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Bob Arum on Cotto’s legacy: Great fighter, not a great businessman

Promoter Bob Arum looks back on the legacy of one of his former stars, Miguel Cotto.

Foreman v Cotto Press Conference Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

No, The Bobfather didn’t tune in to Miguel Cotto’s last stand, Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden’s big room, which screened on HBO.

No misty-eyed nostalgia session for Bob Arum, then, as the Brooklyn-born Las Vegan instead choice to meet with friends and socialize. But I did ask the 86 on December 8th year old master of the deal to assess the Cotto legacy, that making sense since Arum’s Top Rank promoted the majority of the Puerto Rican’s bouts.

“He was a great fighter,” said Arum on Monday morning, five days away from his wickedly anticipated clash pitting Vasyl Lomachenko against Guillermo Rigondeaux at the MSG Theater.

“He was great to boxing, and boxing rewarded him. We promoted 90 percent of his fights, he was a willing warrior, willing to fight anybody, anybody we suggested, he’d agree to fight. A lot of fighters and management steer clear of certain opponents, Miguel never had that mindset, he was good for boxing, he’d face anybody.”

We touched on Cotto the businessman as opposed to the ring king. Arum shed some light on that.

“When his father Miguel Sr. died (in January 2010), he was very close to the father, he listened to his dad's advice. Before it was all about fights and legacy and money, yes, but after his father passed he then became more of businessman than fighter.

“The father was a terrific guy, he had been in the US Army, I respected him tremendously, and he had a heart condition. Miguel never was the same person, then.”

Arum thought that others Miguel relied on for counsel weren’t as exemplary.

“He became a businessman. At that point it became very difficult to sit with him and plan strategy. It became a one shot-at-a-time strategy. I can’t criticize the first time he left Top Rank, his contract ran out and he got the Mayweather fight, which maybe he couldn't have with us.

“But he got the short end of the Mayweather fight. A lot of decisions were thought out, maybe based on a guarantee of $500,000, but potentially many millions were left on the table,” Arum continued. “It is what it is. I’m not giving Miguel kudos as a business person, but as a fighter, always.”

Cotto and Top Rank did a mega-bash at Yankee Stadium after dad died, in June 2010. He downed Ricardo Mayorga in March 2011, with Manny Steward in his corner, and then enjoyed the role of avenger when he got back at Antonio Margarito in December 2011.

As a free agent, he decided to go his own way, and worked with Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer, for that PPV mashup with Mayweather (May 2012).

He then employed Miguel Cotto Promotions, and Bob isn’t wrong, the choice-making in taking that fight versus Austin Trout (December 2012) in hindsight wasn’t maybe the sagest. Cotto got that, and re-united with Top Rank for his next one, in October 2013 against Delvin Rodriguez.

That pairing held up for Cotto’s tango with Sergio Martinez in June 2014. He jumped the TR ship again, signing on for a boat-load of Jay-Z’s money, with Roc Nation. $50 million or so, we heard, though no one has been able to report how much of that was guaranteed and was/or will be paid out.

He downed Daniel Geale in June2015 and needed to help Roc recoup some, so he fought Canelo Alvarez in November 2015, the second of a three-fight deal. Only two of those fights took place, as Roc chose not to keep over-paying. In mid-May 2017, Cotto and Roc parted ways. In late May 2017, Cotto hooked on with Golden Boy, for his fight with Yoshihiro Kamegai and the finale against Sadam Ali.

My three cents: As Joe Santoliquito and me discussed on the latest Fight Facts Ring podcast, Cotto’s legacy is shaping to be that of a throwback warrior. But it’s more complicated than that; in fact, he was part of the push among many name guys to exert more bargaining leverage for themselves, and prize leverage over loyalty.

That’s not necessarily a knock, by the way. But Arum helps make a salient point that might get lost in the shuffle of nostalgia — Cotto played hardball outside the ring, not just inside the squared circle.

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