Tomorrow night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, we’ll be treated to the biggest event in boxing this year as Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto, The Ring Magazine and lineal Middleweight World Champion, shoots a fair one with rising Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez, the former WBC and WBA Super Welterweight champ.
In the long and illustrious history of the Puerto Rican and Mexican pugilistic legacy, this could easily be the biggest and best fight in a long and storied rivalry between the two lands. Like basketball in New York City and Chicago, boxing is woven into the daily fabric of these proud Latino cultures.
The last installment in the rivalry to generate this level of interest and anticipation was in 1999, when Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya were both undefeated and fighting to unify the welterweight division.
There are many who believe that Cotto vs Alvarez could be an instant classic in the Mexico vs Puerto Rico archives right along with Salvador Sanchez vs Wilfredo Gomez in 1981, Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Julio Caesar Chavez in 1992, the aforementioned Trinidad vs Fernando Vargas in 2000 and Cotto's bouts in 2008 and 2011 against Antonio Margarito.
“For Latinos all over the world, this is our Super Bowl,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions at yesterday’s final press conference. “This is an event that not one Hispanic, not one Latino is going to miss. That is how important this event is to us. Puerto Rico vs. Mexico is like no other event for those countries. This is like our Super Bowl, that’s how important this event is.”
"History shows when you put a Puerto Rican fighter and a Mexican fighter inside the ring, you are guaranteed to get excitement and fireworks, so everyone across the globe is really, really excited," said De La Hoya.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KO’s) will be looking to continue the amazing revitalization he’s experienced under renowned trainer Freddie Roach in the twilight of his career in what looks to be a very difficult fight against a bigger opponent and one of the strongest young prospects in the sport.
Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KO’s) has bounced back from his one-sided defeat to Floyd Mayweather two years ago and is entering the prime of his career with great expectations. His skills have matured since being easily out-boxed by Mayweather, and with immense power in both hands while throwing devastating combinations, he’s always looking to walk his opponents down and land the violent knockout.
With Cotto being a willing, crafty combatant who is the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four separate weight classes, Alvarez will be at a disadvantage when it comes to experience, ring generalship and versatility. At different stages of his career, Cotto has proven to be an effective boxer in the classic sense and a more antagonistic boxer-puncher.
With Freddie Roach in his corner, evidenced by his dominant recent victories over Daniel Gaele and Sergio Martinez, he’s now advanced toward a frightening combination of both. Cotto can throw his hands effectively from a classic and southpaw stance and vacillates between being a boxer, a puncher and a brawler at various intervals in a fight.
Defensively, Alvarez does not get the credit he deserves because of his reputation as a brawler. His skills as a counter-puncher are grossly underrated while his sturdy chin and adequate head movement make it very difficult to hurt him.
But with the volume in which Canelo unloads his heavy hands, Cotto’s quickness and multi-dimensional offensive approach will enable him to land his own arsenal of punches, including one of the most overwhelming left hooks this side of Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
Alvarez, 25 years old, is noticeably bigger and supposedly stronger who many feel should benefit from the 10-year age differential. But that gap could work in the 35-year-old Cotto’s favor, as he’s seen and experienced practically everything in the ring during his brilliant Hall of Fame career.
“We are going to box a lot in this fight,” said Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach at the final pre-fight press conference. “We’re not just going out there looking for a knockout. I don’t want him doing that. I want him using his foot speed and his angles. He’s a more complete fighter now than ever.”
Cotto has a terrific, potent lead jab, along with some decent footwork and foot speed that allows him to fight just as effectively on the exterior and interior. He’s deceptively elusive as well while operating calmly in the face of a swarming pocket of violence.
He loves to chop away at the body, especially with his hooks, and he throws with precision and accuracy. Alvarez also has a beautiful jab and will offset Cotto’s aggression with very hard, crisp uppercuts while standing toe-to-toe.
For the casual fan that was disappointed in the aesthetic on display during the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight, they won’t have to worry about getting their money’s worth from this one.
“In any sport, you want to be the best and say you are the best but few prove it,” said Bernard Hopkins, De La Hoya’s business partner at Golden Boy. “Thanks to Cotto, thanks to Canelo for giving us this mega fight. This fight is why boxing hasn’t been forgotten and never will be.”
Both fighters present a sincere test for the other. Alvarez has advantages in power and sudden explosiveness while Cotto has experience, speed and craftsmanship working in his favor.
“I understand the magnitude of this fight and what it means for the history of Puerto Rico vs. Mexico,” Alvarez said. “I know this fight will go down as one of the most exciting and explosive nights in the famed rivalry and in the sport of boxing. I am doing this for my fans, for my country and for history.”
“No matter what I have to do on Nov. 21 to beat Canelo, I am going to do because I prepared myself for war,” said Cotto. “I prepared myself for a good fight and, I am going to do my best. This fight cannot be decided by one punch. I am going to use my whole arsenal to beat Canelo.”
This fight provides everything that a boxing enthusiast could ask for: tradition, skill and power. It’s a wonderful stylistic match-up between Cotto’s aggressive combinations and the counter-punching acumen of Alvarez.
Both of them have great reflexes, mix up their punches and throw bombs from various angles. They are both capable of ending any fight with one punch but neither can afford to be reckless. They’ll have to be prepared to fight intelligently for the full three minutes of every round.
As Alvarez begins his transition from a young, immensely talented prospect to one of boxing’s featured stars in this fight, Cotto knows that the finish line for him is very near. He talks of possibly two or three more fights before calling it a career.
The winner would, more than likely, soon face the sensational Gennady Golovkin to solidify supremacy of the middleweight division in another highly anticipated mega-promotion.
If his fighter wins tomorrow night, Freddie Roach is thinking big thoughts on how to put the final period behind Cotto's Hall of Fame legacy.
“I would love for Miguel to win this fight by knockout, call out Mayweather and then end his career,” said Roach. “Miguel always tells me that if he had me in his corner when he fought Mayweather he would have knocked him out. He tells me that story all the time. I think Miguel could pull off the strategy I have to beat Mayweather. I think that would be a good fight for him.”