Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Both Fighters

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2015

Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Both Fighters

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    The biggest fight on the fall calendar has been finalized.

    HBO announced that WBC and the Ring Magazine middleweight champion Miguel Cotto will defend his titles against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on November 21 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in a fight that will rekindle the intense Puerto Rico vs. Mexico boxing rivalry.

    The announcement caps off a wildly successful week for HBO, which also announced that Gennady Golovkin will unify belts with David Lemieux in October with the winner presumably in line to face whoever emerges from this fight.

    Cotto and Canelo were close to a showdown in January, but things suddenly and unexpectedly fell apart just feet before the finish line could be reached, forcing both to take interim bouts, which they won in impressive fashion.

    Luckily, things were finalized this time, and that gives boxing fans plenty of reason to be thankful when the Puerto Rican legend and rising Mexican sensation finally lock horns in the Nevada desert on HBO pay-per-view just days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Read on for your complete head-to-toe breakdown of Cotto vs. Canelo!

Fight Info

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    Main Event: Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez; 12 rounds for Cotto's WBC and the Ring Magazine Middleweight Championships

    Where: Mandalay Bay; Las Vegas

    When: November 21, 2015

    TV: HBO Pay-Per-View

Tale of the Tape

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
     Miguel CottoCanelo Alvarez
    Record40-4, 33 KO45-1-1, 32 KO
    Age3425
    Height5'7"

    5'9"

    Weight153.5 lbs (last fight)154.5 lbs (last fight)
    Reach67''70.5"
    StanceOrthodoxOrthodox
    ResidenceCaguas, Puerto RicoJuanacatlanJaliscoMexico
    Rounds309314
    Last FightTKO 4 Daniel Geale (6/6/15)KO 3 James Kirkland (5/9/15)

     

    All stats and information per BoxRec.

What You Need to Know

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    Cotto became the first Puerto Rican to win a world championship in four weight divisions last June with a one-sided pasting of Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The fight was Cotto's second under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and marked the culmination of a late-career resurgence after back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout nearly derailed him.

    He signed on to become one of the faces of Jay Z's Roc Nations Sports' boxing enterprise in May, spurning his longtime backers at Top Rank, but he's only fought once since winning his middleweight belt.

    Cotto dominated and stopped a badly weight-drained Daniel Geale in a heavily criticized catchweight bout at the Barclays Center to retain his title and pave the way for this huge Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry showdown, which makes all sins forgiven.

    Canelo is the face of Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions and has clearly taken on the big-fight mentality of his promoter and mentor. It's impossible to understate his value to the company, which lost much of its star power in a settlement with former CEO Richard Schaefer earlier this year.

    The cinnamon-haired former champion has staked his reputation on a willingness to seek out the toughest challenges in the sport and back away from nobody. He beat the tricky Trout to earn a shot at Mayweather, decisioned Erislandy Lara (when nobody thought he should or would) and recently stopped hammer-fisted James Kirkland with one of the knockouts of the year.

    Canelo is Mexico's most popular fighter (no small deal) and could become a truly transcending star and hero of his people with a win in this fight.

Boxing Ability

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Cotto is an aggressive and dangerous fighter, particularly in the early rounds of a fight.

    He's not the most active guy in the ring, preferring to smartly employ his aggression (especially as he's gotten older) in bursts of crisp combination punching that he mixes well to the body and head.

    Cotto demonstrates good ring generalship, and he's capable of fighting going backward to a certain degree, but he makes his money when he can get into range and uncork vicious uppercuts and hooks to the body.

    Don't sleep on Canelo's boxing ability, even if he does have a reputation for being flat-flooted.

    He's a smart boxer-puncher who prefers to work on the inside, but he's adept at boxing his way into advantageous positions from the outside and taking whatever bits of ground his opponent is willing to cede.

    Like Cotto, Canelo has a good lead hook to the body that he uses to open his man up for powerful, game-changing shots upstairs.

     

    Advantage

    Cotto is set in his ways, while Canelo is still young and evolving as a fighter. He gets the nod here because of his ability to fight effectively at all three distances. On the inside it will be a war with each man giving and taking, but at middle range (where he can counter) and at distance (where he's a better boxer), Canelo has clear advantages.

Power

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    Cotto has scored knockouts in 33 of his 40 wins, but most of those came between 147 and 154 pounds. While it's true that both of his wins at middleweight (neither at the full divisional limit) have come inside the distance, the circumstances of those fights leave open whether his power has fully translated to 160-ish pounds.

    He dropped Martinez three times in the first three minutes to set the tone—something many have, after the fact, discredited as the spoils of facing a wasted opponent.

    Cotto's win over Geale, especially given the hell the Aussie had to inflict on his body to drop 10.5 pounds a week before the fight to make a catchweight that clearly favored the champion, is much more suspect, and it remains to be seen whether Cotto can hurt a guy as big and fresh as Canelo.

    Canelo developed a bit of an unfair reputation earlier in his career for cherry-picking smaller men and knocking them out to pad his stats. Never mind that he was a barely 20-something prospect rising through the ranks who has since shown he'll duck nobody and can hang with any man in the business.

    Alvarez is probably the most physically strong fighter Cotto has ever faced in his career. He has the power to stop you with one big shot (Kirkland), but he can also systematically overwhelm you with a high volume of powerful punches that he mixes well.

    Canelo's shots have been sharper in recent fights, and that adds to the force (already impressive) of his punches.

     

    Advantage

    Canelo.

    You couldn't pay me enough to take a hook downstairs from either man, but at this weight, you should probably expect the younger, bigger man to carry some more zip on his fastball.

Defense

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Cotto hasn't ever fit into the box where we'd place defensive wizards. He's a warrior who is willing to go into the trenches and swallow a few to land his own.

    Under Roach, Cotto hasn't shown any substantial improvements to the defensive aspects of his game. He quickly realized that Delvin Rodriguez, Martinez and Geale had nothing in their arsenals that could trouble him, and he didn't need to worry about getting hit, so he didn't.

    Cotto wasn't sloppy so much as carefree, but that's something he can't afford to be against Canelo.

    Canelo isn't a bad defensive fighter, but he often slips in that part of the game in order to emphasize his many offensive strengths. He loves to come forward and attack, and his most recent fight, the emphatic stoppage of Kirkland, demonstrated that beyond doubt.

    He didn't even attempt to duck, dodge or slip a punch, instead choosing to fight a blistering war with a fighter known for being a big puncher and not much else. Call that gutsy, or stupid, but it worked.

    Canelo can be defensively conscious and aware. He fought a smart defensive fight against a superior technician in Austin Trout, but something says he goes the Kirkland route here.

     

    Advantage

    Overall, Canelo has the edge here.

    But in this particular fight, with national pride and reputations on the line, let's say that it's quite possible neither man will place much of a premium on defense.

Game Plan

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Cotto faces a couple of tactical disadvantages in this fight that will be difficult for him to overcome. He's the smaller man, both in terms of height and reach, and will be in there with a fighter who's bigger, more physical and stronger than an aging Maravilla or a weight-drained Geale. 

    He can hope that Canelo makes his job easier by ceding his physical advantages and going for it with the abandon he attacked Kirkland, but even if he does that, it's possible that Cotto will be outgunned while fighting his preferred fight.

    But you don't teach an old dog new tricks. Cotto needs this fight at close range where he can test the younger man's chops and chin with bruising hooks and uppercuts. If Canelo doesn't bring it there himself, the Puerto Rican will need to double up on his jab to close distance and then attack with mean intentions when he gets in range.

    Canelo has a few paths to victory, and that largely means the fight will be whatever he chooses to make of it. He can box from the outside for a few rounds to frustrate Cotto and expend some of his energy before zeroing in his attack, or he can jump right into the lion's den and take his chances.

    He's a lot wiser and more seasoned than most 25-year-old fighters—he did begin fighting at 15—but you wonder how much the public and crowd pressure to engage in a war will impact him.

    Canelo is bigger and physically stronger, so he can win this fight on the inside with greater risk, or he can be a bit more tactical, fight from the outside and break his man up a bit before going for the kill.

     

    Advantage

    Canelo.

    Cotto will try to make this a war on the inside, which suits him best, but it might not end as well as he hopes. Canelo is just as good, if not better at that range.

Early Prediction

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    With much respect to Cotto's warrior spirit and his in-ring accomplishments, and with a fair bit less than the normal certainty that accompanies such prognostications, Canelo will prove to be too young, fresh and strong for the future Hall of Famer to overcome.

    Cotto's resume at middleweight is both more and less thin that it appears on paper. 

    He was able to handle Martinez with ease—yes, he was diminished, but no, that didn't stop virtually everyone from picking him in a walk before the fight—so he deserves credit for the win.

    Geale is another story altogether. He might have been past his best even before he was forced to cede a clear and unfair competitive advantage by losing 10.5 pounds in the days before the fight to make a 157-pound catchweight.

    The point here, and what both of those fights show, is that Cotto, as a middleweight, hasn't yet had to face a fighter in his prime who was both bigger and physically stronger than him.

    Canelo is that guy.

    The early rounds of this fight are going to be interesting. That's when Cotto is at his most dangerous, and it's where the fight will be won going down the stretch. It will be a battle for time and space, power against power on the inside, and Cotto will have a real problem on his hands when he realizes he can ding but not dent the bigger man.

    Canelo will win the war in the trenches, and he'll gradually break down Cotto over the course of the fight and bust him up to win a competitive, all-action war by late accumulation or corner stoppage.

    Prediction: Canelo TKO 10 Cotto

     

    Kevin McRae is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeWrites.