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Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai tonight on HBO

Miguel Cotto

By Dan Ambrose: Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) will be taking a low risk fight tonight against Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KO’s) for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title on HBO at the SubHub Center in Carson, California. You can call this a low risk fight for Cotto, 36, but you never know. Cotto could lose.

Cotto is heading towards the end of his long career. It’ll be Kamegai tonight, and then maybe the winner – or loser – of the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin fight. Cotto wants to fight in December. We’ll see if that happens.

Kamegai hits hard and there’s always the possibility that Cotto could suffer a cut or some other kind of injury that would make it impossible for him to fight in December. Assuming that Cotto gets out of tonight’s fight against Japan’s Kamegai in one piece, we’ll see him wrapping up his boxing career in December against Canelo, Golovkin or David Lemieux. In traditional fashion, Cotto isn’t tipping his hand to say who he wants to fight in December, but I think it goes without saying that Canelo is the guy he would prefer fighting.

Cotto has to fight a big name though in December, being that his fight on HBO in that month is supposed on PPV. Cotto can’t hand-pick another Kamegai type fighter and expect HBO to eagerly agree to televise another mismatch. They’re obviously expecting a quality opponent for Cotto. He’d be showing a lot of courage if he fights the winner of the Canelo-Golovkin fight instead of the loser, which will probably be Canelo. He’s too small and weak for Golovkin and that fight is likely to go bad for the Golden Boy star.

It’ll get ready interesting if Kamegai is able to take the fight to Cotto, wear him down, and force him into the same kind of dog fight that Antonio Margarito did in their first fight in 2008. That was a long time ago. Kamegai is a pressure fighter just like Margarito, but with more power in either hand. Kamegai likes to fight at close range the way that Margarito does.

Cotto, 36, is going to have problems if he can’t keep Kamegai off of him tonight. Cotto is a good body puncher, but I’m not entirely certain he’s ready for the type of grueling fight that Kamegai can give him. You can’t say that the 2 years of inactivity has made Cotto a better fighter. He’ll be lucky if he only lost 10 percent from his game. If it’s more than that, I don’t think he’s going to win tonight against Kamegai unless he catches him with a big shot early. If the fight goes past the 6th round, Cotto could be in big trouble.

Cotto has been inactive for 2 years sitting on the sidelines since losing to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on November 21, 2015. When you sit inactive for 2 years, you’re not going to get the same fighter. Cotto looked OK at the weigh-in on Friday in coming in at 153.6 lbs. He was thin, but he’s always thin when making weight. Kamegai looked better in coming in at 153.8 lbs., but he’s not a very good fighter. He’s just a guy with a high ranking by the World Boxing Organization and a lot of recent losses. Kamegai can punch, but he has no business being ranked above more talented fighters like Erickson Lubin. The WBO has Lubin at No.10 and Kamegai at No.6. It makes zero sense. Kamegai won his last fight in stopping Jesus Soto Karass by an 8th round knockout on September 10 in 2016.

What we’re looking at for tonight’s fight is two fighters that have been sitting on the shelf for ages, with 11 months of inactivity for Kamegai, and 21 months of inactivity for Cotto. It’s kind of sad that the World Boxing Organization are letting these 2 fighters battle for their belt rather than active contenders, who have been working hard by staying busy and winning fights. This is obviously something that will hopefully be changed in boxing in the future to help the sport make sense to the average fan.

If Cotto beats Kamegai to claim the vacant WBO junior middleweight title, it would be the Puerto Rican fighter’s 6th world title during his 16-year pro career. There’s obviously been a lot of easy title wins for Cotto unfortunately. He beat some injured fighters to win world titles in the past in wins over Sergio Martinez and Yuri Foreman. Both guys had knee problems when Cotto fought them for their titles. Cotto has largely come up empty when fighting healthy fighters in their prime in the last 5 years. He was beaten by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout. Cotto was the Ring Magazine middleweight champion after his win over Sergio Martinez in 2014.

Cotto lost the Ring title to Canelo in 2015. Surprisingly, Canelo still holds the Ring Magazine title despite the fact that he vacated his WBC middleweight title and moved back down to 154 last September to fight WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith. Ring Magazine still has Canelo as their champion in the 160 lb. division. It’s been 15 months since Canelo last fought in the middleweight division. For some reason Ring Magazine hasn’t stripped him of the title for being inactive in the division he holds their title in.

Kamegai doesn’t have great credentials for fighting for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title. Kamegais claim to fame is beating journeyman Jesus Soto Karass, and losing to Robert “The Ghost’ Guerrero.

In a much better fight on the card, WBC 122 lb. champ Rey Vargas (29-0, 22 KOs) defends against Ronny Rios (28-1, 13 KOs). This is Vargas’ first defense of his WBC belt that he won on February 25 against Gavin McDonnell on February 25 in England. It shows the kind of talent that Vargas possesses that he was able to travel to the UK and beat McDonnell in front of his own boxing fans. Vargas was so dominant in that fight that there were no way the judges could mess up the decision and give it to the wrong guy. Vargas gave McDonnell a boxing lesson in that fight.

The Cotto vs. Kamegai televised fight card starts at 9:45 p.m. PT/ET. The fight will also be piped into the UK and shown on BoxNation.

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