If boxing is "dead" as they say, no one told the fall months of 2013.
Starting with Floyd Mayweather's sound defeat of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez at the MGM Grand on Sept. 14, the sport has been in the national spotlight for a longer period than in recent memory.
Not always for great things, mind you. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s win over Bryan Vera was the latest embarrassment for a sport that's become rife with judging controversies.
But still, boxing was helping carry a national sports conversation that includes an NFL season revving up, the MLB playoffs, college football and the beginning of the NHL season.
It's a conversation that will continue on Saturday evening, when Miguel Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs) makes his return to the ring against Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KOs) in a non-title HBO event. Cotto is fighting for the first time since his loss to Austin Trout last December, while Rodriguez has already scored two TKO victories this year since his own 2012 loss to Trout.
A loss on Saturday would give Cotto three straight defeats in a 17-month span, during which he's precipitously dropped down pound-for-pound lists. Rodriguez is once again looking to break past the glass ceiling of his middling reputation among both lay fans and hardcore boxing aficionados.
Cotto comes in as a heavy favorite at minus-600 odds, per Bovada. But if we've learned anything since a judge scored the Mayweather fight a draw, it's that anything can happen in boxing.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of how you can watch Saturday night's fight and a key to victory for both fighters.
Time: Undercard begins at 9:45 p.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5
TV Info: HBO
Key for Cotto: Be Aggressive Toward the Body
That's sobering for someone of Cotto's relatively young age. But he's been through some of the most grueling pugilistic endeavors I've ever seen during his career; he's 32 going on 52 sometimes.
It's also no secret that he is at a significant size disadvantage. Rodriguez stands more than three inches taller than Cotto at 5'10.5" and has a 70-inch reach compared to Cotto's 67 inches. The three-inch reach doesn't seem like an overwhelming disadvantage at first. It could be a lot worse.
The key for Cotto, then, will be to subvert those tactics. The Puerto Rican has built his career around being the aggressor, knocking his opponents down and out with power combinations and perfectly timed counterpunches.
There is no way Cotto wins if the pace is deliberate. He would share the same fate as he did against Mayweather and Trout. Getting inside position on Rodriguez is easier said than done—it's often a recipe for quick jabs if done incorrectly—but finding a weak spot and scoring early rounds will go a long way toward getting Cotto back into the conversation about elite fighters.
Key for Rodriguez: Do Not Get Overwhelmed By the Big Stage
This isn't someone with a long, storied career filled with pay-per-view bouts. Taking on Cotto is an audition for Rodriguez to enter a different strata of boxing—to get title opportunities and, more importantly, the increased riches that come along with them.
How will he handle the opportunity this time around? It remains to be seen. For Rodriguez or any fighter of his caliber to say there isn't a level of nerves that comes along with last chances, he would be lying. I'm not sure whether his discomfort against Trout was more a testament to the former's uptick in class of opponent or the latter's ascent.
Tentativeness to the aggressive pugilist is akin to throwing your pet goldfish into the ocean with chum and then getting angry when a great white eats it.
We already have a good idea of how Rodriguez will try to win the fight. He'll look to land a higher percentage of his punches, control the tempo and use his reach to slowly but surely capture the scorecards. He's a far more methodical fighter than Cotto. But there's a difference between coming out with a conservative strategy and delving deep into a shell that lasts the entire fight.
If Rodriguez can stick Cotto with a couple of jabs early and then come on strong as the night progresses, we could see an upset here. If he never turns on the jets, he may not even make it to the scorecards.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: