Cotto kickstarts final chapter with all-action win over Kamegai

Not a single fan enjoying every minute of the action under the stars in Southern California gave a thought to any other fight going on Saturday.

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Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico (right) returned to the ring in fine form, defeating Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan in a unanimous decision. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography
Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico (right) returned to the ring in fine form, defeating Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan in a unanimous decision. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

CARSON, Calif., August 26, 2017 – Four-division champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico and Yoshihiro Kamegai put on a thrilling all-action show for 7,689 appreciative fans at the sold-out StubHub Center in Carson, California, with Cotto winning a definitive unanimous decision in his return to the ring. Judges’ scores were 120-109, 119-110, and 118-111. Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) now holds the previously vacant WBO 154-pound title. It is Cotto’s sixth world title spanning four weight classes.

Miguel Cotto landed double the number of punches as opponent Yoshihiro Kamegai in 12 rounds. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

The dominance on the cards by Cotto doesn’t reflect the relentless action traded by both men in every round of this thrilling contest worthy of the StubHub Center’s reputation. Despite Cotto landing nearly twice the amount of punches, Kamegai showed the best chin in boxing and the heart of a lion as he never stopped giving his best effort throughout all 12 rounds.

After being out of the ring 20 months, Cotto fought like a man a decade younger than 36, up on his feet and never taking a break while throwing effective, balanced combinations to body and head.

“I’m happy to be back, it was a tough fight, a tough opponent. We did what we came here to do,” Cotto said following the fight. “He was a tough opponent, but thankfully we did a good job during training camp and we won the fight … I’m proud of my performance. I came here to win a fight, I didn’t count how many punches I threw there, but I’m happy with the performance.” Cotto credited his preparation in the gym for his conditioning and the outcome.

Despite the loss, fans applauded the tremendous effort and determination of Yoshihiro Kamegai, making the fight with Miguel Cotto a thriller. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

Both Cotto and trainer Freddie Roach said after the fight they had never seen anything like the fortitude displayed by Kamegai. “I never saw a guy like that in my life, he doesn’t know what’s good for him,” laughed Roach. “Miguel’s a good puncher, believe me I know. I’m proud of him. Kamegai, you’re a tough guy.”

Kamegai said the opportunity to fight a legend motivated him during the bout. “My thoughts aren’t all together there just yet. I wanted to fight a legend, and I’m extremely disappointed,” Kamegai said. “I gave it everything I had, I wasn’t able to win.

“If everyone was satisfied with the fight, I will come back again and I will come back stronger.” Kamegai said he wasn’t hit as much as it appeared, slipping many of the punches. “I would like you to look at this fight very carefully. I killed most of the punches rolling with them. I took very little damage … I don’t feel any damage but I’ll get checked out and see where I am.”

Miguel Cotto broke his own career record for total punches and power punches in his bout against Yoshihiro Kamegai.

It was Cotto’s first ever appearance at the StubHub Center, and his first bout and main event in California in 16 years. Many fans present were seeing Cotto in person for the first time. Despite the overwhelmingly Mexican and Mexican American crowd, they embraced Cotto in recognition of his effort and accomplishments.

“Miguel Cotto is a superstar, he transcends borders. This is the first night he’s headlining on a big night and he sold out the place. At his age and the mileage, all the great wars he’s had … Kamegai was like a freight train, he kept coming,” said Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions.

With such a strong performance, might Cotto rethink his plan to retire at the end of the year? “No!” said Cotto, saying he was done and would honor the promise to his family to retire. Cotto said he would let his team choose his next opponent. Roach said he’d like to face the winner of the Golovkin vs. Alvarez fight on September 16. Middleweight David Lemieux was also named as an option. Gomez of Golden Boy confirmed Madison Square Garden is on hold for Saturday, December 2 for Cotto.

Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs) has his own following in Southern California, and his fan base was equally enthusiastic. He is always fun to watch and made the ideal opponent for Cotto as the pair delivered enough action to satisfy any boxing enthusiast.

In the intimate setting under the stars at the StubHub Center, perhaps the best venue for fans in the United States, no one gave a thought to the spectacle drawing attention in Las Vegas.

Ray Vargas of Mexico (left) used his reach and skill to remain undefeated against Ronny Rios of Santa Ana, California. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

In the televised undercard, the StubHub Center delivered the kind of all-action fight it’s known for. Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs) of México remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over local favorite Ronny Rios (28-2, 13 KOs) of Santa Ana, California to retain his WBC super bantamweight title. Judges scored it 118 – 110 X 2, and 115-113.

In his first U.S. appearance, Vargas used his height and reach to perfection, landing more punches than Rios throughout the bout. Rios was effective when he could get close and work to the body of Vargas, but it didn’t happen often enough. Trainer Nacho Berestain said Vargas is young and still learning, but was pleased with his good effort in the ring.

“We came here to take the belt back home, even if that means that we didn’t get the knockout,” said Vargas. “Rios was definitely an intelligent and skillful fighter. He got me with some head shots that threw me off, and he was of an elite level when it came to his boxing. We definitely need to go back and refine our style,.”

A disappointed Rios said, “I wasn’t expecting for him to move so much – he was running more than I was expecting for him to. We put up a good fight, and my team and I will have to go back to the drawing board.”

Southern California prospects made their fans happy in their undercard fights.

Joet Gonzalez (left) lands a body shot to Delvis Julio enroute to a fifth round TKO win. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

Featherweight Joet Gonzalez of Glendora, California remained undefeated (18-0, 9 KOs) with a fifth round TKO at 2:57 over Delvis Julio of Colombia (19-3, 11 KOs). “It feels really good to get the fifth round stoppage” said Gonzalez. “My opponent really knew how to box, he was on the Colombian National team so that meant we had to come prepared for battle. I’m ready to fight again real soon – hopefully by October you’ll see me again.” Gonzalez is competing in one of the tougher divisions in boxing today.

Also scoring a fifth round TKO at 33 second to stay undefeated was super bantamweight Emilio Sanchez of Pacoima, California (16-0, 11 KOs) over a tough Danny Flores of Mexico (11-9-1, 5 KOs). “I feel satisfied with my win tonight,” said Sanchez. “I was really working on closing the gap and I want to work on my technique and style and be able to be distinct among all the fighters in my pretty stacked division.”

In front of a huge crowd of supporters, Tenochtitlan Nava of Los Angeles (7-0, 1 Ko) won a close unanimous decision over Angel Aguilar of Mexico (8-14, 1 KO) in a four round featherweight bout. “I feel great – I made it out of the ring without any significant damage to my body,” said Nava. “I tried to close the gap between me and my opponent, and focused on landing my jab throughout the fight. One of the next steps to becoming a world champion is going up to six rounds – I feel like I am ready.”

Genaro Gamez delivers a left upper cut to Rafael Reyes on Mexico in his decision victory. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

Super lightweight Genaro Gamez of San Diego (6-0 4 KOs) scored two knockdowns on the way to a unanimous decision over Rafael Reyes of Mexico (7-11, 5 KOs) in six rounds. “I wanted to give my fans a good show, and he was able to soak up a lot of my punches,” said Gamez. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks, so this win is really sweet. I recognize that this wasn’t my best performance – I am not at my desired weight and I’m still learning as a fighter, but my dream is to fight top names and this was a step towards it.”

The knockout of the night came courtesy Alexis Rocha (9-0, 6 KOs), who dropped Esau Herrera of Mexico (19-10-1, 10 KOs) at 2:59 of Round 1. The talented super welterweight from nearby Santa Ana is just 19 years old and gaining fans quickly. “I wanted to win, and I wanted it to look easy and intelligent. I feel like I was able to do that with this knockout win. I came in wanting to work the body, and I was able to figure him out quickly,” said Rocha.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

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