By Francisco Salazar
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - The rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico tends to bring out the worst in people. It is evident in the fight game, where rivalries between fighters in the ring are just as heated as those amongst boxing fans.
Miguel Cotto and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez are well aware of what the likes of Wilfredo Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Salvador Sanchez have done before them.
Which could lead boxing fans to anticipate another stellar chapter in the intense rivalry between the two boxing superpowers.
Cotto versus Canelo. Puerto Rico versus Mexico. To many boxing fans, November 21 cannot come soon enough as both pugilists square off in a 12 round bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
The bout will be televised live on HBO Pay Per View.
Both fighters were present on Monday afternoon at the famed Hollywood and Highland to kick off a four-city press tour, which continues in Mexico City on Tuesday, New York City on Wednesday, and concluding in Puerto Rico on Thursday.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) has won his last three bouts in a row since suffering back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout in 2012. Along the way, he won the WBC middleweight title and recently defended it on June 6, stopping Daniel Geale in the fourth round.
Cotto's career has been revitalized with the help of trainer Freddie Roach, as opposed to declined as the popular Puerto Rican fighter is in his mid-30's.
"During my last three fights, you can see the difference between myself and where I was 10 years ago," Cotto addressed the media prior to the open-to-the-public press conference. "All I need to do is put myself in the best possible shape to win this fight. I will do my best with Freddie in my corner."
After Cotto fought under the Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions banner, the world champion in four weight classes signed onto Roc Nation.
While there were rumors the fight was going to be made, nothing official came for weeks until both Roc Nation and Golden Boy, which promotes Alvarez, were able to iron out all the minor details.
Cotto stated New York City was the first option, until the MGM properties in Las Vegas pushed a significant amount of money for the fight.
"Things happen when they're supposed to happen. This is our time. I have had my eye on what was best in my career. The Canelo fight was what was best for my career at this point."
"People know when you put a Mexican and a Puerto-Rican in the same ring, you are going to see a great fight. You are going to see the same on November 21."
Cotto can point to the great fight between Salvador Sanchez and Wilfredo Gomez as a fight that has reflected the greatness of the rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Like Sanchez, and even Chavez and Juan Manuel Marquez, Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) has been carrying the torch of sorts for the popularity of boxing in Mexico.
Even though he is nine years younger than Cotto, Alvarez carries with him a sense of responsibility and maturity. Some wonder whether he may be in over his head fighting someone with the pedigree of Cotto.
He did fall short against Mayweather almost two years ago, but he believes he is a much better fighter, much wiser compared to the version that fought that night.
"This is the most important fight of my career up to this point because of the rivalry and the (Cotto) name," said Alvarez. "I learned a lot from the Mayweather fight. Those experiences will and have helped me in the long run."
Speaking of age, Las Vegas casinos and boxing pundits have tabbed Alvarez as the betting favorite. Maybe it has to do with Alvarez did in his last fight; a spectacular third round knockout win over James Kirkland on May 9.
Or it could be that Alvarez is hitting his peak as a fighter. Whatever the reason may be, Alvarez doesn't believe any fighter, including himself, has any advantages.
"There are no advantages here. I don't think age will play an advantage at all. I think whoever is at their best on fight night will win the fight."
"Miguel Cotto has been looking very, very good. He's been very sharp and this is a 50-50 fight. He's in his best moments. That's what I like. That's how it should be in big fights. He's a great fighter. He's done a lot for this fight. To be in the ring with him and to beat him would a huge benefit for my career. The better man is going to win."
A win by Alvarez could cement his legacy at a young age. But never count out Cotto. Experience and craftiness have won out in plenty of fights before and this fight could play out in that direction as well.
Those who favor youth and strength point to Alvarez.
This fight is indeed bringing out a sense of anticipation unmatched in a quite a while, minus the funk of what was the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight a few months ago.
Cotto has been through this many times before.
"I have 14 years in boxing. I have faced the best fighters of this generation. I don't need anybody. It's just another fight for me. It's just another chapter for my career."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing