Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Throughout a career that has brought him world titles at four weights and will certainly land him in the Hall of Fame, Miguel Cotto’s signature has been his powerful left hook. It is a punch that, if anything, appears to have become even more effective as he has moved up to middleweight: it was a left hook that started the damage against Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden a year ago, and it was a left hook that exploded on the jaw of Daniel Geale at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Saturday night, sending the Australian crashing into the ropes and setting in motion a stoppage at 1:28 of the fourth round.
Geale can take scant solace in that his evening went slightly better for him than did his previous appearance on these shores, against Gennady Golovkin last July. The first round lasted the requisite three minutes instead of the aberrant four minutes against Golovkin. He wasn’t tripped over by a photographer’s camera strap in the second. And he survived the third. Beyond that, however, it was another difficult night. The native of Tasmania may want to avoid summer nights in New York in future.
Cotto, who has looked reinvigorated in three fights under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach, began brightly, bouncing on his toes and landing a three-punch combination to Geale’s torso that brought a roar out of the partisan crowd of 12,157. Geale, though, was clearly determined not to lay down easily, and tried several times to land an overhand right behind his jab. Cotto’s movement and defense, however, ensured that his efforts either fell short or bounced off the shoulder of the Puerto Rican, who walked his challenger into – what else? – a hook in response.
The champion won that opening frame, but he wanted to do more.
“I knew, after the first round, I needed to be more aggressive,” he said afterward.
Even so, it was his movement and defense that proved to be his most effective weapons in the second, Geale being frustrated in his efforts to take the fight to the champion, who was by now singularly focused on landing to Geale’s body. Neither man landed much cleanly in the third, until a Geale right hand clipped Cotto’s ear and Cotto in turn knocked his opponent backward with a straight right at the bell.
But in the fourth, Cotto emerged with greater purpose, backing up his foe with jabs and then, in the middle of an exchange, landing the blow that hastened the fight’s conclusion.
“I threw my left and he put his right hand down at the same time and—BOOM,” Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) explained.
Geale crashed beneath the bottom rope and looked in bad shape as he rose. Rise he did, however, but Cotto knew the end was near. He attacked Geale with abandon, digging into his body and ripping to his head in the corner. Geale fought his way out, but a Cotto right to the jaw put him down again, and although Geale beat the count, he shook his head to referee Harvey Dock to signify that he had had enough.
“Being here after 12 weeks of training in LA and winning like this was a great thrill,” Cotto said. “Freddie has made me better at everything.”
In total, the defending champion landed 68 of the 183 punches he threw, or 37 percent in total, according to CompuBox numbers. He connected with 43 power punches – 17 of them in that conclusive fourth round.
Entering Saturday’s fight, the one doubt that remained about Cotto’s apparent rebirth was whether it was something of a mirage, given that his first opponent with Roach in his corner was an overmatched Delvin Rodriguez and his second was a Sergio Martinez who was a shell of his former self after a series of knee operations. To some extent, that question remains unanswered, given that he required Geale, who had of course already been beaten up by Golovkin, to weigh in at 157 pounds, three pounds inside the middleweight limit.
The challenges that fans want to see, and which would surely provide definitive answers either way, are Canelo Alvarez and Golovkin. In the aftermath, Cotto seemed ready for one and not entirely opposed to the other.
“Canelo will just be another fight,” he insisted. “If the people want the fight to happen, we will.” Asked about Golovkin, he paused before answering. ”Why not? After the next fight, we’ll see.”