By Dan Ambrose: Miguel Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) will supposedly be retiring after this Saturday’s fight against Sadam Ali (25-1, 14 KOs) on HBO Boxing at Madison Square Garden in New York. Saturday’s Cotto-Ali televised start time for the card on HBO is at 10:00 p.m. ET.
In the co-feature bout, the talented WBC World super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs) will be defending his title against unbeaten #10 WBC Oscar Negrete. This fight might be better the main event. Rey Vargas is arguably the most talented fighter on the card. That’s not a knock on Cotto, but Vargas is pretty special. He’s perhaps the second best fighter in the 122 lb. division behind Guillermo Rigondeaux. That would be a good fight between the two of them.
It’s going to look bad if Cotto doesn’t actually retire. Some boxing fans will see Cotto’s retirement talk as little more than a marketing tool to attract viewers to his mismatch against Sadam Ali on HBO. Nowadays, you’ve got Floyd Mayweather Jr. telling fans that he’s retired, but then he comes back for a circus fight against Conor McGregor. It’s now being talked about that Mayweather is going to come out of retirement again in the near future. Cotto’s supposed retirement likely will be the same situation as Mayweather. In other words, Cotto will take a vacation from boxing, and then come back when he’s offered a big money fight.
Cotto will be making his first and last defense of his WBO junior middleweight title that he won recently against fringe contender Yoshihiro Kamgegai on August 26. Ali is arguably a step down from Kamegai, so the chances are high that the 37-year-old Cotto will win. There’s a high possibility that Cotto will be lured back into boxing for a big money rematch with Saul Canelo Alvarez. Cotto can probably make over $10 million for a second fight against Canelo. You can’t blame Cotto if he decides to return to the ring. The logic of retiring now makes sense as well for Cotto. By retiring, it means he doesn’t have to defend his WBO title against a very difficult opponent in mandatory challenger Liam Smith. That wouldn’t be an easy fight for Cotto, who might struggle against Smith and possibly lose. Even if Cotto beats Smith, it would be a tough fight that would make him look less than star-like.
Vacating the title and facing someone else would make Cotto look like he’s ducking Smith. That wouldn’t be a good look for Cotto at all. Cotto choosing to retire is a good swerving move to steer around the Liam Smith fight if the retirement turns out to be short-lived. Cotto is a good fighter, but he’s clearly not even close to being the best in the 154lb. division. Cotto is very beatable, and Smith might have enough to do the job on him.
Golden Boy Promotions will likely give Cotto an offer to come out of retirement and fight Canelo soon. Don’t be surprised if Cotto winds up facing Canelo in 2018 in May. The only thing that makes that fight unlikely is the huge amount of interest in a rematch between Canelo and IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin. The boxing public wants to see that fight right away. They might not like the idea of Golden Boy looking to take advantage of the interest in Canelo right now by sticking Cotto in there with him on May 5 as a substitute for GGG. A second fight between Cotto and Canelo would sell well with the fans, especially if Cotto impresses on Saturday night against Sadam Ali.
This is a mismatch fight. Ali doesn’t belong in the same ring with Cotto in terms of size, power and talent. Ali doesn’t fight in the same division as Cotto. That’s the troubling part about this fight. Ali is a fringe contender that was picked by Golden Boy from the welterweight division to fight Cotto. It’s not a good choice. If Golden Boy was going to pool from the welterweight division for opponents for Cotto, they should have at least selected a popular fighter with talent and enough boxing skills to make it a 50-50 fight. Cotto would have a tough time beating Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Terence Crawford or Keith Thurman.
Cotto vs. the winner of the Canelo vs. Golovkin fight would be a natural. However, it’s unclear whether Cotto would want any part of fighting Golovkin. He’s not as popular as Canelo, and he has the kind of size and power that would make for a difficult fight for Cotto. Golovkin is capable of fighting 3 minutes of every round. Canelo isn’t. That’s the only reason Cotto survived the full 12 rounds against Canelo in their fight in 2015. Canelo didn’t have the stamina to take advantage of Cotto when he had him hurt. Canelo was stuck fighting in brief spurts followed by long rest breaks. You’re not going to knockout a fighter like Cotto fighting in spurts. That doesn’t work. It works against welterweights like Amir Khan and easy to hit slow guys like Alfredo Angulo, but it doesn’t work against Cotto.
Sadam Ali, 29, is in the position of the spoiler. He can ruin Cotto’s “retirement” party by beating him, and hurting his chances of coming back for a fight against the Canelo-Golovkin winner. Ali hasn’t shgown the kind of punching power that suggests that he can compete with Cotto on an even playing field. Ali is more of a boxer than a puncher, and he doesn’t possess the fighting style that would give him a real chance of winning. Cotto has the heavier hands, and he’s now more mobile than he’s been in the past. That means that for Ali to put hands on Cotto, he’ll need to pressure him and make his punches count. Ali has won his last two fights against Johan Perez, Saul Corral and Jorge Silva. Those aren’t great fighters. Perez is a contender, but Corral and Silva are journeyman level fighters. Before those fights, Ali was knocked out in the 9th round by Jessie Vargas last year on March 5. That fight wasn’t even competitive. Vargas dominated from start to finish.