Cotto: What’s next?
Michael Jennings (left) didn't have much to offer Miguel Cotto, who stopped the British welterweight in the fifth round of their WBO title bout Saturday, but there are plenty of fighters in and around the 147-pound division who would. Photo / Chris Farina
If Miguel Cotto suffered any ill effects from his brutal knockout loss to Antonio Margarito last July, he didn’t show it Saturday night.
The Puerto Rican star out-classed and punished Michael Jennings to a fifth-round stoppage in front of 11,000 fans at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto (32-1, 27 knockouts) patiently stalked his skittish British opponent in the early rounds, shooting a hard. well-timed jab that set up crisp compact hooks.
Jennings (34-2, 16 KOs) never got his offense going, and once Cotto landed a clean hook to his chin late in the fourth round, the fight was all but over. Jennings stumbled back into the ropes before a hard follow-up hook to the body put him down. He beat the count but was dropped again with another body shot with less than 20 seconds left in the round.
Always a terrific finisher, Cotto closed the show in the fifth, putting his punches together with frightening accuracy and overwhelming Jennings at 2:38.
The victory, which earned Cotto his third major title (the WBO’s vacant welterweight belt), was a much-needed rust-shaking confidence builder. The boisterous crowd, which cheered wildly for Cotto after the stoppage, probably exorcised any remaining demons from the loss to Margarito and the recent controversy over his Mexican nemesis’s hand-wrapping scandal.
So what’s next for Cotto?
Margarito, whose license was revoked by the California State Athletic Commission for his part in illegal hand wrapping prior to his one-sided KO loss to Shane Mosley last month, will not be available for at least a year – if ever.
Dream fights with Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather are unlikely as the Golden Boy is still uncertain about his future and the Pretty Boy maintains that he is still retired.
However, as the three-time titleholder told the media in a recent conference call, “There are a lot of names in the welterweight division”.
Who should he fight next? What are his best options?
The 147-pound division is among the deepest in the sport. Here are five potential opponents for Cotto, with the more formidable and high-profile fighters ranked higher.
1. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) The newly crowed WBA titleholder gave a then-undefeated Cotto all he could handle in a closely contested 12 rounder in November of 2007. Cotto won the fight, but it was the “older” fighter who closed stronger. Many ringside observers thought the bout could have been scored a draw or even for Mosley by a point or two. Mosley is 37 but his stock has never been higher coming off his recent domination of Margarito. As sharp as Cotto looked against Jennings, some fans still question how he will fare against a physically strong veteran with power like Mosley. Despite his victory in their first matchup, odds makers and more than a few boxing writers would favor Mosley in the rematch, which makes the matchup so appealing.
2. The winner of Ricky Hatton(45-1, 32 KOs)-Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs): Although neither fighter is technically a welterweight, both Hatton and Pacquiao had their highest-profile fights in the 147-pound division – Hatton vs. Mayweather; Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya – and both events garnered record pay-per-view buys and live gates. So while Hatton and Pacquiao lack the size and power of a fighter like Mosley, both are more attractive opponents in terms of their marketability. And who knows? Maybe Hatton’s grab-and-grapple style or Pacquiao’s blazing hand speed and frenetic footwork would pose problems for the methodical and somewhat plodding Cotto. Pacquiao-Cotto would be major event in Las Vegas. Cotto-Hatton would pack Madison Square Garden to its rafters.
3. Andre Berto (24-0, 19 KOs) The 25-year-old WBC titleholder is the most inexperienced of Cotto’s potential opponents, but his athletic ability – explosive speed and reflexes – and the heart he showed in battling 12 hard rounds with Top-10 contender Luis Collazo last month suggest that the squat-but-powerful Floridian could pose problems for Cotto, who is a more seasoned fighter but considerably slower than the young upstart. The partial unification bout wouldn’t be considered a major event but would make for a high-profile fight on the East Coast, particularly in Miami, where there are significant Puerto Rican and Haitian populations.
4. Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KOs) The often overlooked and underappreciated IBF titleholder is not the most marketable opponent around, but the hardnosed Ghanaian gives everyone he fights pure hell, including the two fighters who narrowly beat him, former champ Carlos Baldomir and Margarito. Most would favor Cotto in this interesting matchup based on his superior boxing skills and versatility, but Clottey’s high guard, solid whiskers, hand quickness and considerable physical strength would make for a competitive scrap.
5. Kermit Cintron (30-2-1, 27 KOs) The former titleholder who most observers believe was lucky to escape with a draw against 154-pound contender Sergio Martinez recently is reportedly heading back to the welterweight, where a fun all-Puerto Rican showdown with Cotto is a possibility. Many would dismiss Cintron because the Pennsylvania resident has laid eggs in his three biggest fights (versus Margarito and Martinez), but it says here that “The Killer’s” height (5-foot-11, four inches taller than Cotto) and punching power make him a live dog against the more talented, but smaller favorite.
Five more: Alfred Angulo, Luis Collazo, Zab Judah, Ricardo Torres and Victor Ortiz.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]