Farewell tour: Cotto vs. Kamegai, HBO Saturday, 9:45 pm ET

Southern California boxing purists like their fights poured straight up at the StubHub Center, exactly what they will get from Miguel Cotto and Yoshihiro Kamegai on Saturday.

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After a loss to Austin Trout, Miguel Cotto (right) brought in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in 2013, a decision he credits with resurrecting his career. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography
After a loss to Austin Trout, Miguel Cotto (right) brought in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in 2013, a decision he credits with resurrecting his career. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

SAN DIEGO, August 25, 2017 – Four-division champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico is a sure bet for the Boxing Hall of Fame the day he hangs up his gloves. Cotto says that day will arrive at the end of 2017.

Miguel Cotto trains in Los Angeles at the Wild Card Gym for his bout with Yoshihiro Kamegai. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

In the remainder of the year, Cotto intends to fight twice. The first of his planned bouts takes place Saturday in Southern California at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Cotto’s opponent is Japanese junior middleweight Yoshihiro Kamegai, moving up a division to face Cotto for the vacant WBO 154-pound title, made available when Canelo Alvarez stepped up to middleweight earlier this year. If he wins, this will be Cotto’s sixth world title spanning four weight classes.

Boxers don’t always go out on their own terms. Proactively ending a successful career is an accomplishment. “I think that 16 years is enough, and I have other things to do in my life,” said Cotto. “You know, I’m taking care of my family better, and that is the biggest and only reason that I have to stop boxing and quit boxing and retire after December 31st this year.”

Cotto hasn’t been in the ring since November 2015, when he lost to Alvarez in an exciting, competitive contest. Cotto expected to fight former junior middleweight champion James Kirkland in Frisco, Texas in January, but the fight was cancelled due to injury to Kirkland, and never rescheduled.

Miguel Cotto (center) will join Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins in the Boxing Hall of Fame without question when he retires at the end of 2017. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Boxing

Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) has been a dominant presence in boxing since his 2001 debut and rapid rise in the sport. Saturday will mark his 23rd appearance on HBO Boxing, but his first ever appearance at the StubHub Center and his first bout in California in 16 years.

“The people from L.A. always treat me really good,” said Cotto. “I know that the tickets are going — selling in a really good way. And I know that’s going to be a special night for everybody in the boxing community here in L.A.”

Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan is happy for the opportunity to fight Miguel Cotto in Southern California on Saturday. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Boxing

For Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs), StubHub is familiar ground. He has developed a serious Southern California fan base through four bouts in the last two years, including a Fight of the Year finalist at Stuhub against Robert Guerrero in December 2014. Kamegai is coming off a TKO victory in eight rounds against Jesus Soto Karass last September. “I’m pleased to be fighting for this title belt held by great champions like Oscar De La Hoya and Marco Antonio Barrera,” said Kamegai.

Kamegai says he preferred a technical approach in Japan, but employs a more aggressive attitude when in the U.S. “When I fight in the United States, I’m much more motivated,” said Kamegai. “Especially with the reaction from the fans and the crowd. I feel that I enjoy fighting here, and it’s probably the best platform to be fighting at.”

Miguel Cotto and Yoshihiro Kamegai pose with Oscar De La Hoya holding the WBO junior middleweight title belt. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Boxing

At their final news conference, it was the trainers who promised fans an action packed fight. Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach said he’d enjoyed an especially good training camp with Cotto, watching plenty of film on Kamegai. “We have a really great strategy, and it will be an action packed fight. Miguel is 100 percent ready.”

Kamegai’s trainer Sendai Tenaka spoke fluent Spanish to the media, saying, “Cotto is a legendary fighter, very complete, worldwide one of the best. Kamegai is very excited and happy to step into the ring with a fighter like Miguel Cotto. And you know his style. He likes to train, to punch and take punches. And he’s very excited to get in there and give you guys a great fight. That’s why he’ll throw punches until victory comes, always.”

Miguel Cotto hits the body pads of trainer Freddie Roach. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

Cotto is a student of effective aggression. The converted southpaw’s best weapon is his left jab, nearly a straight left which can keep an opponent busy trying to fend it off. Roach has helped Cotto regain some of the effective body punching skills he deployed early in his career. Cotto is past his prime and the body work doesn’t have the power it once did, but it will slow an opponent down nicely.

Kamegai is a volume puncher who never slows down. He can take it as well as dish it out. Kamegai has never been stopped or knocked down in his professional career. He can be cut and must be cautious of head butts.

The matchup is the ideal antidote to the main event getting most of the attention in the combat sports world this Saturday. It is a no-nonsense, all action fight for fans who like their boxing straight up. Set it under the stars where knowledgeable fans like to gather to see skills and heart come together, and as Miguel Cotto promised, “We’re going to do our best this Saturday, and the winners will be fans all over the world.”

(L to R) Ray Vargas, Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Yoshihiro Kamegai, Ronny Rios. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Boxing

The undercard features rising stars in the Golden Boy stable The opening bout on HBO could steal the show. Undefeated Rey Vargas (29-0, 22 KOs) of México tests top contender Ronny Rios (28-1, 13 KOs) from Santa Ana, California in a scheduled 12-round super bantamweight title fight. Making his first world title challenge, Rios is on a five-bout win streak following his only professional loss. Vargas will be fighting in the U.S. for the third time.

Ronny Riso pulled no punches comparing the Golden Boy card to the event in Las Vegas on the same night. Photo: Mickey Bonilla, MB Sports Photography

Rios spoke for everyone involved in the event at the final news conference on Thursday. “If you want to tune into a circus act, watch Showtime (PPV), if you want to tune in to real fights, great fights watch HBO,” said Rios, met by applause by everyone in attendance.

Following the televised doubleheader, HBO will air the debut of the two-part behind-the-scenes series “24/7 Canelo/Golovkin,” previewing the middleweight championship fight on Saturday, September 16 in Las Vegas.

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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