by Cliff Rold
The weight is over.
After much chatter about the 157 lb. catchweight for this Saturday’s Middleweight title bout, both men stepped on the scales and that was that. Geale hit his target. Cotto came in well below 157.
We’ve got a fight.
What kind of fight? We will know that soon enough. Cotto, making the first defense of the title he wrested from Sergio Martinez last June, has plenty on the line. A big money showdown with “Canelo” Alvarez seems a likely destination for the fall. He just has to avoid falling Saturday night to get there.
As in-between opponents go, he didn’t pick a patsy. Even with a catchweight, Geale is an accomplished Middleweight in this era. He unified two titles in the class and went on the road to win both of them. Had he faced Cotto coming off his win over Felix Sturm, he might be favored. Instead Geale is two fights removed from the lone knockout loss of his career to Gennady Golovkin and he definitely isn’t.
Can the Australian pull the upset?
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC Middleweight (2014-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Light Welterweight (2004-06, 5 Defenses); WBA Welterweight (2006-08, 4 Defenses); WBO Welterweight (2009, 1 Defense); WBA Super Welterweight (2010-12, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 153.6 lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 39-4, 32 KO, 2 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 18-4, 15 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 18 (Cesar Bazan TKO11; Carlos Maussa TKO8; Lovemore N’Dou UD12; Randall Bailey TKO6; DeMarcus Corley TKO5; Ricardo Torres KO7; Paulie Malignaggi UD12; Carlos Quintana RTD5; Zab Judah TKO11; Shane Mosley UD12; Antonio Margarito TKO by 11, RTD9; Joshua Clottey SD12; Manny Pacquiao TKO by 12; Yuri Foreman TKO9; Ricardo Mayorga TKO12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Austin Trout L12; Sergio Martinez RTD10)
Previous Titles: IBF Middleweight (2011-13, 4 Defenses); WBA Middleweight (2012)
Weight: 157 lbs.
Hails from: Mt Annan, New South Wales, Australia
Record: 31-3, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-2, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #4 (Ring), #6 (ESPN), #7 (BoxingScene, TBRB, BoxRec)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Anthony Mundine L12, UD12; Roman Karmazin TKO12; Sebastian Sylvester SD12; Felix Sturm SD12; Darren Barker L12; Gennady Golovkin TKO by 3)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cotto B; Geale B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Cotto B+; Geale C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cotto B-; Geale B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cotto A; Geale A
Despite the deserved criticism of the catchweight in this fight, Cotto deserves credit for at least facing a man still universally seen as one of the top ten Middleweights in the sport. Middleweight isn’t the strongest or deepest class in boxing but there are good fighters there. Geale has been one for several years.
Will he be his good self in the ring on Saturday or will the extra loss of pounds prove prohibitive to his chances? Let’s assume he’s close to form until we see something that proves otherwise. If Geale isn’t throwing much and has dead legs, we’ll see that early on. It would be off form.
One thing worth considering is that the weigh-in time for Cotto-Geale was particularly early. 1 PM EST on Friday for a fight set to start after 10:30 PM EST Saturday is a long time. It’s several more hours than the weigh-in time difference between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
For a fighter who needs to rehydrate, those could be critical hours. According to HBO’s unofficial scales, Geale came into his title defeat versus Darren Barker at 174 lbs. after officially scaling 159 and change. A similar increase here would put him above 170 and there is time to get that sort of fluid recovery.
It says a lot about why Cotto may have come in so light for this fight. He’s facing the largest fighter of his career. He came with speed in mind. He’ll need it early to set the tone for the fight and get to Geale’s body.
That’s not going to be that easy. Geale isn’t a stand still type. He will stay in the trenches and throw but he’s also able to move and box. Geale has a couple things working in his favor. The first is his height. Geale will have three inches on the tape, and it might look like more in the ring. That will compliment the second, his jab.
Geale has an educated, underrated stick. It’s how he beat Sturm. Sturm, one of the best Middleweight jabbers of recent years, was outjabbed by Geale. It set up everything else. Off the jab, Geale tends to throw in volume. Cotto, a decent but not great defensive fighter, will be open if Geale can establish the lead left. If he can back Cotto up or force him to cover, he can win rounds.
Can he hang with Cotto on the inside? Most would say no. Cotto is still a masterful fighter at short range. He’s never quite solved his problem of fluid transitions between offense and defense. It’s a point of inconsistency throughout his career. When he’s in offensive gear, he throws short, leveraged, hard shots. Those will multiply if he finds a rhythm. Geale, if he makes Cotto chase him, will have better chances to avoid those shots. He’s the slightly better defensive fighter, applying good head movement when under attack.
When he fires back at Cotto, does he have the power to keep him honest? Geale isn’t a fighter with a lot of highlight reel knockouts. It doesn’t mean he can’t punch at all. The shot he dropped Barker with in their sixth rounds was impressive. It wasn’t his norm, opting for more contact most of the time.
In terms of intangibles, both men are solid. Geale is a proven road warrior. Cotto is Cotto, a four-division titleholder with a resume reads like a who’s who of his era from 140-154 lbs. Martinez was a cherry on the sundae. There will be some who look at Geale’s loss to Golovkin, or even Barker, and wonder if he can take what Cotto dishes out.
As great a fighter as he’s been, Cotto isn’t Golovkin at Middleweight. Cotto likely wouldn’t fare much better than Geale against Golovkin, making it an odd place to think about the outcome of this one. This could be the fight where we find out if some of the recent Cotto resurgence is a mirage. Martinez was clearly impaired last year, Delvin Rodriguez is just a decent guy, and before that were two straight losses. This is a smaller man with a lot of miles who has spent a couple years being well preserved.
Will Geale be the one to send Cotto back down the scale?
We've seen Geale go on the road to win before and he can do it here. He's naturally bigger, has a good work rate, and unlike Martinez last year has two wheels underneath him. Cotto hasn't faced someone this live in a couple of years, assuming Geale comes into the ring somewhere near his best. His jab and movement will frustrate Cotto and as he gets warmed up he will increasingly outland the Puerto Rican. Geale isn't a huge puncher and with bigger money fights looming, a scorecard mess isn't out of the question. The pick here is the upset, likely a split decision, in Geale's favor.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 43-9 (Including picks in Tanaka-Yedras, Joshua-Johnson, Linares-Mitchell, Selby-Gradovich, and Brook-Gavin)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]