BOXING

Miguel Cotto Returns With Title Win, Plans to Retire By End of Year

Miguel Cotto hadn’t fought in nearly two years, but his opponent on Saturday night didn’t give him very long to shake off the rust.

That’s because Yoshihiro Kamegai kept coming, and coming, and coming, like a horror movie zombie that just won’t stop no matter what you hit it with. And Cotto hit Kamegai with a lot — hooks and crosses and uppercuts, many to the body and far more to a chin that seems to be made of granite and a skull full of steel.

Cotto won a wide decision, though he had to work for it.

Kamegai came out aggressively, as befits his reputation, digging to Cotto’s body and aiming upstairs as well. Cotto, a savvy veteran, knew precisely how to handle the pressure, moving plenty and throwing a lot to try to fend Kamegai off.

Cotto’s harder blows brought blood from Kamegai’s nose in the second. Though Cotto had plenty of oomph behind his punches, Kamegai never seemed badly shaken. That didn’t bother Cotto. He had the hand speed and proper footwork to land, the defensive skills to dodge and block much of what Kamegai threw, and the chin to absorb what Kamegai landed.

It also helped that the steam began to come out of Kamegai’s punches, in part because of the volume he was throwing, in part because of Cotto making it so that Kamegai rarely could set his feet, and in part because of what Cotto landed.

Cotto landed with combinations and he landed with flush single shots. On occasion, Kamegai would stand still for a moment or shake his head, and then he’d proceed forward for more of the same.

Cotto didn’t tire, nor did he get worn down by Kamegai’s pressure and punching — there is a big difference between what Antonio Margarito did to Cotto in 2008 and what Kamegai was capable of doing. Cotto fought well on the move and was controlling and dominating the action, even if he wasn’t the one pushing the action.

The scorecards reflected that reality, one judge having it a 120-108 shutout (12 rounds to none), one having it 119-109 (11 rounds to one) and one having it 118-110 (10 rounds to two).

Kamegai falls to 27-4-2 with 24 KOs. Though he wasn’t badly hurt in the fight, he may want to consider the ramifications of continuing on. He’s taken far too many punches thanks to his willingness and ability to take them, whether it was in his loss to Robert Guerrero in 2014, the first of two battles with Jesus Soto Karass last year, or with Cotto this past Saturday.

Cotto moves to 41-5 with 33 KOs. He also picked up a vacant world title in the process. It’s hard to give that title too much meaning given that Cotto hadn’t won a junior middleweight fight since 2013 (Cotto’s quick victory over Delvin Rodriguez) and Kamegai’s sole win of note at 154 pounds was in his rematch with Soto Karass.

The title was just something for Cotto to add to his collection before he retires.

That time is approaching.

Cotto said before and after the Kamegai fight that 2017 will be his final year, that he wants to fight again in December and then hang up his gloves. His trainer spoke of wanting to face the winner of September’s megafight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. It’s unlikely that the winner would fight again later this year — if they opted to fight Cotto at all instead of, say, having a rematch. But if they did face Cotto, it’s possible that Cotto would defer his retirement for just a little longer.

Once he does call it a career, he’ll leave having held world titles at 140, 147, 154 and 160, including a brief stint as the true middleweight champion following a TKO of Sergio Martinez in 2014. Cotto lost the championship to Canelo at the end of 2015 in a fight he thought he’d won.

“Come December 31, I will retire,” Cotto said afterward. “I’ve done it all.”

There’s just has one more thing he wants to do.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman.

David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and “Fighting Words” columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing.”
Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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