Cotto, Alvarez should produce fireworks in year's true megafight
theScore will be covering live round-by-round action of Cotto-Alvarez on Saturday, Nov. 21 starting at 10 p.m. ET
Consider it a peace offering.
Six months after the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout disillusioned casual and die-hard boxing fans the world over, an action-packed thriller is expected in Las Vegas on Saturday night when Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) defends his lineal middleweight championship against Canelo Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) in the rightful fight of the year.
Storylines abound leading up to the HBO pay-per-view bout, as two of boxing's true superstars prepare to write the latest chapter in the sport's esteemed Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry.
Alvarez, 25, and a decade younger than the seasoned 35-year-old Cotto, has an opportunity to dethrone a future Hall of Famer in what's likely to be his stiffest test to date, outside of his 2013 decision loss to Mayweather.
Cotto, the first Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles in four weight classes, is riding a three-fight win steak in a wholly unexpected career resurgence under the guidance of new trainer Freddie Roach.
How we got here
Many wondered whether Cotto's clear-cut December 2012 loss to former junior middleweight champion Austin Trout signaled the end of the fighter's illustrious career. After a competitive showing against Mayweather, Cotto appeared flummoxed by the relative novice Trout.
Enter Roach, who has ostensibly reinvigorated what appeared to be a fading ex-champion with no shortage of taxing fights on his resume. Cotto, under Roach's guidance, uncorked his patented left hook with alacrity in victories over Delvin Rodriguez, Daniel Geale, and Sergio Martinez for the lineal middleweight crown, breathing new life into the fan favorite.
Other than a fight with knockout sensation Gennady Golovkin, which Cotto has shown little interest in at this stage of his career, Alvarez, the former unified junior middleweight titleholder, became the logical next man up.
Despite his weighty record - Alvarez made his pro debut at 15 - Mexico's most popular active fighter was ill prepared for Mayweather's stick-and-move approach in September 2013. But the loss proved to be no more than a hiccup for Alvarez, who's reeled off three wins of his own, including a violent third-round KO of James Kirkland in May.
"I want to fight the big fights and am not afraid to take risks," Alvarez said earlier this month in training camp. "I believe my fighting style and opponents over the years have shown that. I am here to prove I am the best and the best way to do that is fighting the best."
What to expect
Cotto enters Saturday's tilt, to be fought at a 155-pound catchweight, with a discernible edge in experience, having faced current and former top names like Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito, Zab Judah, and Martinez.
However, viewed through another lens, Cotto could be well past his best-before date, with plenty of pundits believing his recent opponents were expertly handpicked to elevate Cotto back into main event status. While Cotto can certainly draw lessons from his battles with Pacquiao and Margarito, he took the type of punishment from both men that can take years off a fighter's career. It's also widely believed Margarito used loaded hand wraps to dismantle Cotto in a disgraceful and dangerous act of cheating.
Meanwhile, Alvarez, a true junior middleweight, carries a distinct size advantage over the naturally smaller Cotto, who made his hay at junior welterweight before climbing the scale in recent years.
Trout, one of five fighters to have faced both Cotto and Alvarez, gives the younger boxer the clear edge in power, but sees Cotto maintaining the upper hand in footwork and mobility. He can envision the bout unfolding in favor of either man.
"Cotto might be like the dying tiger who is dangerous," Trout recently told ESPN.com. "If he has that dying tiger mentality, it might be fight of the year and he might even pull it off - take Canelo into deep waters, where Canelo is known to gas out a little bit. But Canelo could stop Cotto on cuts. Canelo could catch him with one punch, but Cotto's experience will get him to the later rounds, and he will make it interesting. If Canelo wins it's by stoppage. If Cotto wins it's by decision."
Fight freaks have been eagerly anticipating Cotto-Alvarez since the Mayweather-Pacquiao dud, which did nothing more than pull non-fans into the sport's orbit for 12 rounds of boredom.
Contrarily, Cotto-Alvarez is about boxing, not hype, not money - though both fighters will be paid handsomely. It's not about belts, perfect records, or unfulfillable promise.
What's expected is two warriors willing to put everything on the line for their legacy and country. Besides that, there are no guarantees.
Alvarez could quickly prove to stout, fresh, and powerful for the veteran Cotto; or, Cotto's agility, marksmanship, and ring smarts could leave Alvarez without a home for his thunderous hooks and uppercuts. It could end quickly, it could not.
But for however long it lasts, it'll be a fight.