By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
When Miguel Cotto announced his comeback on against Yoshihiro Kamegai, there were no qualms whatsoever from me, as it was good to see a modern day great back in action after a layoff of over 18 months. Cotto’s last contest was for the Middleweight Championship, albeit half a pound under the Super Welterweight limit, in a points defeat to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. So the comeback was set to meet the fan friendly Japanese fighter, who fought back to back wars with Jesus Soto Karass in April and September last year. (one draw, one win, RTD 8).
So with that in mind, I was amazed when last week it was announced that the fight, that takes place at the Stubhub Centre in California on August 26, will be contested for the WBO Super Welterweight Title. This is the same WBO who’s ruling is allegedly that a fighter cannot contest a main WBO Title fight if they are coming off a loss, which Puerto Rican Cotto clearly is! The case in point for this April’s fight between Liam Smith and Liam Williams in Manchester. They fought for the Interim WBO Super Welterweight Title. But not before “Beefy” had to travel to Barcelona for a four round fight against the 2-37-1 Marian Cazacu just three weeks before the Williams fight. Smith beat Cazacu on points. This was a necessary move for Smith, because he was also defeated by Alvarez, a stoppage defeat in Texas in September last year, and had to come back with a win to fight for the belt. Smith also defeated Williams in an absolute barnburner, when Williams was pulled out by his trainer, Gary Lockett following bad lacerations on his right eye. This made Smith the interim champion, which in simple terms should mean if the full champion cannot defend the title, or vacates, Smith would be elevated to full Champion once again.
However Boxing politics has again reared its ugly head. Alvarez takes on Gennady Golovkin in a mega fight in September for the unified Middleweight Title (WBC, WBA Super, IBF, Ring Magazine & IBO Titles on the line). Thus meaning that he now vacates the WBO Super Welterweight crown that he beat Smith for. So instead of Smith being made the full WBO Champion, Cotto meets Kamegai for the belt, for a reason I don’t understand, other than Miguel Cotto is a marquee name in the sport.
Cotto hasn’t fought for a Super Welterweight Title since 2012, when he suffered back to back points defeats to both Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout. Further to this, he hasn’t fought for a WBO Title since November 2009, when he was stopped by a peak Manny Pacquiao in the twelfth and final round, losing his Welterweight Title in the process.
Curiously, Cotto has remained at number one or two in the WBO rankings for some time, despite his adventures in the Middleweight division, and Kamegai, has gone from not being ranked at all before March this year, going in at number 12, to now being number 5, despite having not fought since September 2016! Also bear in mind that Soto-Karass represents Kamegai’s best win, although the Mexican has 11 career losses, and has always been a gate keeper type fighter. Kamegai is also 6-3-2 in his last eleven fights, hardly World Champion form.
This is another classic case of a governing body wanting a specific name as a Champion, much like how the WBC seem to like Mexican Champions, and how the WBO seem to accommodate Manny Pacquiao every time he needs a title to fight for at Welterweight. I think this is wrong, and doesn’t reward the fighters who are trying to climb the rankings and earn a shot at the belts. One can only speculate what now happens with Smith and Williams, as they are now in limbo for their rematch being for a significant title. Although the WBO will probably make the fight for the interim title all over again, gaining more sanctioning fees and further muddying the waters all over again.
I just feel as though Cotto should be a big enough draw for it not to be essential that a title is on the line. There has been no explanation from the WBO as of yet as to why they have sanctioned the Title fight, and I doubt that we ever will. We as fans will just have to grin and bear it, and accept that this isn’t the good old days anymore, where the best fought the best for Titles.
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