LAS VEGAS -- They’re willing to line up for hours just to get a glimpse of him, their new savior and possibly the new face of boxing. They want so much for him to succeed that they’re willing to place a big load of responsibility of his wide 25-year-old shoulders.
But looking at his lifeless dark doll’s eyes and his stoic demeanor, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez can handle it. He just needed that signature win, getting that one name that would prove that this is his time, and there he was standing in front of him Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino Events Center.
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Canelo did what he was supposed to do against the outsized Miguel Cotto: He systematically tore him apart like warm bread, winning a unanimous decision on the scorecards of judges Burt A. Clements (118-110), Dave Moretti (119-109), John McKaie (117-111)—and the WBC middleweight title in the process. Sure, it took some time, with the 35-year-old Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) using what survival tricks he’s learned from the sage Freddie Roach.
Eventually, you had the sense, Alvarez, looking like a light heavyweight, was going to whittle down the smaller, shopworn legend. Cotto ran out of his share of wars.
One thing Roach couldn’t coach Cotto to do is offset Canelo’s superior size and power difference. It was Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) that stood in the center of the ring and stalked the ducking, squatting, dancing Cotto. It was Canelo that showed patience and endurance in breaking the smaller man down and finding those little creases to slip in a right uppercut or sliding down to land a left to the body.
And it was Canelo who endured a few pokes to the face, especially in the final round, that proved he has the mettle to be special. It was like pebbles bouncing off steel. “I thought it was much closer than the scorecards showed; it was a very competitive fight, Miguel’s defense was great all night long,” said Freddie Roach, Cotto’s hall of fame trainer.
Punch stats bore out Alvarez’s domination. He connected on 155 of 484 total punches (32%), to Cotto’s connect percentage of 129 of 629 (21%). Power shots were the key. Canelo loaded up on uppercuts and body shots to land 118 of 298 power shots (40%), in comparison to Cotto’s 75 of 255 (29%). Cotto’s jab worked, though had little effect on Alvarez. Cotto connected on 54 of 374 jabs (14%), to Alvarez’s 37 of 186 (20%).
Somehow Moretti saw Cotto winning just one round, the fourth, while McKaie gave Cotto the first, fourth and sixth. Clements awarded Cotto the second and the ninth.
The looming question is what is next for Alvarez?
With Gennady Golovkin watching ringside, and recognized by most boxing observers as the world’s best middleweight, Alvarez talked a big game about his willingness to take on “GGG.” The reality, however, is a little different. During the course of the weekend in the build-up for this fight, many sources close to and around Golden Boy Promotions stated that a 2016 middleweight showdown between Golovkin and Alvarez won’t happen. Some at Golden Boy feel Golovkin isn’t “big enough” brand wise for Canelo. Others, more grounded, feel that Golden Boy wouldn’t want to risk its only marketable fighter, its “Golden Goose,” against someone as dangerous as Golovkin.
“I have a lot of respect for Miguel,” Alvarez said. “He is a great champion and a great fighter. We knew going into this fight that it would be a difficult journey, but I feel that I was the faster and stronger fighter tonight. I wasn’t hurt by his punches. I want to thank my trainers, they are like my family and the best people I know and I couldn’t have done this without them. I’m not afraid of any fighter. GGG is a great fighter, and he is my friend. I have respect for him, but if we do fight it’s going to be at my weight class. I’m the champion, I don’t have to do what he wants. I was fully prepared for what Cotto was going to do in the ring, whether that was take a defense stance or be the aggressor.”
As for Cotto, he has some big decisions to make. The future hall of famer said he would speak to his family and make a decision on his future in boxing later.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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