The current pugilistic epoch is irrevocably tarnished by contentious decisions, "safe" matchmaking and a marked absence of irrefutable champions. There is little connection between claiming to be the "best" and actually validating such an assertion.
There is however, a gladiatorial schism, rising from the mediocrity, willing to risk being carried away upon their shield if it entails the chance of greatness. Miguel Angel Cotto is a proud member of this minority, a scion of the fistic forefathers of days gone by.
Cotto is an undefeated fighter yet his record is not imbued with the pejorative connotations that deservedly attach themselves to those of his contemporaries. His previous six opponents have an astounding cumulative record of 161-5. In only his twenty first contest he destroyed the highly touted Kelson Pinto and one fight before that, he comfortably repelled the challenge of the current IBF titlist Lovemore N’Dou.
To put these achievements into context, at the same point in his career Ricky Hatton was fighting Gilbert Quiros and Ambioris Figuero, names not familiar even to the esoteric. This comparison is not offered to sleight Hatton, as he is merely a symptom of the disease that pervades modern boxing. It is instead highlighted to demonstrate how ostensibly Cotto breaks from this mould.
For his first foray into the welterweight division, Cotto’s acclimatisation fight was against the undefeated Carlos Quintana, who had schooled the world class prospect Joel Julio in his most recent bout. Cotto was actually the slight underdog but went on to dispatch the courageous yet overmatched Quintana in customary fashion. In an era where substance is often subverted by statistic, Cotto’s path towards destiny is truly praiseworthy.
Miguel’s next fight is against the idiosyncratic yet mercurial Zab Judah. Even though Judah has indubitable mental frailties, he is a huge risk for any welterweight and was acquitting himself admirably against pound for pound leviathan Floyd Mayweather until he imploded.
Last weekend Cotto participated in a "tune up" fight in preparation for Judah. Rather than feasting on a sacrificial journeyman or callow prospect, Cotto vanquished the teak-tough Oktay Urkal, who had gone 12 rounds with a peak Kostya Tszyu. This is not to say that Urkal is an elite operator, however, he is about as testing an opponent as could be expected relative to the situation.
Judah will be Cotto’s 30 professional bout and very few current boxers have comparable, unblemished resumes. Miguel is far from the finished article, he does not use his jab with enough authority and his head movement is, at times, non-existent. He also appeared to fatigue in the later rounds against Urkal, but these are all contingent flaws that will hopefully be eradicated by the passage of time.
Judah will test all of these frailties and also possesses the power to trouble a chin that has been rocked and floored at light welterweight. Miguel Angel Cotto’s next fight will be his sternest test to date but, given his mentality, is it really that surprising?