Glynn Evans presents the case for why Saturday’s BoxNation screened WBO Super-Welterweight clash is ‘can’t miss’ TV for the Fight Frat.
1. Watch History in the Making.
‘Mighty Mig’ first surfaced on the world scene way back in September 2004, aged 23, claiming the vacant WBO Super-Lightweight crown by slaying previously unbeaten Brazilian bomber Kelson Pinto in six in Hato Rey.
After savaging six challengers (five early), ‘Junito’ made the 7lb spring to welterweight in June 2006 and garnered the WBA title by bludgeoning compatriot Carlos Quintana into a fifth round retirement. In February 2009, Cotto clouted Chorley’s Michael Jennings (then 34-1) to add the vacant WBO welter belt, before reigning at a third weight by felling WBA 154lb boss Yuri Foreman in nine at a bouncing Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Following decision losses to Mayweather and Austin Trout, he fashioned an astonishing resurrection in 2014, aged 33, to violently demolish Argentina’s long reigning WBC middleweight king Sergio Martinez to conquer a fourth division.
As the fabulous fighting island’s first and only quadruple weight world champion, Cotto is already the most decorated fighter in Puerto Rico’s rich ring history. And on Saturday he attempts to further extend his legacy by adding a sixth world belt to his collection.
2. Savour the Skill Set of a Sure Fire Future Hall of Famer.
Few fighters are as universally revered by both fans and fellow fighters as the Rican icon who is blessed with an abundance of talent, temperament and testicles.
A former World Junior finalist (1998) and 2000 Sydney Olympian, Miguel Angel began his career as a bull strong and vicious hitting warmonger, with a particularly brutal body attack. Latterly, the man from Caguas has evolved into a savvy old sage, a tactically astute yet still potent counterpuncher, who could peel off the most creative combinations.
And there is plenty of steel behind the silk. Sure, he touched down a few times over his 16 years career but only Antonio Margarito and Pacman stopped him (round twelve) and the former ‘defeat’ came with a huge asterisk.
If Cotto wasn’t quite the greatest, he was among the very bravest to dip between the ropes, warring on equal terms with the cream of his generation (Judah, Mosley, Margarito, Pacquiao, Mayweather, Martinez, Alvarez) and never bleating on the few instances he came up short. The stone faced father of four always respected the sport and served as a perfect role model to those who came later.
Now well into his 37th year, he insists 2017 will be his swansong. Savour him while you still can.
3. Witness A Bonefide Samurai Warrior.
Fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun are generally iron cast, heavy fisted warmongers who pride themselves on honour and valour, and Kamegai fits that prototype perfectly.
While Cotto enters the world championship ring for a 25th time, Yoshihiro is debuting at top level but has earned his mandatory slot the hard way, starring in Fight of the Year contenders against a prime Robert Guerrero (2014), then twice against Jesus Soto Karass (both 2016).
The 34 year old action man from Sapporo has one direction, forward, and one pace, flat out; qualities that shall pose a stiff examination to Cotto’s aging lungs and legs.
He is yet to be dropped or stopped in 32 starts and is blessed with seriously heavy hands. Twenty-four of the 27 victims on his slate (two draws) failed to finish the race. A looping overhand right is his signature weapon of mass destruction – Cotto has long been prone to cuts and facial swelling – and he also loves to rip the body. The Puerto Rican certainly won’t need to play ‘hide and seek’.
4. Feast on a Fistic Fiesta.
Cotto’s glorious ring achievements have seen him all but deified, in his homeland, and among the five million Ricans who presently reside on the US mainland. Ten of his fights have featured on pay-per-view in the US, with seven figure take-ups for his dust-ups against both Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Madison Square Garden has transformed into a frightening cauldron of rabid, flag waving Ricans on each of the nine occasions that Cotto has headlined and the national treasure attracted a similarly partisan 20,000 audience to Yankee Stadium for his WBA 11st win over Hebrew homeboy Yuri Foreman.
Expect similar from the huge local Hispanic community for what is only his second Californian start, at the Stubhub Centre in Carson on Saturday. The PR posse are proper fight fans – as knowledgeable as they are fanatical - and turn every Cotto fight night into a carnival.
5. Proper Fighters, Proper Fight.
While the same night circus over in Las Vegas resembles Wayne Rooney playing Andy Murray at tennis, Cotto-Kamegai represents a rumble between two time-served boxers who collectively share 77 fights and 28 years in the profession.
The pair contest a recognised (if vacant) slice of the global super-welterweight pie, screened live on HBO in the US and BoxNation in the UK. And if four division world champ Cotto enters a 3-1 favourite, it promises to be infinitely more competitive fare than the Mayweather-McGregor exhibition 450 miles due east.
In terms of aesthetics and experience, Cotto is vastly superior but the Puerto Rican carries the baggage of 12 extra fights, two extra years and with 21 months of ring rust to shed. Kamegai is taller, longer, fresher and carries a serious clout. This is definitely no ‘gimme’.