Alvarez-Cotto in the shadows of Hagler-Hearns

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Conrad M. Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

How many times have I mentioned or discussed the historic bout between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns in my columns? And now is the time to make reference to that dramatic bout again because the fight between Canelo Alvarez (45-1 with 32 knockouts) and Miguel Cotto (40-4 with 33 KOs) is less than 10 days away.

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Hagler vs Hearns never matched the pre-fight hype, revenues and payday of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao megabout. But the fight held on April 15, 1985 exceeded the pre-fight hype by more than a hundred times. No wonder that epic bout is still talked about among real boxing fans up to this day. How many people will be talking of Mayweather-Pacquiao in the decades to come?

And will Alvarez vs Cotto also be talked about in the decades to come?

The Hagler-Hearns match up was one of a kind because it involved an unstoppable force in the freakishly tall but powerful welterweight in Hearns who had a mean knockout streak, and an immovable object in Hagler who at the time had racked up 10 title defenses that left most of his opponents flat on the floor, bloodied or both.

Both had power in their hands and were willing to trade leather if that would please fans. And they traded leather on April 15, 1985 like a galleon filled with gold bars was at stake. But they were obviously fighting for pride although their payday would make Mayweather laugh.

Even if they were never paid astronomical sums just to bludgeon each other, Hagler and Hearns can always boast that they were part of one of boxing’s most epic bouts.

Fast-forward and I have yet to see a fight similar to Hearns vs Hagler during the past five years. The fourth match between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez was a marquee fight, but it was from the third round that things began to heat up. In contrast, Hearns-Hagler was war from the opening bell and the exchanges were more furious than Pacquiao-Marquez 4.

Unfortunately, Alvarez vs Cotto does not have the pre-fight ingredients that made Hearns-Hagler an all-time great bout. Both fighters have been cordial to each other so far. It also looks like one fighter looks more like a sheep being led to slaughter.

Cotto, even if he has successfully reinvented himself after his disastrous defeat to Pacquiao on November 2009, will be hard-pressed to deal with the speed and size of Alvarez. Speed has been Cotto’s Achilles heel and that was evident in the Pacquiao fight. And even if Cotto did very well in his fight against Mayweather on May 2012, losing via a split decision, it was obvious Mayweather’s speed allowed the American to even up things.

Cotto also has not faced significant opposition in his past three fights, except maybe for an aging Sergio Martinez from whom he won the World Boxing Council middleweight crown on June 2014.

On the other hand, Alvarez looked like he has recovered from his loss to Mayweather on September 2013. His wins over Erislandy Lara, Alfredo Angula and James Kirkland cannot also be ignored.

Cotto vs Alvarez could be the bout that could get boxing out of the doldrums under the following scenarios: Alvarez is stopped or knocked out after he builds a big lead in the cards; Cotto puts up a gallant stand up to the late rounds but is stopped eventually by Alvarez; and the bout ends in a close decision with both fighters giving it their all and both of them hitting the deck.

But hell, I don’t see Alvarez vs Cotto unfolding like Hearns-Hagler, or the two throwing defense, strategy, ring generalship and even skills out to the window just to land their punches to the approval of fans. After two rounds, the outcome of the bout remained unclear. Also, Hagler was bleeding badly from a cut over right after the first round.

After the referee stopped the bout in the third round and Hagler raised his hands in victory, one of the ring announcers exclaimed, “He [Hearns] can’t continue. It’s Hagler, full of blood.” That underscored how grueling the fight was for both combatants.

So if Alvarez-Cotto will turn out to be a disappointment, watch reruns of Hagler-Hearns from the Internet. That’s what some frustrated boxing fans do after watching any super bout today going dud.

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