When Miguel Cotto turned pro in 2001, he was christened as the second coming of Felix Trinidad, especially when one compared their deadly left hooks. But in the 12 years since then Cotto has created his own legend that may land him in the International Boxing Hall of Fame one day.
Back-to-back defeats to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout as well as a career-long 309-day layoff certifies that Cotto is now in the sunset of his career. But before Cotto's in-ring presence dips below the horizon he still has business in hand, for on Saturday he will face Dominican veteran Delvin Rodriguez in Cotto's adopted home base of Florida.
The longtime welterweight contender has fought his last five fights at 154 and at 33 he is seven months older chronologically. His ring age, however, may well be younger for while he's taken his lumps in terms of blemishes on his record (several of which were undeserved), he's never taken the sustained beatings Cotto did. Will that fact, however, translate inside the ring? Will Rodriguez's younger 33 be enough to beat Cotto's older 32 or will Cotto's superior elite experience turn back Rodriguez's ambition?
Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:
A Common Opponent: Cotto and Rodriguez had their issues with their one shared rival, former WBA junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout, who notched successful defenses against both.
It's difficult to pick who performed better. Cotto got closer to equaling Trout's connect totals (he trailed 238-183 overall, 46-29 jabs and 192-154 power while Rodriguez was out-landed 151-89 overall, 37-6 jabs and 114-83 power) and was the more active fighter (52.3 per round to 36.7) while Rodriguez did better defensively by holding Trout to 22% overall, 9% jabs and 41% power to Cotto's 31% overall, 13% jabs and 45% power. Neither man made much of a bent on the scorecards as Cotto lost 119-109 and 117-111 twice and Rodriguez lagged behind by 120-108, 118-110 and 117-111 scores. That Cotto lost his first fight in Madison Square Garden was significant, for in past years fighting him at MSG was the equivalent of entering the lion's den for opponents. It was just another sure sign that the end is nearing.
Turning Aggressive: In past years Rodriguez was a boxing-oriented sharpshooter but in his last two fights he has turned up the aggression and scored two TKOs.
Rodriguez looked fantastic in stopping the previously unbeaten George Tahdooahnippah (31-0-1) in six rounds as he was active (71.2 per round) and accurate (37% overall, 18% jabs, 53% power). He amassed huge leads in every category (161-58 total, 36-28 jabs, 125-30 power), including 38-6 in the second, 31-7 in the third and 30-9 in the sixth. Tahdooahnippah's bravery only served to extend the beating, under which he still managed to average 47.2 punches per round but only landed 20% overall and jabs and 21% power.
Rodriguez's most recent bout was a blue-collar eighth round TKO over Freddie Hernandez, which was originally called a technical decision after a cut over Hernandez's left eye led to a stoppage. The result was overturned after instant replay confirmed Hernandez's cut was opened by punches, not a butt. To that point Hernandez was ahead statistically (117-99 overall, 91-68 power to offset Rodriguez's 31-26 jab connects lead). Neither man was accurate as Rodriguez landed 22% overall, 12% jabs and 33% power to Hernandez's 22% overall, 12% jabs and 29% power. Given Cotto's power and infighting ability, however, Rodriguez would be wise to revert back to his long-range game.
Cotto vs. Styles: When Cotto is allowed to box, as he was against recent opponents Antonio Margarito (rematch), Ricardo Mayorga and Joshua Clottey, he's been slightly above average in terms of percentages (34% overall, 28% jabs, 39% power compared to the division norms of 31%, 22% and 38%). His defensive numbers are also good (26% overall, 14% jabs, 33% power).
When Cotto faces a fighter who fights at long range but who is not elite -- like Michael Jennings or Alfonso Gomez -- Cotto fares much better as he landed a combined 51% of his total punches, 42% of his jabs and 57% of his power shots while limiting them to 18% overall, 9% jabs and 34% power. However, Cotto was a different fighter then; when he faced Gomez he was one fight away from the beating he took in the first Margarito fight and when he faced Jennings, he was two fights away from an even more severe pounding at the hands of Pacquiao. Can this version of Cotto conjure enough of that fighter to beat Rodriguez, who will enjoy three-and-a-half inch edges in height and reach?
Prediction: Yes, because Rodriguez lacks the one-punch power to shake Cotto's reachable but sturdy chin. When he faced elites like Mayweather and Pacquiao, Cotto lacked the final ingredient but against good, solid opponents like Rodriguez, he still has enough in the tank. Cotto by decision, unless father time has his way.