Promoter ‘greed’ freed Morales

Feb 22, 2005 9:05 AM

There was no sense in analyzing last weekend’s HBO show from Puerto Rico.

That was supposed to have been the date for the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, but promoter greed derailed that excitement.

Bob Arum has given us maybe a better matchup in Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales, scheduled for March 19. Of course, the promoter will make more money on that. Besides, Arum was then able to take the HBO date reserved for settling last year’s amazing 12-round draw and give it to another animal in his stable, Miguel Cotto.

Cotto is obviously well-trained. Here he is, the bright new star in boxing’s brightest division. When asked which match he wants next, Cotto demurely acquiesces to "whatever my promoter wants."

Which, I suppose, is why we have another nonbetting fight coming up. Promoters, when they have big investments in talent, do not like to put it at risk. So, here is Cotto facing DeMarcus (now what kind of name is that for a fighter?) Corley, better known as "Chop Chop."

Chop Chop can fight a bit. Corley won a WBO title in the packed 140-pound junior welterweight division and he’s lasted the distance in losing battles with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Zab Judah. He won’t lay down. If for some reason he did, it would prove beyond doubt how good Cotto and his body shots were.

No knock on the Chop, but Cotto should be fighting better. HBO, like Arum, seems unwilling to cut the apron string. He showed in his last bout, against another former WBO champ Randall Bailey at 140, that he was ready for the real thing. Bailey, who was outpointed in a title match by Chop Chop, has a very good right hand. He nailed Cotto with it not once but twice in the opening round. Nothing happened.

Game, set and match.

Hitting a guy with your best shot and not seeing him blink makes one think about being in the wrong business. Soon, a cut was opened beneath one of Bailey’s eyes and you could see his disappointment when the ringside physician didn’t stop the bout. He almost welcomed with glee the cut above the eye so he could tell the doc, "No, I can’t see." It wasn’t the shots to the eyes, either, that take the fight out of a veteran; Cotto has a nasty hook to the body.

No, beating Bailey should not get him a place on pound-for-pound lists. But, the young Puerto Rican is so composed, mature looking and obviously talented that even I can tell he is for real. The only thing I wonder about is why Top Rank and HBO are putting him in with Chop Chop instead of someone more meaningful, like WBA belt-holder Vivian Harris.

Harris is the joker in the pack of junior welterweight stars. He’s tall, can punch with either hand and has a fighter’s spirit. I’d love to see him get in with Kostya Tszyu or Mayweather, but you don’t ever hear his name mentioned by the two guys in the division who are in the top five of most pound-for-pound lists. He’s much too dangerous.

Tszyu and Mayweather are busy, anyway.

Tszyu, who came back after almost two years off with injuries and destroyed Sharmba Mitchell inside three rounds, has a June 4 date with the aggressive and talented Ricky Hatton in Manchester, England.

Mayweather is either going to jail or to an Arturo Gatti pay-per-view fight June 11. If Mayweather’s legal problems prevent him from keeping the date with Gatti, it is to be hoped Main Events would look to Cotto as a meaningful substitute.

Gatti’s promoters have been known to try and protect their popular star. When I wrote recently that they would probably try and lure Jesse James Leija out of retirement into a rematch Carl Moretti, the vice president and matchmaker of the Jersey company said "no" in an e-mailed.

They preferred Leonard Dorin II instead. Gatti knocked out Dorin in the second round. It took him a few more to get rid of Leija. In boxing, no one has a better sense of humor than Moretti.

In any case, there were better matchups for Cotto even at this stage. Mitchell, for one, and the running Brit, Junior Witter, would at least add to his education. Maybe Arum and HBO know more about it than I do. Perhaps they don’t want the still-growing Cotto to mess with any 140-pound dangers when his future may well be at 147.