Dan Rafael: Miguel Cotto
ORLANDO, Fla. -- After Miguel Cotto blew out Delvin Rodriguez in the third round of their junior middleweight fight on Saturday night at the Amway Center, talk immediately turned to what might be next for Cotto, who shook off a two-fight losing streak, looked great doing it in his first fight with trainer Freddie Roach and set himself up for another megafight.
The three obvious candidates for Cotto's next fight are a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (who intends to fight in May), a showdown with former junior middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez in a classic Mexico-versus-Puerto Rico rivalry fight or a fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Cotto sounded open to each of them, but did say the prospect of becoming the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four weight classes was appealing to him, which would mean fighting Martinez.
It's also a fight that Roach said he really likes.
"I know his style pretty well, and I think I know how to beat Sergio Martinez," Roach said at the news conference after Saturday's fight.
Roach, of course, was on the losing end 13 months ago when his fighter, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., was routed by Martinez in a lopsided decision, although Chavez did nearly score a 12th-round knockout.
"He's a great athlete," Roach said of Martinez, who is still recovering from knee surgery and unlikely to fight until at least the spring. "He's very fast, of course. But the thing is, he does have some flaws in his armor. I think we'd take advantage of them. That would be a fight I would love to get ready for. I think I have the right guy to do it this time."
Roach added that he isn't a fan of catchweight fights and that if the fight did happen, he would prefer to see it at 160 pounds. He said he would like to see Cotto get the chance to make Puerto Rican boxing history as its first four-division champion.
• Longtime Nevada judge Duane Ford resigned his position earlier this month, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Ford is leaving ringside to take over as president of the North American Boxing Federation, a regional affiliate of the WBC. Ford judged hundreds of world title fights but drew heavy (and warranted) criticism for his scoring of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. fight in June 2012. He was one of the two judges, along with C.J. Ross, to submit a 115-113 score in favor of Bradley, setting off wide outrage at the split decision (when most believed Pacquiao had clearly won). Ford opened himself up for even more criticism after the fight when he remarked that Bradley had given Pacquiao "a boxing lesson."
• Promising middleweight Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez Sanchez (25-0, 20 KOs), a 22-year-old from Mexico, will make his American debut on Aug. 24 (UniMas) in Glendale, Calif., Top Rank announced. He will face one-time prospect Julio Cesar Garcia (46-8, 39 KOs) in a 10-rounder. If Sanchez beats Garcia, he would then be likely to face Italy's Domenico Spada (37-4, 19 KOs) in a title eliminator. Also on the card, blue-chip junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno (15-0, 11 KOs), 21, will face stepping-stone opponent Jose Luis Araiza (31-8-1, 22 KOs) in an eight-rounder.
Arum had also been considering staging the fight at Marlins Stadium in Miami. Arum said either place would have been a good site, but he likes Orlando, where there is a sizable Puerto Rican population. It's also where Cotto has trained. Cotto's opponent for the junior middleweight fight isn't yet signed, but it likely will be two-time world title challenger Delvin Rodriguez.
The fight would be the most significant in that region since February 2007, when Chad Dawson won a light heavyweight world title for the first time by outpointing Tomasz Adamek at the Silver Spurs Arena in the Orlando suburb of Kissimmee. That card also featured two other world title bouts: Julio Diaz winning a lightweight belt against Jesus Chavez and Cory Spinks defending a junior middleweight title against Rodney Jones.
• The formal announcement of the world title doubleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on Aug. 24 (Showtime) was scheduled for Thursday at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. Featherweight titlist Abner Mares will defend against former two-division titlist Jhonny Gonzalez in the main event, and junior featherweight titlist Victor Terrazas will face mandatory challenger (and former bantamweight titleholder) Leo Santa Cruz in the co-feature.
• Two televised undercard bouts for Showtime's Aug. 9 tripleheader at the Fantasy Springs resort in Indio, Calif., are set, according to Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez: junior middleweight Jermall Charlo (14-0, 10 KOs) will take on Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 KO) and junior lightweight Francisco Vargas (16-0-1, 13 KOs) will meet Brandon Bennett (15-0, 7 KOs). Heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder (28-0, 28 KOs), a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, will headline against faded former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich (25-5, 16 KOs).
• Miguel Cotto, who likely will return to the ring in September, is keeping busy with his promotional company. In his June 7 card on Showtime from Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KOs) of Puerto Rico will headline against Mexico's Luis Grajeda (14-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Puerto Rican bantamweight Jonathan Vidal (17-0, 9 KOs) will face Mario Munoz (13-0-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature.
• Junior bantamweight titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez (15-1-1, 8 KOs) of Mexico will make a mandatory defense against Argentina's Roberto Sosa (24-0, 14 KOs) on June 8 (UniMas) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Top Rank announced. Hot prospect Jessie Magdaleno (14-0, 10 KOs), who is from Las Vegas, will fight in the eight-round junior featherweight co-feature against Henry Maldonado (16-1, 11 KOs) of Nicaragua. Also on the card: heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz (18-0, 12 KOs) in an eight-rounder against Carl Davis (16-5, 12 KOs). It's a tune-up fight for Ruiz, who is scheduled to face fellow undefeated prospect Joe Hanks on July 27 in Macau.
• The ESPN2 card headlined by junior featherweight Chris Avalos (21-2, 16 KOs) and former interim junior bantamweight titlist Drian Francisco (24-1-1, 19 KOs) of the Philippines, originally scheduled for June 14 at Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas, has been moved to July 12. Junior middleweight prospects Glen Tapia (18-0, 10 KOs) and Abie Han (19-0, 12 KOs) will meet in the 10-round co-feature.
• Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (14-0, 8 KOs), an 18-year-old from Washington, D.C., who was just 17 when he turned pro, will headline a hometown card at the University of the District of Columbia's Sports Complex on Saturday night when he steps up a bit in competition against Puerto Rico native Eddie Soto (12-6, 4 KOs) of Pawtucket, R.I. Harrison is a student at the school. The card will be streamed live at Gofightlive.tv beginning at 7 p.m.
• Two weeks ago, Golden Boy won the purse bid for the rematch between Erislandy Lara (a Golden Boy fighter) and Vanes Martirosyan (a Top Rank fighter), who fought to a ninth-round technical draw in November. That meant there would be a rematch to determine the mandatory challenger for the belt held by Canelo Alvarez. Schaefer said a contract was sent to Top Rank for Martirosyan to have the fight on Feb. 23 in Detroit on Showtime on the undercard of the Devon Alexander-Kelly Brook welterweight title bout. Cornelius "K9" Bundrage defends his junior middleweight belt against Ishe Smith in the co-feature.
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said that Martirosyan might not be ready by then. When told that, Schaefer said, "The WBC ruled that is plenty of time. If Vanes can't make the fight, I guess he gets removed from his position and we will have to move on to the next available contender. But we are ready to move forward. Lara is ready to go."
• Victor Ortiz is expected back in the ring in September, Schaefer said. Ortiz has lost two fights in a row since outpointing Andre Berto to win a welterweight title in April 2011. Ortiz then got knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr., and in June retired on his stool after the ninth round because Josesito Lopez broke his jaw in a major upset, ruining Ortiz's planned September fight with Alvarez. Schaefer said Ortiz's jaw is healed and that he will return in the fall. The reason for so much time off, Schaefer said, was not because of a medical issue, but because of a project Ortiz was working on, which Schaefer declined to discuss.
• Although Schaefer doesn't have a promotional contract with Berto, Golden Boy is his de facto promoter due to the strong relationship he has with Berto adviser Al Haymon. Schaefer said he and Haymon have been talking about Berto's return.
"We want to get him back in the ring in April," Schaefer said, adding that Berto could challenge Paulie Malignaggi for his welterweight belt on April 27 now that the Malignaggi-Shane Mosley fight is off. "Paulie and Berto can both make good paydays, and it's a fight that there would be interest in, so we are talking about it."
• Miguel Cotto, who works closely with Golden Boy (although they have no promotional agreement) won't be back until at least the summer, Schaefer said. Cotto lost an upset decision to junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout in December and has dropped two in a row, having lost a decision to Mayweather in May. "I've been in touch with Miguel's team and I think he's planning to do a fight in the second half of the year," Schaefer said.
• Bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz broke out in 2012 by winning all five of his fights, claiming a 118-pound title and emerging as one of boxing's most exciting fighters. He even headlined the return of boxing to CBS in December. After such a rigorous schedule last year, Schaefer said Santa Cruz is taking some time off.
"He was a bit tired. He fought a lot and needed to let his body to rest," Schaefer said. "It was a big year for him, and we are planning to bring him back in May. It could be on his own date or it could be part of [Mayweather's] May 4 pay-per-view card. I am also having conversations with CBS about our next fight, and he could be on that card, as well. We are having discussions with CBS about which dates would work."
But it didn't hurt Cotto's standing in boxing one iota. If anything, his stock went up because, despite lopsided scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111, it was a competitive, crowd-pleasing fight and showed to all that Cotto still had a lot left in his tank, even after so many tough fights.
Cotto pushed Mayweather as hard as he has been pushed in years and gave him one of the three toughest fights of his career, along with bouts against Jose Luis Castillo (their first) and Emanuel Augustus.
Cotto is returning to action to challenge 154-pound titlist Austin Trout on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at Madison Square Garden, but unlike many fighters whose confidence might be shaky after a loss, Cotto's seems greater because he fought so well against the No. 1 fighter in the world.
"Floyd Mayweather was an excellent fight. That was a good fight," Cotto said. "I didn't win, but sometimes when you lose, you win. That was the case for me in this fight."
Cotto couldn't be more right about that.
"I felt rejuvenated after that fight, and everybody wants to see me fight again," he said. "We didn't win the fight against Mayweather. But I won a lot of other things, especially within myself. I felt better with myself no matter that I lost.
"I'm just trying to do what I know to do the best that I can. I watched the Mayweather fight a couple of times since we fought. I thought it was a good fight, a close fight. The judges gave it to him on the scorecards, but after watching it, I feel like I gave him a good fight and I am proud of my performance."
That is as big as it gets in boxing, short of the fight that probably will never happen between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer and Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza both acknowledge that it's the fight they hope to make, should Cotto win Saturday.
Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) is respectful to his opponents, so he didn't want to get caught up in looking past Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), but it's clear he has his eye on Alvarez.
"If I were to fight Canelo next, everyone knows that a fight like that would stir up the great rivalry between Puerto Rican and Mexican fans," Cotto said. "It's an all-time rivalry. They also know what a Mexican fighter and a Puerto Rican fighter can do in the ring, too.
"Austin is [my opponent] Saturday night, and once I am done with that fight, I can sit back and look at my options and decide who my next fight will be against."
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), who at age 22 is 10 years younger than Cotto, was at Friday's Trout-Cotto weigh-in -- both fighters made weight (Cotto at 153.6 pounds, Trout at 154) -- and will be at Saturday's fight.
He wants Cotto next and will be watching him closely. Golden Boy already has set May 4 as the date for his next fight. Now Alvarez just has to hope Cotto wins.
"I'd love to fight Cotto," a smiling Alvarez said through a translator at the weigh-in. "I am here to see the fight and I have a lot of hope that Cotto will win. I want the honor of fighting him because he is a great fighter. He's a veteran fighter with a lot of experience. So I am looking to see the best of Miguel Cotto on Saturday night and then I want to fight him. I know that is a fight that boxing fans would like to see and it is a fight that I would like to have very much."
Alvarez-Cotto probably would take place in Las Vegas, but Alvarez said he wouldn't be opposed to fighting in New York, where Cotto is a huge draw.
"Anywhere. I will fight him anywhere," Alvarez said. "It's Mexico versus Puerto Rico, champion against champion. I know how big this fight would be."
The four-part "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez" series, which chronicles the build-up to the fourth showdown between rivals Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, will debut on Saturday night (well, really Sunday morning -- it airs at 12:15 a.m.) immediately following HBO's live card from Atlantic City, N.J., featuring lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco defending against Adrien Broner and a heavyweight match between Seth Mitchell and Johnathon Banks.
In a departure from the traditional "24/7" format, the debut episode revisits the first three Pacquiao-Marquez fights (a featherweight title fight in 2004, a junior lightweight title fight in 2008 and a welterweight title fight in 2011). I can't blame the producers for going that route. We have seen Pacquiao and Marquez on "24/7" so many times that it has to be tough to keep churning out episodes on them.
Included in that first episode are interviews with Pacquiao, Marquez, trainers Freddie Roach and Nacho Beristain, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and HBO commentator Larry Merchant.
The second and third episodes air on subsequent Saturday nights, with the finale airing on Dec. 7, the eve of the HBO PPV fight from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Showtime's two-part "All Access: Cotto vs. Trout" premiers on Friday night at 10:30 ET/PT. You can check out the trailer here: http://s.sho.com/Ry2Ckb.
The series focuses on junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout's defense against former titleholder and superstar Miguel Cotto. They meet Dec. 1 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT) at New York's Madison Square Garden, where Cotto is a huge attraction.
The first episode takes viewers behind the scenes and into the lives of the fighters at their training camps as they get ready for the fight.
The second episode, which debuts Dec. 15 (10 p.m. ET/PT) on Showtime, is an epilogue to the fight. It will take viewers inside the fight-week build-up and cover the bout and the aftermath.