NEW YORK -- Bring on Canelo Alvarez!
Middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, who had a fall megafight with Mexican superstar Alvarez already agreed to before he stepped into the ring Saturday night, scored two knockdowns and destroyed former unified middleweight titleholder Daniel Geale in the fourth round of a one-sided rout to retain the world title for the first time before a raucous pro-Cotto crowd of 12,157 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Cotto, who was fighting for the first time since knocking out Sergio Martinez in the 10th round across the river at Madison Square Garden to win the world championship 364 days ago, showed no ill effects of the long layoff.
He started fast and blew through the weight-drained Geale with ease. Cotto, who is a small middleweight, insisted that if Geale, who already had trouble making the 160-pound division limit, wanted the fight he would have to accept a contract maximum weight of 157 pounds. Geale agreed and struggled mightily to make the weight. Many thought he would not make it and the fight might be canceled, but he weighed exactly 157 pounds at Friday's weigh-in, while Cotto weighed 153.6 -- under the junior middleweight limit.
But with more than 24 hours to rehydrate, Geale stepped on HBO's scale in street clothes when he arrived at Barclays Center for the fight and was a whopping 182 pounds, well above the 175 light heavyweight limit.
That extra bulk did not help one iota. He looked like he was fighting in mud with no quickness and no snap on the few punches he landed.
Freddie Roach, Cotto's Hall of Fame trainer, said after Friday's weigh-in that he wanted Cotto to go after Geale's body with left hooks as a primary weapon in the early rounds, figuring he was very depleted from making weight. Cotto listened, because he stalked Geale's body from the outset.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs), 34, the first Puerto Rican boxer to win a world title in four weight classes, appeared much quicker than Geale, who struggled to land anything meaningful. He was walking in with no jab, and Cotto was catching him. Moments before the bell sounded to end the third round, Cotto nailed Geale with a straight right that sent him staggering into the ropes.
Cotto continued the assault in the fourth round, eventually crushing Geale with a powerful left hook -- his money punch -- that knocked him down hard. He came to rest half inside the ring and half under the bottom ring rope.
"I was going to throw the left hand, and as I threw it he put his right hand down and boom," said Cotto, who moved to 11-1 in New York in his first fight under the promotion of Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, which signed him in March.
Geale (31-3, 16 KOs), a 34-year-old from Australia, beat the count but looked finished. Cotto went after him with abandon and was nailing him with everything before a short right hand dropped him for the second time. Again, Geale beat the count, but he was done and shook his head at referee Harvey Dock when he asked if he wanted to continue. Geale obviously did not, and Dock called off the fight at 1 minute, 28 seconds.
Geale was so out of it he had to ask trainer Graham Shaw after the fight how many rounds it lasted.
"I'm so disappointed," Geale said. "It went too fast and I'm extremely disappointed. I think the weight had an effect for sure, but that's boxing. I signed the contract. I have always struggled to make 160, so this was obviously much tougher."
Said Shaw: "We obviously wanted to go much later into the fight. This wasn't the fight we were anticipating."
The fight was Cotto's third with Roach as his trainer, and he gave the sage cornerman credit, telling him after the knockout, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me."
As for the fight, Cotto said, "Being away training in Los Angeles for 10 weeks and coming here and winning like this was a great thrill. Freddie Roach has made me better at everything. After the first round I knew that I needed to get more aggressive. I tried to do my best. I tried very hard. I'm in the best shape of my life, like the Cotto of '04."
For the fight, Cotto landed 68 of 183 punches (37 percent), and Geale landed just 33 of 127 (26 percent), according to CompuBox punch statistics.
With Geale vanquished, as expected, all attention will turn to Cotto-Alvarez, a classic matchup between two of boxing's biggest stars with the sport's storied Puerto Rico versus Mexico rivalry as a backdrop.
"It's the biggest fight to be made now," said Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez's promoter, who was ringside. "Cotto was very impressive. He took [Geale out]. The fight between Cotto and Canelo is huge.
"It's the biggest fight in boxing after [Floyd] Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao. But the difference is that with Cotto-Canelo, you are guaranteed action."
Alvarez won his tune-up fight May 9, knocking out big slugger James Kirkland in a wild, three-round shootout before a crowd of more than 31,000 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
"It's a fight everyone wants to see," said Michael Yormark, president of Roc Nation Sports. "It's the fight we're going to make. We have the framework of a deal done. Obviously, we had to wait until tonight was over, but now we can focus on Canelo and Miguel's next fight, and we're looking forward to it."
Cotto, however, downplayed the magnitude of the fight with Alvarez.
"Canelo will just be another fight," he said. "If the people want that fight to happen, it will happen."
Asked about another middleweight, titleholder/destroyer Gennady "GGG" Golovkin, who was ringside, Cotto said, "Why not? After the Canelo fight, we'll see."
In addition to his world title, Golovkin also owns an interim belt sanctioned by another organization, making him Cotto's mandatory challenger. Cotto is being allowed to fight Alvarez in an optional defense, but Golovkin will receive a seven-figure step-aside payment and a signed agreement from Cotto and Alvarez promising to fight him next or the winner would be stripped of the title and it would go to Golovkin, who knocked out Geale in a defense last July at Madison Square Garden.
But Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs), the 24-year-old former junior middleweight titlist, will be next and it will be huge -- even though the exact date and venue are the two things that still need to be finalized.
"I like the fight. I think it's a good fight, but I like any next fight," Roach said. "Canelo is a young guy coming up, and Miguel is a guy that's getting better and better at what he does."