Miguel Cotto has been one of boxing’s biggest box office stars of this century. As recently as two years ago, he was a participant in one of the year’s biggest fights. But as he returns to action this weekend, after a break of 21 months, he’ll be out of the spotlight.
The eyes of the fight world will be on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor sideshow. But hardcore fans will be checking to see how Cotto makes out against Japanese gunslinger Yoshihiro Kamegai.
On paper, Kamegai is made-to-order for Cotto. He is a very aggressive, come-forward brawler. Cotto should take him apart with his sharp counter punching.
On the other hand, I am not about to take anything for granted when a 36-year-old fighter is returning after nearly two years away. Cotto still looked like a world-class talent in 2014 and 2015. But we are a full decade now from Cotto at his very best.
In 2007, Cotto was still undefeated and had held belts in two division. He had victories over top-ranked fighters Paulie Malignaggi, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. Then, in July 2008, he faced Antonio Margarito.
The first bout between Margarito and Cotto remains one of the most controversial of this century. Cotto took a lead early but slowed in the stretch and was eventually stopped in Round 11. But prior to his next fight, against Shane Mosley, Margarito was caught wrapping his hands in plaster. Post-fight photographs have provided some convincing evidence that Margarito had his hands wrapped against Cotto, too.
In November 2009, Cotto took another brutal beating, this time at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, who stopped him in 12 rounds.
Cotto has had some big moments since that earlier era–he avenged himself against Margarito in December 2011, hammering his right eye shut and rendering him unable to continue by Round 9. He shocked the world by stopping an ancient and badly faded Sergio Martinez in June 2014, in order to become the Middleweight Champion of the World.
But the second half of Cotto’s career has been marked overall by smart match-making. Cotto remains one of the small number of fighters who can truly draw a major financial numbers. His bout Saturday night might be taking place far from the spotlight, but it should be the first step toward one last big payday.