Miguel Cotto returns to the ring for the first time since capturing the WBC middleweight title against Sergio Martinez one year ago as the Puerto Rican icon faces former world champion Daniel Geale at Barclays Center in Cotto’s adopted hometown of New York.
In his most recent appearance, ex-three weight world titlist Cotto, 39-4 (32), produced a shocking upset by stepping up to 160 pounds and knocking down divisional king Martinez three times in the first round enroute to a stoppage victory when the Argentine switch-hitter didn’t answer the bell for the tenth round.
It did appear that Martinez re-injured a previously damaged knee during the first knockdown and as a fighter whose style completely revolves around tricky footwork, this provided a tremendous advantage to Cotto.
Now, Cotto will have to prove that his debut at middleweight was no fluke by handling the challenge posed by Geale, 31-3 (16), a career middleweight
Geale is coming off a win over fellow Australian Jarrod Fletcher in December following his third round stoppage loss to WBA king Gennady Golovkin last July.
Once the bell rings tonight in New York, the question is will former IBF/WBA champ Geale be able to leverage his size advantage into the winnner’s circle against Cotto, who turned pro as a light welter?
Despite losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr, Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito, the real handbook on how defeat Cotto was written by Austin Trout, who outboxed “Junito” in December 2012.
But Trout is a southpaw and was able to avoid getting involved in a slugfest with Cotto, keeping the smaller man at bay with footwork, jabs and being the first to punch.
Cotto will no doubt have studied the three round destruction of Geale by Golovkin, who cut off the ring and forced the Australian to exchange shots.
However, Cotto is much smaller than Golovkin and lacks the awesome slugging power of the Kazah destroyer, and has been out of action for a year, the longest time between fights in his career.
Look for Geale to take the early rounds with a higher activity rate and a lot of movement that keeps a ring-rusty Cotto at a distance, which will consume a lot of energy and probably lead to the challenger slowing down in the middle rounds.
This will produce the situation Cotto wants, an opponent that stands in the middle of the ring and trades leather.
Should that occur, the determining factor will be how well Geale can take Cotto’s trademark left hook once the champion starts to warm up. If he can handle the smaller man’s best shots, Geale will become confident and could start to push the champion back.
If that happens, Cotto could have real problems dealing with a bigger adversary he can’t hurt and can’t dissuade, as in the Margarito loss.
But, if Cotto can hurt Geale or put him on the defensive, it will be very difficult for Geale to wrest control from the far more experienced champion.
This should be a very interesting contest and could provide a more difficult challenge for Cotto than many are expecting as Geale has nothing to lose while the champion has potential big fights on the horizon that will be dashed if he comes up short.