Three years ago, Miguel Cotto seemed pointed for the scrap heap when he followed a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. with another to unheralded Austin Trout. But with the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach, Cotto's remarkable career revival continued with a sensational technical knockout of Daniel Geale at 1:28 of the fourth round Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) not only retained his WBC middleweight title but positioned himself for a major pay-per-view fight with Canelo Alvarez in the fall, with the winner expected to face WBA middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin.
The end came for Geale (31-4, 16 KOs) when Cotto dropped him with a powerful left hook to the chin early in the fourth round. The Australian got up, but Cotto unleashed a barrage of combinations that ended with a counter-right hand for the second and final knockdown.
It was Cotto's third spectacular result under Roach after a third-round TKO of Delvin Rodriguez in 2013 and his 10th-round stoppage of Sergio Martinez to win the WBC middleweight title one year before the Geale fight.
"Freddie is the mastermind behind everything we did the last two years," Cotto said. "No doubt, my best two years in boxing are the last two years. He brought back the confidence I lost after dealing with two losses in a row. He's the reason Miguel is here right now.
"This is one of the best fights I had in my career."
Geale was forced to make a 157-pound catchweight three pounds below the middleweight limit at Friday's weigh-in, while Cotto came in at 153.6. By fight time, Geale weighed just over 180.
"I didn't feel 100 percent, but Miguel Cotto is a great fighter," Geale said. "I'm not going to blame losing three extra pounds . . . [Cotto] had good power, but he had good speed as well. He was fast getting to where he needed to be as well as having good hand speed."
For three rounds, Cotto used his jab and went to the body effectively, but the champion said he followed Roach's instructions before the fourth to step up the pace. "I said, 'If you do that, you will knock him out,' " Roach said. "He was being satisfied with one and two punches, but I said, 'You'll be much more satisfied with four and five.' Geale got surprised, yes, he did. He wasn't ready for that switch-up."
Explaining the transformation in Cotto since they began working together, Roach said, "I think I brought his boxing back. He was a good amateur boxer with great movement, and then later against [Manny] Pacquiao, he fought flat-footed and tried to knock people out with one punch. I wanted him to get back to his boxing ability, working on movement, side-to-side, on his toes, light on his feet, faster, and it's working very well."
The Cotto-Alvarez bout reportedly is all but signed with Golovkin receiving a step-aside fee and a promise to meet the winner. Cotto knows a fight with Alvarez will be popular with the boxing public, but he said, "Canelo is just another opponent. We will be ready for whatever he has for us."
As for a potential bout with the fearsome Golovkin, who has recorded 20 straight knockouts, Roach said, "Golovkin is a friend, he's a very good fighter, I do like him, but I'm not scared to fight him."