Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cotto-Alvarez Preview

In the sport of Boxing it can at times be cliché to hear the phrase “One of the most anticipated fights” in the build up to an event that has all the makings of a “Big Fight.” Sometimes such anticipation can lead to fans feeling let down when the actual fight does not live up to the build up that preceded it.

Such was the case earlier this year when the long-awaited battle between a future Hall of Famer’s Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally took place after nearly a decade of anticipation. Unfortunately for Boxing fans, the actual fight failed to live up to the anticipation of what was billed as “The Fight Of The Century.”

In many ways, the battle ended up being a quintessential Boxing exhibition by Floyd Mayweather who scored a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision over Pacquiao in a bout that lacked the drama and moments normally associated with a “Big” or “Super” fight as bouts of that magnitude are at times billed.

A common question that will be asked following such a fight regardless of what happens in the ring is when will there be another fight that is considered a “Big” or “Super” fight. The answer to that question will be this weekend as multi-division world champion Miguel Cotto makes the second defense of his WBC Middleweight world championship against former WBC Jr. Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV.

Stylistically, this is a fight that has action written all over it. Both fighters are offensive minded and have the ability to get an opponent out of there with one punch. Each however, also possess Boxing ability and when it comes to a battle between two boxer/punchers it will be interesting to see how the fight is fought. Will it be a tactical battle between two world-class boxers who may be equal in terms of punching power or will it be a toe to toe war?

In one corner will stand defending champion Miguel Cotto. Cotto, who won the WBC Middleweight world championship in June of last year with a dominating tenth round stoppage of two-division world champion Sergio Martinez has seen a resurgence in his career since the addition of legendary trainer Freddie Roach prior to his fight against Delvin Rodriguez in October 2013.

In three fights with Roach in his corner including his title defense earlier this year against former two-time Middleweight world champion Daniel Geale, Cotto has scored three straight knockouts. A key component that has been present in each of those fights has been Cotto’s ability to make his left hook the focal point of his offense in landing it to the body and head of his opponent.

Cotto has also been effective in executing lateral movement in order to put himself in positions to land the left hook as well. Rodriguez, Martinez, and Geale had no answer to counteract Cotto’s left hook or his hand speed. As this fight approaches this observer feels that Cotto’s left hook will again be a focal point of his offense against Saul Alvarez.

Standing across the ring from Cotto on Saturday night will be former WBC Jr. Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Alvarez emerged as a rising star in the sport with a one punch knockout over former WBC Welterweight world champion Carlos Baldomir in September 2010.

The twenty-five year old Alvarez has scored victories in forty-five of his forty-seven professional fights and made six successful defenses of the WBC Jr. Middleweight world championship including victories over the likes of Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley, and Austin Trout. Alvarez’ lone defeat came in a unification bout against Floyd Mayweather in September 2013.

Although a valid argument could be made that Alvarez has yet to score a victory against a fighter who is considered a current superstar in the sport, Alvarez has become a legitimate star since his victory over Baldomir including drawing massive crowds for his fight with Austin Trout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX where over 39,000 people attended and for his last fight earlier this year against James Kirkland in Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX that drew over 31,000 spectators.

In covering Alvarez’ fight against Floyd Mayweather in 2013, this observer stated that in a tactical Boxing match sometimes it is a simple as who has the quicker hands. Despite losing that fight, Alvarez was not disgraced and did give a good account of himself against a fighter widely considered to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world.

In thinking of how this fight might be fought, I believe a key might be who is able to establish the pace of the fight. After all, Cotto and Alvarez are two offensive minded fighters who look to put pressure on their opponents. It will be interesting to see who will be able to take the initiative and dictate how the fight is fought.

It is logical to assume that there might be a feeling out process early on due to both fighters knowing what the other can do and having a healthy respect for their opponent’s punching power. Although Alvarez was simply outpointed in his fight against Mayweather, he was unable to cut the ring off and to trap Mayweather consistently throughout the fight.

Even though Miguel Cotto is a different fighter stylistically than Mayweather, he has shown in his last three fights the ability to use lateral movement to not only put himself in positions where he can land his left hook and land combinations, but perhaps more importantly his tactics have made it very difficult for opponents to build any significant momentum. It is important that Alvarez find a way to execute his offense more frequently than he was able to against Mayweather.

In his last fight in May of this year, Alvarez scored a thrilling third round knockout over a very “Game” James Kirkland. The fight between Alvarez and Kirkland was as this observer described it a “Shootout.”

Kirkland was able to momentarily get Alvarez on the ropes and land punches with both hands in the first round. Although Kirkland was very aggressive in that fight in the early going it was Alvarez who was able to use Kirkland’s aggression against him and found a home for his right hand. Alvarez’ well-balanced attack to the body and head eventually broke Kirkland down, scoring a total of three knockdowns and ending the fight in thrilling fashion in round three dropping Kirkland with a flush right hand to the chin.

It will be interesting to see whether Cotto saw anything in that fight that could work to his advantage against Alvarez. Both fighters are similar in style and it will also be interesting to see if one elects to take the role of counter puncher in this fight.

The bout between Cotto and Alvarez will be the latest chapter in the storied rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico in the sport. There is no doubt that the crowd inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center will be white-hot as fans of both fighters will converge to show their support.

If the fight does turn out to resemble the potential fight of the year candidate that it appears to be on paper, Saturday, November 21, 2015 will likely go down in history as a memorable night in the sport of Boxing. This observer is looking forward to it.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Cotto vs. Alvarez takes place on Saturday, November 21st at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV. In the United States and Canada the fight will be televised by HBO Pay-Per-View for $69.95. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the fight can be seen on BoxNation. Check your local listings internationally.

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