Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nov. 21
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View
By Peter Lim
The temptation here is to assess Cotto's and Canelo's performances against their three common opponents - Floyd Mayweather Jr., Austin Trout and Alfonso Gomez - to gauge the outcome of their showdown, but that would be a mistake. Talent-wise, Mayweather was a notch or two above, and Gomez was a notch or two below Canelo and Cotto. Both fought competitive bouts against Trout but Trout was a difficult southpaw who has nothing in common, style-wise, with either.
The reality is, Canelo-Cotto will be more one-sided and nowhere as dynamic as the pre-fight hype has let on for the simple reason that Cotto's near-flawless previous two outings were deceiving. As excellent a trainer as Freddie Roach is, he is no miracle worker. Cotto is not the born-again youthful fighter he looked like against Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale as both opponents were severely compromised; Martinez was reduced to a one-legged fighter for most of the bout and Geale was depleted from having to melt down to the 157-pound catch weight imposed by Cotto.
Cotto is competitive in the early rounds with jolting jabs and signature hooks to the body but as the fight progresses, the younger, fresher Canelo exposes Cotto as a fighter a tad past his prime the same way Cotto exposed Shane Mosley in 2007. Cotto, though, is less defensively sound, less punch resistant and more shopworn than Mosley was eight years ago.
By the middle rounds, Canelo is first to the draw and dominates the exchanges, not so much through better speed but slicker timing. His fluid combinations, punctuated by left hooks to the body, take a cumulative toll leaving Cotto a bloody and swollen mess. As Canelo begins to land punches with virtual impunity, either the referee or Roach will intervene in the 10th round to end the slaughter.
Cotto might be a tad over the hill but even at 35, he still proved he retains enough skills and guile to be a top-shelf fighter in the game. There was absolutely no shame in losing as gallantly as he did against Canelo, who will likely live up to the greatness that was anticipated for Salvador Sanchez before his life was cut short at age 23.