Middleweight champion Miguel Cotto's first title defense will come against former titleholder Daniel Geale and there's a lot on the line besides the world title: A fall showdown with fellow star Canelo Alvarez.
Cotto and his new promoter, music mogul Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, which signed Cotto last month, announced on Wednesday that Cotto and Geale will meet on June 6 (HBO) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
A news conference is scheduled for Thursday at Jay Z's 40/40 Club in New York. It will be streamed live (2 p.m. ET) on tidal.com, the music streaming service Jay Z recently bought into with several other artists.
If Cotto defeats Geale and former junior middleweight titleholder Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) defeats James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) on May 9 at Minute Maid park in Houston, they will meet in an HBO PPV showdown in the fall, likely in September.
Multiple sources directly involved in the fight told ESPN.com that the deal is done.
Earlier this year, Top Rank, then Cotto's promoter, and Golden Boy Promotions, Alvarez's promoter, tried to make Cotto-Alvarez but Alvarez withdrew from the talks when Cotto was taking too long to finalize it for May. Cotto broke ties with Top Rank shortly thereafter and signed with Roc Nation Sports.
HBO, which has Alvarez under exclusive contract -- the Kirkland bout is his first on the deal -- and has been involved with Cotto for much of his career, was not interested in putting on the fight with Geale or any other B-level opponent unless it secured a big-time fight for him for the fall, which it has now done and the reason the network got behind the fight with Geale, which figures to be a solid matchup in its own right.
"We're excited and proud to bring Miguel Cotto back to New York along with Miguel Cotto Promotions, now as a part of the Roc Nation Sports family," said David Itskowitch, COO of Roc Nation Sports' boxing division. "Brooklyn and boxing have a long history, and Puerto Rican heritage is closely integrated with both. What a way for New York to kick off the week of the Puerto Rican Day Parade festivities -- with Miguel Cotto's long-awaited return to the ring."
The fight will be Cotto's 12th in New York, 11th in the main event. He is closely associated with Madison Square Garden but this will be his first fight at the Barclays Center, which has fast become the one of the premier boxing venues in America. Cotto-Geale will come just eight days after the arena hosts another significant fight, Amir Khan-Chris Algieri, on May 29.
"It's going to be great to be at a new place in New York," Cotto said. "My fans are in New York and I love fighting there."
Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) will face Geale (31-3, 16 KOs) at a contract weight of 157 pounds, which was Cotto's request because he is a small middleweight and had the leverage in negotiations to dictate the weight. Cotto started his career at 140 pounds and has won world titles at junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight. When he knocked out Sergio Martinez in the 10th round last June 7 at New York's Madison Square Garden, Cotto, who was making his middleweight debut, became the first Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles in four weight classes.
He fought Martinez at a contract weight of 159 pounds, one below the 160-pound division limit. With much more leverage against Geale, he insisted that he come down to 157 pounds and made no apologies.
"I had to do it before when I faced Manny Pacquiao. He made me come down to 145 pounds," Cotto told ESPN.com of his 2009 knockout loss to Pacquiao in a welterweight title fight. "Pacquiao used any advantage he had against me and I will do the same with everybody in the division. I am a small middleweight and I need to use this to my advantage."
Asked about Geale, Cotto said he did not know much about him.
"But I know he's coming in great shape to prove to everybody he can beat Miguel Cotto," Cotto said. "We will be ready for him."
Geale (31-3, 16 KOs), 34, of Australia, won a middleweight world title in 2011 and made four successful defenses before coming to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for his HBO debut and losing it by split decision to England's Darren Barker in an action-packed and dramatic fight in 2013.
Two fights later, Geale was back on HBO in a main event at Madison Square Garden and got drilled by titleholder Gennady Golovkin in the third round last July. Geale rebounded with a lopsided decision against countryman Jarrod Fletcher in December.
Now he is coming back to New York with designs on seizing the title from Cotto, 34, who will be fighting for the first time since beating Martinez.
"I'm very excited, very pumped. This is a huge opportunity for me," Geale told ESPN.com. "I'm very fortunate that I have a great team and they worked their butt off and got me the fight I wanted. This is definitely one I wanted for a while and they made it happen."
Said Gary Shaw, Geale's promoter, "I believe the Cotto fight is the perfect match up for Daniel. I was surprised that Miguel took the fight. If they looked at the (Golovkin) fight as an indication of which Daniel will be in the ring they need to look at the (Felix) Sturm fight to find out who will be in the ring on June 6." Geale said he has followed Cotto and has the utmost respect for him and his many accomplishments.
"Miguel Cotto is a great fighter and he's been one for a long time. It makes it easy to train hard for a guy like that," Geale said. "I know what I am up against. He's such a high-profile fighter. He's fought the best of the best. He's at middleweight and that changes things for him. I've been here for along time.
"The (157 catch weight) is what it is. I fight at 160 but you take what you can get sometimes. Fighting Golovkin was tough. So many people dodged the guy and I put my hand up to fight him and a few things didn't go my way. I know this opportunity is going to be much different." Cotto declined to talk about the fight with Alvarez since they both have to win first.
"We are focused on Geale for June and then after that we can talk about anybody else," Cotto said. "We had some conversations about fighting Canelo but we are really focused on Daniel Geale."
Geale, however, has heard about the Cotto-Alvarez bout and said he will use it to motivate him even more.
"If anything it adds motivation for me. I definitely want to upset those plans," Geale said. "My job is not to be another opponent. My job is to go out there and win. He's fought most of his fights at lighter weights and now he's stepping up and I will show him what its like to fight a real middleweight even though I'm stripping down a little bit. I'm gonna make this one count and go out there to cause a big upset."
Said Shaw, "I have a lot of respect for Miguel and his team, have known them all for a very long time and appreciate the opportunity they have given Daniel, myself, and (co-promoter) Grange Old School Boxing. On June 6 there will be a new WBC world champion, so I hope team Cotto has not looked past June into September. That would be a mistake."