Coming off lopsided back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout, Miguel Cotto breathed new life into his career by teaming with Freddie Roach, blowing out Delvin Rodriguez and destroying longtime middleweight king Sergio Martinez to become the first Puerto Rican ever to win major titles in four weight classes. Now, one day short of a year later, Cotto begins the latest phase of what will be a Hall of Fame career by fighting former 160-pound titlist Daniel Geale in the hopes that a win will set up a superfight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who sensationally stopped James Kirkland a few weeks earlier.
Statistical factors that may shape the contest include:
Before and After Roach: While Cotto fought Mayweather evenly for eight rounds, "Money's" stretch drive in money time (57-28 overall, 45-21 power in the final four rounds) resulted in a decisive win for Mayweather on the scorecards and the stat sheets (179-105 overall, 51-30 jabs, 128-75 power). Seven months later in Madison Square Garden -- Cotto's home away from home -- Cotto was trounced by Trout, who out-landed the Puerto Rican star 238-183 overall, 46-29 jabs and 192-154 power and easily sliced through his defenses (31% overall, 45% power to Cotto's 29% and 34% respectively) en route to a wide defeat (117-111 twice, 119-109). Cotto looked like a spent force at just 32.
But Cotto's partnership with Roach ended up working wonders, both in terms of technique and in results. Cotto was expected to defeat Delvin Rodriguez but few thought he would do so in such spectacular fashion. He landed 50% of his total punches, 35% of his jabs and 54% of his power shots while limiting Rodriguez to 23%, 21% and 26% respectively. In all Cotto (who averaged 52.4 punches per round) led 55-16 overall and 47-7 in power connects. It was an eye-opening experience for everyone (except Rodriguez of course).
Still, Cotto was seen as an underdog against Martinez but two first-round knockdowns changed everything. Cotto didn't throw much (39.5 per round) but he connected at astonishing rates (54% overall, 53% jabs, 54% power) and took relatively little in return (Cotto led 212-100 overall, 54-40 jabs and 158-60 power), though Martinez did land 38% of his power shots. It was arguably the best performance of Cotto's career -- and he did it the same weekend that Felix Trinidad was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Falling Numbers: When Geale won a pair of middleweight belts in Germany from a pair of German-based champions in Felix Sturm and Sebastian Sylvester, volume was the name of his game as he averaged 89.8 punches per round against Sylvester and 73.6
versus Sturm. But in recent fights his totals have eroded -- 57.5 per round vs. Anthony Mundine (W 12), 57.8 against Darren Barker (L 12) and 42.3 versus Garth Wood (KO 6) -- but he made up for that shortfall with accuracy (37% overall and 45% power vs. Wood, 37% overall and 42% power vs. Barker, 30% overall and 38% power vs. Mundine).
He posted decent numbers during his third-round TKO loss to Gennady Golovkin (29% overall, 38% power) but his output was limited to 46.7. In his most recent outing against former sparring partner Jarrod Fletcher last December Geale won nearly every round -- sprinkling in a knockdown along the way -- but he averaged a modest 50.6 punches per round to Fletcher's 56.7 and landed just 27% overall and 32% power. Yes, Geale had the better raw numbers (162-99 overall, 36-27 jabs, 126-72 power) but the elements that made Geale a potentially special fighter have eroded over time. It isn't often that Geale is out-thrown by anyone but when it happens against a friend and sparring mate, that's telling.
Needless to say, the "Real Deal" must be at his very best if he wants to join Trout as the only men ever to defeat Cotto in a June New York City fight, but a huge indicator -- more than in other fights -- will be his average output per round.
Prediction: At 34 Geale is still a talented fighter who has speed of hand and foot but the trigger that made up for his lack of one-punch power has slowed considerably. His 53 punches per round in his last five fights is comparable to Cotto's 45.4 in his last fights -- and Cotto's total includes two lopsided defeats to Mayweather and Trout. Golovkin proved that Geale's chin can be dented and Cotto's left hook still ranks among the very best weapons in the sport. Given his long layoff, Cotto will take time to figure Geale out but once he does the devastation will begin. Cotto by late-round TKO.