Miguel Cotto joined the Jay-Z run Roc Nation Sports promotional company earlier this month, leaving promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions who had steered the Puerto Rican icon’s career since shortly after Cotto’s appearance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Under the Arum promotional banner, Cotto took just two years as a pro to win his first world title, at the junior welterweight level, followed by another championship captured in his first fight at welterweight.
Along the way, the now 34-year-old Cotto has compiled an impressive 39-4 record. And of his four losses, two came at the hand of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, long acknowledged as the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
The first loss of Cotto’s career came to Antonio Margarito, who it was later discovered, was likely fighting with illegally plaster-filled gloves. When Cotto fought a rematch against Margarito on equal, legal terms, he essentially annihilated the Mexican welterweight.
After an inexplicable loss to unheralded Austin Trout in December of 2012, Cotto refused to give up, and when he destroyed high-ranked pound-for-pounder Sergio Martinez to win the middleweight belt on June 7 of last year, Cotto appeared to have recaptured his star and was prepared to take his place as — short of Mayweather and Pacquiao themselves — boxing’s biggest gate attraction.
Then the pay-per-view numbers for the Martinez fight came in at an unimpressive 350,000, and a bit of the luster fell from Cotto’s sheen in the eyes of the boxing world.
Then, for reasons that have still not been fully explained, Cotto allowed negotiations with Mexican superstar Saul Canelo Alvarez to drag on to the point where the deal fell apart. A Puerto Rico vs. Mexico showdown between the two hottest stars from each locale promised to be the year’s second-biggest fight (again, behind Mayweather vs. Pacquiao).
Bitter at Arum, Cotto suddenly bolted on March 5, into the welcoming arms of Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.
“I have nothing to say to Bob Arum. He’s never given me anything,” Cotto said. “What I have is a product of my effort.”
But what will Jay-Z give to Miguel Cotto? While as at least the titular head of Roc Nation Sports, the rapper carries a bigger name in the entertainment industry than any other boxing promoter, the boxing industry is built not on pop culture fame — but on personal relationships.
That’s why the bulk of dates on HBO and Showtime go to fighters controlled by Arum or Oscar De La Hoya — or perhaps most importantly, to backstage boxing power broker Al Haymon.
Haymon and Jay-Z reportedly have a deep animosity toward one another, and Jay-Z has no history with the sports production arms of either major pay cable network.
Meanwhile, Haymon has made a push to put boxing back on “free” network TV with his Premier Boxing Champions series — another outlet that will in all likelihood, be closed to Jay-Z controlled fighters.
Where does that leave Miguel Cotto? According to some reports, his three-fight deal with Roc Nation could be worth $50 million. But if so, where is that money supposed to come from?
Certainly not from fights with nonentities like Cornelius “K9” Bundrage, who was in line to serve as Cotto’s first Roc Nation fall guy — until Arum apparently lured Bundrage away for a fight against Timothy Bradley.
Cotto is now looking at more than year without a fight, with no credible opponent on the horizon — and no TV outlet for his next fight, whoever he faces.
At least for the time being, the deal between Jay-Z and Miguel Cotto has put Cotto’s career in limbo. With few matchups after the May 2 Mayweather vs. Pacquiao clash that appear capable of generating wide public interest, putting one of boxing’s few remaining stars on ice is not only bad for Miguel Cotto, but for the entire sport.
[Images: Rich Schultz/Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]