Miguel Cotto Won’t Put His Belt On The Line Against Manny Pacquiao, But Pacquiao’s Historic Belt Collection Was Already Complete

When Miguel Cotto fights Manny Pacquiao Nov. 14, Cotto’s welterweight alphabet title belt won’t be up for grabs, Cotto has decided. If it sticks, the move will spoil Pacquiao’s question for an unprecedented seventh title in a seventh division (sort of — I’ll explain at the end).

But no matter. Whether Pacquiao wins another WBO, IBF, WBC, WBA or belt, he’s already broken the record for winning the only championships that count in my book. Pacquiao, you see, has won four lineal titles in four different divisions. No one in boxing history, not legends like Roberto Duran or anyone, has done that. He won those lineal titles by either beating the man who had it or by beating the top man in his division other than him to win a vacant championship. That is far more impressive than whether he beat someone who inherited his belt via the phony, greedy, political methodology of the alphabet sanctioning organizations.
Cotto won his current WBO belt via that phony process. I’m not dismissing Cotto as a fighter at all. But that he won that belt when the WBO decided to allow Cotto to fight Michael Jennings for the vacant title is hilarious. There is no one — at least, no one who isn’t paid to think it — who considered Jennings even one of the 10 best welters. Top 20 or even top 30 might have been pushing it. There is only one reason Cotto was allowed to fight Jennings for the vacant belt: Sanctioning organizations make money in part by taking a percentage of a fighter’s purse when he defends his belt. Cotto is the kind of fighter who, by virtue of his popularity, brings big purses. And Jennings was who Cotto wanted to fight next, since he was bouncing back from a devastating loss. If you see some value in a belt Cotto won in this fashion, I don’t know what to tell you.
Cotto’s decision not to defend his belt kind of sticks it to that process. Per Bob Arum, promoter of Pacquiao and Cotto:

“He doesn’t want to pay the sanction fee. So, no, Miguel Cotto will not stake his crown against Manny Pacquiao,” said Arum over the phone.

However, WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel insisted yesterday it should be a title fight.

Arum said sanction fees if it becomes a title fight could amount to as much as $400,000.

You tell me if it’s worth $400,000 to defend his belt. I think not. Cotto’s making more money against Pacquiao than he ever has in his life, so why should he flush four hundred grand down the toilet? Now, this could be some kind of negotiating ploy where Cotto gets another party — Arum, perhaps, or Pacquiao — to pay the fees. And there is a possibility that some belt or the other might end up being on the line anyhow; the WBO may allow Pacquiao to fight for the belt against Cotto’s wishes. Would you be surprised if one of the sanctioning organizations found a way to horn in on this action?

But anyone who thinks this robs Pacquiao of a chance at making belt history missed the news: When Pacquiao became the legitimate, lineal junior welterweight champion this year by beating Ricky Hatton, he made all the history that was worth anything. And even that’s all secondary. As Arum said, and I couldn’t agree more:

Arum said he doesn’t even care if there’ll be no title at stake. What’s important, he said, is for the people to see a great fight between the two great fighters.

“Nobody in the US cares about the title,” said Arum, adding that it’s going to be a 12-round battle just the same at the 17,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

(P.S. on the “sort of” — anyone who says Pacquiao has won six titles in six divisions is either counting the IBO or counting one of his lineal belts. That is far too generous, arguing that there are SIX “championship” belts per division. When there are six chances to win a title in each division, I’m not sure how impressive it is to win one of them. I say pick one “champion” and stick with it. I pick the lineal title.)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.