Here we are in the dying moments of 2014 and the battle for next year’s coveted May 2 date keeps getting weirder by the day. Rumors swirl that Floyd Mayweather Jr.—the current welterweight and super-welterweight lineal champion—is courting Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto for a rematch, an encounter which would grant him a shot at Cotto’s middleweight title. Should he get Cotto in the ring with him and earn a second victory against the Boricua, Mayweather would match Henry Armstrong’s feat of holding three lineal titles in as many divisions simultaneously. Not an easy feat by any means.
Okay, let’s backtrack just a little bit. Yes, it’s true the past few days some crazy talk has been going around about Mayweather’s camp offering Cotto a $40 million dollar guarantee for a rematch. However, Cotto’s own adviser, Gaby Penagaricano, categorically denied this offer yesterday. So why am I wasting my time writing this article, and more importantly, why are you spending yours reading it?
Well, the truth is that although that generous offer might be fake, the fact that the story surfaced at all—with a very specific number attached to it at the same time Cotto’s camp prolongs the negotiations for a blockbuster with Canelo Alvarez—well, it just seems awfully suspicious. Jumping into the realm of pure speculation, I wouldn’t put it past Floyd Mayweather, the pound-for-pound king of negotiations, or his advisor Al Haymon, to have planted the story themselves. After all, these are the same people who bluffed that Devon Alexander was a serious May-candidate in 2014, then put up a poll online that Amir Khan won, which result they ended up ignoring when they anointed Marcos Maidana the winner of the Mayweather sweepstakes.
Implausible as it may seem at the moment, it’s worth noting Floyd vs Cotto II would leave a whole bunch of losers sulking around without the super fights they were hoping to land for next year, while granting Mayweather a lucrative, winnable fight and his precious May-Date all to himself. The first loser would be Amir Khan, who would once again be left hanging by Mayweather, despite his dominating win over Devon Alexander a couple of weeks ago and his avalanche of challenges, deadlines and taunting comments. While I don’t count myself among those who believe Amir’s blinding punching speed would be a perfect way to test Mayweather, if there’s any truth to the assessment that Floyd in fact fears Khan, going after Cotto would be a very convenient way for Money May to sidestep the Brit.
A second tier of losers would include Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao, who for a while have been angling for fights with Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather, respectively. Going by De La Hoya’s comments, Canelo has done everything in his power to get Cotto to sign as soon as possible. In stark contrast, every time the media asks Cotto’s camp how negotiations with Canelo are going, they bark back one of several variants of “whatever”. If Cotto is an underdog against both Canelo and Mayweather, a match with Floyd would be the rational decision. Playing his cards right, Caguas’ favorite son could earn more money against Money May than against Canelo, and a potential victory over Floyd would, more than a win over the Mexican, vault him into ATG status.
Canelo wouldn’t be left completely devoid of options; a name as big as his never will be. But a Cotto fight is without a doubt the biggest one available to him at the moment. Because of his penchant for true challenges, perhaps the red-haired Mexican would go after Gennady Golovkin, but that would be a much riskier fight for a lot less money, and there’s little chance it could occur on May 2, the date Canelo so badly wants to reclaim for Mexican fighters.
Manny Pacquiao, for his part, would be in a considerably worse position. Top Rank is completely devoid of appealing opponents to feed The Pacman: Jessie Vargas is entirely unproven; Terence Crawford has never fought above lightweight; Juan Manuel Marquez doesn’t seem any more inclined to sign up for a fifth battle with Manny than he did in the moments after he knocked him out. Perhaps Mayweather’s line that Pacquiao needs him more than the other way around isn’t far from the truth.
The third tier of losers is comprised of the boxing audience, starved as we are for big fights and compelling matches after a lacklustre 2014. Granted, Mayweather vs. Cotto 2 has some appeal going for it: can Mayweather hold three lineal titles simultaneously? How would Floyd look fighting a middleweight? Could Cotto take advantage of his increased size and power to eke out the victory that eluded him in 2012? But this rematch would presumably come at the cost of Canelo vs. Cotto and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, and it’s impossible to argue it’s worth giving up both of those mega-fights for Mayweather vs. Cotto 2.
Furthermore, there’s a 160-pound Khazak beast in the room that would rob Mayweather vs. Cotto 2 of much of its supposed relevance, in the eyes of hardcore fans at least. By now it is an unwritten rule that the path to “undisputed” status in the middleweight division runs through Gennady Golovkin, who has been sitting on the sidelines impotently for a while now. Sergio Martinez didn’t grant him a shot at the crown, now Cotto won’t do that either, and Mayweather sure as hell wouldn’t do it for all the money in Las Vegas if he was to defeat Cotto in a potential rematch. So instead of clarifying the panorama at middleweight, a rematch between Mayweather and Cotto would in fact further muddle the scene and leave us waiting for even longer to see Golovkin trade leather with the other elite middleweights.
It’s worth repeating that this is all speculation at this point, but if Mayweather and/or Haymon indeed had something to do with the fake $40 million offer to Cotto, or if they’re scheming behind the scenes to potentially steal Cotto away from Canelo, it would be a masterful move from two masterful businessmen. If they were to lure Miguel into a rematch, they would in a swift motion leave Canelo and Manny without a big fight in the foreseeable future, while retaining possession of the Cinco de Mayo weekend. Now the question becomes whether Mayweather is so intent on wrecking Canelo’s plans and on avoiding Pacquiao and Khan that he’s willing to play this dirty. Something tells us we shouldn’t put it past him. — Rafael Garcia