Miguel Cotto is now bona fide, if anyone still had any questions. Some -- myself included -- did question whether or not Cotto could handle the hand speed and quickness of a guy like Zab Judah before last night's fight against the former champion, but Cotto did more than handle it. He took it entirely out of the fight.
Let's call a spade a spade here: Zab Judah was hit in the groin twice, the second time really hard. The first time looked like Judah doing all he could to garner a reaction. But it doesn't matter. The 29-year old Judah was physically no match for Cotto, who is proving to be a terminator. People didn't know if he could handle the jump to 147 to begin with after he had done very well at 140, and many picked the slicker Carlos Quintana to defeat him in December. Quintana hasn't fought since.
Mohamad Abdulaev fought once after losing to Cotto and has been out of action since 2005. Paulie Malignaggi took eight months to get back into the ring after his war with Cotto. Kelson Pinto was essentially finished after Cotto was done knocking him out.
And now Zab Judah has fallen, and hard. Judah took a lot of punishment, and as much as I'd love to just hate on Zab and laugh about his devastating loss, Judah gained back some respect as a fighter with this fight. He did the best he could to weather Cotto's relentless storm, but in the end, he wasn't good enough. And Zab Judah is a good fighter.
At 147 pounds, Cotto looks like a bulldozer. His body attack is unparalleled. The pressure he puts on is enough to wear down any fighter that tries to stand with him. And he can take a punch, because Judah hit him a few times early on, but Cotto either absorbed it (even if rattled) or quickly found his way out, either by wisely clinching or by simply coming back at Zab with guns blazing.
Miguel Cotto is the real deal, and everyone welterweight in the world better know it now. When Zab Judah takes time after a fight to call his opponent a great fighter, you know the guy is legit. Judah doesn't dole out praise with aplomb.
Now who's next? Or, perhaps more accurately, what top welterweight has the balls to get into the ring with Miguel Cotto?
Take a look at the three/four most intriguing possible opponents: Shane Mosley, the winner of Margarito/Williams, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
If Margarito gets past Williams (a big "if"), that fight will take place. Both guys are top-tier Top Rank fighters and it would be a huge event for Top Rank. While the company had to oversell Antonio Margarito just to make him a star rather than a random champion with a pretty good record and good skills, Cotto made himself. While people were talking up Margarito and saying no one would fight him, Miguel Cotto was beating the hell out of everyone in his path.
To me, Cotto/Margarito isn't much of a fight, because I don't think Margarito stands a chance in hell against a fighter like Cotto. I don't even think Margarito will beat Paul Williams. Now if Williams beats Margarito, you've got an interesting matchup. Williams is tall and lanky and has real power, and may be just the type of guy who can use his reach and his punching ability to keep Cotto at bay, which is the only way I can see to beat Cotto. You have to cage the animal to tame it. No one has been able to cage Cotto.
Mosley/Cotto is unlikely simply because you're talking about two guys backed by rival promotional companies who won't want to go out on the limb of taking their best 147-pounder and having him lose to the other guy's best 147-pounder. If you no longer consider Mayweather a welterweight, then Mosley and Cotto are the top two welterweights on the planet, bar none. If the fight were to take place (and again, it won't), then you're upping the stakes on the idea behind the Judah fight: Can Cotto handle this guy's speed? Mosley is faster than Judah, still has power, and has been his best at 147. I think it would be a phenomenal fight.
Then there's Floyd. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., is an interesting case to me. He's the best fighter in the world and no one else has an argument. Floyd thinks he's the greatest. He also is feigning a retirement and says the only fight he'll take is a rematch with Oscar de la Hoya. That's all well and good, but Mayweather's legacy will always suffer from the fact that he didn't take on the best possible opponent in many circumstances. This could be another one. Everyone realizes that Floyd is not a junior middleweight, and that welterweight is his cap.
And talk about upping the stakes on thunder v. lightning. Mayweather is faster even than Mosley, and his punching accuracy is otherworldly. Could Cotto handle Mayweather's speed? No, probably not. Would Mayweather be able to stick and move enough to avoid the devastating rushes that Cotto specializes in? I don't know.
Cotto isn't a fast fighter, he's not a one-punch knockout guy, his defense is probably a C+, and he has flaws. He's not great at anything. But his style is so demanding of the other guy across from him that he is somehow a great fighter despite his lack of great skills. Plus, he's as mentally strong as anyone, even if that's just perception and the way he carries himself. He refuses to be backed down.
But Floyd won't fight Miguel Cotto because there's a chance it's not good for him. If Floyd never fought again, he retires 38-0 with several titles in different weight classes. If he fights and beats Oscar again, he retires 39-0. He would also retire as a guy who participated in the biggest money fight in boxing history.
And Cotto could wreck up the Mayweather joint in serious fashion. Floyd's people would never take that risk. Plus, even if everything else were kosher, there's the fact that Floyd has refused to ever fight on a Top Rank card again.
The welterweight division is historically great, and if you include Mayweather, it still is. Floyd, Sugar Shane, Cotto and Margarito are currently the big dogs. Paul Williams might be about to enter that fray. But after that, there's a step down into the likes of Kermit Cintron, Carlos Baldomir, Quintana, Luis Collazo, Judah, Joshua Clottey, and a host of other good fighters that just don't present a matchup for Miguel Cotto.
Cotto currently stands in a tough spot. With Margarito or Williams most likely to be his next opponent, we won't get to see him prove his mettle against Mayweather or Mosley, and both of those fights are extremely unlikely even later on down the line. There's a chance that Cotto winds up a great champion that doesn't have the most impressive roster of wins simply because of politics and/or a lack of real opposition for him at 147 pounds, which is likely also his true cap.
Don't expect to see the division's best lining up to fight Miguel Cotto much longer. For Zab Judah, this was do or die, or I don't think we'd have even seen Judah take this fight. Sadly for Zab, Cotto did all the doing. For Cotto, the dominance he displayed last night may wind up hurting him in some ways. But it's not a fault of Miguel Cotto's that he's as good as he is.