Canelo setup to fall short, TBV’s Sean Zittel picks Cotto by narrow margin

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Miguel Cotto, Saul Canelo Alvarez,When Cotto-Canelo was initially announced, my gut feeling was that Canelo Alvarez would convincingly beat Miguel Cotto, with a good chance of scoring a stoppage.  As fight week drew near, it was time to go to the tape and break down each fighter to try and assess what very well could be 2015’s Fight of the Year.  After watching several recent fights, it was apparent that Cotto stands a better chance than the 3-1 odds he is up against.  Canelo Alvarez is deservedly the favorite, he has 10 years and on fight night he will have roughly 10 pounds on the 35-year-old Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs.) The smart money is on Alvarez, the fight looks to be a barnburner, and in a war you would have to favor the bigger, younger, and stronger warrior.

When it came down to it, however, I was not able to fully comply with the simple notion of Canelo being too fresh and too strong.  Notice there aren’t too many people saying he is going to win because he is too good.  Those that are picking Canelo aren’t picking him because of what he can do as a fighter and his merits, but rather it is more about what they believe Cotto is no longer capable of.  Make no mistake, Canelo is good, but we have seen that when Cotto can summon the best version of himself he borders on greatness.

With that being said, even if Cotto does come in vintage form, could the fight turn into another story of a good big fighter beats a great smaller fighter?  Quite possibly, or it could turn out that Canelo even takes another step forward at 25 in his development and borders on greatness himself.  Canelo has the offensive arsenal to stop Cotto, but he has lacked thus far the fundamentals it takes to set up his power punches. Once he is in the position to unleash his punches, Alvarez is one of the most beautiful combination punchers in Boxing.  It is what jumps out about Canelo when you take a look at him, it’s the elite trait in his repertoire.

Here is the thing, though.  When Alvarez has been at the championship level against fighters that can box (Lara, Trout, Mayweather), he has had a lot of troubles setting up and getting into position to unleash those aforementioned beautiful combos, and movement has largely stifled what could be a prolific offense by Alvarez.  Canelo is not adept at cutting off the ring, and while he does have a good jab, he does not use it nearly enough to set up his offense. Instead, he has typically followed guys around the ring, and instead of finding his range and closing distance with his jab, he’s tried to load up on big shots.  These are things that can definitely be fixed, but Canelo hasn’t made the improvements yet.  From the Trout fight on, he has only gotten marginally better.

This brings me to a very important point about Saturday’s fight.  The reason why Canelo has only incrementally gotten better in the past few years, and why he hasn’t gotten more out of his wonderful potential is because of his trainers. Chepo, and his son, Eddie Reynoso, have taken Alvarez from Guadalajara to the bright lights of Las Vegas and have molded him into a world champion.  I am sure they are better than 98, 99% of the Boxing trainers out there in the world.  The problem is, this is the top 1% of the sport, the elite of the elite.  With all due respect to both Reynosos, they have taken him as far as they can, and they do not appear to be in the top 1% of the best trainers in Boxing.

The trainer advantage for Cotto is real. It is a legitimate edge for him heading into Saturday. Freddie Roach can coach circles around Reynoso, and will do his part in devising a superior game plan for Cotto to implement.  The question is, can Cotto execute it?  Cotto is the guy with the versatility here, unlike Canelo, Cotto can get up on his toes and move around.  Cotto is not the boxer that Lara or Mayweather is, but he may not have to be because he can punch better than both of them and earn Canelo’s respect easier than they could.  Cotto is not a good enough boxer to simply outbox Alvarez for all 12 rounds, he will have to mix it up constantly and truly be a boxer-puncher.

For Cotto to win, he’ll have to know exactly when to box and move, when to stand his ground and when to drive Alvarez off of him and earn his respect. Essentially, Cotto has to fight a near perfect fight. It will be integral that he limits his amount of exchanges in the fight because he is not as durable as Canelo is.  If Cotto is going to pull this one off, it is going to be by decision, and it is not going to come easy. But as the old saying goes: Every great fighter has one last great fight in him.

So will it be the last great fight in the storied, Canastota-bound career of Miguel Cotto, or the first great performance of a budding superstar?  Either scenario is totally plausible, and if my life depended on my pick this Saturday, I’d be pretty god damn nervous that I would no longer be around on Sunday morning.

Punch for punch, with both hands, Canelo hits harder, but Cotto’s left hook could be the single heaviest shot from both fighters. Alvarez has quicker hands, but Cotto has better timing. Alvarez has youth and size, Cotto has versatility and a better IQ.  Both fighters have gotten tired in the championship rounds, and both are defensively responsible and solid but get hit.  There are significant advantages on both sides.  Canelo’s biggest advantage is his youth, strength, and durability.  If it comes down to it, Alvarez can take more punishment than Cotto can.  Cotto’s biggest advantages are his movement, experience, and Freddie Roach.  If it comes down to a boxing match, Cotto can outbox Alvarez.  It is up to Canelo to force the issue and the exchanges, and up to Cotto to limit them and dictate the tone of the fight.

Perhaps the drama of fight week has caught up to me, and I should just go with my initial gut reaction of when the fight was signed a few months ago.  However, I am going out on a limb and picking Miguel Cotto to win a razor close decision in what will be a contender for Fight Of The Year. The tape almost never lies, and their previous fights have shown that Cotto has dimensions to his style that Canelo simply does not have. While Canelo does certain things better than Cotto, Cotto does things, such as his movement, that Canelo does not do at all.

Cotto has said coming into this fight that this is definitely one of the very last fights of his career, I think Cotto knows this could be the last time he can bring it all out of himself, and that he is ready to fight a great fight and walk through the fire. Alvarez has an enormous amount of pressure, but he has the kind of character to be sure in himself and he will give it his all to become the first Mexican middleweight champion. However, I think he will fall just short, and maybe even earn a rematch and then defeat Cotto.  This Saturday though, I think Cotto pulls it out and outsmarts Alvarez for what could turn into the signature performance of his career. This fight I believe will live up to the hype, will be worth the PPV purchase, and will stand along the great fights in the history of Mexico and Puerto Rico’s rivalry.  Saturday night, Cotto goes through some really scary moments, gets hurt and even busted up, but he finds a way to box when he has to box, and fight when he has to fight, and pulls one out for the final time in his career.

FINAL PREDICTION: MIGUEL COTTO VIA SPLIT DECISION.