Miguel Cotto made his return to the boxing ring Saturday night after nearly two years without a fight, and he looked the part of a veteran champion as he decimated Yoshihiro Kamegai en route to a resounding unanimous-decision victory Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
BoxingScene.com's Francisco A. Salazar provided the cards:
Francisco A. Salazar @FSalazarBoxing
120-108 119-109 118-110 scorecards for @RealMiguelCotto, who wins WBO title & improves to 41-5,33 KOs #boxing #CottoKamegai @GoldenBoyBoxing2017-8-27 03:49:01
Boxing fans tuning in to and sticking with the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor pay-per-view missed an entertaining bout. Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) and Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs) unloaded on each other for 12 rounds, with haymaker after haymaker finding the range.
This still from HBO Boxing encapsulates the fight:
🥊@RealMiguelCotto might be nearing the end, but still has plenty left in the tank as he beats Kamegai by unanimous decision. #CottoKamegai https://t.co/CT2n4hp59N2017-8-27 03:51:05
Cotto was the superior boxer from the first second to the last, but he had to work to claim the vacant WBO world super welterweight title. Some day, scientists will have to study whatever indestructible alloy the Japanese boxer's chin is made of.
CompuBox showed Cotto hit some personal bests in the match:
@RealMiguelCotto broke his total thrown, power thrown and tied his power landed in one sided win over Kamegai #CottoKamegai @HBOboxing https://t.co/AqAWFiOdxE2017-8-27 03:49:49
The fight was the 36-year-old Puerto Rican's return from a 21-month layoff following his resounding decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in November 2015. It could be his second-to-last fight, as he plans to retire at the end of the year.
In a post-match interview, Cotto confirmed he will have one more fight in December, per the HBO broadcast.
Kamegai's power and speed were apparent early, establishing him as a worthwhile opponent. He found the target on several stinging power punches. Cotto matched Kamegai's activity and showed excellent timing on a counter left hook at the end of the first round.
UCNLive.com's Steve Kim appreciated Kamegai's intensity:
Steve Kimegai @steveucnlive
Seriously, Kamegai is making Cotto use his legs early, I like his pressure here.. #boxing2017-8-27 03:00:08
The two managed to ratchet up the intensity in the second round, and Cotto bloodied Kamegai's nose and lip. Cotto normally is solid in defense, but he took some great shots even as he maintained the upper hand early on.
HBO Boxing showed the two trading punches at the end of the second round:
Watch: Fierce trading to close out Round 2 of #CottoKamegai. https://t.co/hekmIwlVvh2017-8-27 03:06:36
The all-out display from Kamegai, only two years Cotto's junior, appeared designed to test the lungs and heart of the soon-to-be retired opponent. He waded through devastating punches, forcing Cotto to keep up a furious pace.
Actress Rosie Perez marveled at the Japanese boxer's ability to withstand these blows:
Rosie Perez @rosieperezbklyn
Kamegai taking Cotto's power punches like crazy. #Unreal 4th @HBOboxing #CottoKamegai #boxing2017-8-27 03:12:36
Kamegai did seem to relish the punishment, as if it helped him tap into a wellspring of energy. Cotto did better to protect himself in the middle rounds while maintaining his speed, precision and power.
Here's Cotto connecting at will in Round 5, per HBO Boxing:
Watch: @RealMiguelCotto landing painful combos in Round 5. #CottoKamegai https://t.co/Ylx8O7QKWd2017-8-27 03:21:13
The bout eventually slowed in the later rounds. Kamegai's willpower and chin were unbelievable, but he was never able to outbox or outpunch his Hall of Fame-worthy opponent.
Boxing scribe William Dettloff summed up Kamegai's ability to tolerate pain:
William Dettloff @WilliamDettloff
Cotto just climbed to the top rope and dropped a grand piano on Kamegai's head. Nothing.2017-8-27 03:19:48
Kamegai flashed at times in the late rounds as Cotto's stamina waned, but he was never quite skillful enough to take advantage. The match became all too repetitive by the end, with Cotto proving himself better throughout.
Cotto appears intent on retiring, but the fight Saturday showed he has more left in the tank than even he might've expected. Whichever boxer gets Cotto at the end of the calendar year will have his hands full. He still has some excellent boxing left in him.