Boxing is a lot like life. It ebbs and flows, ends and starts anew every day. This past Saturday saw that life cycle in effect with the return of 32-year-old Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto. On the same card, we saw the continued development of Felix “Diamante” Verdejo. Across the pond, 24-year-old Scott Quigg, a Bury, Lancashire super bantamweight, fought to a draw with Yoandris Salinas and in the process, likely gained a wealth of experience, becoming the “regular” WBA champ at 122. On that same card, a crown jewel with massive potential, 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua successfully made his pro debut with an impressive first round knockout. All in all, the sport has rarely looked healthier on a weekend also arguably featuring the most clinching in a title fight since James Braddock-Max Baer in Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin.
The less said, the better.
Safe to say I haven’t seen that much hugging since Burning Man.
Caguas, Puerto Rico's Cotto, who shared the Amway Center stage in Orlando, Florida with San Juan's Verdejo, is in the twilight of an illustrious, gladiatorial career. Reunited with original promoter Top Rank and “reloaded” with new trainer Freddie Roach and strength coach Gavin MacMillan, Cotto looked like a million bucks (or at least 400-500 pay-per-view buys) on Saturday in clipping Delvin Rodriguez with a vicious body assault that set up a finishing left hook in three stanzas. The options are aplenty.
World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez on HBO PPV at the Garden in the spring is the likely option. Martinez is looking for that last big-money fight and has built a solid following on the East Coast while slowly pulling in more Argentineans to his fights. It is conceivable that a catchweight of 158 (for which Martinez has a precedent against Paul Williams) could come off but Roach and MacMillan have bandied Cotto hitting 147 easily. At 5’7”, Cotto is better suited to 147 than he is at 154 and/or 160.
And the match-ups are glorious.
On October 12 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV, Juan Manuel Marquez takes on Tim Bradley for the latter’s WBO welterweight title. The winner could make legit coin against Cotto, who would be the A-side of fan-friendly promotion.
The next weekend, Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov, two fighters who could easily move from 140 to 147, will fight for the interim WBO junior welterweight belt. Again, two styles that please fans and mesh well with Cotto's will be in the forefront.
The true prize, however, will be the winner of Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios on November 23. That's the real fight. If Rios, a come-forward, all-action Mexican brawler, wins, we’ll see a perfect option for Cotto. If Pacquiao wins, it sets up a winnable revenge match.
While beating Delvin Rodriguez is not exactly the number one sign a fighter has returned to the top of his game, stopping him in three is impressive (even if the stoppage was a bit quick). Cotto looked energetic, trim and fluid.
Whether it is rebirth or repackaging, Cotto is going to be good for at least three more high-profile fights under the guidance for Top Rank, which is good for fans and Felix Verdejo. At 20, “Diamante” is a diamond-not-so-much-in-the-rough, harkening back to a time when Felix Trinidad stalked the ring with cold precision and Wilfred Benitez smoothly defended and attacked with style. At 5’9” with a 72” reach, Verdejo is a classic boxer/puncher with an assassin's efficiency, who can easily move from 130 to 147 as he matures. At 8-0 with six knockouts, the jury is still out on whether he can take a hard punch and how he will react to pressure or a defensive style. But he looks like the goods. Excellent timing, sense of range and patience make this kid one to watch. It will fun watching him grow as Top Rank Promotions wisely develops him in support of Cotto's professional twilight.
Quigg needed time to get up to speed against Salinas. Some think he didn't but however you slice it, this is a case of get by and look good later. The draw earned by a late Quigg surge should catapult him toward a showdown against Carl “The Jackal” Frampton, spurring a rivalry that has been brewing for some time. Quigg is a smart, young fighter. His ability to pick off shots with his gloves or stay behind a high guard while making adjustments is going to take him far. Salinas will likely be the biggest puzzle Quigg faces in some time and Quigg will only benefit from the experience.
Joshua has only been boxing for five years. Starting at age 18, Joshua amassed a quality amateur career, winning silver at the 2011 World Amateur Championships and the aforementioned 2012 gold. At 6’6”, he looks and fights how you want a tall heavyweight to fight. Balanced and using a hard, shotgun jab, the combinations flowed nicely against Emanuele Leo, 8-0 (3), who started out aggressive but quickly changed his mind. Joshua showed poise and patience in his attack, stalking and jabbing and shooting his right hand when in perfect range. Most pro debutants would be nervous but as the cameras revealed Joshua backstage, he seemed calm and collected. In finishing Leo, Joshua was exactly the same. He walked his man down, pummeling a bit too often upstairs.
On a day that featured a horrible heavyweight debacle, it was nice to imagine that if his chin is real and his power is solid, Joshua might just present an exciting future contender.
Jose Ramirez, Oscar Valdez, Terrell Gausha, Errol Spence Jr. and Erick De Leon are just a few of the fighters who appear to be the future. Fighters like Bradley, Provodnikov and Alvarado are fighting for respect - even if titles are on the line. And Martinez, the recovering middleweight champion, is silently biding his time waiting for that final moment of glory.
The waxing and waning of their futures - not to mention their fans - look bright.
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