It was one year earlier that Miguel Cotto became the first "Quadruple Crown" winner in boxing from Puerto Rico, the first to win titles in four weight classes after his defeat of Sergio Martinez for the WBC middleweight belt. On a day when American Pharaoh led wire-to-wire at the nearby Belmont Stakes for the Triple Crown, Cotto was hoping to do the same in his first defense against Australian Daniel Geale Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Geale (31-3, 16 KOs) came in with a better shot at catching Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) than the horses that trailed in the winner's wake at Belmont. Gary Shaw, who promotes Geale, said Cotto's victory over Martinez by 10th-round TKO was due more to the decline of Martinez, who was coming off knee surgery, than to Cotto's prowess.
Cotto's trainer Freddie Roach acknowledged that Martinez was out of shape, saying, "Martinez had put so much weight on between fights, and he had trouble making weight. He was in the sauna twice a day in the same hotel I was in. I think he had a lot of problems going into the fight. I expected everything to go that way in the fight except the (four) knockdowns. The knockdowns were a bonus for me."
Although Cotto is not a natural middleweight, he clearly was making his return to the ring in absolutely superb shape, weighing in at 153.6 pounds, more than 6 pounds under the middleweight limit and more than 3 pounds under the 157-pound catchweight.
"It's just hard work and dedication," Roach said of the 34-year-old champion. "He knows I demand it of him. He's in the gym every day on time. His first workout is at 5 a.m., and the boxing workout is at 1 p.m. He works his rear off.
"If it goes the distance against Geale, I'm OK with it because he's been out for a year. I know I didn't pick an easy person."
Cotto had plenty on the line against Geale besides the title. A win figured to propel him into a pay-per-view event in the fall with Canelo Alvarez that reportedly already has been negotiated and is just awaiting the fighters' signatures.
Should Cotto prevail in that one, a meeting with WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin would become the biggest fight in boxing.
"If we do get 'Pretty Boy' [Alvarez] next and we defeat him, where else do we have to go?" Roach asked. "I think we'd have to fight Golovkin. He's a tough fight, but he was exposed the other night [in a win over Willie Monroe Jr.] a little bit. His trainer said he took shots on purpose to make the fight, but I don't believe that. I never want my fighters to get hit."
Roach always seems to have a horse in boxing's biggest clashes. He was in Manny Pacquiao's corner for his ill-fated loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Kentucky Derby Day in Las Vegas. After losing a unanimous decision, Pacquiao underwent right rotator cuff surgery.
"Manny is doing fine," Roach said. "Right now, he can't move his [right] arm for 30 days. Then, rehab starts in about three more weeks. He tore it before the fight. Nobody with one arm is going to beat Mayweather."
Former Roach protege Amir Khan supposedly is next in line to meet Mayweather in September, but he was not impressive in his win over Long Island's Chris Algieri on May 29. "He'll never get Mayweather off that performance," Roach said of Khan. "He was terrible. It was boring."
If Roach is right, then, maybe Cotto would be back in the picture for a rematch with Mayweather with a win over Geale. "That's a possibility," Roach said. "I would love to see that fight."