It looks as though boxing’s long tradition of Puerto Rico vs Mexico is set to happen again. Miguel Cotto and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez have waged war against one another, in a fight that will almost certainly be a firefight between two battle tested punchers.
Not only is this such a good stylistic matchup, but it’s also arguably the second biggest fight of this era after Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, and quite frankly, it’ll be a lot more exciting too. This is really the fight the world should have seen instead.
The big question is if Cotto, who’s been in so many wars and now being at the tail end of his career, will be able to use his experience to deal with the youth and size of Mexico’s biggest boxing star, Canelo Alvarez. As like with many top fights, there are so many variables that can alter what happens in the ring. This is my analysis (not prediction!) of what each fighter brings to the table.
Punch For Punch
The Battle of the Left Hooks
Miguel Cotto’s trademark punch is and has been throughout his entire career, the left hook which is so sharp and powerful. Canelo’s left hook is no joke either, as he can deliver it with great speed, power and accuracy. But who has the better left hook?
When determining this, let’s take a look at 3 of the most important factors for throwing a punch – Power, timing and accuracy. On all three counts, I believe that Cotto edges Canelo when throwing the left hook.
How is this the case? If you take a look at the times when Cotto has knocked down or knocked out his opponents in any weight class, it has nearly always been with a well-placed and well timed left hook to the head or the body. Being a natural left hander and continuously refining the left hook explains why Cotto’s favorite punch is so effective.
It also appears that while Cotto’s left hook is exceptional, the rest of his arsenal is lacking, meaning that his other power punches are nowhere near as effective as his left hook, while Canelo has a better all-round punch selection.
The only standout display of left hook knock outs and knockdowns that Canelo has had, was against Carlos Baldomir and Josesito Lopez, who were both naturally much smaller fighters and pass their primes (at least Baldomir was anyway).
Granted, in Canelo Alvarez’s last fight against James Kirkland, he showed effective use of the left hook which hurt Kirkland to the body and head on several occasions, but never knocked him down despite landing flush. If Cotto landed his left hook flush on Kirkland’s chin, I’m pretty sure he’d visit the canvas.
There is one department of the left hook that Canelo beats Cotto in, and that’s speed, which should allow Canelo to land that left hook whenever Cotto’s defense is leaky. Though this is the case, Cotto’s timing of his left hook is still the better advantage to have.
Effective Straight Rights
The straight right (aka. the cross) never has been a significant punch for Cotto. Perhaps it’s because his left hook stands out so much that it takes away the attention from his other punches, but I’ve always felt that Cotto should improve his straight right.
I think Cotto will have a tough time landing his straight on Canelo because of two main reasons – Cotto’s shorter reach and ineffective use of his straight right.
Canelo’s straight right is longer, quicker, more accurate and more powerful, not to mention he sets it up a lot better. He demonstrated just how effective his straight right was against Mosley, Trout and Kirkland.
A combination that Canelo often throws is a quick lead left hook followed by a straight right. Look out for him to use this on Cotto, along with numerous other straight rights.
The Jabbing Contest
Despite both fighters being power punchers who prefer to take their opponents out, they’re both also good boxers who have decent jabs. I believe this fight will be fought at all three ranges – Close, mid-range and long range, so whoever is able to establish their own jab will have the upper hand when it comes to offsetting their opponent’s rhythm and also, setting up their own punches.
As for who has the better jab? Again, I would say Cotto because he’s demonstrated better use of his jab in past fights.
The effectiveness of Cotto’s jab mainly boils down to timing, accuracy and power (don’t forget that he’s naturally left handed so it’s no wonder why his left hook and jab are so effective).
He also uses it well to get within range as shown in his fight against Mayweather. However, I think he’ll be a lot more cautious of fighting on the inside with Canelo.
On the other hand, Canelo Alvarez has also shown that he has a fast and solid jab that often snaps back the head of his opponent when it lands. He also knows how to set up punches with his jab, and one prime example is in his last fight against James Kirkland, where he delivered the brutal final blow by using a jab to the body and then an overhand right to the head.
One jab technique Canelo does very well and Cotto doesn’t do at all, is the power jab off after the straight is thrown. So after Canelo throws a 1-2 combination (jab straight) and if they don’t hit the target, then sometimes he would follow up with another jab immediately after that which is thrown with more power.
Canelo Alvarez’s Uppercuts
The punch that I believe will make the biggest impact in this fight is Canelo’s rear and lead uppercuts. The uppercut is a punch that Cotto tends to get caught with because he often leans his upper body forward while in a defensive high guard, and this spells bad news for him because he’s fighting someone who has excellent uppercuts.
Canelo’s uppercuts are a marvel to watch. They’re quick, powerful and he can counter with them and throw them as a lead. He knocked down Kirkland using a rear counter uppercut and almost took off Angulo’s head in the final punch that prompted the referee to stop their fight.
Some big uppercuts are almost certain to land on Cotto’s chin, so the question is, how much effect will this have on him? He didn’t deal with uppercuts so well from Margarito, Pacquiao and Clottey, so if history is anything to go by, it tells us that he probably won’t deal with it so well from Canelo either.
Mexican fighters are renowned for their body attacks, and Canelo Alvarez is no different as he has a great left hook to the body which has put down or hurt plenty of his opponents. Miguel Cotto’s game is the left hook to the body which is thrown with better placement and emphasis. When both of these body punchers clash, something’s got to give.
Neither Canelo nor Cotto has been noticeably hurt by a single body shot, so it’s fair to say that they’re pretty resilient at the body.
But then again, neither fighter has fought devastating body punchers quite like each other, so it’ll interesting to see who can take who’s body attack.
One thing is for sure, if it came down to a battle of attrition, Cotto has been known to wilt twice, once against Antonio Margarito who dished out a sustained body attack throughout their fight that wore down Cotto, and Manny Pacquiao.
Canelo has yet to be tested in these types of wars yet, but if can apply a consistent body attack combined with head shots, very much like Margarito did, then there’s no reason why Cotto won’t wilt again.
Hand Speed and Timing
Cotto has never really been known for his hand speed but neither has Canelo. However, in the case of Canelo, his hand speed is often overlooked. While they’re not blistering fast, his hands are still able to find the target quickly, whether it’s a jab, lead hook, straight right or uppercut.
Moving up through 4 weight classes, from junior welterweight all the way to middleweight has resulted in a decrease in hand speed for Miguel Cotto. In his defense, despite not being a quick fisted fighter, he has great timing which he has to utilize against Canelo, because he cannot match him punch-for-punch.
Watching a good combination puncher go to work is like watching a magnificent piece of art being painted, but in double speed. Canelo is one of those guys where you have to admire his combinations. He’s currently one of the best when it comes to letting them hands fly in sequences.
Against defensive fighters, Canelo’s combinations don’t nearly land as often, so he’s often regulated to throwing one punch at a time or fighting in spurts. Fortunately for Canelo, Cotto isn’t hard to hit and can be open to getting hit with quick consecutive punches as proven in many of his past fights.
While he’s not a stranger to letting them hands fly, Cotto’s combination punching is a bit slower, less frequent and less versatile than Canelo’s. He prefers to take a more methodical and reserved approach, unless he has his opponent backed against the ropes or hurt, which is why it’s probably not in his best interests to go toe-to-toe with the red headed Mexican.
None of these fighters are known for their impeccable defense, but they’re not non-existent. Canelo’s defence mainly consists of a high guard and the occasional slipping while Cotto tends to slip and use his footwork more, albeit unnecessarily sometimes.
It seems that Canelo is still working on his defense since he’s still young and may not be in his prime yet, while it appears that Cotto has improved his defense under the guidance of Freddie Roach.
However, I believe this is deceiving because since hooking up with Roach, he hasn’t fought anyone that will really test his defense the way that Canelo should.
There are two thoughts etched in my mind in regards to defense for this fight.
- Firstly, I have the memory of when Cotto’s brother (Jose Miguel Cotto) stunned Canelo with the left hook, and I wonder what will happen if and when the harder hitting brother lands his own left hook on Canelo. But that’s the only time I’ve ever seen Canelo make such a costly mistake, so I have reason to believe that it was just a slip-up and not a bad habit of dropping his lead hand.
- Secondly, Cotto is defensively responsible for the most part, but when pressure is applied, his defense weakens drastically. He begins to back pedal a lot which allows his opponent to back him up and grow in confidence. Cotto’s a fighter that doesn’t like to clinch, but he may need to in this fight, just like he did when he fought Margarito for the second time.
Other Factors That Will Come Into Play
Who Can Take Who’s Power?
Two hard punchers with aggressive styles means that they will both get hit, but who will get hurt? There’s a high possibility that they will both get hurt, but who has better powers of recovery?
The answer to this should come down to who is the younger and bigger man, and that is Canelo Alvarez, who I’ve only seen hurt once ever by a left hook in the 1st round from Cotto’s brother in 2010, when he was still regarded as a prospect. He done well to recover despite taking more punches, but that still leaves a nagging question mind in my mind of how well he can actually take a punch.
Fortunately for Canelo, he hasn’t been properly cracked on the chin by a hard puncher by being defensively responsible. As for Cotto, he’s been hurt more times than I can count but the majority of those times, it was against punchers at junior welterweight (140lbs) where he was struggling to make weight.
Since moving up in weight from Jr. welterweight, it has been apparent that Cotto could take punches better. Nevertheless, he’s still been hurt and stopped on several occasions at the higher weight classes against top opposition. And if history is anything to go by, if Canelo applies enough pressure to Cotto, he can hurt and possibly stop him. The same cannot be said in reverse…yet.
Canelo’s Alvarez’s Size
Having started his professional career at welterweight and fighting at Jr. middleweight since 2010, Canelo Alvarez is naturally the bigger man. He’ll most likely be moving up to middleweight within the next year or so.
The reach, height and weight advantage will be in favor of Canelo, and while that hasn’t deterred Cotto in his campaigns at Jr. middleweight/middleweight, now he’s not facing a damaged, old or weak opponent.
Miguel Cotto’s Wear and Tear
Cotto isn’t a stranger to war. His aggressive approach has led him to take more punishment than necessary, but that’s the reason why fans love him, though it will not bode well for the longevity of his career.
In most of his wars, he has been hurt (often multiple times) before recovering and coming back to stop his opponents. In fights where his aggression and power had not been able to deter his opponents, he was badly beaten up and stopped.
To be fair, Cotto has lasted a lot longer than one should have considering all the wars he has been in, and he’s looked terrific as of late. But, how much of that has to do with the types of opponents he shared the ring with?
If it does come down to a back and forth war, the hidden memories of his losses to Margarito and Pacquiao will likely come back to haunt him in the later rounds, forcing him to battle with two more enemies – Mental and physical exhaustion.
What Range Will It Be Fought At?
I can see this fight being fought at all three ranges by both fighters – Long, mid and close range. If Cotto decides to come forward, then Canelo may try to box on the back foot. If Canelo comes forward, then Cotto may fight on the back foot.
Both of them have demonstrated in the past that they are willing and able to box on the back foot (particularly Cotto). The difference is that many times, Cotto was forced to fight backwards, something that he’s not always comfortable with.
Much of the fight will be fought in mid-range until one of them voluntarily or is forced backwards. There will be moments where both will dig in and exchange punches up close, but those moments will be few and far between because they normally prefer to fight at mid-range.
Freddie Roach (Cotto’s current trainer) has an aggressive approach, so he’ll probably encourage Cotto to try and push Canelo back. If it turns out that he cannot do that when he wants to, that could be bad news for Cotto especially if he’s forced to retreat.
If Cotto is to push Canelo back consistently, he must do it behind his jab, be cautious and turn him with his superior footwork. This will befuddle Canelo and lower his punch output just like what happened when he fought Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather Jr. It certainly won’t be an easy task for the smaller Cotto.
The Final Conclusion
This will be a tough fight for both fighters. We already know how Cotto will react in different situations. His entire career has practically been laid out in plain view for everyone to see. Though he’s older and more experienced, he has a lot of wear and tear on his body, and he’s undersized for a Jr. middleweight.
On the other hand, we still don’t know enough about Canelo. Despite having 45 fights, he has never faced an elite puncher. He has never had to deal with the types of adversity that Cotto has, and given his style, he may have to in this fight or the next. How will he deal with it when that time comes?
Saul Canelo Alvarez has the advantage in crucial categories such as size, speed, age, punch variation and natural power in his respective weight class. Knowing this, logic tells us that Canelo should be favored over Cotto, but there has been times where Canelo has been somewhat “exposed”.
His performances against Trout, Mayweather and Lara were underwhelming, all defensive type fighters, something Cotto is not naturally. We already know that Canelo can be outboxed with good footwork, but we’ve never seen him pushed back consistently and still don’t know how good his chin is.
If Miguel Cotto is to win, he needs to use intelligent footwork combined with good power punching and timing to put those questions to the test, because there’s still that odd chance that Canelo has vulnerabilities in those areas.
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