Is Canelo the man to dethrone middleweight king Cotto?

The lineal middleweight championship is up for grabs this weekend.

Cotto (left) and Canelo shake hands at the announcement of the fight.
Cotto (left) and Canelo shake hands at the announcement of the fight.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE LINEAL MIDDLEWEIGHT championship will be fought for in Las Vegas this weekend even though a belt is only on the line for one fighter.

Miguel Cotto carries the title of the “man who beat the man” as lineal champion in the middleweight division but the Puerto Rican was this week stripped of his WBC title after reportedly failing to pay sanctioning fees to the governing body ahead of Saturday’s bout against Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

Despite that, the WBC have confirmed that Alvarez will claim the vacant belt should he win while the prestigious title of ‘lineal champion’ will be on the line – an unofficial reward that ignores boxing’s numerous governing bodies to trace each division’s true champion down the years .

This will be the third time Puerto Rican veteran Cotto has contested a middleweight title fight, and each time there has been a catchweight set below the division’s traditional 160lb weight limit.

While it may appear to be only a minor issue to irritate boxing anoraks, it is a stipulation Cotto certainly used to his advantage against Aussie Daniel Geale who was severely weight drained when forced to make 157lbs before being knocked out in four rounds by the Puerto Rican last June.

Source: HBOBoxing/YouTube

Saturday’s fight at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas has been set at a catchweight of 155lbs (just one pound over light-middle/super-welterweight), but it should still suit Alvarez who has campaigned around the set weight for some five years – even if he does look likely to move up in future.

At 25 years old, Alvarez is probably past being called a ‘prodigy’ but the Mexican is an odds-on betting favourite with the bookies and their pricing is understandable considering ‘Canelo’ comes in as the younger, fresher, fighter and he has height and reach advantages over his older opponent.

Heading into his 48th professional bout despite his tender years, and carrying a record of 45-1-1, Alvarez bounced back from his sole career loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 with three impressive wins – bookending a disputed points victory over Cuban Erislandy Lara with knockouts against fellow heavy hitters Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland.

Source: MMM Good/YouTube

By contrast, Cotto may have managed to be more competitive in his 2012 defeat to Mayweather but his subsequent results were not as impressive, dropping a points loss to Austin Trout before defeating the inconsistent Delvin Rodriguez, an injury-plagued Sergio Martinez and the weight-drained Geale.

For all that, though, the bout is a much-anticipated affair with a number of intriguing layers.

The match-up pits two top fighters against each other with pride on the line in a fiery Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry, while it may also act as the final swansong for Cotto no matter what the result.

Cotto, a four-weight world champion, is a veteran of 44 bouts (40-4) and his CV is a who’s who of early 21st-century boxing. Even if his most recent outings do not match up against his prime, he has also demonstrated a revived sense of aggression and tactical discipline since linking up with trainer Freddie Roach.

Cotto Geale Boxing Roche with Cotto. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Cotto will need to demonstrate both if he is to be successful against the younger Alvarez, can often look sensational but sometimes one dimensional when moving forward in straight lines in attacking pursuit of his opponents.

‘Canelo’ is likely to take up a similar gameplan against his older opponent and attempt to cut off space, relentlessly chasing Cotto and the Mexican’s three-round demolition job of Kirkland last May suggested that he has shaken off the habit of often taking a few rounds to get into gear.

Cotto often starts at a fast pace but should he do so on Saturday night he not only runs the risk of losing a punching shootout with ‘Canelo’ but he may also use up energy against his fresher foe.

It is difficult to rule out the prospect of the veteran and his celebrated trainer managing to pull off a shock, but the bookies seem more than justified in siding with Alvarez.

Should the fighters trade, ‘Canelo’ would appear to have more power; should they go the distance, the Mexican also has the legs and engine to win out.

Verdict: Alvarez

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About the author:

Ciarán Gallagher

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