Cotto vs. Alvarez: Odds and Round Predictions for Saturday's Fight
As a middleweight title fight, it leaves a bit to be desired.
About five pounds, to be specific.
But as a pay-per-view event between legitimate stars, it's as good as 2015 has offered.
And when WBC middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto finally does face No. 1 contender Saul Alvarez on Saturday night in Las Vegas, it doesn't figure to be long before the 155-pound catchweight is a mere footnote to a potential fight of the year.
In Cotto, you not only have the rightful claimant to the lineal 160-pound title but as fascinating an example of late-stream career reinvention as there's been in recent history.
Now 35, the Rhode Island-born Puerto Rican seemed forever done after a pair of 2012 losses—each by lopsided decision—to junior middleweight champions Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout. But rather than exiting quietly, Cotto instead chose to enlist the services of Freddie Roach, who'd trained Manny Pacquiao to beat him to a pulp three years earlier.
A third-round TKO of Delvin Rodriguez made for good copy in the pair's first outing, but it wasn't until a savage nine-round dismantling of Sergio Martinez that Cotto's new aura took on real legitimacy.
He's since defended once against Daniel Geale (TKO 4), and while the name of fellow middleweight king Gennady Golovkin sets him to stuttering, the get-together with Alvarez seems destined to rekindle the intensity of the sport's best international rivalry.
The Mexican half of the equation, known to nearly everyone as Canelo, gets a second and probably better timed chance at superstar status here—a full two years, two months and seven days after he was outclassed by Mayweather in a premature bid for pound-for-pound pre-eminence.
He's reinvented himself in three fights since, including violent bludgeonings of Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. Those wins lifted him to 45-1-1 in an already decadelong career and validated the hype many had heaped on him in the Mayweather run-up.
"Since the retirement of Chavez Sr., the fans have been waiting for another one to come along," then-WBC president Jose Sulaiman told Bleacher Report in 2013. "I don’t think there’s any question that he’s the one now. ... They adore Alvarez, and they’re very passionate for him."
Date: Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015
Time: HBO PPV starts at 9 p.m. ET; main event after 11 p.m. ET
Venue: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Odds: Cotto (+255), Alvarez (-280)
Rounds 1-3: The Kid Starts Strong
It's a reality that Freddie Roach himself has conceded to.
Alvarez, at 25 years old to Cotto's 35, will probably be better off the jump.
"I know Canelo’s youth will help him to a certain point," the trainer said, on the initial episode of HBO's 24/7 preview series. "But after that point, we will take over. I promise you we will take over."
The numbers bear out at least the initial portion of Roach's chatter.
Alvarez threw no fewer than 61 punches per three minutes in the opening three rounds of his defeat of Angulo, and then he matched that output in Rounds 1 and 2 against Kirkland, with full-round rates of 68 and 54 punches.
And while Cotto doesn't figure to present the same one-dimensional, immobile obstacle as those two did, he also didn't exceed 49 punches in any one of the first three rounds against Martinez—despite having an older and gimpy quarry in front of him.
If Alvarez is hoping to fare well over the full 12, it's mandatory that he start fast.
Score After Three Rounds: 30-27 Alvarez
Rounds 4-6: Cotto Finds His Rhythm
Admittedly, it's been a while since Cotto had a truly competitive fight to dissect.
He erased Rodriguez and Geale in three and four rounds, respectively, and was beating on a shell of an Argentine champion until Martinez's corner finally rescued him.
In fact, come fight night, it'll be almost four full years since the Puerto Rican had to go any real distance in a fight whose result was not a foregone conclusion after three minutes.
Ironically, it was another rugged Mexican, Antonio Margarito, who gave Cotto his last real push in December 2011. In that fight, Cotto's work rate was up and down in the initial three rounds before he found his groove—in the form of a technical boxing clinic—as the fight got going.
He threw 57, 51 and 54 punches in Rounds 4 through 6 that night and landed 16, 15 and 15 power punches, respectively, while transforming some harrowing early moments into a predictable pitch-and-catch routine.
It doesn't figure to be quite so cut-and-dried against a foe whose all-around game is superior to Margarito's, but it's still a safe bet that whatever Cotto will bring to the table will emerge in this stretch.
Score After Six Rounds: 58-56 Alvarez
Rounds 7-9: Laying the Foundation
Alvarez hasn't been in a lot of fights where the verdict was in question at this stage.
But chances are good that it will be this time.
In that case, he'll need to find the second gear that he displayed in extended bouts against Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara.
In the former, a 12-round decision win in 2013, Canelo had two of his three busiest rounds in the seventh and ninth on the way to a unanimous decision. And in the latter, he finally began to track down a fleet foe, throwing and landing his highest numbers in the ninth to set the stage for a split-decision win.
Even against Mayweather, in a bout where nearly nothing went well, Alvarez had his two busiest rounds in the eighth and ninth—winning both on one scorecard and one on another.
If he can do it again, he'll set himself up for ultimate success.
Score After Nine Rounds: 87-84 Alvarez
Rounds 10-12: The Deepest Water
Look at the faces of guys who've gone deep into fights with Cotto.
Margarito's face was a hideous mess. Shane Mosley looked like he'd been scraped with sandpaper. And even the normally untouchable Mayweather had blood in his nose and his mouth.
The moral of the story: Cotto doesn't go easy on anyone. And he doesn't go away either.
That's the main reason Roach believes, as stated earlier, that his man would be able to ride out the younger man's youthful exuberance. And it's why Gavin MacMillan, his strength and conditioning coach, is spending a lot of time putting Cotto through early-morning rounds in the swimming pool.
"Mentally, you know you can do whatever you need to do once you’re in the ring," he said on HBO's inaugural 24/7 episode. "That’s what we’re trying to do with his entire camp is prepare him for worst-case scenarios so there's no surprises. Your mind fails when you know you can't do stuff.
"You have to eliminate that."
If things are indeed where we've suggested through nine rounds, Cotto will know it's time for a big finale.
Score After 12 Rounds: 115-113 Alvarez
So there you have it—the winner and new champion.
And almost as soon as Michael Buffer gets the words out of his mouth, the discussion will begin over what comes next.
The WBC mandates that Saturday's winner fight Gennady Golovkin, and an Alvarez win presumably makes that more likely than if Cotto were to get the nod. Canelo's promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, has definitively stated that his man would eventually fight Triple-G, while Cotto has shown no such urgency.
"He's willing to fight the very best. And Golovkin is no exception,” De La Hoya told CBSSports,com. "He's eventually going to fight Golovkin, and the question is at what point do we let him loose? The time will come. And at the right time, people will see that fight."
As for Cotto, he'll no doubt campaign for a rematch or pursue still relevant and lucrative opponents at 154 pounds such as Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade.
Note: Odds provided by Odds Shark and correct as of Nov. 16, 2015, at 10 p.m. ET; subject to change.