This Saturday the highly anticipated fight between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez will air on pay-per-view. Cotto has received a lot of attention since his domination of the aging Sergio Martinez. Not all for good reason, though, because while Martinez had been a middleweight sensation in previous fights, he was injured and badly faded before ever taking a punch from Miguel Cotto. He was also on the small side for 160 pounds. Hailed for training the offense-minded Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach has accepted most of the credit for Cotto’s wins since moving up to middleweight, and while he’s looked impressive in those wins, the opposition hasn’t. His only two opponents at this weight, Martinez and Daniel Geale, were both under the limit at weigh-in by at least a full pound, which is uncommon for full middleweights. Martinez was badly injured, and Geale is a B+ fighter at best. Not the preparatory challenge you’d expect for someone getting ready to take on Saul Alvarez.
Roach and Cotto are enjoying the hype, despite its tenuous evidence. Managing a knockout against Geale, Cotto is now evaluated consistently as being back to “his old self” and more of a head-hunter than he was in the past. In reality, any strong, skilled, pressure fighter would have knocked out Geale and dominated the injured Martinez. Saturday will be a wake-up call for casual fans but I’m not so cynical as to think Cotto and Roach are that naive. They know their ride in the middleweight division headlines will be very much like a roller coaster, and it won’t be long before the quick descent begins.
Saul Alvarez will almost certainly be the catalyst for that descent.
ESPN has done their best to hype the fight, presenting a “12-round breakdown” for Cotto-Alvarez in which they are evenly matched. The comparison features 12 different categories to contrast the fighters. Some of the categories, like “Wild Card” (happens to be the name of Cotto’s gym) and “Corner” are all but useless, but most of them have a basis in fact. For the most part, though, it’s just a way to promote a fight. Take some of the more unrealistic comparisons, such as Technique and Versatility. ESPN gives both of these to Cotto, based on the fact that he started his career heavily relying on his boxing ability and has since been in some classic brawls. The same can be said of Alvarez, though, in that Canelo has been criticized for boxing too conservatively (still winning rounds) and also praised for brutal knockouts (over high-level opponents). Cotto’s technique is viewed similarly by all analysts, and the consensus isn’t entirely favorable. While his technique has always been good, it’s never been his main attraction for fans, who tune in to see him applying constant pressure and throwing combinations despite his opponent’s attacks.
Depending on how you look at it, this is a good final act for Cotto. He won’t be able to make more money than he will with this fight; he won’t be able to draw more attention than he has fighting Alvarez; he may not have another better matched opponent for the rest of his career. We’ll surely get to see Cotto go out on his shield as he always has, and is only more likely to do with his new trainer. Alvarez will be challenged and knocked off his feet if he’s not careful, but I doubt Cotto will be the second to defeat Canelo. If all goes as planned, this fight will actually secure three of the sport’s biggest names for fights with each other, as knockout king Gennady Golovkin will be mandatory challenger to the winner. All three have hovered near the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world for some time, Golovkin being the most prominent, and also the largest physically. So far the middleweight king’s technical ability has been difficult to assess as it’s never been a major factor in his wins. Cotto may not be the only one taken down a peg in this equation, but he’s the only one whose career is at risk. He deserves the ultimate respect for being willing to go out in glory after such an inspiring career. Whatever the result, we’ll see all of Miguel Cotto on Saturday. Or at least, all of what’s left.