Believe it or not, there are some parallels to be drawn between the two biggest fights of this weekend, Miguel Cotto–Austin Trout and Tyson Fury–Kevin Johnson. While they’re in different weight divisions and taking place halfway across the world from one another, the implications of each bout is decidedly similar.
In the case of Fury-Johnson, the fight has been made into a WBC heavyweight title eliminator. This means that current champion Vitali Klitschko has a contractual obligation to fight the winner within an allotted period of time. To put it plainly, the winner puts himself on the main stage in the heavyweight division.
With Cotto-Trout, the stakes aren’t laid out as plainly, but they are absolutely there. Trout’s WBA light middleweight title is on the line, though it’s a sidenote to the real sweepstakes. Whoever wins the fight is probably Option A for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, or maybe even Floyd Mayweather. Granted, Cotto doesn’t need the win to make a fight with whoever he wants—he can do that on name value alone—but a loss would make it a lot less appealing to the casual audience that knows him.
With the connecting lines drawn, let’s take a look at both big fights this weekend…
Miguel Cotto vs. Austin Trout, WBA light middleweight championship
It goes without saying that Cotto has the edge in experience, accomplishments, quality of opposition and every resume bullet point to make one believe that he should walk through Trout on Saturday night.
Then again, if you look at tangible skills—size, reach, speed—Trout seems like a marvel in comparison to his opponent.
Boxing isn’t that cut and dry though, and that’s why this fight is intriguing.
It’s clear that Las Vegas has a hankering for some Trout, as the lines are currently very narrow considering his aforementioned lack of experience and recognition. Most sportsbooks have Cotto slated as a 2.5-1 favorite, which in the realm of boxing is about as close to a pick ’em as you’re going to get.
There’s no way of knowing how Trout will handle the massive step up in competition he’s going to be faced with, but he seems to have the tools to deal with it. Whether he can take a punch or not is a riddle that’s never had to be solved, and may not be an issue against a small junior middleweight anyway.
Similarly, there’s no way of knowing how Cotto will handle his first true junior middleweight with two legs on Saturday either. This could be a scenario similar to Erik Morales’ leap up to lightweight when he was just slightly too small and shopworn to handle guys like Zahir Raheem and David Diaz who, based on experience and ability, he should have beaten.
As mentioned, the winner becomes the immediate frontrunner to face Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. In Cotto’s case, he can make big money anyway. For Trout, that’s a life-changing scenario.
Tyson Fury vs Kevin Johnson, WBC Heavyweight title eliminator
There may be no two better trash talkers in the heavyweight division—or any division, for that matter—than Fury and Johnson, as evidenced by this hilarious press conference.
The carrot dangling in Belfast on Saturday is Vitali Klitschko, the WBC heavyweight champion. As far as what Johnson has in the way of tools to deal with Vitali—if he has any, he sure didn’t take them out of the box when they fought in 2009.
As for Fury, if any relevant heavyweight has what it takes to hang with a Klitschko brother, it’s him. He’s as big as either brother, can punch, and has recently whipped himself into very good shape. One can also argue that of any prospective opponent on the market right now, Fury would also be the most profitable, as a true draw and recognizable figure in the United Kingdom.
Johnson has a history of complacency in the ring, a habit that saw him drop the Prizefighter final to Tor Hamer in a very winnable fight. If he hangs around and tries to play defense while throwing 15 punches a round, he just won’t win a decision in Ireland.
However, Fury has been sent to the canvas by fighters far less talented than “Kingpin” (Neven Pajkic), so you can never call him a lock. But therein lies the intrigue when it comes to Fury.
That aura of vulnerability and the possibility of explosion is present in all of his fights.