Canelo vs. Cotto—The Stakes are Nigh

By Marc Livitz on November 21, 2015
Canelo vs. Cotto—The Stakes are Nigh
Some feel that Canelo Alvarez is a great fighter while others see him as a reality TV star.

What seems to be missing is an honest attempt to reach as many fans as possible. Business is business and that always comes first…

Driving past the Mirage Hotel and Casino at seventy miles per hour or more on Interstate 15 in Las Vegas is an easy task on some days. The same goes for its next door neighbor, Caesars Palace. Many are unaware of the fact that so many great nights of pugilistic glory once took place under the night sky at the two legendary landmarks on Las Vegas Boulevard. A quick U-turn in the other direction will point towards Mandalay Bay, the site for tonight’s bout between Miguel Cotto and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

The wait is just about over. The catchweight of 155 pounds for a middleweight contest was met. A title is at stake for only half of the promotion because a certain sanctioning organization down in Mexico City was told to stick it where it counts. If Saturday night’s bout is truly expected to be a throwback to the hardcore Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry of boxing’s heyday of the latter 20th century, then what seems to be missing is an honest attempt to reach as many fans as possible. Business is business and that always comes first.

Of course, the two sporting nations have among them the most rampant fans in the world, but gone are the days of outdoor fights at such locales as Caesars Palace or the Mirage. The third time could have been the charm in late 1989. Almost 26 years ago, Sugar Ray Leonard coasted past Roberto Duran as they fought outdoors on a chilly night in Vegas for the same WBC middleweight strap which is seemingly waiting for Canelo Alvarez to swipe, provided he gets past Miguel Cotto.

Less than a year later in the fall of 1990, James “Buster” Douglas was riding high after his improbable win over Mike Tyson, so much so that he took the word “heavyweight” a bit too seriously and entered the ring over one stone heavier than his previous bout. He lost in three rounds to Evander Holyfield and Vegas took a while to recover from it.

Some time later, a call to arms was issued to anyone who would listen for a dedicated sports fashioned arena on the Las Vegas Strip. Soon enough, along came the MGM Grand Garden Arena as well as the Mandalay Bay Events Center. A high point of each was that they could easily seat more spectators than the aforementioned outdoor venues just a few blocks to the north. However, fans soon began to feel the pinch when the price of a ticket was akin to skipping one’s electric bill, car note and at times even the mortgage.

It’s a bit gut wrenching and a pure insult to the paying public that the least expensive ticket remaining (as of earlier this week) for tonight’s “lineal” middleweight championship bout (not involving Gennady Golovkin) is a staggering $1,250. A stadium somewhere else would have allowed fans at least the option of traveling to witness the spectacle and not get dragged through the mud in the process.

Fight weekends in Las Vegas are fun packed spectacles (as this writer can attest), but it’s also saturated with the fake and pretentious pride that Roger Mayweather had in mind when he infamously added a saying to boxing lore which pertained to the overall knowledge of fight fans and media. To be sure however, the names involved in Saturday’s showdown are big enough to place the bout in Sin City. Canelo is certainly known as much in some places for his appearance as he is for his fighting aptitude.

Recently, this journalist polled a few fans in Mexico by way of Facebook instant messaging and this was perhaps the most concise reply in regard to how natives view Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

“Las opiniones acá en México están muy divididas hay personas que dicen que el Canelo es muy bueno y otros que solo es producto de la publicidad yo creo que si gana esta pelea se gana el respeto de sus detractores.”

The gist: some feel that Canelo is a great fighter while others see him as a reality TV star or some sort of anomaly riding the eccentric persona wave. A win over Cotto could change all of that, they say. Some of the most hardened fans of boxeo had similar feelings around a decade and a half ago about Oscar De La Hoya. The talent was there, but the brighter the light, the dimmer the focus. Likewise, Miguel Cotto is not as loved in Puerto Rico as Felix Trinidad or Wilfredo Gomez, but he is for the most part respected.

One thing boxing fans don’t deserve is a repeat of Trinidad’s 1999 about with De La Hoya. After skating through the majority of the contest, “The Golden Boy” got on his bike and pedaled, pedaled, pedaled his way to the finish line. He hated the final result. Most likely, Cotto vs. Canelo will end up nowhere near the running type of contest.

We’ll ultimately see if Miguel has it in him to stop or otherwise severely test his opponent from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, who will likely weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of a light heavyweight. We’ll see if the newer version of Cotto at the age of 35 had the right idea in trainer Freddie Roach. We’ll see if just flying through three opponents in Delvin Rodriguez, Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale looked better on canvas than they did on paper.

On the other side of the coin, we’ll see if Canelo can pass his biggest test and cement his place among the likes of Chavez, Olivares, Barrera, Marquez and Sanchez. That’s a stretch, of course. A very big one. Let’s just hope those of us who didn’t kerplunk a nice chunk of change to head to Vegas enjoy tomorrow night’s bout. Seventy dollars American for the pay-per-view telecast. If it tanks, well then we’ll always have our delightful cable boxes.

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