Can Cotto retain his WBC crown?

Miguel Cotto makes his return to the ring after dispatching Sergio Martinez in 10 rounds to win the WBC Middleweight title. Although Martinez looked to be carrying an injury, Cotto’s past achievements still speak for themselves. Challenging him for his belt is Australia’s Daniel Geale, who comfortably outpointed Jarrod Fletcher after his heavy loss to Gennady Golovkin.

The fight takes place this Saturday at the famed Barclays Center in New York and will of course be televised globally. Although the Middleweight limit is normally 160 pounds, the fight has been agreed at a catchweight of 157 pounds. This was at Cotto’s request and it would seem the fight would no happen at all if this was to be at 160.

Fighting at 157 will suit Cotto far better. He is the naturally smaller man and used to fighting at a lower weight; Geale is a natural Middleweight and will possibly be weight drained at this limit. Of course, Geale might potentially feel as fit as ever but he will no doubt feel more sluggish if the fight is dragged into the later rounds. Though Cotto doesn’t go into the latter stages too often (32 of his 39 wins have come by knockout), his power won’t be the same at this weight thus reducing the chances of a KO. Yes, he made Martinez quit but that was more down to his failing knees as opposed to Cotto’s power.

What Cotto is very accomplished at however, is pretty much everything. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters in boxing today; combining excellent technical ability with a strong work rate and astute ring IQ. He possesses a hard jab with exceptional precision. He has a 4″ reach disadvantage against Geale though, so Cotto might find the jab less effective as he normally would. If he can use his jab to get on the inside of Geale, Cotto can use his thunderous body hooks to further tire Geale out which – combined with Geale possibly being weight drained – could leave to a late stoppage in the fight due to his exhaustion. Cotto is also a very tough fight having only been stopped twice: once in the 12th by Pacquiao and also by Margarito, the latter being followed by the infamous handwrap saga…

Though slightly the less accomplished fighter, Geale is still a fine boxer too. His movement is a useful tool and he can prove to be very elusive when he wants to be. Normally Geale likes to move into range, work and then get out of the danger zone pretty quickly. Given his size advantage over Cotto, he could choose to do this whilst fighting on the backfoot and allowing Cotto to walk him down. His movement couldn’t get him out of trouble with Golovkin, but Golovkin’s cutting off of the ring i sone of the best in the game and I’d be surprised to see Cotto landing huge shots on Geale early on. Geale isn’t a particularly powerful puncher – which his record of 16KO’s from 31 wins suggests – but he is able to punch his weight. The style he fights isn’t based around power punches so it’s unlikely the weight issues with adversely affect him in that regard.

The mandatory challenger for the WBC belt is a certain Gennady Golovkin. Both fighters go into this knowing they will most likely have to face him should they come out on top. Geale flat out quit against him. In Geale’s defence he did try to take the fight to Golovkin which was ultimately what ended everything so swiftly for him. Cotto hasn’t exactly given a bullish answer about fighting Golovkin in the future, instead looking to hype up a fight with Canelo Alvarez.

As much as I hate to constantly mention it, the catchweight will play into this. At 160 pounds this is a very different fight. At 157 however, I favour Cotto – just. Geale’s superior defensive footwork should save him from being knocked out, though he’ll start to trail off at the back end of the fight. Cotto on points is the smart bet.