Earlier when it was announced by Bob Arum that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr isn't ready to fight Miguel Cotto, I wondered who Cotto might fight this year. So here's a few potential opponents for the Puerto Rican star. Top Rank has set aside a date of October 1 or October 8 for Cotto's return.
1. Antonio Margarito
Obviously this is the big one, and is where Top Rank would like to go. They had already had the bout set aside for September 17, before Margarito's eye injury looked like it would keep him out the rest of the year. Now, Margarito is near medical clearance to spar again, which could mean he'll be ready to fight by this fall. Cotto vs Margarito II would be an attraction, as their 2008 bout was great, and has over time grown far more controversial. Cotto is a hero, Margarito a villain, and they have unfinished business. If I laid odds, this would be the fight I'd expect. It just depends on Margarito's eye.
2. Kermit Cintron
Cintron's status as a new Top Rank signee (he makes his return on 7/9 against Carlos Molina) has him in a position where he's a great backup plan for a lot of guys, up to and including, apparently, Manny Pacquiao, an idea Arum floated which was then universally dismissed and/or crapped upon. But he'd make sense for Cotto.
3. Pawel Wolak
He's a Top Rank fighter, he's in his prime, he's tough, he makes good fights, he's probably as hot a commodity as he's ever going to be, and he can help bring in some fans if the fight were staged in Atlantic City or Newark, since the Polish population in New Jersey has become one of the best fight crowds in the United States the last few years, with Tomasz Adamek leading that charge. Wolak is also currently ranked by the WBA, the "sanctioning" body that has Cotto as SUPER!! CHAMPION!! at 154 pounds. Wolak fights on July 15 against Delvin Rodriguez.
4. Nobuhiro Ishida
He's really a 154-pound fighter and he does have the recent big win over James Kirkland, which has led to everyone salivating to get him into the ring with their name fighter. No disrespect meant to Ishida, but he's 35 years old and still isn't a puncher, no matter what he did to Kirkland's suddenly glass chin. DiBella tried to get him in with Sergio Martinez, then Goossen Tutor tried to get him in with Paul Williams, which HBO approved and then declined after backlash, or when someone at the network woke up from their nap, but more likely the backlash. Arum has sold worse PPV main events before.
5. Austin Trout or David Lopez
Trout holds the "regular" WBA title at 154 pounds, and faces dangerous David Lopez this Saturday in Mexico. Should Trout win, he might not want to go toward Cotto, since he'd be building up a reputation as the American who goes to Mexico and beats their fighters. I mean, it's just Rigoberto Alvarez and maybe David Lopez, but still. If he's as good as he seems, Trout could be genuinely tricky for just about anyone at 154 -- he's young, still fresh, southpaw, and a little slick. As for Lopez, if he won, the fight would be kind of a natural make even with Lopez having no name power.
No to Sergio
As for Sergio Martinez, that's not going to happen, not at 154 and not at 160. Top Rank is not going to put Cotto in with Martinez, and I can't blame them.
The Wild Card
Cotto's seemingly constant status as Manny Pacquiao Plan B isn't in effect just yet, with Juan Manuel Marquez still slated for November 12 against Pacquiao. However, Marquez's July 16 tune-up, should he get gloriously upset by Likar freaking Ramos, could mean that Top Rank isn't looking to book Miguel just yet. What if the unimaginable happens, and they need him for November 12?