My Fight Night Prediction: Canelo vs. Cotto

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No longer does Cotto rely solely on his power; instead he positions himself effectively, and his power stems from that positioning and spacing in the ring. In the past, Cotto plodded; now he moves, uses the space to set up his right hand and left hook, and is much quicker at closing the gap than he used to be when he sees his opponent in trouble.

Often in a rivalry of this magnitude, there is a clear good guy vs. villain narrative that makes the fight even more compelling. With Cotto and Canelo there is no such narrative. Both of them are likable and completely devoted to the sport. And although there have been reports of a mismanaged promotional campaign, this is the type of fight that sells itself.

First, Cotto has made this fight an attraction, not Canelo. Six years ago, this fight was a pipe dream, as the horrendous loss to Manny Pacquiao represented the end of Cotto for so many people. For many, Cotto had accomplished enough and there would have been no shame in retiring after a brave performance against Pacquaio. But then, Cotto made a clear decision to change the way he lived and fought, and the transformation converted him from a less than dedicated fighter who took too much punishment to a much smarter and devoted fighter who used his legs, combinations, and the guidance of a trainer who motivated him. As Cotto has compiled wins in the last two years, he has transitioned from a guy on the fringe of the sport to a rejuvenated champion, which has been nothing short of amazing.

Unfortunately, for Canelo, Cotto’s movement and effective aggression have developed at exactly the right time in his career. No longer does Cotto rely solely on his power; instead he positions himself effectively, and his power stems from that positioning and spacing in the ring. In the past, Cotto plodded; now he moves, uses the space to set up his right hand and left hook, and is much quicker at closing the gap than he used to be when he sees his opponent in trouble. In that regard, Cotto, at 35, is much more effective than Canelo. Canelo doesn’t plod, but he also doesn’t move especially well as was the case against Erislandy Lara. Lara gave Canelo fits, not because he ran, but he realized how limited Canelo is when he has to deal with constant lateral movement.

Additionally, Canelo has a tendency to take rounds off, which may give Cotto the breather he needs. Cotto showed an aggression that served him well against Daniel Geale as he cornered him and opened up that left hook, but he also knew Geale couldn’t hurt him so there was little risk. He will have to move early and often against Canelo for the sole reason that he doesn’t want to risk a war. I don’t think that’s part of who he is anymore; Cotto and Roach understand exactly what threats Canelo, 25, poses. One looks at a guy as strong as Canelo, and when he wants to take over a round (ninth round against Lara and the fight with James Kirkland fight), it’s nearly impossible to deter him. When Canelo commits to the straight right, followed by the left hook to the body, and the right uppercut, it’s one of the most devastating combinations in the sport. But Canelo also recognizes that he must leave himself vulnerable when he makes that commitment. He got hit by James Kirkland, but he walked right through the punches.

I think Cotto will stick and move early on and probably frustrate Canelo. In response, Canelo might take some rounds to settle in. He may not catch up with Cotto, and, at times, may suffer the consequences of effective counterpunching. Defensively, I don’t think Cotto is especially skilled at offsetting attacks and combinations, as he has, in the past, merely retreated or rolled his shoulders to deflect punches. I don’t think Cotto will have an answer if and when Canelo intensifies his attacks. By the middle rounds, I see Canelo gaining a clear advantage and stopping him with a TKO10. Slicksters give Canelo problems, and I just don’t think Cotto is at a point where he can avoid Canelo for 12 rounds. He’s so tough that he won’t go down, so I see a tenth-round stoppage.

 

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