By Ivan G. Goldman
We’re hearing lots of complaints about Miguel Cotto demanding a catchweight when he defends his title Saturday night against Australian Daniel Geale in Brooklyn. I have no problem with it, providing Cotto wears a beanie with a propeller on it as he climbs into the ring.
Photo: Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Roc Nation Sports
This distinctive apparel would serve to remind fighters and fans that they’ll be witnessing a middleweight championship bout that’s being fought under special conditions. Naturally he should take it off before the opening bell.
Don’t get me wrong. I have vast respect for Cotto as a fighter. He is one of a select few competing today who can legitimately be classified as great. And he competes in a fan-friendly, punishing style that puts fans in the seats.
But as a negotiator he can be more than a little annoying. It seems no one can get a deal to fight him anymore. Certainly not Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez, at least not so far. Geale ultimately snagged a contract, but at what cost?
Some sort of silly trappings should be a standard requirement for any champion who stipulates a lesser weight but claims to be defending his title. In this case Cotto is supposedly defending a 160-pound title at the required weight of 157.
This sort of business is becoming almost standard for smaller champions looking to increase their edge. Cotto, 39-4, 32 KOs, has himself been the victim of the catchweight syndrome.
As for Geale, he’s a solid middleweight, but Cotto at this stage of his career is a natural 154-pound fighter. He won the WBC middleweight title a year ago by stopping Sergio Martinez in the 12th round and is finally getting around to defending it – with a catch.
You’d think Cotto already has enough of an edge against Geale, 31-3, 16 KOs, who’s lost two of his last four and must compete in Cotto’s New York lion’s den.
Cotto was subjected to catchweight abuse when he fought Manny Pacquiao at a stipulated 145 pounds. Pacquiao was defending his 147-pound title and at the time Cotto was already a 154-pound fighter. The weakened Cotto got stopped in the twelfth.
Cotto was the victim of much worse than this though, against Antonio “Cheato” Margarito, who was famously caught with loaded wraps before his bout against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles. The California Attorney General’s Office determined that Margarito had used the same loaded wraps in an earlier fight against Cotto in Las Vegas.
The Nevada commission, seeking to salvage its reputation, claimed no one could sneak illegally fortified wraps into one of its bouts, but the evidence presented by California was solid. It came up in a hearing after the California commission refused to reissue Margarito a license at the end of his one-year suspension. The state pointed out that Margarito wouldn’t admit his guilt and therefore showed no real contrition.
Margarito had given one of his typical performances against Cotto in Las Vegas. He was out-quicked by a superior fighter, but his pushing punches had a curious lethal effect anyway, and he stopped busted-up Cotto in the 11th. We saw an altogether different Margarito once his wraps were subjected to intense scrutiny. Cotto, fighting a rematch in Madison Square Garden, stopped him in nine.
The catchweight advantage is employed against larger fighters who must get down to an unnaturally lighter weight the day before and then typically drink gallons of liquid after the weigh-in. The process saps a fighter’s strength and conditioning. The process is much less debilitating to fighters competing at their ideal weight.
Catchweights are a tool of some fighters with a following who can dangle large purses and perhaps titles in front of their opponents.
Margarito, a 154-pounder, fought Pacquiao at a designated 150. Oscar, then competing at 154, had to get down to 147 for Pacquiao. He was visibly gaunt and weak. Pacquiao pounded him like a heavy bag until the bout was mercifully stopped in the eighth. Oscar, who’d endured too many wars in his time, never fought again.
Alvarez, a solid 154-pounder, was subjected to catchweights against Matthew Hatton and Floyd Mayweather, winning the first and losing the second.
There’s no reason to ban catchweights altogether. But when they’re employed in title fights, they should be combined with suitable accessories.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.