KAMEGAI COMES FOR WAR
Thankfully, Mayweather-mcgregor is not the only show in town, writes Paul Wheeler
In his likely penultimate fight, Cotto faces off against an all-out aggressor
THIS FIGHT HAS GONE CRIMINALLY UNNOTICED
WITH all the hullabaloo surrounding a certain glorified exhibition that takes place in Las Vegas on the same night, the likely penultimate bout of a future Hall of Famer’s career has gone criminally unnoticed.
At the Stubhub Center in Carson on Saturday (August 26), Puerto Rican icon and former fourweight world champion
Miguel Cotto takes to the ring for the first time in 21 months. Having signed a deal with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year, the plan is for the 36-year-old to compete just once more after this weekend – December 2 has been pencilled in for Cotto’s farewell fight (see Talking Point and sidebar).
With such limited time left to watch one of the sport’s true noble warriors in action (Boxnation televise in the UK, while HBO broadcast in the US), it is a real shame that many people will instead tune in to the money-making, bravadoblurting circus that is Floyd Mayweatherconor Mcgregor.
Cotto, 40-5 (33), had originally been scheduled to face southpaw slugger James Kirkland in February, only for a broken nose sustained during sparring to rule Kirkland out of contention. Miguel then parted ways with promotional company Roc Nation Sports, leading to a reunion with Golden Boy, whom he had worked with in the past. Fellow GBP fighter
Yoshihiro Kamegai – a crowd-pleasing aggressor like Kirkland – is the man who will oppose Cotto in California.
Kamegai, 27-3-2 (24), may not be held in high esteem by the purists, but what the 34-year-old Japanese does guarantee is action and entertainment. At this late stage of Cotto’s distinguished career, a
relentless, come-forward combatant could be able to ask some questions of the veteran.
“I fully understand who I’m going to be in the ring against, but Cotto’s record and history won’t matter once we’re toe to toe,” Kamegai stated. “I’m looking forward to giving fans the kind of aggressive fight that they’ve seen from me before.”
The back-and-forth battles that Kamegai is referring to include a thrilling unanimous points defeat to ex-twodivision world titlist Robert Guerrero in June 2014, as well as a hellacious split draw with the warmongering Jesus Soto Karass in April last year. In a return with Soto Karass five months later, Yoshihiro dominated his old foe to earn an eighthround retirement victory.
This rematch success – coupled with his fan-friendly style – is what has earned Kamegai a shot at Cotto and the vacant WBO super-welterweight crown. While it is the Sapporo native’s first crack at global honours, Miguel has captured five different world title belts over the years – WBO super-lightweight, WBA and WBO welterweight, WBA super-welterweight and WBC middleweight.
Despite the WBC middleweight championship being up for grabs in Cotto’s last three outings, none of them were actually contested at the traditional 160lbs. At a catchweight of 159lbs in June 2014, the Caguas resident retired then-middleweight leader Sergio Martinez at the beginning of the 10th round. A year later, former unified world ruler Daniel Geale was stopped in four at 157lbs, before superstar Canelo Alvarez unanimously outscored Cotto in a competitive and highquality clash at 155lbs in November 2015.
Having not fought since his admirable showing against Canelo, this extended hiatus may prove beneficial after a long, hard career, or alternatively, it could make it more difficult for the old warhorse to shed his ring rust. Kamegai is two years younger than Cotto, and has been more active in recent times, yet the gruelling encounters he has been involved in do not bode well for his longevity in the sport.
Cotto’s 16-and-a-half years in the pro game may have left his war-torn skin prone to swelling and cuts, but they have also provided him with invaluable experience, especially at the elite level against esteemed operators such as Shane Mosley (w ud 12 – November 2007), Manny Pacquiao (l rsf 12 – November 2009) and Mayweather (l ud 12 – May 2012). Add this to the fact that he also has legendary trainer Freddie Roach in his corner, and the daunting nature of Kamegai’s task is starkly apparent.
‘COTTO’S HISTORY WON’T MATTER ONCE WE’RE TOE TO TOE’
The East Asian is experienced himself, though nowhere near Cotto’s calibre. The duo both pack power and possess tons of toughness and resilience, but there is a distinct difference in size between the two men – Kamegai holds the advantage in both height and reach. However, he often neglects his long jab in favour of warring on the inside, where he unleashes looping right hands, hooks to the body and twofisted assaults.
Kamegai will constantly stalk Cotto, which could play into the favourite’s hands, as he is adept at dictating the pace from the outside with his fantastic left jab. A tenacious yet elegant boxer-puncher, Miguel uses smooth and sprightly footwork to assist both his defence and attack. With plenty of snap and speed in his shots – especially his honey punch left hook – he applies intelligent pressure and selects his combinations wisely.
As game and gutsy as Kamegai is, there is a disparity in class between the two fighters – something that will manifest itself during their matchup. It is possible that Kamegai could be pulled out by his corner or the referee late on after shipping too many clean strikes, but a wide unanimous decision win for Cotto is the more likely outcome.
THE VERDICT Cotto needs to triumph in order to set up a fitting finale to his career later this year.
TALL ORDER: Kamegai has a height advantage over Cotto, yet he is still up against it
GOT THE T-SHIRT: Cotto is vastly experienced at the highest level
FACE OFF: Cotto [left] and Kamegai look for signs of weakness in each other
FIRST TITLE TRY: Rios gets his maiden shot at a world crown