Who Should Miguel Cotto Fight Next?


Buried amid the Lil Wayne-Floyd Mayweather birthday party summit and Adrien Broner having a stinky sad on today’s boxing Twitter roll was news you can use from ESPN’s Dan Rafael, illuminating the next step for one of the sport’s aging treasures:

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Miguel Cotto.  Between his bullish style, his legendary June nights in Madison Square Garden, and arguable the hardest strength-of-schedule this side of Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto makes himself so easy to like.  While I will always be amazed by the talents of singularly skilled fighters, I find myself a “fan,” so to speak, of extremely few.  Cotto is one of that select group, and he remains a legitimate box office draw and title contender.  Despite losing his last two fights to the undefeated Mayweather and the at-the-time undefeated Mike Trout, Cotto remains a threat at the top of the light middleweight division.

With his next fight being approximately four months away, who is Cotto likely to see?  In going down the list of possible candidates, it will be interesting to see if his Golden Boy can convince Cotto not to face the biggest dog in the kennel as was his downfall last December.  Admirable though seeking out Trout certainly was, it cost Cotto a mountain of money he was certain to earn in a pay-per-view fight with Saul Alvarez.  Cotto has another big money fight in him for the first half of 2014, but he’ll need some momentum in order to secure it.  Three consecutive losses, even if against boxing’s elite, is no basis for promoting a $60 pay-per-view.  On the other hand, Cotto plainly ignored this logic once before and went as bold as bold fared.  Who might we see him face this time?

Erislandy Lara – Lara is scheduled to fight Alfredo Angulo in two-and-a-half weeks, which is by no means a certain victory.  In fact, Angulo could end up in this conversation were he to defeat Lara.  Lara is the rightful favorite however, and is represented by the Golden Boy-Showtime friendly Al Haymon.  Lara has been desperate for another shot at a big fight since his hotly contested defeat to Paul Williams a few years back.  The problems here are the 10-week turnaround and Lara’s threat to Cotto’s record.  Of course, fighting so soon after a bout with Angulo would dampen Lara’s danger quotient, but it’s difficult to say to what extent.  Ultimately, the near immediate training camp after what’s sure to be a tough fight with Perro Angulo makes this match unlikely.

Peter Quillin – Kid Chocolate is coming off a starmaking performance last month in which he more or less rearranged Fernando Guerrero for thirty minutes.  He’s made something of a home for himself at the Barclays Center in his last two bouts, each an impressive knockout victory.  Fighting Cotto would be a step up in competition commensurate with what Quillin has earned, and with nothing on the horizon, Golden Boy could certainly make this happen.  That said, Quillin has spent his career between 168 and 160, which is awfully deep water for Cotto.  Between that his impressive, undefeated pedigree, Quillin would be a legitimate problem for Cotto.  Had he not dropped two straight, this might be the sort of fight that Cotto would push for in an effort to test himself against tougher, somewhat unheralded men.  Now, it would be a bridge too far.

Manny Pacquiao – This actually makes a ton of sense, except for the fact that Bob Arum has put his entire stable in an impenetrable fortress and all trespassers will be shot on sight.  Let’s move on.

Austin Trout – Compounding mistakes is a great time, isn’t it?!  All the promotional details of this potential bout are a nonissue, as both men fought six months ago and nothing major has changed since.  Trout would certainly agree to this, having already defeated Cotto in a not-all-that-close bout.  I can’t imagine Richard Schaefer and Cotto’s handlers would allow this to happen though.  At some point, a fighter’s hubris has to make way to smart matchmaking.  Cotto’s been around the block long enough to know this.  Much though I’m sure he would love to get another bite at Trout’s apple, Miguel Cotto would do well to be judicious here.  Trout gave Saul Alvarez all he could handle a few weeks ago, showing that his performance against Cotto was, if nothing else, not a fluke.  Trout would likely be favored and might very well win a rematch with Cotto.  If that were to happen, Cotto’s future at the top of junior middleweight would be in serious jeopardy, if not gone altogether.  Because this is Cotto we’re talking about, I won’t say this is fight is an impossibility, but he’d do well to put this fight in the past for the rest of the year and move on to a more winnable match.  Maybe with someone like…

Cornelius Bundrage – This would make the most sense if there’s a plan for Cotto to headline a pay-per-view in 2014.  Bundrage is, if nothing else, a credible name to cross-promote with Cotto.  He looked pretty, umm, terrible defending his belt against Ishe Smith, but at least he had a legitimate title to lose.  As an aging Golden Boy stablemate, Bundrage would be readily available and willing to make financial concessions to Cotto if offered this fight.  It would give Cotto the pause he might need were he planning a bout with Alvarez or Mayweather the following May.  With the fight being staged in New York, Cotto ensure a healthy live gate that could certainly be boosted by a strong undercard.  I’m not sure how Cotto would feel about taking such a distinct step down in competition, but one would have to imagine that his people see this (or something like it) as a natural bridge to the next big event in Cotto’s future.  Cotto-Bundrage wouldn’t be a YouTube sensation, but it might be just what the doctor ordered for Cotto to prolong his stay at the top and give himself another major payday in the near future.

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