Much respect to Miguel Cotto, but now it’s my era.
LAS VEGAS — Miguel Cotto had the right strategy, but not the physical tools against Canelo Alvarez, who is now the lineal, RING Magazine and WBC middleweight champion after scoring a wide unanimous decision win at the Mandalay Bay. Although this wasn’t a drama-filled bout, fans were treated to a high-level chess match that showed the elite skills and limitations of both men. Does Gennady Golovkin loom in the distance?
CATCHWEIGHT NULLIFIED: Cotto’s 155 pound catchweight was supposed to even the playing field, but Canelo still appeared to be over 170 pounds in the ring. Cotto opted to box from the outside by turning Canelo, pumping the jab, and countering with left hooks. The problem was the reach disadvantage allowed Canelo to neutralize Cotto’s attempts to press by simply taking a step or two backwards. This meant the fight was contested mostly at long and mid-range, where the younger Canelo held the speed advantage.
By the third round, Canelo was able to land lead right hands and physically move Cotto backwards with body shots. The power disparity put Cotto behind the eight-ball in scoring since he had to widely outwork Canelo to take rounds, leading to tired legs in the later rounds.
TOE TO TOE GAMBLING: By the midway point, Cotto seemed to sense he was behind and began a new tactic of occasionally coming right at Canelo. These exchanges were exciting with each man landing their best shots. Unfortunately for Cotto, the size and power disparity left him getting the worse of most of them. Canelo’s punches would knock him backwards and Cotto would always be the one to retreat first, adding to the impression of Canelo being in full control.
STAMINA AND FIGHTING TO SURVIVE VS. FIGHTING TO WIN: Once the fight hit the championship rounds, you could hear Cotto in the corner counting down to the end (“nine minutes left… six minutes left…”). This was significant in the sense that mentally Cotto was more focused on getting through the fight as opposed to Canelo, who was throwing most of his shots with the intention of getting a KO.
Nonetheless, Canelo’s biggest weakness, his stamina, reared its ugly head in the later rounds. Instead of really pressing Cotto, Canelo took full rounds off (noticeably the 10th), that let Cotto steal rounds. He avoided any serious damage, but it remains to be seen how much of a detriment that would be against an opponent the same size.
WIDE OR APPROPRIATE SCORING: I scored the bout 117-111. Cotto had solid ring generalship and defense in most rounds, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Canelo’s clear, effective punching. Yes, it’s a challenge when you face someone who’s bigger with punches are so much more heavier, but it’s not impossible to overcome (see the Mayweather-Maidana fights). Cotto just couldn’t avoid the right hands, body shots and uppercuts enough to take rounds. And when he tried to go all out in the final round, he got beat up and suffered a deep, flowing cut over his left eye.
The official judges had it 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111.
WHAT’S NEXT?: Now that Canelo’s the WBC champion, he obligated to face mandatory opponent Gennady Golovkin. Although he didn’t budge on saying the bout has to happen, Canelo was also clear on his terms as the “A-side.”
I’m not afraid of any fighter. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is a great fighter, and he is my friend. I have respect for him, but if we do fight, it’s going to be at my weight class. I’m the champion, and I don’t have to do what he wants.
“My weight class” means something under 160, which Golovkin has never done and it’s not a good idea to start at 33 years old.
Based on what we saw tonight, you have to favor Golovkin by a wide margin. I see Canelo breaking GGG’s KO streak, but his habit of taking 30-60 seconds off of rounds would sink him against the Kazakhstan beast.
As for Cotto, I’d like to see him hang up the gloves. There are no bigger paydays than what Canelo was for him. A swan song at Madison Square Garden would be fitting.