By Liam McIlerney
Ali vs Frazier, Hagler vs Hearns, Ward vs Gatti- Sport channels will still be airing such incredible contests in decades to come. But will they be showing Cotto vs Álvarez, a classic fight indelibly associated with boxing immortality?
If an opportunity arose to “give the fans what they want,” this would be it. Miguel Cotto, WBC Middleweight title holder, and Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez are both ruthless artists. If they met, expect to see the word “war” being selected in most after fight reports.
Both appear eager to exchange leather and journalist Dan Rafael has said that November 7th or 21st are likely dates for the event. Boxing would benefit from it, especially after many casual fans were left feeling deceived after the ‘fight of the century’.
Confidently claiming you know who would win is like suggesting you’re aware of what the weather will be like in Ireland in two weeks’ time. This isn’t a Kell Brook vs Frankie Gavin mismatch. Quality would be present from both corners of the ring and here is why you should watch it (if it gets made).
It would represent the sweet science at the highest level. Cotto, a winner of various world titles and a future hall of famer, has mixed it with the best. The 34 year-old from Puerto Rico would be defending his middleweight crown which he obtained by stopping Sergio Martinez in 2014. The ex-champion was inactive for a year due to knee surgery and wasn’t as effective as he once was. But Cotto was merciless, stepping up to middleweight and baring his power by dropping Martinez three times in round one.
But how would he fare against a man set to soon replace Floyd Mayweather as the poster boy of boxing, would Álvarez be too good, even for Cotto? Canelo is a Mexican icon succeeding Julio César Cháves and Oscar De La Hoya. Being in a ring with soon to be hall of fame fighters isn’t a new challenge for Álvarez either. He is a former Light Middleweight champion of the world. Oh, and he is only 24. The kid is special.
Avert your eyes for a second and you may miss an abrupt ending. Cotto is an aggressive boxer who enjoys coming forward and Canelo exhibits stinging counter punches. Both possess ominous power. Nobody has ever forced Álvarez to the floor yet but if he takes a signature Miguel Cotto left hook flush to the chin, even he should be in trouble.
If you require another incentive to take an interest in a Cotto vs Álvarez clash then reflect on their respective prior bouts. Cotto quickly demolished Aussie Daniel Geale in the first defence of his WBC belt. Canelo equally impressively left James Kirkland on the canvas with a devastating early stoppage.
This contest would also ignite the Mexico vs Puerto Rico boxing rivalry. The last noteworthy battle was Oscar De La Hoya against FélIx Trinidad which was named the fight of the millennium. Cotto vs Álvaraz has the possibility to be the greatest clash of Puerto Rican and Mexican fighters to date.
How would Cotto win?
Connect with his left hook, display malevolence and be on the front foot. But being reckless and leaving his defence exposed would be perilous, just ask Kirkland. Cotto’s guard has to be near impregnable to avoid being pummelled by Canelo’s rapidly hard hands. New trainer Freddie Roach will devise an intelligent game plan and the legendary coach will have already meticulously studied Álvarez. If Canelo throws fewer punches during the latter half of the fight, as he did against Austin Trout, Cotto must maintain his high work rate and punch output, persuading the judges to award him later rounds.
How would Álvarez win?
A repeated expression in boxing is that fights are won in the gym. That would be the key for Canelo. He may be almost a decade younger than the champion but Cotto is infamous for his relentless attacks. It could end at any moment but it also has the ability to be a long gruelling battle of attrition, and the Mexican needs to be prepared. So if training is a success he can then think about executing counter punches to Cotto. But it’s important not to get dragged into an all-out war. Canelo should opt to fight smart on the outside, similar to Austin Trout, who beat Cotto by applying his jab to halt Cotto’s strides.
But inevitably they would come together on the inside at times. It could be brutal yet utterly absorbing. Let’s be optimistic that this explosive encounter becomes a reality because it has potential to be another one of boxing’s classic fights.