No Chance for Cotto

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Miguel Cotto had a fight plan worked out by master trainer Freddie Roach to beat Saul (Canelo) Alvarez in their 12-round battle for the vacant WBC middleweight crown in Las Vegas last Saturday night (Sunday morning, Manila time). The gambit was to box Alvarez out of rhythm in the early going, frustrate the Mexican and bombard him with flurries down the stretch to seal the win. The goal was to win on points but if there was an opportunity to score a knockout, Cotto wouldn’t let it pass.

But things didn’t turn out as planned. Alvarez was much stronger than Cotto expected and didn’t run out of gas or heart. Cotto apparently underestimated Alvarez’ maturity, persistence and resiliency. The Puerto Rican tried to dictate tempo with his left jab but while he threw a lot more punches, his accuracy was way below average. Alvarez showed little respect for Cotto’s power and wasn’t fazed by the boxing skills that Roach figured would dominate the fight.

Alvarez looked a lot bigger than Cotto inside the ring. At the weigh-in the day before, Cotto scaled 153 1/2 pounds while Alvarez tipped in at the agreed catchweight limit of 155. The middleweight division limit is 160. But neither has ever come close to weighing that much. Last year, Cotto was at his heaviest when he hit 155 for the Sergio Martinez fight while Alvarez also scaled 155 for Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara.

Compubox stats showed that Cotto threw 629 punches to Alvarez’ 484 but the Mexican had more connections, 155 to 129. Cotto lashed out with 374 jabs to Alvarez’ 186 but landed only 54 for a connect rate of 14 percent. In terms of power shots, Alvarez threw more, 298 to 255 and also landed more, 118 to 75. Clearly, the stats reflect the style that the fighters used to gain a winning advantage. Cotto went out to box while Alvarez stood his ground to pound. In that match-up of styles, age makes a difference. At 35, Cotto is 10 years older than Alvarez so his legs aren’t as strong. If Cotto had Alvarez’ legs, it might have been a different outcome.

To survive Alvarez, Cotto had to change his style from a brawler to a boxer. Roach probably figured that in a dogfight, Alvarez would prove too strong for Cotto. But for Cotto to dominate, he needed to be a lot quicker on the draw and his jabs had to carry a big sting to keep Alvarez at bay.

There was no doubt that Alvarez won the fight but the three judges’ scorecards seemed too favorable for the Mexican. It was like Cotto had no chance from the onset. The fight was actually a lot closer than what the scorecards indicated. Judge John McKaie had it 117-111, giving Cotto only rounds 1, 4 and 6. McKaie from New York scored the last six rounds for Alvarez like Cotto didn’t exist. Judge Burt Clements of Reno saw it 118-110, awarding only rounds 2 and 9 to Cotto. Judge Dave Moretti of Las Vegas had it 119-109 with only round 4 for Cotto. The way the judges scored the fight, Cotto needed a knockout to win and that meant almost a zero probability.

Cotto weighed 145 pounds when he was stopped by Manny Pacquiao in 2009. He lost back-to-back decisions to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout in 2012 but came back to win three in a row with Roach in his corner. One of the wins was a stoppage of Martinez to claim the WBC middleweight crown. Cotto, however, was stripped of the WBC title before facing Alvarez because of his refusal to pay the sanction fee of $300,000. Cotto’s purse for the bout was $15 million and Alvarez’ paycheck was for $5 million.

Cotto has held the superlightweight, welterweight, superwelterweight and middleweight titles. Alvarez’ only previous championship was in the superwelterweight division. The Mexican has a 45-1-1 record, with 32 KOs. His only loss was to Mayweather by a majority decision. The draw was with Jorge Juarez in his fifth pro fight in 2006.

Despite the age disparity, Alvarez has logged more fights than Cotto, 47 to 45. Alvarez turned pro when he was 15 and is an experienced fighter even as he’s only 25. After losing to Mayweather, Alvarez stopped Angulo, outpointed Lara and demolished James Kirkland in three rounds to set up the meeting with Cotto.  Alvarez took out Kirkland before 31,588 fans at the Minute Maid Park in Houston a week after Mayweather and Pacquiao battled in Las Vegas.

“Alvarez’ performance was refreshing, especially considering the superfight clunker between Mayweather and Pacquiao one week earlier,” wrote Joseph Catena in USA Boxing News. “Canelo who lost a decision to Mayweather two years ago at the tender age of 23, turned in perhaps the most spectacular performance of his career…Alvarez is approaching the peak of his career and left no doubt he is among boxing’s top superstars.”

Cotto’s future as a middleweight is now uncertain. He could easily drop down to the superwelterweight division and still be a force at 154, just a pound less than the catchweight for the Alvarez bout. As for Alvarez, he’s in line for a unification championship showdown with WBA/IBF/IBO middleweight king Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan. Golovkin, 33, has a 34-0 record, with 31 KOs and is a natural middleweight. He’s coming off an eighth round knockout win over David Lemieux last month.

With Mayweather’s retirement, the focus of attention in boxing has now shifted from welterweight to middleweight. But if ever Mayweather comes out of retirement for the third time, Pacquiao will be waiting to bring the limelight back to the welterweight class.













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