. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was the perfect example of a weight drained fighter in his recent fight against Saul Canelo Alvarez in having to drain down to 164.5 lbs. to fight him on May 6. Chavez Jr. had nothing in that fight, and he looked like he hadn’t even rehydrated. It wasn’t that he wasn’t rehydrated fully. He was simply too drawn from having taken off all the weight to get down to the 164 ½ lb. catch-weight.

Cotto has fought in catch-weights in his last 3 fights against Saul Canelo Alvarez, Daniel Geale and Sergio Martinez. There won’t be a catch-weight for the Kamegai fight because the fight is taking place at 154 for the WBO title. But if Cotto is going to fight a middleweight like Lemieux, you can bet that a catch-weight will be used in that fight to keep Lemieux from coming in at the full weight. I would be happy if Cotto didn’t fight Lemieux at a catch-weight, since it would show courage to fight someone that big without the need of a handicap for the weight. I can’t see it through.

I would hope that there wouldn’t be a rehydration clause to keep Lemieux from rehydrating past a certain point. If that would be the case, then Lemieux would have no chance at of winning the fight in my opinion. He would lose to Cotto just from the weight itself. It would be just like Chavez Jr. having lost to Canelo the moment the fight was signed due to there being a catch-weight that required Chavez Jr. to come into the fight below 168, which he’d already shown repeatedly that he couldn’t make that weight. Without a catch-weight, Lemieux beats Cotto 10 out of 10 times in my opinion. Lemieux is too big, too strong and too young for Cotto to beat without a strength depleting catch-weight to weaken the Canadian.

Cotto is expected to retire at the end of 2017. Of course, if he beats Kamegai and Lemieux in a convincing fashion, it’s hard to imagine Cotto not continuing on with his career if he can get a rematch with Saul Canelo Alvarez. There’s a lot of money for Cotto potentially if he can face Canelo a second time. Cotto is going to have a hard-enough time trying to beat Kamegai and Lemieux in back to back fights.

A young and active Cotto would give those guys problems, but it’s unclear what he’s capable of doing at this stage in his active due to his age and inactivity. Cotto has not been an active enough in boxing in the last 5 years to predict victories for him against Lemieux and Kamegai. Cotto has only fought 6 times in the last 5 years and he’s lost 3 of those fights. The wins for Cotto during that time frame came against Delvin Rodriguez, Daniel Geale and Sergio Martinez. Those were all older fighters that were past their prime or in the case of Martinez, slowed down from a bad knee injury. Cotto hasn’t beaten a good fighter since his win over Joshua Clottey in 2009. That’s a long time to go between beating quality opposition.

It’s been almost 2 years since the 36-year-old Cotto fought Saul Canelo Alvarez and was beaten by him by a 12 round unanimous decision in November 2015. It doesn’t matter. The World Boxing Organization still feels Cotto should be rated No.1 in their organization above the fighters that have been active with their careers.

HBO reportedly was willing to televise the Cotto-Kamegai fight, which doesn’t figure to bring in good ratings on their network on August 26, as long as Cotto was willing to take on a big name for later this year on December 2. Lemieux isn’t exactly a big name, but he’s a much bigger name than Kamegai and James Kirkland, who was recently scheduled to fight Cotto on February 25 on HBO PPV. Cotto and Kirkland had signed for that fight to face each other in a catch-weight at 153 pounds. However, the fight ended up being canceled after Kirkland suffered a nose fracture during training. Not long after that, Cotto split with his promoters at Roc Nation Sports and signed with Golden Boy Promotions on May 31.
Lemieux, 28, has won his last 4 fights since suffering a disappointing 8th round knockout loss to Gennady Golovkin on October 17, 2015. Lemieux was over-matched against Golovkin.

Lemieux couldn’t get past Golovkin’s jab. In the 8th, Golovkin stopped jabbing and nailed Lemieux with some body shots that badly hurt him. The fight was quickly stopped to prevent Lemieux from really getting hurt. Lemieux has put together 4 decent wins over Glen Tapia, Curtis Stevens, Cristian Fabian Rios and Marcos Reyes. None of those fights were close. Reyes did have his moments though in landing some good shots every now and then to the head of Lemieux, but he paid a heavy price in taking a lot of big shots. Reyes made it through the entire fight in losing a 10 round unanimous decision, but he took more punishment in this fight than he arguably had during any other fight in his 10-year pro career.

It’s surprising that Reyes could stand up to Lemieux’s shots, because he’d been stopped in the 7th round just last year by journeyman Elvin Ayala on November 3, 2016. Lemieux’s 3rd round knockout win over Curtis Stevens on March 11 was devastating. The count was waived after Lemieux flattened Stevens with a tremendous shot to the head. The 5’7” Stevens didn’t have the height or the reach to fight Lemieux from the outside the way that Golovkin did 2 years earlier in 2015. Cotto, 5’7”, is kind of in the same boat as Stevens in terms of size and an inability to dominate Lemieux from the outside.

Stevens has 4-inch reach advantage over Cotto. If Stevens couldn’t fight Lemieux from the outside, then it’s highly unlikely that Cotto will be able to do it either. Cotto might be forced to slug with the taller 5’9 ½” Lemieux, who will enjoy a 3-inch reach advantage to go along with his 2 ½ inch height advantage. This is potentially a great vehicle for Lemieux to setup a big money fight against Caenlo in 2018. If Lemieux can take Cotto’s scalp by knocking him out in a vicious fashion the way that he did with Curtis Stevens, it sets the table for a big fight between Canelo and Lemieux on HBO PPV next year.

The only thing that could mess up a Canelo-Lemieux fight is if Canelo gets beaten by Golovkin in their fight on September 16 on HBO PPV. Canelo will need to rebuild his boxing career if he gets beaten by Triple G, especially if it’s a bad knockout defeat like I believe it’ll be. Golden Boy will not want to put Canelo back in with GGG, and they definitely wouldn’t risk his hide having him fight a knockout artist like Lemieux, who arguably hits harder than Golovkin when he’s sitting down on his left hook.

Lemieux vs. Cotto would bring in big numbers in New York. That would be an excellent fight to draw a large crowd and sell PPV buys on HBO. If this is going to be Cotto’s last fight of his long 16-year pro career, then he can’t go wrong with that fight.

At this point, Cotto might not even get past the 34-year-old Kamegai on August 26. If you saw Kamegai’s recent fight against Jesus Soto Karass on September 10 last year, you’ll note how hard Kamegai was hitting him. Kamegai was nailing Soto Karass with tremendous shots. He dropped Soto Karass in the 8th round, and the fight was halted after the round had ended. Soto Karass usually can take a good shot without getting stopped. Soto Karrass had only been stopped 3 times prior to that fight during his lengthy career in knockout defeats against Marcos Maidana, Keith Thurman and Gabriel Rosado.

Kamegai knocking out Soto Karass showed what kind of puncher he is. In their previous fight together, Kamegai and Soto Karass fought to a 10 round draw last year on April 15. Kamegai also has losses to Alfonso Gomez, Robert Guerrero, and Johan Perez. There’s no guarantee that Cotto gets past Kamegai on August 26. For an inactive, small, aging fighter like Cotto, nothing is a given. If Cotto loses to Kamegai, then he only has himself to blame for sitting out of the ring for 2 years the way he did. Cotto takes way too much time off between fights. It’s hard to believe that he’ll be back inside the ring so quickly to fight in December. I’m sure he’ll do it if this is going to be his last fight of his career, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something goes wrong to keep him from fighting then. Cotto could lose to Kamegai or suffer injury.

The Cotto vs. Kamegai fight is going to be really hurt by the competition it receives on the same night with the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight taking place on Showtime PPV. Cotto-Kamega is going to be like a ghost town on that night. It’s a terrible fight to begin with between Cotto and Kamegai, as neither of these guys have done anything to deserve to be fighting for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title.

Cotto should be fighting someone a lot better than Kamegai for the title. If the WBO is going to let inactive fighters like Cotto fight for their WBO 154lb strap, then they should at least put together some better rankings so that a talented contender like Demetrius Andrade could be the one fighting for the belt against Cotto instead of a fighter with a 3-2-1 record like Kamegai has in his last 6 fights. That’s not a good record. I could understand Kamegai getting a title shot if one of those 3 wins in the last 3 years came against the likes of Andrade, Jermell Charlo or Jarrett Hurd. That’s not who Kamegai has been beating. His wins came against journeyman Soto Karass, Nelson Gulpe (8-5) and Oscar Godoy (13-3). Those are not good fighters in terms of being world level fighters. Those are all 2nd tier fighters.

Kamegai is going to try and take the fight to the inside against Cotto and wear him down. That’s the way the Japanese fighter tends to fight. He’s a very good inside fighter. I don’t think he’s at the same level as Cotto though with inside game. Kamegai’s best chance of beating Cotto is to push a fast pace and take advantage of his age and his years of inactivity.

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