Miguel Cotto might have come in more than six pounds under the middleweight limit, but weight doesn't matter when you get hit with a perfect left hook. Cotto put Australian challenger Daniel Geale down twice in the fourth round with two picture-book lefts before referee Harvey Dock stopped it at 1:28 of the fourth round Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) retained the WBC middleweight belt he won 364 days earlier from Sergio Martinez by 10th-round TKO. Cotto scored four knockdowns in that fight, but in many ways, the sheer power of the knockdown punches he landed against Geale (31-4, 16 KOs) were even more impressive.
Asked if he considers himself a true middleweight, Cotto said: "My weight yesterday [at the weigh-in] was 153.6 pounds. Do you think I'm a middleweight? I'm not."
He could have qualified for the 154-pound super welterweight division, but you'd have a hard time convincing Geale he didn't get hit with middleweight punches. After spending the first three rounds working his jab and a body attack, Cotto suddenly went on the attack early in the fourth round.
A perfectly timed lead left hook landed flush on Geale's jaw, dropping him to the canvas like a sack of potatoes. The amazing thing was that Geale got up. Dock let him go on, but he was no match for the onslaught of punches Cotto unleashed. Geale was desperate to get out of the way, but he got clobbered with another solid left hook that sent him down for the second time. Geale got to his feet again, but Dock wisely ruled it a TKO.
In the corner after the fight, Cotto told trainer Freddie Roach: "You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Winning like this is a great thrill. Freddie has made me better at everything."
Although Cotto is not a natural middleweight, he made his return to the ring in absolutely superb shape after a one-year absence. He even was more than three pounds under the 157-pound catchweight contracted for the fight.
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 has been negotiated and is awaiting the fighters' signatures. WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who was at ringside, awaits the winner of that one.
"Canelo will just be another fight," Cotto told the crowd of 12,517 in the postfight interview from the ring. "If the public wants it, it will happen."
Asked if he ever would fight the dangerous Golovkin, Cotto said: "Why not? After the next fight, we'll see."
The first round against Geale opened with Cotto going to the body early and showing his speed on the close exchanges. Near the end of the round, Cotto stuck a sharp left on Geale's chin, and midway in the second, Cotto stung Geale with another hard left. Geale, who come into the ring reportedly weighing a little more than 180, caught Cotto with a right late in the second but was having trouble putting punches together.
Cotto concentrated on jabs and body shots through the third, but until he landed a hard right near the end of the round, Geale didn't seem deterred by his power the way he was when he suffered a third-round TKO loss to Golovkin last summer. Maybe that's why he was emboldened in the fourth when he felt the full fury of Cotto's power.
"I knew after the first round I had to be more aggressive," Cotto said. Describing the first knockdown punch, he added, "I threw the left, he put his right hand down at the same time, and 'Boom!' "
Indeed, Cotto went "Boom," and the middleweight division felt it.