Junior middleweight world titleholder Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican legend and surefire first-ballot International Boxing Hall of Famer, showed up at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday for the news conference to kick off the promotion for what he says will be the final fight of his career.
Cotto will defend his 154-pound title against Brooklyn's Sadam Ali on Dec. 2 in an HBO-televised main event from the arena where he has had many of his biggest fights. Ali, a 2008 U.S. Olympian and former welterweight title challenger, was there for the news conference, as well; but truth be told, Ali was at least the sixth choice to be Cotto's opponent.
Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Cotto and Ali, offered the fight to a number of other opponents with bigger names, all with ties to adviser/manager Al Haymon: Errol Spence Jr.; Mikey Garcia; Danny Garcia; Jessie Vargas; and Lamont Peterson.
For various reasons, they all turned it down.
Spence preferred a deal to defend his welterweight title against Peterson in January on Showtime for a purse that, according to a source, will be more than $3 million, rather than the $2.5 million that Spence was offered to face Cotto as part of a longer-term commitment to Golden Boy and HBO.
Former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia, according to the source with knowledge of the talks, did not want to move up to 154 pounds.
Vargas, now being advised by Haymon following the expiration of his promotional deal with Top Rank, also got an offer, but according to Golden Boy, they were very far apart on the money and the talks went nowhere.
It was Mikey Garcia who posed the most intrigue as a possible opponent, because the lightweight world titleholder -- whose last fight on July 29 was a one-sided decision against Adrien Broner at junior welterweight -- had called out Cotto repeatedly. He was willing to move all the way up to junior middleweight -- no catch weight -- to challenge Cotto, and the sides had gotten close to making a deal.
Eventually, Mikey Garcia, 29, turned down the offer. According to two sources with knowledge of the offer, he would have received at least $2 million to fight Cotto, plus a "substantial" bonus of around $500,000 if he were to win the fight. The Cotto bout would have been the first for Mikey Garcia in a four-fight deal he would have to sign with Golden Boy.
The second fight would have been a lightweight title unification fight with Jorge Linares, who also is with Golden Boy, around March. That fight also could have been at junior welterweight, if both fighters agreed. Then there would be two more fights, with one potentially against welterweight Lucas Matthysse, Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told ESPN.
In a series of recent social media posts, Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), who has won world titles in three divisions, said he was willing to fight Cotto but did not want to sign a multifight agreement with Golden Boy just to get the bout.
"So [the] fight only came by signing to [Golden Boy]. Not bad but I'm doing better on my own," he wrote on social media.
He later wrote, "Why not Cotto only and no further commitment? I would have taken it if it was Cotto only." And he added, "Nothing personal, just business. I understand. I'm OK with it. Just don't try and make me look like a coward or [an] all talk type guy and making me sound like I'm all talk. I would take Cotto by itself. Or Cotto and Linares only. But [Golden Boy] said they can't do that."
Of course, it is the normal course of business for a promoter to receive future rights to a fighter for giving him a major fight with one of its other stars.
"Mikey went on Twitter saying he wouldn't do the Cotto fight because we wanted future fights," Gomez said. "That whole conversation about doing future fights and signing with Golden Boy started two months ago, because Mikey was so disenchanted with how he was treated for the Broner fighter. He said he was treated bad, as the opponent, with everything set up for Broner to win. And what I said was, 'You need a promoter. You do one-offs and nobody's going to promote you. You need a promoter to back you. That's what we can do.'
"That's how the whole conversation started. The deal from the beginning was always a package deal. It's not like we said you want Cotto and at the last minute we said to get it you have to sign with us. We've been talking with Mikey for a while about signing Golden Boy. Mikey is the one who requested to see us to have a meeting with [Golden Boy CEO] Oscar [De La Hoya] and myself."
Robert Garcia, Mikey's brother, trainer and manager, told ESPN that he originally did not want his brother to fight Cotto but eventually came around.
"I told him he was crazy. I didn't think it was a good idea, but knowing Mikey always wants those challenges and that he wants to fight best out there, and that for a fight in December there was nothing bigger out there, I supported him," he said. "But at end of the day, my dad [longtime trainer Eduardo Garcia] was very negative about the fight. He always thought it wasn't a good idea. But we knew it was Mikey's decision."
Robert Garcia said that his brother had decided to take the fight -- and the Golden Boy deal -- because even though Haymon and Showtime's Stephen Espinoza had promised him a fight before the end of the year, it looked bleak.
"Mikey was going to do it, but the next day, he comes back and said he talked to somebody and decided not to take it," Robert Garcia said, declining to say who his brother had spoken with.
Mikey Garcia still doesn't have a fight lined up before the end of the year, though he could potentially land on Showtime on Dec. 16.
"I'm gonna support my brother's decision," Robert Garcia said. "Of course, there's no way any promoter, Golden Boy or anybody else, is going to give him a fight with Cotto or Linares without having any fight options. That's what they are asking for. It's not a bad idea. Mikey had already made up his mind. He was going to do the deal with Golden Boy, but he talked to somebody. I don't know if it was Haymon or not, but he changed his mind."
Mikey Garcia might not have the Cotto fight that Ali wound up with, but ultimately, he did not seem too upset, writing again on social media, "I'm working on some fights with promoters, just not long-term or multiple fights."