Cotto looks far better than some 'Contender'

Apr 1, 2008 7:00 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | After an incredibly topsy-turvy March, which left this longshot player mostly on the outside of most of the big upsets (save Joel Casamayor against Michael Katsidis, proving nobody’s imperfect), April comes in very lightly.

There’s no line I could fish for the junior flyweight headliner this Saturday on Bob Arum’s pay-per-view show from San Juan. Too bad.

Ivan Calderon has long been one of my favorite fighters. At 33, he remains undefeated but showing signs of slipping with two of his last three victories coming on split decisions.

The little southpaw, who long ruled the strawweight division, is at the stage where anyone could be dangerous, especially for someone who can’t punch. That’s true even against guys four years older, like Nelson Dieppa.

The challenger is bigger and hits harder than Calderon. But, what’s the point of further discussion since no one is going to watch and fewer will bet.

This does afford us the opportunity to divide the busy April 12 dueling dates of HBO and Showtime. HBO has two welterweight title fights (remember, the word "title" is used very loosely in boxing).

Showtime has two light-heavyweight "championship" matches. I propose we start this week with the 147-pounders so we can have more space to discuss the bigger guys next column.

The main event features Miguel Cotto, the best welterweight in the world until Floyd Mayweather Jr. deigns to fight him. Cotto should be at least a 10-1 favorite over popular "Contender" boxer Alfonso Gomez of Mexico and Whittier, California.

I do not denigrate Gomez. He is a tough, action fighter who split a couple of bouts with Peter Manfredo at middleweight. In his last start as a true welterweight, he sent Arturo Gatti into retirement. He has a draw with the capable Jesse Feliciano and a victory in his latest start over Ben Tackie.

The problem for Gomez is Cotto, regarded as one of the best fighters in the world and one who would not surprise me to see become the No. 1 pound for pound in the next year or so.

I just can’t see Gomez beating the undefeated Puerto Rican star. With Mayweather continuing to duck him in favor of 440-pound rasslers, Cotto will have to make do with a promise of the winner of the Atlantic City co-feature – a rematch between Kermit Cintron and Antonio Margarito.

Back in 2005, the undefeated Cintron was undressed and knocked out by the Tijuana Tornado. His trainer at the time, Marshall Kaufman, said the Reading, Pennsylvania stalwart had been rushed into the match by Main Events. It certainly looked me that Cintron folded emotionally.

Since then, though, he has been groomed by Emanuel Steward and has slowly built back his confidence. He is a terrific puncher (27 KOs on a 29-1 card) but there is still a huge cloud of doubt over him. He won his IBF vacant "title" against Mark Suarez and has defended it by knocking out Walter Matthysse and the afore-mentioned Feliciano.

No wonder Margarito is almost a 3-1 favorite.

I give Cintron a shot. Of course. Margarito is big and tough. Even in losing the title he won from Cintron three years ago, Margarito rallied late in the fight against Paul Williams. His previous loss was to Daniel Santos. Williams and Santos are both very tall southpaws. Cintron is not.

The hype for Margarito from promoter Bob Arum was that Mayweather was afraid of him. That was never the case, of course. Margarito, who has met a better sort of opponent than has Cintron, is not in Pretty Boy’s class. Before losing to Williams, he struggled with Joshua Clottey, who showed that the Tornado was a big wind with not much speed.

This is an intriguing psychological matchup. If Cintron actually thinks he’s going to win, and doesn’t take the big apple as he did last time, another upset is very possible. But that’s something I’m not willing to bet on.

Either way, I’d prefer to hope that the winner looks good enough to make the odds on Cotto more manageable when they meet, probably in July. No, if I really need action, I’m sure there’s a Kentucky Derby prep that will be more interesting.

Plus, the light-heavyweight double-header on Showtime from Tampa has a pair of very live underdogs in Glen Johnson and Clinton Woods (see next week’s column). Heck, even getting a 10 percent return on an investment by betting Cotto against Gomez is more attractive than trying to psychoanalyze a fighter.