Sanctioning fees for championship fights are a controversial issue in the sport of boxing and there may be no better example of the consequences of this over-regulation than the recent announcement about the upcoming megafight between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez. In this case, the defending champion and future hall-of-famer Miguel Cotto was forced to choose between paying $300,000 out of his earnings, or losing his title granted by the WBC, which, ostensibly, he already won in a previous fight. Especially when you sense the end of your illustrious career approaching, it just makes sense to choose to keep a significant amount of money rather than potentially cashing in bigger on a future fight for a title.
Oscar de la Hoya has taken it upon himself to provide commentary on various fighters’ personal (and professional) decisions in recent weeks. First, with his sardonic “Farewell” letter to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in which he mockingly claimed to wish the former pound-for-pound champion a happy retirement. He went on to reveal the true reason he had a letter published in Playboy magazine, criticizing Floyd’s athletic style and conservative choice of opponents, trivializing all of his accomplishments in the sport, and basically claiming that he (De la Hoya) had had a more impressive career. While I’m sure he won over a lot of Manny Pacquiao fans with his petty jabs, a lot of his examples were inaccurate or just wrong. His comments included both Cotto and Alvarez, claiming that Floyd had waited until Cotto was in decline to fight him, as he had with all of his top-level opponents. In fact, his fight with Cotto was three and a half years ago, and only later did Mayweather take on Alvarez, who’s now touted as the next junior middleweight king. So of course De la Hoya felt it his duty to weigh in on Cotto’s decision not to pay the fee, calling it “a disgrace to the sport” and even suggesting that fighters in general should not try to negotiate the sanctioning fee. Appropriately, the absurdity of De la Hoya’s statement was exposed by the savvy Dan Rafael, who recalled that De la Hoya had rejected the fee initially proposed for his first fight with Shane Mosley. There are other examples of fighters becoming irrationally bitter and resentful in their retirement (see Joe Frazier), but these recent outbursts have been particularly petty and transparent.
Cotto’s response was characteristically succinct and provocative:
“I have enough belts in my house…and I can be the champion of whatever I want in my house.”
“I don’t need to pay attention to Oscar De La Hoya’s opinion. He should take care of his own business, and I will take care of mine.”
As honorable as he’s always shown himself to be, Cotto demonstrated again why heart and personality often mean more in the sport than physical ability. This Saturday, I’m afraid, it may not make the difference. De la Hoya will be happy for Alvarez as he walks out of the ring, and fans will be cheering for Cotto no matter the result, but nobody will be happy for Oscar.