The latest installment of boxing’s long tradition of the Puerto Rico versus Mexico rivalry will continue on November 21, at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. First ballot Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33KO’s) puts his WBC middleweight title on the line against rising star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (45-1-1, 32KO’s) at a contractual agreed weight of 155 pounds.
Cotto-Canelo is the type of matchup that will prove to be a financial blockbuster, as well as a terrific clash of styles. In other words the fight will live up to the hype. Cotto-Canelo is the second biggest fight that could have been made in the sport, and should prove to be more exciting than the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao contest that took place back in May.
As the date rapidly approaches there are many questions surrounding the bout. The first being, can the 35-year-old Cotto, be able to use his vast experience to nullify the youth and size of Canelo. No stranger to shootouts himself, Cotto has participated in his fair share of wars with top opposition. As Cotto approaches the tail-end of his career, it’s obvious that there may be more wear and tear on his body, than on the body of his 25-year-old counterpart. However, Canelo has proven in the past that he isn’t without flaws. He has shown to struggle mightily against fighters that mix up their offense, and can utilize a combination of movement and angles (Mayweather, Austin Trout, and Erislandy Lara) in the squared circle. Prevailing wisdom would suggest that a fighter with almost 50 professional fights in their career would be more effective at cutting the ring off on an opponent. Cotto is far from being a stationary fighter. But just like all of the other top fights of our generation, there are many variables that can alter what happens in the ring on fight night.
Here is a break-down of how both fighters matchup:
Left hook happy
Cotto’s left hook is potent. Whether it lands on the chin or on the body, more than likely the opponent is going to visit the canvas. Cotto delivers it with power, timing, and accuracy. Cotto is a natural lefty; therefore he is leading and hooking with his dominant hand. Keep in mind that Canelo never dropped James Kirkland with a left hook. He finished him with an overhand right. Canelo may have a better punch selection, but Cotto has the better left hook, that he uses to both the head and body of his opponent.
The right cross
Cotto will have a tough time landing the straight right hand against the taller Canelo, especially if he is stays on the outside. Typically, Canelo will throw a lead left hook, and then follow it with a straight right hand. This punch combination paid dividends against Trout and Kirkland.
Jab, jab, jab
This fight will be fought on the outside as well as in a phone booth. Whichever fighter can establish his jab first, will be one step closer to victory. The jab is known as the most effective weapon in boxing. It’s used to disrupt the rhythm of your opponent. It is also used for the fighter to set up his own offense afterwards. To reiterate, Cotto is a left-handed fighter that fights conventional. Therefore, he is jabbing with his dominant hand. Cotto has a ‘shotgun’ jab, and contrary to popular belief, his best weapon isn’t his left hook to the body, but his jab.
As he showed against Mayweather, Cotto will use the jab to shorten the distance and get within range to unleash a barrage of punches to make his opponent feel uncomfortable.
The power of the uppercut
Considering that both Cotto and Canelo will lock horns on the inside, the most effective weapon to use in close quarters is the uppercut. Cotto tends to get hit with a lot of uppercuts (As he did against Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, Pacquiao, and Trout) because he has tendency to lean forward while standing in a high defensive guard. Canelo’s uppercuts are a beauty to watch. They’re quick, they are powerful, but most importantly, and he can either counter with them, or lead off with them in close range. Canelo dropped Kirkland with a counter uppercut, and nearly decapitated Alfredo Angulo at the end of their fight.
Going to the body
Mexican fighters are known for their onslaught to the body. In this regard, Canelo remains true to his roots. Canelo has an excellent left hook to the body that has hurt and put away some of his rivals. Under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, Cotto has returned to being the ferocious body puncher of old. Neither Cotto nor Canelo has faced a devastating body puncher quite like each other.
The need for speed and accurate timing
Neither guy is known for having blistering hand speed. However, Cotto does let his hands go in combinations. He has impeccable timing, and will need to execute it precisely against Canelo. Canelo’s hands are a little faster than Cotto’s. Canelo’s hands have a tendency to find the target rather quickly.
As a result of fighting in four divisions over the better part of 14 years, there has been a decrease in hand speed in Cotto.
Canelo’s combinations don’t land as often against defensive fighters. Typically, he is punch output will decrease to throwing one punch at a time, or he will fight in spurts in spots throughout the fight. Since hooking up with Roach, Cotto is fighting a little more defensively, as we saw against Daniel Geale. Cotto is able to go in, land 2-3 punches and then get out.
Now against flat-footed, plodding opponents that elect to trade with Canelo, pay the ultimate price. In those situations, Canelo let’s hands go in the form of 3-4 punch combinations. It’s very doubtful that Cotto will opt to engage in a fistic shootout with Canelo.
Neither Cotto nor Canelo are known for their defense. Canelo’s defense consists of a high guard and occasionally slipping punches. However, Canelo rarely moves his head. On the other hand, Cotto will slip punches, and move around the ring. Cotto may have better defense than Canelo, but rest assure that Cotto has yet to face a fighter that will put his defense to the test like Canelo will.
Going yard (strength & power)
Canelo is the bigger man. He is much closer to being a legitimate middleweight than Cotto. All of the intangibles including, but not limited to reach, height, and weight all favor Canelo. Unlike Delvin Rodriguez, Sergio Martinez, and Geale, Canelo isn’t a weak and old, damaged opponent. It is incumbent upon Cotto to exhibit his ring intelligence. If he decides to be too macho, he will pay the ultimate price for it.
The final verdict
If you are keeping score, it’s a tie. Both Cotto and Canelo have scored 4 apiece, with 1 category even. It’s obvious that this is a pick’em fight. There’s no question that this will be a tough fight for both men. Could it be that the older and more experienced Cotto may lack the physical prowess at this stage in his career to defeat Canelo?
Then they are several questions about Canelo that have yet to be answered. How good is his chin? He did eat some shots against Kirkland, but he has yet to face an elite puncher like Cotto. How will Canelo respond to adversity?
Canelo is slightly favored in the contest, and rightfully so. However, his performances against Trout, Mayweather, and Lara have been less than scintillating. Albeit, he got the victories over Trout and Lara, they still aren’t a bigger and better name than Cotto.
It’s funny how things change with time. Two years ago, Canelo would have been a huge favorite to stop Cotto. But as we fast forward the hands of time, here we are on the precipice of a magnificent showdown of great magnitude and implication, which the book makers have deemed as being almost even. November 21 can’t come fast enough.