Monday, December 11, 2023  |


Mauricio Sulaiman answers Miguel Cotto

Fighters Network
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images


The hype for the Saturday super-fight pitting Mexico’s top pugilistic product of this age, Canelo Alvarez, against the Puerto Rican Hall of Fame lock, Miguel Cotto (at age 35), looking to continue a majestic resurgence surge has been…curious.

It doesn’t surprise me, for a few reasons.

Both fighters are not quote-friendly hypers, first and second. Also, fans are resistant to hype after seeing what that did for them when they bought Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao. Then, David Lemieux performed courageously but didn’t put half a scare into IBF/WBA middleweight boss Gennady Golovkin…so cynicism regarding pay-per-view clashes is on a high.

Add to that, Cotto is promoted by Roc Nation Sports, which, for a splashy outfit, has a small staff, who are doing what they can to bang the drums but aren’t of the Top Rank Promotions caliber when stirring the pot (and, to be fair, nobody is…).

Then, boxing fans were talking about Mayweather’s beefs last week and then attention was diverted to the Holly Holm-Ronda Rousey fight and that held for Saturday and Sunday into Monday. Promoter Oscar De La Hoya got some ink for the super-fight but he did it by shooting barbs at Mayweather in Playboy.

It’s been curious, yes. But that’s boxing, theater of the expected, LOL. We zig when zagging is expected.

It got curiouser yesterday, when it emerged that the World Boxing Council would be stripping their middleweight title strap from Cotto. He’d had it since June 7, 2014, when he grabbed it from Sergio Martinez, and defended it once since then, against Daniel Geale, on June 6. The Cotto-Alvarez bout was supposed to be his second defense…but now it will be a half-title fight (at least as far as the WBC is concerned. Cotto still holds the lineal and RING championships, the latter requiring no sanctioning fee whatsoever). Because the WBC said Cotto is refusing to pay its sanctioning fees, for that reason, Canelo can win the title Saturday but Cotto has lost the opportunity to defend it.

Here is a portion of the WBC explanation for stripping Cotto:

“After several weeks of communications, countless attempts and good faith time extensions trying to preserve the fight as a WBC World Championship, Miguel Cotto and his promotion did not agree to comply with the WBC Rules & Regulations, while Sa├║l Alvarez has agreed to do so. Accordingly, the WBC must rule on the matter prior to the fight.

“The WBC hereby announces that, effective immediately, it has withdrawn recognition of Miguel Cotto as WBC World Middleweight Champion. If Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez wins the fight against Cotto, he will be recognized as the WBC middleweight world champion. The WBC’s decision is premised on the fact that Miguel Cotto and his camp are not willing to abide by the governing WBC Rules & Regulations, and the specific conditions the WBC established to sanction the fight.

“Simply put: they are not willing to respect the very same rules and conditions which applied to Cotto becoming WBC champion. The WBC wishes Miguel Cotto the best of luck as we truly regret the course of action which led to them taking such decision.”

Cotto counter-punched, telling BoxingScene he “was asked to pay $1.1 million by the WBC.”

The story had Cotto saying, “They wanted $300,000 just for the sanctioning fee for Saturday night and an additional $800,000 as a step-aside free for mandatory challenger Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin, who allowed the bout with Canelo to take place.”

I asked WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman about that; yes, $1.1 million seems a steep price.

“That was completely inaccurate and misleading,” Sulaiman said. He told me that indeed, a sanctioning fee, which is being paid by Canelo, was to be paid by Cotto (the fighter’s promoter actually signs and sends the check to the sanctioning body; the fighter himself does not).

The WBC typically charges 3% of the fighter purse but, Sulaiman said, because Cotto’s take is so large, the organization would agree to cap the fee, at $300,000. Cotto balked. That inclusion by Cotto of the “step aside” fee has nothing to do with the WBC, Sulaiman said. That money would have been negotiated by Team Cotto, and paid to Gennady Golovkin, as he was the person who’d been stepped aside, so Cotto could instead fight Daniel Geale. “We did nothing wrong, my friend,” Sulaiman told me.

The WBC head is miffed because Cotto used the step-aside method to get the title. Martinez was champ and Marco Antonio Rubio was the No. 1 challenger. Cotto paid Rubio a fee to step aside, so he could challenge Martinez. In Sulaiman’s eyes, that worked for all because the fans got a “better” fight and Rubio got money for nothing. “It’s how Cotto conquered the title,” the WBC boss said. “The WBC worked then in good faith to have that situation occur, without hurting anybodys’ rights.”

So then Golovkin fought Rubio, beat him, and became the No.1 challenger. The WBC announced that it would like to see Cotto defend his belt versus Canelo in May 2015. Cotto wanted another situation, so the WBC acquiesced and gave a dispensation for the Puerto Rican to face Aussie Daniel Geale, put that WBC 160-pound belt on the line, though the max weight was capped at 155 pounds, with Cotto reasoning that he is not a true middleweight.

Team Cotto, to placate Golovkin, negotiated a step-aside fee and that was to be paid to GGG. “All terms of the step-aside agreement have confidentiality clauses and it has nothing to do with the WBC,” Sulaiman said. Yes, the WBC doesn’t get a cut of that fee, he added.

The WBC did act in a mediative capacity, with the end desire to have Cotto fight Canelo for that WBC middleweight belt, he continued. That fight got booked and it was agreed to have the WBC crown be on the line. They all did promotional stops together but the sanctioning fee to be paid by Cotto wasn’t locked down. Sulaiman said that the 3% cap is reasonable to him and explained that the fee isn’t there for no reason. The WBC has 50 full-time staffers in Mexico and he said monies paid to the org, in said sanctioning fees and such, “One hundred percent goes back to boxing.” They file to the IRS and he’s comfortable with their structure and the validity of their books. He notes the history of the organization, the lineage of the beltholders and believes that the holding of said belt confers a certain aura upon the pugilist. Also, the WBC handles the selection of the officials, by and large, and handles certain administrative tasks which should not be funneled to promoters. Bottom line: He’s saying Cotto liked the aura of being the WBC champ and soaked up the approval that came with it…but didn’t want to contribute to the organization which works to keep that aura alive and pulled the plug on what seemed a foregone conclusion, that he’d pay the sanctioning fees he’d paid before to them.

“I think he should speak to his team, see what transpired because what Cotto is saying is inaccurate,” Sulaiman said. “He veers into this attack that we’re taking advantage. This is fight week. I’m embarrassed…We should be concentrating on the fight and instead (we’re dealing with) this. It was addressed a long time ago. In these big, mega-fights, it’s when money becomes a problem to fighters and promoters. We asked for a very reasonable, capped amount. Now, anyway, my only concern today until the fight is over is to not distract the fighters. I’m embarrassed by this. We do not wish to continue dragging this negativity to the sport. We did nothing wrong. We supported the promotion and the fighters and the wishes of the fans who wanted to see Cotto versus Canelo.”


Michael Woods gets his money for nothing and his chicks for free. All true – except for that part about the chicks…and that first part about the money.