One of the biggest criticisms of the Cotto-Geale showdown was the installation of a catchweight limit and weight became a major talking point throughout the HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast on Saturday night. It would be a major discussion piece once the broadcast ended as well. Which is maybe to be expected when the lineal middleweight champion weighs-in for a fight below the junior-middleweight limit.
Miguel Angel Cotto has relied exclusively on the catchweight stipulation for the better part of two years. After making the decision to campaign at middleweight, despite the fact he is clearly not a full-fledged middleweight, Cotto has never met an opponent at the traditional limit. Instead, each of his three adversaries have all been forced to come down an additional few pounds. For undersized middleweights such as Delvin Rodriguez and Sergio Martinez, making the cut was not a major issue. The 157lb limit forced onto Daniel Geale was a different story. As a natural middleweight who could possibly even go up a class, coming down this far would surely impact how the fight played out.
Friday’s weigh-in represented Geale’s largest cut in more than eight years. The effects were evident. Daniel looked incredibly fragile. Many observers left the event worried about his condition. Miguel Cotto displayed his rationale for using a lower-weight as he came in at a very comfortable 153lbs, almost four full pounds under the agreed upon limit.
The next day presented another chapter to the story. According to the HBO team, the unofficial same-day weight of Geale bordered on the absurd as he ballooned back up to an astonishing 182 lbs. Cotto refused to participate in the same-day weigh-in but to many this was inconsequential. He was never expected to gain back much more than what he tipped the scales with on Friday. The difference in size was obvious as the two faced off in front of a partisan New York crowd. The audience at Barclay’s Center was fully committed to their Puerto Rican champion, who was looking to slay his (physically) biggest conqueror yet.
It was quickly evident that despite the difference in size, Cotto’s punch could hurt his larger opponent. The first punch thrown and landed was Miguel’s left hook. There is no mistaking it, as the left hook is Cotto’s most effective tool. It connected in the opening moments and Geale felt its sting. Staying on his toes, Cotto circled to the left and landed his hooks often. The first to show any real damage was a well-timed punch to Geale’s midsection. The Autralian’s shots, primarily jabs, landed with a little less frequency. His punches lacked the commitment and force of Cotto’s.
The second was more of the same. Landing roughly the same amount of punches as he did in the first, Cotto’s game plan was becoming apparent. Under Freddie Roach’s guidance, the “Boricua” had returned to his killer form of a decade ago. He heavily invested in body shots and came back up top when the opportunity became available.
Round three saw a bit more activity from Geale. He also attempted to match hooks with Cotto but to no avail. Miguel largely outworked the bigger man by simply refusing to be a stationary target. When he backed Daniel against the ropes Cotto landed another flush hook to the solar plexus. For Geale to have any chance at success he had to avoid the left hook, which was landing with increasing frequency.
Thirty seconds into the fourth Cotto connected again. The cleanest hook and best punch of the night launched Geale onto his backside and he slid under the bottom rope. It was a vicious shot that left many wondering if the Aussie could continue. Taking a moment to compose himself he rose at the count of nine. The end was near and Miguel did not squander the opportunity. Cotto unleashed another flurry and this time a left hook came in lower, close to the belt line and it was enough to drop the challenger again. Getting to his feet, the challenger indicated he had nothing left and for the second time in less than a year, Geale would not see the fifth round on an HBO show in New York.
With Geale vanquished, speculation about Cotto’s career came back into focus. The prevailing thought was that he needed to impress tonight to secure another big payday and he did not disappoint in that regard. In the post-fight interview, Max Kellerman asked Cotto about Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the Mexican phenom who has long been seen as the Puerto Rican’s most lucrative option. Rumors have persisted that a general agreement was already in place. Cotto thrilled his adopted hometown fans when he admitted the Canelo fight was the one he most desired.
It is unknown how soon we could see these two face off. A date in September makes sense but there are potentially two obstacles. First, September is a rather quick turnaround for Cotto, an aging fighter who likes to take several months off between matches. Also, September will be the time for Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s next fight and, should Floyd hold true to his word, this is also supposed to be his last fight. It is hard to think of an opponent that Mayweather could choose that could match the competitiveness and name value of Cotto vs Canelo. Whatever the case, this could turn out to be a most interesting September.
The night would not end without some controversy. After the Canelo question, Kellerman asked about the possibility of a showdown with Gennady Golovkin. Golovkin is largely seen as the best middleweight in the world even though Cotto owns the lineal championship. “GGG” has repeatedly expressed interest in setting up a unification bout. Cotto’s response, or lack thereof, spoke volumes. When confronted he remained silent for about five seconds, only to mutter, “uh…”
Undoubtedly, the Golovkin fight is less favorable for several reasons. First, it would likely not be as lucrative as a Canelo fight. Despite being highly ranked and admired by the hardcore fan base, “GGG” is not a huge draw. It also should not be overstated that “GGG” is arguably the most dangerous and devastating puncher in the world. Miguel has built a legacy around fighting the top names, but he is now much older. If his plans are more long-term and family-oriented, the punishment he would likely take from Golovkin might derail his goals.
Finally, we come to the point that is perhaps the most contentious. It is evident that Cotto is not a true middleweight. This was even confirmed by him after the fight and thus many are clamoring to see “GGG” assume the mantle of the undisputed middleweight champion. Cotto is seen as the largest obstacle in his way. Most fans and critics would prefer to see Cotto relinquish his crown should he choose not to fight Golovkin, but the chances of that happening are slim. Unquestionably, a big bargaining chip in the Canelo fight would be the lineal title, which is heavily desired by Canelo’s camp.
So now we are back to where we started. Miguel Cotto, the lineal middleweight champion of the world, will most likely fight in another catchweight bout. This time it will be against a man who has never campaigned at middleweight. Perhaps most frustrating of all, the man who is the division’s best will be left out in the cold. — Zach Dunn