Miguel Cotto: Everyone who likes Cotto – and that’s a lot of people – had to love what they saw on Saturday in Orlando, Fla. The former three-division titleholder tore Delvin Rodriguez apart punch by punch, finally stopping him only 18 seconds into Round 3. This was the dominating Cotto of old, not the one who was 3-3 in his previous six fights and had lost badly to Austin Trout the last time out. And high-profile fighter + sensational performance = a big-money fight next time out. There’s a catch here, though: The outcome was all too predictable. You can make even a declining fighter look particularly good by pitting him against an opponent like Rodriguez, who is solid but limited. In other words, this was more a showcase than a competitive matchup. Cotto (38-4, 31 knockouts) should be applauded for a fine performance under new trainer Freddie Roach and for getting back into the win column after consecutive losses. Now let’s see how he does when he faces a legitimate threat.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Wladimir Klitschko: Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs) wasn’t that big of a winner. The RING heavyweight champ outclassed perhaps his biggest-possible threat, putting Alexander Povetkin (26-1, 18 KOs) down four times and not allowing him to win a single round Saturday in Moscow. He proved again that no one outside his family is in his league. At the same time, the fight was both ugly and boring. Klitschko’s tactic of holding and hanging on Povetkin every time the Russian got close was effective but fans generally prefer boxing over wrestling. It was a drama killer. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. We know by now that Klitschko has only a passing interest in entertaining fans. His mission is to avoid the big shots that derailed him twice in his distant past and win fights. That’s it. Some appreciate that, some don’t. I appreciate the fact Klitschko has now made 15 successful defenses during his current reign as titleholder, a remarkable feat. But his fights are forgettable.
Three featured fights on Saturday: The losers in the three main fights on HBO Saturday – Rodriguez, Povetkin and Andrey Klimov (against Terence Crawford) failed to win a single round on any card. I think the fans deserve fights that are more competitive than that. To be fair, there isn’t much anyone can do about Klitschko, who will devour anyone put in front of him. But Rodriguez (28-7-3, 16 KOs) and Klimov? Cotto-Rodriguez was a good showcase for Cotto but a bad matchup from the outset. As a friend of mine put it, “Rodriguez is a Fright Night Fights fighter, not an HBO main-event fighter.” The matchup wasn’t disgraceful by any means but there were better options. Klimov was a question mark even though he did narrowly outpoint a good fighter in John Molina. He obviously is a decent boxer but he was badly overmatched against the gifted Crawford, who put viewers to sleep but won every round. He’s ready for a real challenge, which is all fans want – real challenges.
Luis Pabon, who worked the Klitschko-Povetkin fight, is a veteran referee. He knows that Klitschko shouldn’t be allowed to hang his torso on Povetkin’s shoulders in an obvious effort to wear him out. Yet Pabon did nothing. The tactic spoiled what might’ve been a more interesting fight and it wasn’t fair to Povetkin. I don’t understand the thought process, if there was one. ÔÇª Povetkin deserves credit for his determination. He hadn’t lost since his amateur days, more than a decade ago. He obviously didn’t want to lose on Saturday. He just ran into a bigger, better freak of nature who is next to impossible to beat. No shame in that. ÔÇª Crawford (22-0, 16 KOs) dominated Klimov (16-1, 8 KOs) but he needs to step up his game in the entertainment department. That fight was bor-ing. He looked like a great talent but hardly a star. ÔÇª
Grigory Drozd (37-1, 26 KOs) scored an important 11th-round TKO over previously unbeaten cruiserweight Mateusz Masternak (30-1, 22 KOs) on the Klitschko-Povetkin card. As colleague Martin Mulcahey pointed out, Drozd might be coming into his own at 34. ÔÇª Junior featherweight contender Scott Quigg (26-0-2, 19 KOs) had to settle for his second draw in four fights on Saturday in London. Coincidentally, his opponent, Cuban Yoandris Salinas (20-0-2, 13 KOs) also is undefeated with two draws. ÔÇª On the same card, lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell (35-2, 25 KOs) stopped Marco Lopez (23-3, 14 KOs) in six rounds, giving him consecutive victories since he was KO’d by Ricky Burns in September of last year.