By Jerome Foster
Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) defends his lineal middleweight championship against challenger Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) Saturday night in Las Vegas. Both fighters come into the bout winning three consecutive fights. Since losing back to back fights to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout in 2012, Cotto has beaten Delvin Rodriguez, Sergio Martinez to take the middleweight crown and Daniel Geale. Canelo has beaten Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara and James Kirkland since losing to Mayweather in September 2013.
Cotto-Canelo should be a close, competitive fight. It will come down to a few of factors:
How good is Miguel Cotto at this point in his career?
Cotto enters his 45th professional fight Saturday and is obviously on the downside of his career. However, in his last three fights against Rodriguez, Martinez and Geale, he looked as if he were still in the prime of his career. While Cotto looked spectacular against the three, one has to question the quality of those opponents. Rodriguez and Geale aren’t special fighters. They are average fighters that a boxing fan would expect a future Hall of Famer to easily beat. Martinez was at one time a great fighter. But it was apparent about a minute into his bout with Cotto that he was a one-legged fighter who was essentially cashing out with a final payday before retiring. Cotto certainly looked like he’s revived his career, but is it more because of him or his last three opponents? Saturday we will get a better idea of the answer.
Has Canelo improved since the Mayweather fight?
Since losing to Mayweather, Canelo’s fights have been a bit of a mixed bag. He’s looked great in beating Angulo and Kirkland. He struggled to a split decision victory over Lara in a bout that some people thought Lara deserved. This is by far his biggest challenge since Mayweather. Cotto is more skilled, tougher and smarter than Angulo, Lara and Kirkland. Canelo is only 25, but there are some people in the boxing industry that wonder if he has already reached his ceiling. With Mayweather supposedly retiring and guys like Pacquiao and Cotto almost done with their careers, Canelo is poised to step in the role of boxing’s biggest superstar. He failed his first test at beating a boxing superstar. Can he use what he learned in that bout and subsequent bouts to pass his second? We will find out Saturday.
Who will control movement in the fight?
Factor number 2 and this factor go hand in hand. Canelo’s biggest struggle in the ring has been with guys that use a lot of movement. Mayweather, the greatest defensive fighter of this generation, used movement a frustrate Canelo at every turn. Canelo wound up losing that fight via majority decision but if you watch that fight, you’d struggle to find one round Canelo won. He even stated that he “couldn’t catch” Mayweather after the fight. Lara also frustrated Canelo with movement. He certainly looked better than he did in the Mayweather fight, but he still had a hard time cutting off the ring and slowing down Lara’s movement. He won a split decision against Lara, but it could’ve easily gone the other way. Cotto doesn’t move like Mayweather or Lara, but he moves better than he gets credit for. The more Cotto uses movement Saturday night, the better off he will be. Can Cotto sustain movement for 12 rounds? It’s going to be hard. He’s 35 and has been in tough fights, but it’s his best chance of keeping his title.
I think Canelo is going to win Saturday with a late stoppage. I believe he will be able to slow down Cotto’s movement enough to wear him down over the first half of the fight before getting the upper hand and taking Cotto out in the late rounds. He’s going to have to fight through some adversity. Cotto is a surefire Hall of Famer and will not go easily. However, as great as it’s been to see Cotto performing like he has in his last three fights, I believe it’s been more because of his opponents than because of him. No matter who wins, I certainly hope the winner will fight Gennady Golovkin, the best middleweight in the world, sometime next year.