By Doug Fischer
CARSON, California – If he had any ring rust, Miguel Cotto sure didn’t show it against Yoshihiro Kamegai tonight at StubHub Center.
Cotto, whose last fight was a decision loss to Canelo Alvarez 21 months ago, put on a boxing clinic against the hard-charging gatekeeper to the delight of the near sold-out crowd.
The future Hall of Famer, who has repeatedly said that 2017 will be his final year in boxing, scored a lopsided unanimous decision in what amounted to brutal target practice. Cotto (41-5, 33 knockouts) won by scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110. The 118-110 card was being kind to Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs), who was fearless and relentless against the Puerto Rican star but was also soundly picked apart with accurate power punches despite his heart and constant pressure.
Cotto, who picked up the vacant WBO 154-pound belt with the victory (his sixth world title over four weight classes), landed 339 punches (mostly flush power shots to Kamegai’s iron jaw) while the Japanese slugger only landed 156, according to CompuBox.
It was a fun but one-sided contest. Cotto, who has a lot of wear and tear on his 36-year-old body, made it look easy. However, it probably didn’t feel easy to the often-stoic veteran. Kamegai set a torrid pace, was more than happy (almost eager) to eat power shot after power shot, and was able to land more than a few burning hooks to Cotto’s liver. Although he kept his usual ice-cold composure between rounds, those who have followed Cotto’s 17-year pro career had to wonder if he was thinking “Why am I still doing this?” as he sat on his stool.
Cotto would have been forgiven, even applauded by some, if he had announced his retirement after tonight’s fight. For a moment, it seemed like he was considering doing so during his post-fight in-the-ring interview with Max Kellerman for HBO, which televised the bout live in the U.S.
First, he reiterated that he would hang his gloves up on December 31, adding that he’s “done enough” as a fighter and that he wants to spend more time with his family. Kellerman asked him if that meant that he would fight one more time, or if he wanted to call it a career now.
“What do you think?” a grinning Cotto asked. “What do you want?”
Kellerman said he wanted to see him fight one more time, keeping the interests of fans (and his network) in mind.
“One more in December,” Cotto said.
When asked who he would like to fight in his last bout, Cotto turned it over to his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who has guided the tail-end of his career.
Roach, who’s got a little promoter in him, brought up the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin middleweight championship that takes place in Las Vegas in three weeks.
“There’s a big fight coming up on September 16,” Roach said. “We won’t duck anybody. We want to go out with a bang.”
The Canelo-Golovkin winner (and even the loser of that mega-match) would net him the most money for his Final Hurrah, but that fighter also represents a lot of danger for an aging veteran that has been in many ring wars and did not have sufficient power to stop or even drop a junior middleweight gatekeeper. Hard-punching middleweight contender David Lemieux, who has been mentioned as a potential opponent for Cotto, also presents a physical threat.
But Cotto isn’t a future Hall of Famer just because he won world titles in four divisions. He’s also going in because he seldom ducked a tough fight.
Whoever Cotto winds up fighting in his final fight, and regardless of what might happen during the bout, his fans (and even his critics) know that he will put forth his best effort and exhibit his customary blend of masterful boxing and punching.
Cotto was never embraced by Puerto Rican fans as much as many of the boxing-crazy island’s previous standouts – he didn’t possess the dynamic offense of Felix Trinidad or the genius defense of Wilfred Benitez or the charisma and natural talent of Hector Camacho – but they had to respect his overall ring craft along with his accomplishments.
Win, lose or draw in December, Cotto will leave the sport with the admiration of boxing’s media and fans.
Results from the Cotto-Kamegai undercard will be added to this article later tonight.
Email Fischer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer
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Source:: The Ring – Boxing