Miguel Cotto will fully call the shots on where he goes with his career if he defeats Antonio Margarito on Saturday night. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Back in 2009, as part of the deal to sign a catchweight fight at 145 pounds with Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto signed a two-year extension with Top Rank, making him a company fighter through 2011.
I don't know if you've noticed, but 2011 is just about over. And Saturday's fight with Antonio Margarito could be it for the Puerto Rican star as a Top Rank-contracted attraction.
Cotto, 31, has not appreciated (to say the last) the way that Bob Arum has defended Margarito, the man he believes used illegal handwraps to defeat him in 2008. At one point in 2009, in the build-up to the Pacquiao fight, Cotto said of Margarito, "He will never earn another dime fighting Miguel Cotto," and said he "didn't care" what Margarito had to say about a potential rematch.
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That rematch, of course, is happening on Saturday night. Is this the end of a long, mutually beneficial relationship between fighter and promoter? Here's what Yahoo! Sports boxing writer Kevin Iole has on the topic:
His relationship with Top Rank, always so strong, always so productive for them, is no longer the same. Cotto is incensed at Arum’s passionate defense of Margarito, who six months after beating Cotto in a hellacious battle in Las Vegas was caught with an illegal knuckle pad in his hand wraps prior to a Jan. 24, 2009 bout against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles.
... "He’s not very happy with our defense of Margarito," Arum said. "I did what I felt was the right thing. ... But look, we’re very fond of him. We’ve had a long, and what I would honestly say is a great relationship. [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef] is committed to him. We feel like we raised him in this business. Is he displeased that we’re defending Margarito? Yeah. But can it be rectified? Of course it can."
Arum feels that Cotto can be convinced to stay with Top Rank, after the fight when his emotions have cooled off.
But is it too late for all of that?
As Iole notes, Cotto is not in the same situation he was in two years ago. His father, Miguel Sr, passed away in 2010 suddenly, and while Cotto's mother Juana has taken that managerial-type role on his team, it's Miguel making the decisions.
He's the one who hired Emanuel Steward to replace Joe Santiago, who had replaced Evangelista Cotto, and he's the one who recently hired Pedro Diaz to serve as his head trainer. Cotto is the one who stated, on a conference call with media just a couple of hours before Margarito was approved by the New York State Athletic Commission, that he would not fight anywhere but New York if Margarito were turned down -- and Iole's article says that Cotto meant every word of that statement.
Miguel Cotto is a veteran of the sport now. He runs his own promotional company in Puerto Rico, which has worked with both Top Rank and rival Golden Boy. Cotto co-promotes Luis Cruz with Top Rank, for instance, and just recently a Solo Boxeo Tecate card from Golden Boy took place in Puerto Rico and featured some of Cotto's other young fighters.
Before the Pacquiao fight, Cotto played a round of golf with Oscar De La Hoya. And in July 2010, he had a meeting with Floyd Mayweather Jr in Puerto Rico, the details of which were never made public.
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Cotto has connections now. He doesn't need Top Rank, and doesn't need Golden Boy, either. If he wins on Saturday, especially, he is his own star, and his promotional company is a real one that puts on shows, unlike some other vanity labels that other fighters "operate."
He could become a hired gun, a fighter who goes where the money is. Or he could sign with Golden Boy, as he seems to have some relationships there, and let them do most of the heavy lifting. Or he could just wind up signing a new deal with Top Rank, the company that his been his home since he turned pro back in 2001.
The question is whether or not he's soured enough on his current promoters to stay. And all of this is extra incentive on Saturday night. A loss on Saturday might wouldn't prevent Golden Boy from signing him, for instance, as he'd still be a name fighter with a real fanbase that will follow his career. But a win would put him totally in the driver's seat for what he does next, and open up a world of options for big fights.