After the rather desultory third bout between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin on September 17, I made the decision to bypass the post-fight press conference at the T-Mobile Arena, and headed over to the world famous Lobby Bar at the MGM Grand.
As I stepped inside I saw a Twitter follower (@GodinezOmar) who was at one of the tables with one Miguel Cotto.
And on this evening, the normally reserved Cotto was quite talkative (by his standards), and later on we were joined by another Twitter follower, @calixboxing2. For the better part of the next 90 minutes we engaged in a variety of subjects pertaining to the fight we had just witnessed, and boxing in general.
I was actually a bit surprised on how candid and blunt, the usually reserved Cotto was with us, perhaps it was because he had a few drinks. It was a side of him I had rarely heard or seen after years of covering him.
Which eventually brought me to this, I said to him, "Miguel, I just want to say this while you're here, you're career is one that is to be respected. There wont be careers like yours moving forward."
Hey, what do they say about giving someone their flowers? Well, this was my delivery of an FTD bouquet. His run was storied and meaningful. When Cotto fought, it mattered. He represented his island with valor and pride.
And I meant every word of it. The native of Caguas fought professional from 2001 to 2017, and became the first Puerto Rican boxer to win titles in four weight classes (from junior welterweight to middleweight) and was recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall-of-Fame.
After representing his country in the 2000 Olympics, he signed a promotional deal with Top Rank, which developed him as both a boxer and an attraction. It was evident early on that Cotto was a blue-chip prospect, and eventually he was matched with the likes of John Brown, Cesar Bazan, Demetrius Ceballos, Carlos Maussa, Lovemore Ndou, before winning the vacant WBO 140-pound title in his 21st bout, as he stopped the undefeated Kelson Pinto in six.
Cotto defended that belt against the likes of the hard-punching Randall Bailey, former belt-holder Demarcus Corley, and future champion, Paulie Malignaggi. In-between, he was engaged in a memorable 'fight of the year' candidate versus the dangerous Ricardo Torres.
His welterweight run began against another undefeated boxer and fellow Puerto Rican, Carlos Quintana, who he overpowered in six rounds for the vacant WBA belt. At 147, he defeated the likes of Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, before suffering his first professional defeat at the hands of Antonio Margarito, which has been shrouded in controversy.
This was truly the apex of Cotto, who more than took the torch from the great Felix 'Tito' Trinidad, as the face of Puerto Rican boxing. Later on Cotto would win titles at junior middleweight and middleweight, before ending his career in 2017 with a loss to Sadam Ali. His career record is 41-6(33 KOs) but it really doesn't tell the whole story.
Because of his accomplishments and popularity, he is one of only two boxers (Shane Mosley being the other) who earned bouts against Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Canelo. This guy wasn't just a good boxer, he was good box-office, which is why he got these assignments. He didn't win any of these match-ups, but acquitted himself well in all of them.
Beyond that, he himself was a business. He was the centerpiece of the revival of Madison Square Garden (or perhaps it should be called 'Miguel's Square Garden) as a boxing venue beginning with his fight with Muhammad Abdullaev in 2005. In following years, he played to packed houses at this famed building and now its become a yearly tradition to have a big card in early June on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Cotto even headlined as the new Yankee Stadium against Yuri Foreman.
His career checks every box imaginable.
Is his record checkered with recognized names?
Did he take on difficult opponents other may have avoided?
(Austin Trout, Joshua Clottey) Check.
A ticket seller?
Was he in memorable fights?
Did he participate in big pay-per-view events?
It's all there. Yeah, he lost some, but there were part of this compelling story that captivated fans across the world. It was a career with substance and meaning. I was lucky to have seen the journey. We discussed all this, and he said to us, "All I did was listen to Bruce Trampler."
Perhaps that's true, but it's a bit too modest. Not many fighters are built like this, and for the long haul. Quite frankly, with today's game which sees boxers under the age of 25 and well under 30 fights become twice-a-year performers, you wonder if it can ever be replicated moving forward. As far as I'm concerned he's on the PR boxing Mt. Rushmore alongside, Wilfredo Gomez, Felix Trinidad, and Carlos Ortiz.
They are still trying to find the next great Puerto Rican prizefighter. Cotto has high hopes for young Xander Zayas(who grew up idolizing him). Perhaps he'll have the right stuff. His journey is really just beginning at age 20.
As more and more people started streaming in from the fight, a multitude of fans asked for pictures with Cotto. What was interesting is that they were basically all Mexicans (dressed out in Canelo gear) who walked up to our table. There was no Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry on this evening, they were there to pay homage to a boxer who had truly earned their respect and admiration. And he was more than happy to oblige them.
Salute to Miguel Cotto. It will be a long time before we see a career -- and fighter -- of this caliber.