By Ivan G. Goldman
The projected match between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez promises to be an excellent pairing of two skilled destroyers.
They’re expected to wage their intriguing battle either November 7 or 21 on HBO pay-per-view, with the precise venue in Las Vegas also uncertain. No contracts have been signed.
I’m going to assume the fight will actually happen because it makes so much sense, although sense doesn’t always mean much in the fight business.
To some extent the shadow of Floyd Mayweather, who belongs in the Pantheon of great fighters, looms over the fight. It has to. He beat them both. Neither could solve the puzzle he presents.
But he didn’t dismantle them. He stood up to their aggression and rendered it mostly ineffective, although Cotto managed to back him up, land some fierce shots, and win enough rounds to actually put the outcome in doubt for awhile.
And that was before Freddie Roach sculpted Cotto into a more efficient, body-thumping assailant.
For once a catchweight gives no advantage to one fighter. The agreed-upon 155 pounds is ideal, keeping it a fair fight. Although that’s only one pound above the junior middleweight limit, it appears that Cotto’s WBC middleweight (160-pound) belt will be at stake. He lifted it from Sergio Martinez in June 2014.
So far the WBC hasn’t squawked about the fact that this is hardly a middleweight match. The WBC seems more focused on the glamour and publicity it will acquire from the spectacle, not to mention the sizable sanctioning fees it will collect.
The WBC’s Mauricio Sulaiman has told some reporters that he will require the winner of Alvarez-Cotto to take on WBA champ Gennady Golovkin next. Golovkin also holds the “interim” WBC belt. If the WBC follows through on this demand that would transform an alphabet group from being an impediment to good fights into an enabler this time. But let’s not count our chickens just yet.
Cotto, 40-4, 33 KOs, has stopped his last three opponents – Delvin Rodriguez, Martinez, and most recently Daniel Geale. He will turn 35 in October and has endured numerous wars, but he may be as formidable as ever.
Alvarez, 45-1-1, 32 KOs, is remarkably accomplished for a fighter who turns 25 this month. In this day and age it’s no easy task to climb so quickly into the ranks of contenders. In that sense he’s a throwback to Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, who catapulted to their epic first match when Hearns was 22 and Leonard 24.
Alvarez used to be an almost purely offensive fighter, one who was too willing to absorb shots. But he’s evolved into a boxer-puncher who can confuse as well as attack opponents.
In his last three fights he kayoed tough Alfredo Angulo, won a split decision over much-avoided Cuban Erislandy Lara, and stopped mega-puncher James Kirkland, who threw nothing but bombs until he ran out of everything in round four. Canelo just stayed calm and performed a classic demolition, piece by piece.
Because the youthful Canelo is still improving, that may be the most elusive variable. That is, how much better will he be this time? Improved enough to vanquish battle-hardened Cotto? Cotto has nearly mastered the game of ring generalship, ensuring that his fights follow the pattern he’s looking for.
But Canelo is quicker and handles big punchers well. Ask Kirkland. Oddsmakers have been hanging back from posting a line until the date and location are set.
The approaching battle continues the historic prizefighting rivalry between Mexico (Alvarez) and Puerto Rico (Cotto). Each fighter is unquestionably the most accomplished and popular in his respective homeland.
They’re both capable of pulling in sizeable pay-per-view audiences, but they won’t necessarily do it this time. The May 2 “Fight of the Century” between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao definitely let some air out of the pay-per-view balloon.
It generated approximately 4 million buys at $100 a pop. It also brought in $72 million in official ticket sales. The real number went appreciably higher thanks to the semi-official scalping of tickets by both camps.
Yet for all its record-making sales, Mayweather-Pacquiao was a dud. Millions of eyeballs were glued to a bout that may have been less exciting than the recent hot dog-eating contest at Nathan’s in Coney Island.
Alvarez-Cotto may be the antithesis of the big-hype, low action super fight, but it also may be awhile before fans are willing to plunk down extra cash to see a fight on TV, particularly if the undercard continues the unfortunate underwhelming trend we’ve suffered for too long.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.