Aging fighters, and even some younger ones, often talk about retiring from the ring. They all do eventually, but not necessarily when they say they will.
To be a boxer is usually to make a comeback.
So it is with a grain of salt one should take Wednesday’s comments from future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto, who is winding down a career in which he participated in many terrific fights, became one of the sport’s most bankable stars and is the only Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four weight divisions (junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight).
Meeting for lunch with a group of reporters at a midtown Manhattan hotel to promote his junior middleweight fight with James Kirkland, which will take place Feb. 25 (HBO PPV) at the Ford Center at The Star, the new training facility of the Dallas Cowboys in Frisco, Texas, the 36-year-old Cotto said 2017 would be his final year in the ring.
“This is the last year of my career and I want to end my career in the best way possible,” Cotto said. “I knew I wanted to come back and this is the way that I want to do it. I want to have two or three fights this year. We will see.”
Cotto will enter the ring against Kirkland coming off a 15-month layoff since losing the middleweight world title to Canelo Alvarez by unanimous decision in November 2015.
It is certainly not inconceivable that Cotto will indeed finish his career this year. He fought as an amateur at the turn of the century -- he was a 2000 Olympian for Puerto Rico -- and has been a pro since 2001. He has racked up a lot of miles on his boxing odometer during a long and distinguished career filled with grueling fights.
Assuming Cotto defeats big underdog Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), a 32-year-old southpaw from Austin, Texas, who is coming off a 21-month layoff and a gargantuan third-round knockout loss to Alvarez (the 2015 ESPN.com knockout of the year), Cotto would like one of his final bouts to be a rematch with Alvarez.
It seems unlikely, however, because Alvarez’s 2017 dance card will be a fight in May (possibly against fellow Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.) likely followed by the long-awaited showdown with unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin in September -- as long as Alvarez wins his May fight and Golovkin defeats Daniel Jacobs on March 18.
There won’t be room for Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) on Alvarez’s schedule this year, but it’s a rematch he wants. Cotto believed he won their fight and was particularly put off by how wide the judges scored what many thought was a closer fight.
The judges had Alvarez winning 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111. For what it’s worth, I saw the fight closer than the judges, scoring it 115-113 for Alvarez.
“I’m here for the best fights and the best fighters out there, so if Canelo Alvarez wants to fight, to clear what happened November 2015, they know where to find me,” Cotto said. “It was close. We orchestrated the plan in a perfect way and we believe that we were the winners of the fight.”
Freddie Roach, Cotto's Hall of Fame trainer, said that if Cotto truly plans to finish his career in 2017, he would be going out on his own terms because he believes Cotto has a lot left in the tank.
“If Miguel Cotto didn’t have a lot left, I wouldn’t be here,” Roach said. “He’s great in the gym, he’s always in shape and he keeps himself close to weight all the time. He’s tremendous. He works hard. If he didn’t look great in the gym, I wouldn’t let him fight. I care that much about him. He will be 100-percent ready for this fight and if he’s not 100 percent for this fight, it won’t happen.”
So as usual, Cotto said he would put his heart and soul into training to be ready for the hard-hitting, but one-dimensional, Kirkland.
“I’m going to do the same as always with Freddie Roach,” Cotto said. “We’re going to work hard and have a game plan in mind. We’re going to work for James Kirkland. James is a tough fighter and he’s going to go to work with victory on his mind. I’m going to work with that, too. I will do my best as always in Los Angeles with Freddie Roach commanding our group. All we need is to be ready for Kirkland.
“It’s going to be a great fight. I know that James always comes with a wining attitude. And I’m going to do the same.”