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.
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.
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.
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”!
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.
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?
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