Miguel Cotto, who lost the middleweight title by decision to Canelo Alvarez in their much-anticipated fight on Nov. 21, is planning his ring return.
Cotto’s return is penciled in for June 18 at the Barclays Center in New York. Roc Nation Sports, Cotto’s promoter, has the date on hold with the New York State Athletic Commission as well as the Barclays Center, where Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs), the 35-year-old Puerto Rican great, who is winding down his career, fought for first time last June and knocked out Daniel Geale to set up the Alvarez fight.
Initially, Roc Nation was planning for Cotto’s comeback to take place at Madison Square Garden, where he has such a rich history. But MSG is already booked that night. The Cure is scheduled for a concert, making the arena unavailable to host the first fighter in Puerto Rican history to win world titles in four weight classes.
There had been some talk that Cotto would fight Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez, the former four-division titleholder, at a catch weight of around 150 pounds, but Marquez has not fought for two years and is coming off a knee injury. He wants a summer tune-up fight before going into anything that big.
So two other names have emerged as possible opponents for Cotto to fight (at a weight of probably about 150): former junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov, the Russian brawler who has been fighting as a welterweight, and aggressive Argentine Diego Chaves.
Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs) is the higher-profile fighter and the more exciting one. He lost a close decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a welterweight title bout that was the 2013 fight of the year. Last April, he lost a majority decision to Lucas Matthysse at junior welterweight in leading 2015 fight of the year contender. However, a Cotto-Provodnikov fight appears unlikely because Roc Nation Sports is being sued by Provodnikov promoter Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, which claims Roc Nation Sports interfered with his contract with former junior middleweight titleholder Demetrius Andrade. Roc Nation Sports has no plans to do business with Pelullo unless the suit is dropped.
Chaves (23-2-1, 19 KOs) has faced notable opponents but that fight is a hard sell. He did not fight at all in 2015 and is 1-2-1 in his last four fights with a knockout loss to Keith Thurman, a disqualification loss to Brandon Rios, a win over a journeyman opponent in Argentina and a highly controversial draw against Bradley in his last fight in December 2014. Virtually everyone thought Bradley was the clear winner.
The television outlet for Cotto’s next fight is also up in the air. HBO has an option on his next fight but I’m told it is not overly interested in the face of budget issues. It would like to push Cotto’s next fight to pay-per-view, which does not eat up its budget, if it is against a quality opponent. Marquez would have made for a legitimate pay-per-view fight. Provodnikov and Chaves, however, would probably be pay-per-view disasters.