by Tim Harrison
On Saturday, December 1, 2012, Miguel Cotto, former two-division world champion, would lose a 12-round decision to Austin “No Doubt” Trout. The loss to Trout would be his second in a row. This loss came after a spirited losing effort against Floyd Mayweather on May 5, and was a clear sign that the end of the road for Cotto was nigh. The once-feared Boricua got a bit slower on the draw, and an already easy to hit wrecking machine was even more hittable while losing some of his offensive output.
The career arc of Miguel Cotto has taken him from feared up-and-comer, to formidable champion, to vulnerable veteran, and bankable star whose name can be loaned to build young stars. Throughout that time Cotto was used and abused and thrown in with hungry wolves, left the powerful embrace of the promoter that guided his career from the beginning to call his own shots, only to wind up back under the employ of his old promoter looking to squeeze the last few dollars from what’s left of his career.
As a young, rising welterweight, Miguel Cotto was just about everything that was right about boxing. He was humble, hardworking, and his shortcomings often drew him into dire situations where he had to fight out of a corner and come back to win. Cotto was a destructive force in the ring, employing a vicious body attack and a very solid left hand. He had an entire island nation behind him, a growing fan base, and a premium cable network’s support and arguably the most powerful promoter in boxing plotting his moves behind the scenes.
Cotto was considered by some to be one of the most feared and avoided fighters in the sport before the fight with Antonio Margarito. Debate the possibility that Margarito used plaster-laced handwraps in that fight, just as he tried to do in his next fight with Shane Mosley, until you’re blue in the face, the fact remains: Miguel Cotto was never the same after that fight. And to add a little insult to the injury, his post-Margarito-scandal assertion that Margarito may have used illegal handwraps in their fight was adamantly shot down by their mutual promoter, Bob Arum. Arum was all in on Antonio Margarito, the new sensation, and Cotto was the forgotten man.
And when Cotto’s contract expired, Arum dangled a Manny Pacquiao fight as the door prize to re-up for a couple more years, only to be raked over the coals with a catchweight-or-nothing demand. After Cotto was stopped in twelve hard-fought rounds against Pacquiao, he re-tooled once more, this time as a junior middleweight. After capturing a title he rebuffed efforts to be thrown in against rising Top Rank youngsters Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Vanes Martirosyan, opting instead to go his own route for his own benefit. Once his contract expired at the end of 2011, Cotto struck out on his own to promote himself, alongside Golden Boy Promotions. The new business plan worked, and Cotto landed his biggest career payday against Floyd Mayweather, but lost his junior middleweight title in the process. Cotto would go on to lose to Austin Trout seven months later, and after a lengthy convalescence he found his way back to Top Rank Promotions, presumably until he decides to hang up the gloves for good.
Cotto found out the hard way that calling one’s own shots will sometimes come with the same risks as being under the employ of one of boxing’s power brokers. He was mentioned as a potential sacrifice to Canelo Alvarez, and found once again that his name was his most valuable commodity after two straight losses.
Saturday night’s fight between Miguel Cotto and Delvin Rodriguez is billed as “Reloaded”, and the popular trove of grizzled veteran coming in at a major career crossroads with a new trainer and a claim to have found the ferocity that once defined him, is fully in play. But the fact remains, Cotto had arguably the most powerful force in the sport driving him to the top. That same force threw him under a bus, picked him up, tossed him back in the bus, and drove him off a cliff. Cotto felt unjustly treated during the post-Margarito and Pacquiao eras, and he set out to call his own shots. Once Cotto went out on his own he made a pile of money, but without a guaranteed contract with a major promoter his options were limited.
Now back in the powerful embrace of Top Rank and with the once-formidable Freddie Roach in his corner, Cotto can make one last run at glory. But can a battle-weary and set-in-his-ways Miguel Cotto learn anything from a trainer in failing health, and if he does, does he have enough gas left in the tank? A win means another meaningful fight and a potential torch passing ceremony with a Top Rank youngster, while a loss means it’s time to transition to promoting full time.
You can email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheTimHarrison.