Miguel Cotto has undoubtedly reached elite status.
If anyone was still waiting for a defining performance from the Puerto Rican superstar, even after he beat current 140-pound champions Ricardo Torres and Paulie Malignaggi in thrilling affairs, and stopped Zab Judah in June in a rugged brawl at Madison Square Garden, then the wait is over. Miguel Cotto went to war with surefire Hall of Famer Shane Mosley, and he came out on top.
Winning a tight unanimous decision (115-113, 115-113, 116-113), Cotto improved to 31-0 and firmly established himself among boxing's elite. But this was not a fight where just one man's star was able to shine. This fight probably elevated the current standing of Sugar Shane Mosley, as well, and made it very clear that he is a ways off from being finished.
The 36-year old Mosley, in my view, was being beaten early in the fight the same as most of Cotto's opponents have been -- worn down, getting savagely attacked by the ruthless young star, and while doing his very best to fight back, just losing the war of wills. But it became perfectly clear when Mosley hurt Cotto in the ninth round that if a test of wills was what Cotto wanted, then Mosley would be more than willing to fight back.
Mosley had Cotto moving backward, which I've never seen before. Cotto was able to suck it up and get his own rhythm back, trading wicked body blows and precise shots to the head with the veteran superstar.
Shane Mosley gave Miguel Cotto the toughest test of his career, and after the fight -- which could have gone either way, I think -- he was nothing but generous in praise of his opponent.
"It was a great fight. Miguel was very strong, not only was he a powerful puncher but he can box. He mixed it up and did a hell of a good job. He's a young lion on the way to greatness," said Mosley. "For a guy to be fighting in the ring like that, when I was fighting him and he kept fighting me back, the guy did a great job."
Mosley was a gracious loser, and while the idea of a rematch was presented by Max Kellerman (and will no doubt be discussed to some degree), I don't know that he'll want to go back in with Cotto. How much better could the 36-year old Mosley do than he did last night?
I don't know what the future holds for Mosley, as he really needed this win to set up a potential blockbuster money fight with Floyd Mayweather. Would a fighter in his positon really want to take on a guy like Paul Williams or Kermit Cintron? Would there be much for him to gain from that?
A rematch with Cotto does make some sense, but I don't particularly love the idea. And, honestly, if we're going to do Cotto against Antonio Margarito, the time is now. Margarito was at his vicious, brutal best in a one-round destruction of battle-tested Golden Johnson on the undercard, dropping the Texan three times en route to victory.
The other possibility is Cotto against the Mayweather-Hatton winner, though if Hatton does pull the huge upset, he'd almost certainly be facing Oscar de la Hoya in May. Mayweather-Cotto is something I'd love to see. Cotto is the anti-Mayweather. He doesn't talk a big game. He's not flashy. And their styles are polar opposites. And after having seen what he's done against Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, I think Miguel Cotto would be very, very dangerous against Floyd Mayweather. He does not stop coming, and Floyd doesn't have Shane Mosley's power, which did give Cotto some trouble. Mosley also doesn't quite have Floyd's speed or footwork, and is far more willing to engage in a brawl than the Pretty Boy is. But, if you ask me, Miguel Cotto would give Floyd a lot of trouble. Floyd or anyone else.
I mentioned Margarito's dominant win on the undercard, and Victor Ortiz also scored a first round knockout, dropping Carlos Maussa at 1:15. Maussa looked absolutely horrible out there, and is totally shot. Those fights happened, and we got decisive winners. Paired with an outstanding main event, that along made the show worth the $50 pay-per-view pricetag.
But let's get on to the other fight, because it deserves to be discussed.
Joel Casamayor remained the true lightweight champion with a split decision victory over Jose Armando Santa Cruz. Two cards had Casamayor winning, 114-113, and the third had Santa Cruz by the same score.
I had it 117-110. Harold Lederman had it 118-109. Both of those cards were for Santa Cruz. When the official decision was announced, the not-yet-filled MSG stands vigorously booed.
It was highway robbery. Emanuel Steward said, "It was a bad, disgusting decision." Jim Lampley said something to the effect of, "Just when you thought you've seen it all, something like this happens."
The three ringside judges -- Frank Lombardi, Ron McNair and Tony Paolillo -- should be ashamed of themselves, even Paolillo, the judge that scored it for Santa Cruz. The fight was not close. I like Casamayor as a guy who is maybe the most overlooked boxer of his generation. At 36, he's on his last legs. He looked terrible against Santa Cruz.
But the fight sucked. There was no action. Blame Casamayor's constant evasion and clinching for that, but as the fight wore on, I had a gut feeling we were in for a horrible judging decision. In the ninth round I said the following:
That is what happened. Like Hopkins-Forbes, the fight had a clear favorite. It was Hopkins that night, it was Casamayor tonight. And honestly, Hopkins-Forbes was an OK fight, but it didn't have much in the way of excitement. Casamayor-Santa Cruz was flat-out terrible.
When that happens, I think it's easy for anyone, even the best of judges, to lose interest in what they're doing and just give a "close" round to the favorite. If it happens enough, you wind up with the type of bullshit scoring this fight received.
How was Casamayor winning? He never pushed the action -- never. When Santa Cruz would start to throw punches on him, he would clinch. He spent 95% of the fight either running from Santa Cruz -- and I HATE to say that any fighter is "running" -- or hugging him. It was a terrible performance from what used to be a legitimate champion.
And make no mistake, with the awful decision, Casamayor is STILL the lightweight champion. He is THE lightweight champion, and I don't care how many pieces of tin Juan Diaz carries around. Until Juan Diaz or someone else beats Casamayor, Joel is the champ. Although, I guess that's debatable. Santa Cruz beat him, and Joel is still the champion.
Decisions like this where nobody thinks the right call was made are behind only the obscene sanctioning bodies at the top of my list of "things still seriously damned wrong with the sport of boxing."
We still see these decisions. Casamayor over Santa Cruz was the worst decision of the year, though it is rivaled by Kid Diamond over Miguel Huerta. Joel Casamayor was putrid and got rewarded for it. It is an absolute shame. At least Diamond fought Huerta, you know? On some planet, I suppose, you could have seen Diamond winning more than one or two rounds. I sincerely don't think that was the case for Casamayor-Santa Cruz.
But I don't want to end on that. Let's close it out by focusing on a brilliant battle between Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley, two fighters that are clearly willing, ready and able to fight the very best competition. Those are two guys that represent what's great about boxing, and they left everything in the ring at Madison Square Garden in a Fight of the Year contender that was every bit as good as advertised. For every Casamayor clinch in that debacle of a fight, Cotto and Mosley gave us a big punch and a stunning display of fortitude to make up for it.
Here's to them, and I also raise my glass to Joe Calzaghe, Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bika and Jaidon Codrington in addition. Those six men have given us a week of boxing without rival.