Miguel Cotto's career has been one that boxing fans of this generation are going to remember very, very fondly, perhaps more than many realize right now.
As he prepares to share the ring with Floyd Mayweather tomorrow night in Las Vegas, we can say that there's really not been a top fighter at or around 147 pounds in his prime years that he did not fight. He's fought Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito (twice), Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey, and Zab Judah, and that's not counting his very strong run at 140 pounds before he moved up.
He's never ducked a challenge. He's been a titleholder in three divisions. And he's done it all with class and dignity. Truth be told, if someone is going to beat Floyd Mayweather in the ring, I want it to happen when he's still considered the best in the world. And if I had my druthers, it would be Miguel Cotto who does it.
Just for kicks, here's how I'd rank Cotto's five best wins.
1. Shane Mosley (2007, Welterweight)
I feel that this was the best opponent Cotto has faced to date, and Mosley's last true Mosley performance. (If you're wondering, "What about Mosley vs Margarito?" then read my Canelo vs Mosley preview for my thoughts there.) This was a terrific fight, rather underrated still, in my view, and one of the best fights of the year, as was another we'll get to here, and then there's Barrera-Marquez, which I think is one of the most underrated fights of the 2000s, since it never gets any love for not being Barrera-Morales or Pacquiao-Marquez or Pacquiao-Morales.
Anyway, Cotto vs Mosley was 12-rounds of fast-paced, high-intensity action, two guys giving the best they had on that night. It's not that common you get a fight like that. Neither guy much budged in the face of some heavy shots.
2. Antonio Margarito (2011, Junior Middleweight)
Margarito was pretty well done by December, but obviously this was a dramatic, high-profile win for Cotto, and probably his most personally satisfying. I still enjoy watching the fight and seeing the bad guy get his. It's like High Noon or something, except Cotto didn't slay the villain, he just sent him packing and into club fights in Tucson.
3. Ricardo Torres (2005, Junior Welterweight)
This was the best fight of Cotto's career from a boxing fan standpoint, I think. It was a wild brawl. If Margarito was High Noon, this was the shootout at the O.K. Corral. Both got hurt, and it was here we learned for absolute certain that Miguel Cotto was, as Mayweather would recently say, a tough cookie. In many years, this could have been a Fight of the Year winner. But 2005 had Corrales-Castillo I, so, y'know. No go.
4. Zab Judah (2007, Welterweight)
Lots of people focus on the low blows. I focus on the fact that this was a great fight, tons of drama. And obviously Cotto's icy low blows. I guess this could be an argument against the dignity and class thing, huh? Oh well. My hypocrisy knows no bounds.
5. Paulie Malignaggi (2006, Junior Welterweight)
A brutal, savage beatdown, and an opponent with silly hair and a cocky attitude whose obnoxiousness was matched only by his toughness. Turned out after this one, I was a Malignaggi fan, too. I wanted Cotto to smoke him, totally beat him down. Then Cotto did, but couldn't get him out. It was kind of like that episode of "King of the Hill" ("Boxing Luanne", S7E11) where Luanne is a phony boxer and then has to fight Freeda Foreman, and she takes such an admirable beating that the dudes who were treating her like a stripper root for her as a fighter.