Cotto vs Canelo: Lee Wylie’s Pick

The Fight City is proud to be the home of Lee Wylie and as part of our special coverage in advance of an historic clash of champions, Cotto vs Canelo, we feature here an exclusive analysis and prediction by one of boxing’s most respected analysts. Check it out: 

The Champion: The more experienced of the two, Miguel Cotto probably holds the advantage in ring IQ and generalship. While he’s not known for having exceptional footwork, his ability to control the destination of a fight through superior positioning is vastly underrated and looks to have improved under the guidance of offensive specialist Freddie Roach. And though he might not be blessed with bedeviling hand or foot speed (though he’s notably more nimble on his feet than Canelo), Junito compensates by frequently changing up his rhythm which makes it difficult to time his attacks.

Freddie Roach has
Freddie Roach has enhanced Cotto’s ring craft.

Cotto is a converted southpaw and as a result possesses one of the better jabs in the sport, which he employs forcefully to manage distance, disrupt rhythm, or just plain hurt his opponent. Likewise, his powerful left hook easily ranks among the most dangerous weapons in all of boxing. But what makes that hook truly special, at least to my eyes, is he can use it effectively in many different ways. His opponents know Cotto will be throwing his left hook, but it is difficult to anticipate precisely how or when he will do so.

For example, against southpaw Sergio Martinez, Cotto set up his hook by disguising it as a jab. Stepping inside Martinez’s lead foot, Cotto telegraphed a jab, only to then shrewdly sling a hook over the Argentine’s extended lead hand. Conversely, during the final moments of his last outing, Cotto sent Daniel Geale crashing to the canvas with a more conventional hook. Rotating his hips clockwise and transferring his weight from left to right, he ruthlessly exploited Geale’s defensively irresponsible rear hand to land his signature punch.

Cotto destroyed Martinez
Cotto battered Martinez with his left hook.

Canelo has been visibly stunned once or twice during his career by lesser punchers than Cotto (Miguel’s brother, Jose, immediately springs to mind), so rest assured, if Cotto can find a way to land his vaunted hook with any kind of consistency, then Canelo, facing arguably the biggest puncher he’s ever shared a ring with, may find himself in uncharted territory.

The Challenger: Like Cotto, Canelo Alvarez owns a formidable jab which he uses regularly to, among other things, control range, coax return jabs for countering opportunities, keep opponents off-balance, and create openings. An example of Canelo using his jab as an effective set-up occurred in his last fight when, having primed Kirkland with a body jab to bring down his guard, he quickly came over the top with a thudding right hand, rendering his opponent unconscious.

As well as hand speed and punching power, Canelo also holds a significant edge over Cotto in size and physical strength. Alvarez might be untested at “middleweight,” but it’s hard to argue that he won’t be the more physically imposing fighter here. He is also more imaginative offensively, particularly in regards to combination punching, and his transitions between defense and attack — especially when countering and flowing into combinations off of slips, blocks and parries — are much more fluid than Cotto’s.

Canelo's uppercuts could be key.
Canelo’s uppercuts could be key.

Furthermore, the punch that might well be Canelo’s best, the uppercut, happens to be the one that Cotto — because of his forward leaning posture and conventional high guard — is most susceptible to. Zab Judah, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout: with the exception of all but one of these fighters, none were really known for having an outstanding uppercut, yet they all managed to have at least moderate success with it against Cotto. No doubt Canelo — who throws vicious uppercuts with both hands, either in combination with hooks or to take advantage of an opponent who is leaning forward — will be aware of this.

Prediction: Because of Canelo’s superior physicality and punching power, I don’t think Cotto can afford to be the hunter in this match as he has been for the most part during his tenure with Freddie Roach. Rather, I suspect Cotto will come out boxing behind his jab: feinting, sticking and moving, bouncing around the ring and then flurrying before quickly pivoting away at angles. In other words, doing all he can to score consistently while at the same time working to keep Canelo off-balance, frustrated, and unable to set up an effective attack. Because Alvarez is a notoriously slow starter, and Cotto is a much better boxer in the classical sense than he’s generally given credit for, the champion will enjoy some early success and may even sweep the first few rounds.

However, once Canelo finds his rhythm and begins effectively cutting off the ring — something he showed great improvement in against the more elusive Erislandy Lara — I don’t think it will be long before he seizes control and the Puerto Rican starts to wilt under the Mexican’s pressure.

Wylie's pick.
Wylie’s pick.

Whenever he’s in range to do so, Canelo will likely be targeting Cotto’s body to slow him down and rob him of the stamina needed to remain effective in the later rounds. Ironically, I believe Canelo’s left hook to the body, even more so than Cotto’s, could be a determining factor in this fight. Once his quarry has been contained, Canelo will look to create and exploit holes in Cotto’s defense through an array of straights, hooks and uppercuts thrown to both head and body, each punch serving to manipulate Junito’s guard and create an opening for the next. For instance, both Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather had some success against Cotto by narrowing Miguel’s gloves with the jab and then landing sweeping right hands around his guard.

Later in the fight I expect Cotto won’t be moving so much to offset Canelo’s positioning and create angles of attack, as much as to keep the fresher, stronger and heavier-handed Canelo at bay. Cotto will surrender the initiative in the middle rounds and the fight’s end, courtesy of some relentless combination punching from Canelo, will come a few rounds later.

Canelo by late round TKO.                               — Lee Wylie

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6 thoughts on “Cotto vs Canelo: Lee Wylie’s Pick

  • November 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Good analysis there.
    “Canelo, stronger (agreed) and heavier-handed (mmm, maybe not)”, I just finished listening to the predictions by the men who have fought both of these guys in the past and all said that Cotto’s punches were noticeably the harder of the two and I figure they might know a thing about it.
    Anyway, just saying. Cotto is my man in this one and I reckon his feet and jab are his ticket, as you said. But, we shall see.

    Keep up the killer worker mate.

  • November 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Another great article from you guys. Canelo seems like the safe bet. Would love to see Cotto find a way to win, but all this retirement talk and then giving-up the WBC belt, makes it seem like this could be Cotto’s last fight and that he’s only in it for the $$$.

  • November 17, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Great analysis, I would agree that hand speed and physical strength favor Canelo and footwork and ring generalship favor Cotto. What concerns me is Canelo’s corner, what sort of adjustments can they make if Cotto uses his jab, feints, and footwork to successfully keep Canelo at bay? A second concern is the use of Canelo’s left hook to liver, he cannot afford to throw it recklessly like I believe his coaches want him to(to counter Cotto’s left hook) Freddie Roach is too smart to not try to exploit this, if Canelo throws liver shot in combinations in the ropes he will experience greater success than in gambling to hook with a hooker like Cotto. I personally agree with you on the late TKO victory for Canelo but I won’t be surprised at all if Cotto gets the W.

  • November 18, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Not entirely to the contrary of this analysis, but of interesting (if not unsurprising) note is Freddie’s basic take; Canelo’s youth will carry him through the first portion of the fight before Miguel’s superior ability to control the ring & technically frustrate his opponent allows him to take the wheel & drive it to a decision……… or even late TKO as Canelo gets more & more desperate & his progressively slower & less thoughtful combinations open him up to some perfectly calculated Cotto shots. Lee has rightfully pointed out that Roach’s purported strategy for Manny vs. Floyd “sold his fighter short” & I’m intrigued to see if that will seem like the case once again in a fight I believe a focused & meticulously prepared Cotto (is he? or is it about the $$ as Duke pointed out) should win as the superior technician who clearly has something left in the tank despite possessing a very impressive & no doubt draining dossier of opponents over his last 25 fights starting with Victoriano Sosa in 2004. What Canelo does have going for him is that “budding superstar” mystique & many in the sport privately or publicly pulling for him for the better of the game. It’s amazing how “Boxing’s general consciousness,” if you will can influence decisions or dictate a fight environment. Love to see the old dog land a left hook for the ages, but I think he indeed passes the torch & succumbs to the combination punching of Alvarez because he simply has little left to prove in the mind of a guy who learned to fight by watching & studying him over & over……& potentially in his own mind as well……

  • November 18, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Intangibles are a big factor in this fight. Youth is on canelos side, but maybe too much so. At 24 and having a lot of expectations on him in this Mexico Puerto Rico rivalry, how he deals with that may decide the outcome

    Let’s remember last time canelo was in a fight which was an event of this size he, putting it politely, laid a complete egg. No adaptations no plan B

  • November 18, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Cotto vs Alvarez should be an interesting fight, but they have both been avoiding the best in the division – Golovkin. He proved in the Lemieux fight that he shows great control in the ring and has a superior left jab. This guy could probably beat up both Alvarez and Cotto in the same night! However, it would be an interesting, and explosive fight if he ever meets Alvarez, even though he would probably knock him out. His only problem is that very few people will agree to fight him. Of course, no one likes to get knocked out.


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