Greb and Robinson Are Spinning In Their Graves

Miguel Cotto made short work of Daniel Geale this past Saturday night and in emphatic fashion and I’m still trying to get the bad taste out of my mouth. There are times when I really wonder what the hell has happened to this sport I have loved for more years than I care to admit, for which I have shed blood, sweat and tears, and watching Cotto defend the lineal middleweight title belt (Once something true warriors were ready to give their very lives for! Once the property of legends such as Greb, Steele, Zale, Hagler and Robinson!) against a putrid stiff who likely had no business being in a boxing ring on Saturday, was one of them.  There’s been too many such instances of late. Boxing is a rough, crooked business, always hard to love. But it used to have a certain integrity. Not anymore, I fear.

Does anyone know what the actual health implications are when a person starves and drains themselves with diuretics to the point where they can barely walk and then puts on 25 pounds of water weight in roughly 24 hours? Do we know? Does anyone care? Are there no medical studies on this? At the weigh-in on Friday, Daniel Geale looked like something that belonged on a slab in a New York City morgue, not an athlete ready to perform at the highest level the next night in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Despite all the hand-wringing the days previous, he managed to come in at the agreed upon catchweight of 157 lb., though it damn near killed him to do it.

Cotto and Geale weigh in. No, the person on the right is not an actual zombie.
Cotto and a walking corpse weigh-in.

The next day he entered the ring not as a middleweight but as what was regarded at one time as a smallish heavyweight. Rocky Marciano weighed 184 pounds when he knocked out former champion Joe Louis back in 1951; according to HBO’s scales Geale entered the ring to challenge Cotto at 187.

Now I’m no doctor, but there’s no way anyone can convince me Geale was in anything close to fighting shape. He came to get his paycheck, pure and simple, and in order to get the bread, he had to get down to 157. That likely was the only goal that mattered in training camp. Not competing, not defeating Cotto, not winning the belt, but stepping on the scale and getting the right digits. “157! Bingo! I’m gettin’ paid!”

If Geale looked like walking death at the weigh-in, for the fight he appeared to wear a loose fitting rubber suit, his flesh hanging off him in folds, not at all like a boxer primed for combat. Again, tell me this stuff isn’t risking a person’s health, putting on more than 20 pounds of water weight in less than 24 hours. Geale said all the right things before the match, how he was ready, in shape, had a great camp, etc., but when the bell rang it was plain for all to see that he was in terrible condition: slow and weak, with no snap on his punches and little resistance to Cotto’s shots. Again, I seriously doubt Geale belonged in a boxing ring that night. He looked that pathetic.

Cotto Geale Main
Geale looked pathetic.

So, Cotto got what he was looking for, a (sort of) legit defense of the middleweight crown he took from a crippled Sergio Martinez and which he now plans to parlay into at least one monster payday. Presumably the Puerto Rican star couldn’t get everything he wanted quite the way he wanted it, when he was negotiating back in February with Canelo Alvarez’s people, so this result is intended to strengthen his bargaining position. “See? I’m the legit middleweight champion of the world! I’m the ‘A side’! Now give me what’s mine!”

Anyone remember all the crap Cotto made Sergio Martinez eat before that one-sided shellacking last year? Diva Miguel lecturing Sergio on the “A-side/B-side” formula? What respect I had for Cotto pretty much vanished right there and then and how I wanted Martinez to give that arrogant prick the beating he deserved. But of course Martinez that night probably didn’t belong in a ring either, his shaky pins barely able to hold him up. But I can’t hold that against “Maravilla.” The dude earned the hard way every dollar he got out of boxing, never kissed anyone’s ass and never played games. Thinking about the shaft job he got from the crooked WBC just so JCC Jr. could have a bogus world title belt still makes me see red.

Cotto batters Maravilla.
Cotto batters Maravilla.

See, Cotto learned the wrong lessons from his defeats to Pacquiao and Mayweather. Instead of hanging onto his integrity and the warrior ethos, he decided, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” I’m kind of shocked he hasn’t signed with Al Haymon, actually. Or gone to Vegas and just flat-out joined “The Money Team.”

Here at The Fight City, we talk about this thing called “Mayweather Disease,” which is when a boxer’s swollen ego so distorts his perspective that he believes a champion doesn’t owe anything to the fans or the sport, but instead boxing exists to serve him. Rankings? Mandatory title defenses? The best fighting the best? A champion competing more than once or twice a year? To hell with all that. “I’m the champion. I’m the A-side. And it’s about working smart, not working hard!”

Don’t get me started on all the deserving fighters Floyd sidestepped over the years. Or how Mayweather avoided Pacquiao until he was completely out of options and simply had to finally face him, some three years (at least!) since Pac was a real threat. I mean, come on! Massive paydays to take on Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero! And Marcos Maidana — not once, but twice! Seriously? But, y’know, he’s “TBE”!

Miguel and Mayweather: did Cotto learn the wrong lessons from Floyd?
Miguel and Mayweather: did Cotto learn the wrong lessons from Floyd?

Now what does this have to do with Miguel Cotto? Everything. He lost to Floyd, lost to Austin Trout, and then he gave it all a long hard think and said: “What the hell am I doing playing by the old rules? Taking on the best. Listening to the fans. Listening to the networks. Actually giving a shit where I’ll end up in boxing history. Screw that. Look at Floyd! He never would have fought Trout! That guy knows what’s what! Minimize the risks! And embrace your inner diva! Manicures and pedicures! Take two hours to get dressed! After one day, underwear in the garbage! This is how you do it!”

Granted Cotto’s way of doing it for some reason involves a lot of hot pink and teal, as well as crocs and ugly tattoos, but otherwise, it’s the same kind of thing. Now it’s all about leveraging his Puerto Rico fan base and his win over a lame Martinez into massive paydays and being, forever after, the hallowed A-side. Which prompts me to offer this cautionary note: don’t be shocked if the Cotto vs Alvarez fight breaks down again because Canelo won’t agree to all of Princess Cotto’s contractual demands or genuflect when required.

It wasn’t always like this. Taking on a top contender or a respected rival didn’t necessarily entail a long list of “diva demands” or getting your opponent to kiss your ass. It used to involve more pride and respect. There was some dignity to the whole enterprise. Guess all that crap is out the window, on the scrap heap with 15 round fights, same day weigh-ins, and title belts that actually mean something. Even if the fight happens and Canelo wins, it might not be a big improvement. Alvarez is as much a diva as the rest of ’em (“I like shoes!”). (Though, to be fair, Canelo has demonstrated an admirable willingness to take on dangerous opponents.) Which brings me to the name that hasn’t been mentioned.

The pause that reveals: Cotto responding to Kellerman.
The pause that reveals: Cotto responding to Kellerman.

Now Gennady Golovkin is a beast of a very different stripe. And as you might imagine, he’s right up my alley. He competes often, against virtually anyone, and there’s not a whiff of pretension about him. He’s clearly the best middleweight in the world and he comes to fight. No clinging and hugging, no running laps; it’s a rumble and a contest of wills, every time out. And — surprise, surprise — lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto wants absolutely nothing to do with him. When HBO’s Max Kellerman asked Cotto about GGG, the look on Miguel’s face said it all. He couldn’t have more clearly telegraphed his desire to forever avoid the G-man than if he’d left a puddle of piss at Kellerman’s feet.

So instead of having some pride and taking on the most deserving middleweight competition available, “Junito” just wants to milk the belt for as much money as possible before he gives it up and heads back down to the super-welterweight division. But that doesn’t make Cotto a coward, or a shameless ducker, or a prizefighter with zero integrity. No! He’s just working smart! Doing things The Money Team way! It’s what any clever businessman would do, right?

Portis questions Cotto's sartorial choices.
Portis questions Cotto’s sartorial judgment.

But here’s the thing: no one ever accused Tiger Flowers or Harry Greb or Sugar Ray Robinson or Marvelous Marvin Hagler of being brilliant businessmen. And they weren’t particularly interested in excelling in that field. They didn’t identify themselves as “businessmen” and if someone had called them one, they might have viewed it as an insult. They were fighters, through and through, born warriors. And while the money was nice, there was more to it, more to go after, more to fight for, back then. Glory. Honor. Pride. History. Taking on the best. Proving one’s greatness to the world. The chance to own that coveted belt, held aloft only by true champions, and regarded as something more than just a bargaining chip.

How sad now this whole boxing business is. How cheap. A bunch of self-important “A-sides” flailing about for percentages and paydays. In hot pink crocs, no less.

Miguel Cotto: lineal middlweight champion of the world. Greb and Robinson must be spinning in their graves.

— Robert Portis 

9 thoughts on “Greb and Robinson Are Spinning In Their Graves

  • June 12, 2015 at 5:05 pm
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    Amen! Not much you can say after that great article Mr. Portis. Boxing used to hold the throne for all sports. Before the sanctioning bodies. Before PPVs. Before the capitalism. Before it started becoming viewed as a “business”. Floyd was once quoted saying he was getting bored with boxing and he didn’t love it anymore, that it didn’t excite him. You want to love the sport again, then fight with your heart!

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  • June 12, 2015 at 11:18 pm
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    I used to cut weight for wrestling in High School. The dangers are somewhat obvious – low iron, fainting. It can be especially damaging to a body still in development. It’s not pretty, but it’s a part of the game. I can’t imagine the additional pressure someone might be under if it were intertwined with their livelihood.

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    • June 13, 2015 at 1:55 pm
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      Yeah, cutting weight is brutal and thanks to the day before weigh-in, it’s become basically mandatory. A fighter can’t afford to just get in top shape and go in to fight because they might be giving away a huge weight advantage to an opponent who has drained themselves and then rehydrated. The day before weigh-in basically encourages this stuff. We need to encourage boxers to be in top condition and to compete in the appropriate weight division.

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  • June 12, 2015 at 11:54 pm
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    A very good tirade sir, I completely understand your frustrations!
    I honestly think the governing bodies should be doing more to stamp them out.
    If Cotto wants to fight at Middleweight and can’t get up to or won’t get up to 160 tough. Be a man and a real champion & fight the guy at the said limit of 160. if you ain’t 160 for whatever reason, don’t shrink the other guy to suit!! Fuck the likes of Holyfield & Tyson gave up massive weight advantages, because they weren’t big heavie’s, imagine either guy saying to Lewis or Bowe you gotta shed 30 pounds & fight on your knees!
    The situation has gotten out of control & ruins any worthwhile fight when this diva shit occurs.

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    • June 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm
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      Thanks for reading, Matt. Needless to say, totally agree. The situation has gotten out of control. The lunatics are running the asylum!

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  • June 13, 2015 at 9:50 am
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    We’re still waiting to see Cotto fight a live middleweight who can genuinely punch back with interest. I think once (or if) that day comes we’ll be seeing Cotto on the end of a 10 count.

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  • June 13, 2015 at 3:49 pm
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    Totally agree. I’ve just started getting into boxing, and i much rather watch 80’s middleweights or heavyweights from the 80s and back. It’s impossible to get into boxing with all the titles, and also all the champions ducking top contenders. It’s so dumb and it’s probably the biggest reason why boxing is dying. The best should be fighting the best. The Champion fights the TOP Challenger. He shouldn’t be able to pick his opponent. Great article.

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  • June 17, 2015 at 11:15 pm
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    Agreed, excellent rant. And I’ll add I can’t understand the reverence that the HBO and ESPN folks have for Cotto. Good fighter, yes, but I cant get out of my mind the way he ran and ran after things went south for him against Margarito and Pacquaio. Remember Pacquaio’s frustration with that? Maybe the beatings he took in those fights made him change his outlook.

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  • July 3, 2015 at 10:52 am
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    To be fair, Sugar Ray Robinson WAS a great businessman. He didn’t trust others to negotiate in his behalf, especially when it came to royalties originating from TV and radio broadcasts. But the difference between him and people like Mayweather and the current version of Cotto is that SRR never shrank away from a challenge. On the contrary, he often defied himself to reach new heights in the ring. For SRR, and so many other greats of the past, boxing glory came first and money second.

    Reply

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