The only thing better than Ron Burgundy assembling the news team is the TQBR crew coming together to discuss a big fight. Since Cotto vs Canelo most assuredly qualifies as a big fight, we did that.
Canelo Alvarez has been known to rehydrate to 170 lbs. by fight night. Will his size bother Miguel Cotto? Why or why not?
Lou Catalano: I absolutely think his size will play a role here, especially since Cotto doesn’t exactly come on strong down the stretch. He fades in big fights, and I think Canelo’s size and pop will pose serious issues for him in the later rounds. Cotto will likely be on his bike after round 8. Daniel Geale’s size advantage was neutralized by Cotto, but Geale isn’t on Canelo’s level. Size doesn’t equal a victory, but size + skill helps immensely.
Alex McClintock: As Lou points out, Canelo’s size alone won’t bother Cotto. He’s faced bigger guys before (though recently they’ve tended to have one eye or one leg). But when Canelo can take his best shots inside and then step back and counter from distance when he chooses to, it sure as hell will bother Cotto. If you want to look at it another way, being a much bigger dude sure doesn’t hurt.
Sam Sheppard: I’ve had the debate numerous times about whether Canelo could still comfortably make 154, and I fully believe he is a man without a country. I don’t think he can make junior middleweight anymore, and I feel he is punishing his body unnecessarily in order to stay in his very own no-man’s-land at 155-156 and avoid the bigger guys. The fact that his 30-day weigh-in was identical to Gennady Golovkin’s speaks volumes. Both he and Cotto are gaming the system, and it’s a stain on the middleweight belt and most storied lineage in the sport.
Andrew Harrison: I don’t believe Alvarez’s size will bother Cotto overly – the Puerto Rican’s been hurting bigger men than “Canelo” in recent fights. Rehydrating to that extent will likely make the Mexican dangerous early and weaker down the stretch (which more or less ties in with his career performances to date).
Jeff Pryor: Size won’t be a big factor because Canelo doesn’t have the sort of style to weaponize that size difference. He will be strong, he will be durable, but he’s not going to maul Cotto with his weight. Roach will have Cotto using a mobile approach and looking to sap the Mexican with body shots to see if his penchant for taking off chunks of rounds can be exploited even further.
Jonathan Moreland: Canelo’s going to have to be able to use his size if he wants it to bother Cotto, and I’m not sure he’ll be able to do that. Cotto’s going to jab, land shots and get on his horse to avoid whatever Canelo tries to come back with. Is Canelo going to be plodding after him, or will he be able to land meaningful enough exchanges to slowly break him down? Canelo’s footwork is his biggest knock and I think he gets outboxed a bit here. On the flipside, I feel the size advantage widens the durability gap even further between these two fighters, so size is more of my “key to victory” than it is something that I think will bother Cotto at the opening bell.
Tim Starks: Yes. Cotto has said it: He’s no middleweight, because he’s a guy who doesn’t stray much from his weigh-in weight to the next day. Geale rehydrated to a high weight, but it wasn’t like how Canelo does it; Geale was struggling with the catchweight and blew up because he had no choice. Canelo seems to be in that sweet spot of being reasonably comfortable just above 154 and then coming in strong fight night at a more natural weight. Cotto has been avoiding naturally bigger guys at 160 for a reason. He will hurt Canelo less than he hurts some other guys since his faux middleweight campaign, and Canelo will hurt him more than he’s been hurt.
Matthew Swain: I think the weight comes down to two things: Cotto’s punches not having as much effect, and Canelo not using his weight. Alvarez isn’t a smothering pressure fighter, so I don’t think the weight will factor too much. It will have an effect on Cotto’s game plan, simply because he won’t be able to do as much damage on offense.
Cotto has historically shown weaknesses against speed & pressure, neither of which are fortes of Canelo. How does Canelo get to Cotto? Can he outbox him, and can he defend himself from Cotto’s offense?
Lou: This is an issue for Canelo, because you’re right, he has struggled with cutting off the ring in the past. But — catching Erislandy Lara and Mayweather is one thing. Cotto ain’t them. He’s a good boxer, but he’ll be at height and reach disadvantages. I’m assuming Cotto’s game plan will be to use the jab and left to the body frequently, so Canelo will want to look to crack him with the straight right, which is a nasty punch for him. Cotto will move, but I don’t think he’ll be impossible to find. I see this thing playing to Cotto’s advantages early, Canelo’s later…
Alex: I reckon Canelo has a surprisingly diverse skill set. He won’t outbox Cotto by moving away, but I think he’ll counterpunch and exchange in spots. I don’t think Cotto’s offence will really trouble him all that much, the guy is so calm. Remember how he patiently soaked up James Kirkland’s best shots?
Sam: I think the last couple of years have proven Canelo can remain calm under pressure, which is crucial when entering big fights such as this. He’s certainly not a fast fighter, but I believe he hits harder than anyone Cotto has faced in years — arguably since Manny Pacquiao — and throws combinations well enough to catch his opponent at some stage and hurt him.
Andrew: If you throw out the Antonio Margarito fight and factor in that Pacquiao was at the peak of his Alex Ariza-supported rampage — Cotto’s apparent weaknesses are probably overplayed. I believe Canelo will get to Cotto and vice versa — this fight will likely come down to who’s the smarter of the two when they exchange.
Jeff: Canelo has fast hands and thudding power. He’s quick enough to catch Cotto with shots as they are firing. He likely has a little slower ring speed and may have trouble catching Cotto if the Puerto Rican’s tactics are largely based on movement and getting in and out quickly. Canelo will need to cut off the ring and step to Cotto, pre-empting and anticipating when Cotto is looking to make surges and flurries. Canelo could outbox him for stretches, but Cotto has a great sense for when to push the issue and if he is getting frustrated with a slow Canelo pace, he will look to change it with his own action. It’s an interesting fight where both men can come forward or counterpunch and do well.
Jonathan: I think it boils down to attrition. Cotto will outbox Canelo, but his offense won’t bother his opponent nearly as much as when the Mexican is landing.
Tim: I don’t think Cotto, even rejuvenated, is still very good at staying out of harm’s way. He surely can evade even a mildly pressuring Canelo for a while, because as the gang has noted, Canelo’s no “Dancing Queen” with his foot movement. As some of the others have also pointed out, the question is whether Cotto can do it long enough to still be fresh late in the fight. Cotto’s no Lara, and Canelo still made enough contact on him. Cotto definitely will land some telling shots for the judges, and maybe even shots that slow Canelo down some, despite Canelo’s shocking improvement on defense over the years. If Cotto slows down much at all as the accumulation of punishment builds, or Canelo isn’t slowed significantly by Cotto’s body shots, Cotto could be in big trouble late.
Matthew: Part of the reason Cotto has looked quicker lately is that middleweights are appreciably slower that the guys he was facing at 147. Canelo has about average speed for a middleweight. The punch that’s going to be telling for me in this fight is Cotto’s jab. He doesn’t have a big reach, but he steps in with his jab, greatly extending the range. If Canelo can counter over that or apply pressure, it’s going to be a long, frustrating night.
Much has been made of Cotto’s “rejuvenation” with Freddie Roach. Will that factor in the fight, or has it been careful matchmaking?
Lou: This reminds me a lot of Cotto prepping for Pacquiao — the difference in cornermen was alarming. This time, Cotto has the major advantage. Freddie Roach is brilliant, and I’ve felt that Canelo has needed an upgrade in the corner for a long, long time. However, though I do enjoy Cotto’s fights, I don’t think he’s suddenly found a magic charm in his mid-thirties. I still think that a two-legged Sergio Martinez would have destroyed him. The “rejuvenation” to me is a combination of matchmaking and a massive upgrade in trainers. Cotto has gone back to what has worked for him in the past — body shots and the left hook, but he’s fought inferior competition.
Alex: It’s 100 percent matchmaking, there’s no doubt in my mind. Let’s not forget that Cotto’s most impressive late career effort (albeit in a loss) was against Floyd Mayweather, under the tutelage of Pedro Diaz. As for Roach: I too would look like the best trainer in the world if I had Miguel Cotto fighting journeyman, one-legged veterans and burnt-out husks.
Sam: Matchmaking. 100 percent. I’ve never liked Cotto and I find Roach increasingly tiresome, but I have to give them credit for this. The Martinez fight was a phenomenally effective demonstration of being in the right place at the right time.
Andrew: I think it will. Cotto has looked a far more composed and balanced performer in recent fights. He’s shown a veteran’s poise. OK, both Martinez and Geale were compromised to differing extents (as Alex has noted) but Cotto’s technique looks enhanced under Roach.
Jeff: I think Roach has refined Cotto’s strategy to what he always did best and has instilled confidence back in his charge, something that was truly shaken after the first Margarito fight. It was a long time coming back from that, with a lot of down-the-stretch shaky performances and I think Roach deserves major credit here, but also the simple passage of time has helped Cotto re-frame those traumatizing moments in acceptable terms. Unlike almost everyone else here, I don’t think the resurgence has been a product of matchmaking at all. Martinez was and still is overrated for his middleweight run. That said, Cotto has had a long and some times brutalizing career and that more than anything could rear its head in this match.
Jonathan: Yes, there is truth to the rejuvenation. Yes, Zoolander was on his last legs, but we’ll see the same strong, balanced version of Cotto that took him out against Canelo. I think this resurgence largely is due to his recent work with Roach.
Tim: Yeah, I’m in the “not an either/or” camp. It’s both. Look, Roach makes most boxers better. His number of misfires is remarkably low. Cotto also hasn’t “bought into” a trainer’s message in a long time. And stylistically, he is much different than the guy we’d seen for any number of years pre-Roach. He really does throw his left hook to the body a ton more, almost as much as he did early in his career when it was his most lethal weapon. But there’s a reason he went away from it, and that reason is that committing to hard body shots can open you up to counters, and Cotto hadn’t been as willing to pay that price as he was pre-Margarito. Martinez was literally on his last leg, so Cotto looked spectacular. Geale and Rodriguez had their assets, but they were faded by the time Cotto got ahold of them. Does a Cotto under someone other than Roach look that good against those guys? Absolutely not. The real test of whether Cotto’s resurgence is a hype job or reality is Saturday night, and I can hardly wait to see what happens.
Matthew: It’s a combination. Cotto is an offensive fighter. He always has been. Roach has him back to focusing more on his strengths. His recent schedule hasn’t exactly been murderers row, but he’s looked strong, confident, and well prepared. I thought Pedro Diaz style was a little too passive for him. The version of Cotto we’ve seen with Roach makes this fight a lot more fun.
Thoughts on the lineal middleweight title being contested at 155?
Lou: Utter fucking horseshit. I hate it, and I wish whoever wins would just vacate the damn thing when this is over. Neither are ever going to fight the best fighter in the division, which is Golovkin. And if either did, it would lead to brutal knockout losses. I hate catch weights.
Alex: It’s… not ideal. I draw comfort from the fact that I’m picking Canelo, who will surely outgrow 155 (physically, if not mentally) soon enough.
Sam: Until recently, I thought Floyd defending his junior middleweight belt against Marcos Maidana at a limit of 147 pounds was as low as we could go. I was wrong.
Andrew: It is what it is. Lineal championships don’t matter much to boxers these days — marketability is a far more important commodity in the modern game.
Jeff: I don’t mind it, being that both guys are just naturally a little smaller and are comfortable at that weight. However, I think in any fight for a belt each opponent should be able to come in at up to the division limit. I don’t think weight should be a negotiable factor in title fights. Still, fighters can choose to come in beneath it, if it suits them. And I think Cotto would fight much better coming in 155 lbs. for this fight than 160 lbs. regardless of the contracted weight. The better solution overall is to revamp the weigh in system to insure the men are fighting at more natural weights.
Jonathan: At this point, nothing surprises me. The system has won.
Tim: It’s unfortunate. I keep pining for Cotto, who’s flatly said he’s no middleweight, to stop fighting technically within the division but in a way that just annoys everyone. I don’t hate catchweights as much as some. But if it’s the only kind of fight you have, go be at a different weight instead, especially if you’re holding onto a championship that should be defended against the top contender (Golovkin).
Matthew: If it wasn’t a middleweight title fight, I wouldn’t give a shit. But it irritates me. I know Canelo can still make 155, but he’s a middleweight. And Cotto is the middleweight champion. It should’ve been at 160.
(Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez faceoff during the Cotto vs Canelo press conference at Wyndham New Yorker Hotel on Aug. 26 in New York City; Photo, John Lamparski/Getty Images)