LA VEGAS—Mexico’s most popular redhead Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered the win against Puerto Rican rival Miguel Cotto in a strategic battle that saw judges prefer the Mexican’s power over the Boricua’s hit and move tactics on Saturday.
Despite a boisterous crowd of Boricuas and Mexicans eager to see a bloody war, the 11,274 fans at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino saw the youngster Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 Kos) use his 25-year-old confidence to defeat the former champion Cotto (40-5, 33 Kos) and take the vacant WBC middleweight title.
“I’m very happy, he’s a great champion and I have much respect. Now the belt is mine now,” said Alvarez. “This is for all the Mexicans.”
Cotto was forced to abandon the title when the WBC organization stripped him for not paying sanctioning fees before the fight. Only Alvarez could win the title and he did.
The Puerto Rican, who is trained by Freddie Roach, established the stiff left jab early and connected twice in the first round, while Alvarez pounded the body with his right. It was a pattern that the Puerto Rican fighter kept throughout the fight as Alvarez concentrated on the harder blows to the body and head.
Alvarez made a move in the third round as he decided to exchange with Cotto. Several body shots mixed with head blows were delivered successfully by the redhead. From that point on Alvarez seemed confident that Cotto’s punches could not hurt him.
The first half of the fight went back and forth with each using combinations to the head and body. Cotto used the jab well to keep from losing the momentum. After the first six rounds Alvarez began to take over with a more aggressive attack and Cotto preferred to jab and move away from engaging too heavily.
The Mexican redhead scored heavily with left hooks and left and right uppercuts. But nothing seemed to seriously hurt Cotto and he answered back with crisp combinations. After 12 rounds all three judges preferred Alvarez’s power punches to Cotto’s crisp combinations. The scores were 118-110 by Burt Clements, 117-111 John McKaie, and 119-109 Dave Moretti.
“I have respect for Cotto,” said Alvarez, who hugged the former champion.
The new WBC middleweight titlist is also the lineal champion. But will he fight WBA, IBF and IBO titlist Gennady “GGG” Golovkin?
“For sure. I’m fighting him,” said Alvarez. “I have no fear.”
Mexico’s Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas (23-0-1, 17 Kos) seemingly stole the WBC super featherweight world title with a comeback knockout of titleholder Takashi Miura (29-3-2, 22 Kos) of Japan at 1:31 of the ninth round.
Vargas suffered a knockdown in the fourth round from a perfect right jab-left cross combination from Miura and was on the verge of being overwhelmed in the fight. At the end of the eighth round Miura almost had Vargas knocked out on his feet in the final seconds. It looked like the end was near for Vargas.
The Mexican super featherweight stormed out of his corner the next round and delivered an overhand right that connected to Miura’s chin. He followed that immediately with a right uppercut and down went the Japanese in sections. Miura beat the count and tried to wrap his arms around Vargas but was mostly unsuccessful. It was still early in the round and the Mexican fighter connected again with a flurry of blows including a right to the jaw. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight and Vargas leaped in the air as the crowd erupted at the sudden change of events.
“I’m the champ! I’m the champ,” shouted Vargas. “When I was knocked down in the fourth, I felt even more motivated to win this fight.”
Santa Ana’s Ronny Rios (25-1, 10 Kos) pulled out a victory over Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 Kos) despite losing a point for a low blow and seemingly battling the referee throughout the fight to win by unanimous decision. Rios was repeatedly warned for low blows that were on the belt line, but his pinpoint combination punching gave Velez problems throughout the 10 round featherweight fight. The Puerto Rican boxer seemed puzzled by Rios’ combinations and could not get a bead on him. The judges scored it 97-92, 95-94, 96-93 for Rios, who wins the WBC Silverweight featherweight title.
“I felt like I dictated the pace of the fight and I felt like I was landing more power punches than him,” said Rios. “He did throw a few body punches at me that hurt, but they weren’t significant enough for me to stop pressuring him and doing what I needed to do to secure this victory.”
Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 Kos) bored the crowd with another lackluster performance in defeating Philippine’s Drian Francisco (28-4-1, 22 Kos) in a 10 round super bantamweight contest. Rigondeaux was recently signed by Roc Nation and instantly placed on the pay-per-view card. But as usual his counter-punch style preferred in the amateurs doesn’t play right in the professional ranks. The crowd booed from the fifth round on. All three judges scored it for Rigondeaux 100-90 twice and 97-93.
Puerto Rico’s Jose Martinez (16-0, 11 Kos) edged Mexican-American fighter Oscar Mojica (8-1) in a battle of super flyweights. Neither fighter was able to significantly hurt the other in a closed distance contest but Martinez did land more consistently toward the second half of the eight round fight. All three judges scored it 78-76 for Martinez.
China’s Zhang Zhilei (6-0, 3 Kos) survived a knockdown in the third round by Juan Goode (6-3, 5 Kos) to win by unanimous decision 38-37 on all three cards. A right hand by Goode dropped Zhilei but it was all he could muster against the Chinese heavyweight.