Miguel Cotto vs. Saul Alvarez promises to be an exciting fight. The cagey, veteran Cotto and the explosive young Alvarez should create a tremendous stylistic matchup. Both men are tough, pressure fighters with the ability to slip and counter in the pocket. Each fighter does an outstanding job of mixing up his attacks between the body and head.
Canelo has the advantages of youth and size. Cotto is the more experienced ring general. There’s no doubt that this is one of the premier matchups of recent years.
Miguel Cotto’s WBC and lineal middleweight titles will also be on the line, although the fight will take place at a catchweight of 155 pounds, five below the true middleweight limit. Although he has reigned as the lineal middleweight champion since defeating Sergio Martinez in June 2014, Cotto has never fought at the 160-limit.
For that reason, it’s tough to really accept him as the true middleweight champion. His status as such is a kind of historical accident. He faced Martinez, a badly faded champion, at a moment when the Argentine was nearing the end of his career and desperate for a pay-per-view opponent. Cotto’s box office appeal made him one of only a few suitable candidates, but it also gave him the juice to claim “A fighter” status and insist on a catchweight of 155 pounds. Martinez, himself a former welterweight, was willing to accept the terms.
Even in June 2014, there was no doubt who Martinez’s true NO. 1 contender was: Gennady Golovkin. But at the time, Cotto offered a much bigger payday, for less perceived risk. It was hard to fault a veteran champion like Martinez for making the business decision to go with Cotto.
Cotto, of course, turned in the biggest performance of his career, blasting Martinez and stopping him by TKO. Rather than face Golovkin, he took a year off and then beat Daniel Geale this past June, a fighter Golovkin had already knocked out. Again, the fight was at a catchweight.
Cotto can’t be faulted for avoiding Golovkin for Alvarez. Cotto vs. Alvarez is a fight that fans have speculated on for years. And if the two want to agree on a catchweight, that’s between them.
But the WBC has already mandated that the winner must fight Golovkin, who is without question the top boxer in the world at 160 pounds. He’s also developed into a pay-per-view star in his own right. And against GGG, a true middleweight, that title should be defended at 160 pounds. If the winner of Cotto vs. Alvarez is unwilling to do so, he should be stripped of the belt.
Alvarez has already stated that if he wins, he’ll be unwilling to fight Golovkin at above 155 pounds. This is a major disappointment. In Cotto’s case, I can accept a unwillingness to move up. He’s a fighter who began his career at 140 pounds. At just 5’7″, he’s not a true middleweight. If he beats Alvarez and then vacates rather than face Golovkin, I’ll lose no respect for the tremendous things he’s done in his career.
It’s a different matter entirely with Canelo. At 5’9″, he’s got the frame to handle 160 pounds. It’s a natural move up for the 25 year old. If he truly wants to fulfill his destiny as an all-time great, he can’t hide behind catchweights. Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran (a former lightweight) all willingly moved up to 160 pounds to face the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Alvarez’s own promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, asked for no catchweight when he faced Bernard Hopkins.
At times catchweights make some degree of sense. But they’ve become an out-of-control joke in the sport, undermining whatever credibility the titles still have in the alphabet-soup era.