As Miguel Cotto looks to re-establish himself after the beating he took at the possibly plastered hands of Antonio Margarito, he now finds himself at a critical intersection in his career against the little-known (in America) Michael Jennings.
Despite Jennings' impressive record, a loss to the hungry Brit would certainly be a damaging blow.
Cotto, who just a year ago was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, would not only find himself on the receiving end of consecutive losses, but could find his brand in jeopardy after falling short of expectations in three of his last four fights.
Fight fans could perceive this as a new low point of a downward trend that began in the fall of 2007. That was when the previously impenetrable Cotto showed real vulnerability against Shane Mosley at Madison Square Garden—the same venue Cotto returns to for his bout with Jennings.
Many, myself included, were aroused by Cotto’s ability to overcome the most serious adversity he had faced up to that point in his career. Nonetheless, the shock of seeing the heavily-favored Cotto in trouble against the aging ‘Sugar’ was the more relevant impression.
Mosley is an accomplished fighter, and his win against Margarito may nullify some of the impressions the Cotto-Mosley fight left on boxing fans. At the time, however, nobody thought Mosley had a chance against the freight train that was Miguel Cotto.
Mosley hadn’t fought an elite opponent since his two losses to Winky Wright, and seemed to be a half decade removed from the prime of his career. From 2002 until just before his match with Cotto, Mosley’s record was 6-4 with one no contest. Most of those six wins wins came against 2nd tier or washed-up opponents.
Ultimately, a loss to Jennings would give the Cotto brand a serious blow. Cotto could lose his status as a serious pay-per-view draw if Jennings removes yet another layer of Cotto’s armor with an upset on Saturday.
Conversely, there’s not a whole lot of upside for Cotto in victory. If he wins easily, to many American fans it will look as if he selected a chump to rebound from the Margarito loss. While many fans may feel that Cotto’s loss to Margarito comes with an asterisk, the fact remains that Cotto has been toppled from his perch, and skating over Michael Jennings will not turn back the clock
The best-case scenario might be an entertaining and dramatic victory on par with the Mosley fight. This may not do much for Cotto’s reputation in pound-for-pound debates, but it will reinforce Cotto as the kind of fighter who is going to give fans a good show. When we’re talking about big-purse, PPV bouts, nothing matters more than that.