In this week’s edition of “Who Takes It?” we turn our attention to boxing: this weekend’s defense of the lineal middleweight championship, featuring champion Miguel Cotto vs. challenger Daniel Geale.
You might think the choice to highlight this bout, which will be broadcast on HBO and not PPV on Saturday night from Brooklyn, NY, to be something of a protest. This is an MMA site, right? And boxing is supposed to be dead.
Sure, this weekend’s offerings from UFC & WSOF aren’t the best. (Re: the former, I’m thinking Dustin Poirier vs Yancy Medeiros will be a nice enough lightweight scrap, but nothing with title implications — at least not at this point. They’re young and may rise…. while Dan Henderson and Tim Boetsch aren’t, and likely won’t.)
Truth is… this bout features one of my favorites in the fight game — MMA, boxing, or kickboxing, for that matter — and this looks like a good showcase for him.
You may not know that man: the pride of Caguas, Puerto Rico, boxing’s lineal middleweight champion Miguel Angel Cotto. But he has earned a 39-4 record and world titles in four divisions during a fourteen year, Hall of Fame-worthy career, and is likely the most popular attraction from the fight games in his second home of New York.
Not hard to see why, either — and not just because of the million or so people of Puerto Rican descent in the greater NY area. Cotto features an aggressive and technical style, fighting out of a crouch using quick lateral movement to set up hooks to the head and body. His best punch, a clubbing left hook, has helped lead him to an impressive KO%: 32 knockouts among his 39 wins, and titles from light welter to middleweight.
He’s also one of many fighters who benefited from HBO 24/7 series, which offered the image of Cotto as a soft-spoken warrior, with a family-first approach to the fight game.
The show’s portrait of Cotto looking for revenge against Antonio Margarito, who is widely thought to have defeated Cotto with the help of loaded handwraps, was among the show’s best:
Cotto would go on to win that bout by TKO, and later have a good showing against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. — a bout Mayweather hailed as “the toughest fight of his career.”
Last year, Cotto enjoyed what he called “the biggest achievement of my career” when he TKO’ed Sergio Martinez for the lineal middleweight title.
That night, Cotto entered the ring about a two-to-one underdog against the Argentine “Maravilla,” who had earned a 51-2-2 record and seven straight wins. But the bigger Martinez looked hobbled from the opening bell — shaky on his legs — and a barrage of typical Cotto punches to the head and body scored three early knockdowns. A patient Cotto would out-land Martinez in every round, even in jabs — eventually forcing the valiant champion’s corner to retire after round nine.
His opponent Saturday, Daniel Geale, is a native of Tasmania, Australia who has scored middleweight titles before — but is unfortunately best known for a recent loss to rising star Gennady Golovkin.
He just didn’t have a chance in that one — out-gunned at the opening bell by the Kazakh, and eventually forced to quit after an ugly beating.
In his other bouts, like against fellow Australians Jarrod Fletcher and Anthony Mundine, Geale shows some nice combinations as he moves inside — particularly a crisp uppercut. But he lacks quickness — actually out-jabbed in the early going by the unheralded Fletcher in their bout — and that is an attribute he’ll need to hang in there with Cotto.
In interviews, as in here with Newsday, Geale describes how he hopes to out-box Cotto and use his reach:
“Cotto is a great fighter,” Geale said. “He’s got great experience. He’s been in there with the best.
“He’s going to possibly be coming at me. I don’t know if that worries me. I think that probably excites me, to be honest. I guess I want to test my abilities against his. The biggest thing I have to remember is not to fall into Miguel Cotto’s traps.”
Unlike Cotto, he’s a true middleweight. Strangely, this, his highest profile bout ever, will be the first time since his amateur days he will be forced to weigh in under the 160 lb. limit.
Much is being made of Cotto demanding a catch weight for the bout, as in this article from Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. I disagree. It’s odd that a belt at 160 lbs is being defended at an agreed-upon 157 lbs, sure. But did the same people complain when Cotto was forced to defend his own 147 lb title against Manny Pacquiao at a 145-lb catch weight? Sadly, this is the way of the boxing world, and it’s silly to make a fuss about it with one athlete and not another.
That aside — can the bigger Geale pull off an upset here?
It’s not impossible. Even with his mobility clearly compromised, Martinez scored perhaps a surprising number of straight punches down the stretch against Cotto. Perhaps Cotto will show signs of age, as Martinez did last year, and be vulnerable.
But I don’t think so. Since beginning to work with Freddie Roach, Cotto has shown the aggressive style of his early days, and there’s nothing in Geale’s resume which leads me to think he can get an edge here.
Look for Cotto to use his jab to set up combinations to the head and body, backing the bigger man up. I see a TKO victory for Cotto, in front of a raucous Puerto Rican crowd, to set up a showdown with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez later this year.
As always, enjoy the fights!