Las Vegas — Canelo Alvarez made a case for himself as boxing’s next star Saturday night, landing the bigger punches to take a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto and win a piece of the middleweight title.
Alvarez took the fight to Cotto from the opening bell, winning rounds with big right hands and uppercuts. Cotto tried to box and had his moments, but Alvarez was clearly ahead as the crowd stood on its feet as both fighters traded punches in the final rounds.
Alvarez won the WBC version of the title that Cotto vacated days earlier for not paying sanctioning fees. His win set up a possible megafight with Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight champion who was watching at ringside.
“With all due respect if he wants to fight right now I’ll put the gloves on and fight him,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez won by scores of 117-11, 119-109 and 118-110. The Associated Press had him ahead 116-112.
Alvarez, whose only loss came to Floyd Mayweather Jr., set the tone early, winging big left hooks in the first round that Cotto largely avoided. As the fight went on, though, he began landing more of his punches as he patiently stalked Cotto around the ring.
Cotto boxed well at times and landed flurries of punches, but his didn’t seem to have nearly the same power as those thrown by Alvarez. In the final rounds, Alvarez caught Cotto with a series of punches that seemed to shake him some though he was never down and never appeared in real trouble.
“It’s an emotion I can’t put into words,” Alvarez said. “I’m very happy and much respect to Miguel Cotto. I will always respect him and he’s a great champion but now it’s my era.”
Cotto expressed disappointment in the judges’ decision, but left the ring before speaking.
“We thought it was much closer than the scorecards showed,” said Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “It was a competitive fight.”
Alvarez went into Cotto’s locker room after the fight, telling the fighter he just beat that “I admire you.”
Though the fight was for a 160-pound title it was fought at a catch weight of 155 pounds. Alvarez weighed exactly that the day before the fight, but after rehydrating appeared much larger in the ring than did Cotto, who was 153 1/2 pounds at the official weigh-in.
Alvarez was a 3-1 favorite coming into the bout, largely because he is 10 years younger than Cotto and a bigger puncher. The ages didn’t seem to make a difference, but the ringside judges were surely influenced by the harder punches that the red-headed Alvarez landed.
Cotto was credited with throwing 629 punches to 484 for Alvarez, but Alvarez landed 155 to 129 for Cotto.
Cotto had vowed to pull the upset by using his boxing skills, and at times he was quite effective. But by the third round, Alvarez was landing some of the big punches he was winging at Cotto.
The fight was the latest in the boxing rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. Alvarez, from Mexico, was the clear favorite of the crowd at the Mandalay Bay casino. But Cotto was competitive and a lot of the early rounds were close.
The action picked up in the eighth round, with both fighters trading punches. Again, Alvarez landed the harder shots, using his uppercut effectively and shaking Cotto with punches to the head.
Cotto, who earned $15 million, fell to 40-5, while Alvarez improved to 46-1-1.
In a wild fight on the undercard, Francisco Vargas seemed to be taking a beating and was half blinded before coming back to stop Takashi Miura of Japan at 1:31 of the ninth round.
Vargas won a piece of the 130-pound title, but paid a price to do it. He was knocked down once and staggered at the end of the eighth round, and the ring doctor looked closely at his swollen right eye before allowing the fight to continue in the ninth.
When it did, Vargas landed a sudden right and left that knocked Miura down. He followed it by chasing the champion around the ring, finally landing a series of shots to the head that prompted the referee to step in and stop the bout.
Vargas, of Mexico, improved to 23-0-1, while Miura fell to 29-3-2.