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Cotto, Clottey pick on someone their own size

07
Jun

Miguel Cotto (left), here firing a jab at Shane Mosley, has fought many top welterweights since leaving the 140-pound division in late 2006. Zab Judah, Carlos Quintana, Antonio Margarito and Mosley, who he beat by decision at Madison Square Garden in November of 2007, are among the RING-rated 147-pound contenders Cotto has faced. On Saturday, Cotto returns to Madison Square Garden to take on another RING-rated contender, No. 4-ranked Joshua Clottey. Photo by Ed Mulholland/fightwireimages.com

You might want to sit down for this.

Brace yourself.

Prepare to be shocked.

This coming Saturday night, a real welterweight contender is going to be facing  (pause for effect)  a real welterweight contender.

We happen to be living through one of the all-time great welterweight eras in the history of boxing, but for some reason, the notion of a top 147-pounder fighting a fellow top 147-pounder has become something of a novelty.

Floyd Mayweather, the most recent RING champion at welterweight, is scheduled to fight the reigning lightweight champion, Juan Manuel Marquez, on July 18. Two weekends ago, welterweight beltholder Andre Berto won a decision over junior welter titlist Juan Urango. On that same card, veteran welterweight contender Kermit Cintron fought for the second time in a row against a junior middleweight contender. And it feels like there isn’t a top-tier welterweight left who hasn’t had preliminary discussions about how much weight they could trim to face world junior welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.

No, “143 or 144” is not just a discussion of what David Ortiz’s batting average will be the next time he gets a hit. It’s also a boxing catchweight that is practically turning into an official division. Call it “super-junior welterweight.” Or maybe just “Mannyweight.”

The catchweight phenomenon is nothing new, and it has especially gathered steam the last few years because the top money men in the sportÔÇöfirst Oscar De La Hoya and now PacquiaoÔÇöhave shown flexibility in what they can weigh and have often found that the most lucrative opponent is a division or two away. And normally, the catchweight phenomenon would be nothing to complain about. It’s just that there’s a lot of talent at the top of the welterweight division right now, between Shane Mosley, Mayweather, Cotto, Clottey, Berto and, if you want to count him, Antonio Margarito. There are great fights to be made among any combination of those pugilists.

So it just feels a little bit weird that so many of them are looking elsewhere for paychecks. It’s like sitting on the beach in Malibu and turning to your buddies and saying, “I kind of feel like surfing. Let’s grab our boards, get on a plane, and head to the Jersey Shore.”

HBO analyst Larry Merchant is credited with catalyzing the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight, the signature fight to date of the catchweight explosion. And while he notes that it is indeed unusual these days to have real welterweights like Cotto and Clottey fighting each other, he doesn’t mind that weight-jumping fights have become so trendy.

“Interdivisional fights are fine with me as long as they are serious matchups,” Merchant told RingTV.com. “I’m more concerned with what I would call the corporate type of fights in which a top fighter or a champion is not seriously challenged. And we’re seeing less of those now. The attitude from the networks seems to be if you want to fight for the big bucks, you’ve got to take some risk.”

For the most part, the interdivisional fights we’ve seen have been competitive on paper. Everyone who thought De La Hoya-Pacquiao was a mismatch in Oscar’s favor was wrong. Although nearly everybody is picking Mayweather to beat Marquez, it rates to be competitive and can’t be viewed as a blatant mismatch. And 140-pounder Pacquiao against 147-pounder Mayweather, if it comes to fruition, is the most compelling, hard-to-predict fight that can be made in the entire sport.

So it’s not that we’re saying anyone should have a problem with improvised weight limits being a part of so many fight negotiations these days. Rather, we’re saying that there’s a little something extra to celebrate with Cotto vs. Clottey because they’re top-four contenders in the same division.

“I know a lot of people whose opinion I respect who think that Clottey can or even will win the fight,” Merchant said. “That tells you right away that this is a serious fight in which nobody is an overwhelming choice.”

The implications of Cotto-Clottey are big because the winner could enter the Pacquiao sweepstakes, or he could do something of historical significance and face Mosley for the vacant RING welterweight title. Yes, some people already view Mosley as the champ, but THE RING, in a decision I agreed with, took the conservative route and didn’t recognize Mosley-Margarito as a title fight. In hindsight, it really looks like the right move because Cotto’s one loss, to Margarito, is now suspicious, and the Puerto Rican does hold a recent win over Mosley. So he has every right to factor into a fight for the vacant title.

That is, assuming he beats Clottey. If, on the other hand, Clottey prevails, he most likely will catapult to the number-two spot in THE RING ratings. In either scenario, Mosley against the Cotto-Clottey winner would be for recognition as the true king at 147 pounds.

Whether they can all put aside their financially-motivated obsessions with fighting Pacquiao long enough to make that fight happen remains to be seen. But maybe, just maybe, a real welterweight fight between Cotto and Clottey will lead to another real welterweight fight, and a real welterweight champ, later in the year.

This catchweight trend has been perfectly fine. But a trend of welterweights fighting welterweights to determine supremacy in boxing’s best division wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

RASKIN’S RANTS

┬À It’s debatable whether HBO was right or wrong to decide not to televise the Wladimir Klitschko-Ruslan Chagaev fight. But I certainly see no reason for boxing fans to complain. After all, someone else will televise the fight. And this leaves HBO with room in its budget for either Klitschko’s next fight or some other multimillion-dollar matchup.

┬À Speaking of replacement fights, what was once a stacked pay-per-view card on June 27 took another backward step when Paulie Malignaggi-Mike Alvarado fell out and Yuri Foreman-Cornelius Bundrage came in instead. While Foreman-Bundrage is decent from a not-quite-sure-who-will-win standpoint, I can think of few pairings in the sport more guaranteed to lack action. It’s Foreman’s nonstop movement vs. Bundrage’s passion for holding and fighting ugly! Dip into your wallets, everyone!

┬À Heavyweight boxing fans have been praying for years to find the next Mike TysonÔÇöa hard-punching, talented, exciting, young American big man. Maybe we were just praying for a facsimile of the wrong ex-champ. Here’s hoping the next George Foreman can fight and punch half as well as his old man. If so (and yes, I realize it’s a long shot), the heavyweight savior may have made his pro debut this past Saturday night.

Eric Raskin can be reached at [email protected]

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