The World Boxing Council on Tuesday stripped Miguel Cotto of his middleweight belt after the Puerto Rican fighter's decision to not pay a staggering $1.1 million in fees.
"If I had the $1.1 million, I could buy any belt I want and could be any champion I want," Cotto said Tuesday at the arrival for what was supposed to be a middleweight title defense against Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Instead, the decision by WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman to strip Cotto (40-4, 33 knockouts) means only Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) can claim the belt with a Saturday victory.
Because unbeaten World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation champion Gennady Golovkin was the mandatory challenger for Cotto before he agreed to fight Alvarez, Cotto was obligated to pay Golovkin money, commonly referred to as a step-aside fee, to allow the richer Alvarez fight to proceed.
According to an official for Cotto's promotional company, Cotto was to pay Golovkin $800,000, and the WBC wanted an extra $300,000 to sanction Saturday's fight.
Golovkin was not paid, the official said.
Cotto told reporters he was willing to pay Golovkin in full, plus the $150,000 for the WBC sanctioning fee from a purse reported at $10 million, but no more. The WBC asked for its $300,000, Cotto declined, according to the official, and the title was stripped.
By rejecting the fees, the likelihood of a victorious Cotto fighting Golovkin next is seen as even more unlikely than previously when his camp noted the low pay-per-view buys (150,000) that Golovkin had in his Oct. 17 victory over David Lemieux.
"It's a little disappointing Cotto wouldn't follow the rules of the WBC," said Golovkin's promoter, Tom Loeffler. "We can't influence what Cotto is going to do. Gennady wanted to fight the winner and win the WBC belt."
Loeffler expressed disappointment the situation dragged out so long.
"You can't force somebody to fight, but if Gennady has all the titles, he's clearly the middleweight champion," Loeffler said. "I don't think anybody thinks Cotto can beat Gennady."
In a statement Tuesday, Sulaiman wrote "after several weeks of communications, countless attempts and good-faith time extensions trying to preserve the fight … Miguel Cotto and his promotion [rapper Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports] did not agree to comply with the WBC rules and regulations, while Saul Alvarez has agreed to do so.
"The WBC's decision is premised on the fact that Miguel Cotto and his camp are not willing to abide by the … specific conditions the WBC established to sanction the fight. Simply put: they are not willing to respect the very same rules and conditions which applied to Cotto becoming WBC champion.
"The WBC stands by its honorability and will not participate in the abuse of power and greediness, which has taken our boxing world to regrettable actions from different parties."
Cotto's trainer, Freddie Roach, said his fighter's reputation, built through world titles in four divisions and participation in bouts against Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., shows he "doesn't need the belts. He's bigger than the belts."
Cotto said to reporters, "Let me ask you: If you had the opportunity to keep this much money in your pocket, or give it up to keep a title that doesn't carry much weight given that there's [four] different titles in our division, what would you choose to do?
"I can take the money I saved and buy whatever belt I want."