If Miguel Cotto's fight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is anywhere near as difficult as the negotiations to get them in the ring together, boxing fans are in for a treat this fall.
After months of strenuous posturing and painstaking discussions, Cotto and Alvarez appeared together in Hollywood on Monday to formally announce their WBC middleweight title bout, set for Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The fight pits two of the sport's biggest names in a long-awaited chapter of Puerto Rico's long-standing boxing rivalry with Mexico. They have circled each other for years, and the negotiations dragged on for so long that both boxers took other fights earlier this year.
But both fighters are grateful the contracts are finally signed for a landmark night.
"Like any big fight, the negotiations are going to be hard," Alvarez said through a translator. "But I'm honored to fight a guy with his accomplishments. This is a big step in my career."
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Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) had a predictably large fan contingent behind him during their public appearance in Hollywood, and the 25-year-old Mexican star is favored by most oddsmakers against the 34-year-old Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs).
Alvarez's fans booed Cotto and his camp repeatedly during their news conference. They even jeered beloved trainer Freddie Roach when he predicted Cotto will win by a knockout.
"I don't know what people say about the fight, and I don't care," Cotto said. "I focus on myself, on my training camp. Nothing else matters."
Tickets go on sale Tuesday morning, but they will be brutally scarce for the smallish Mandalay Bay arena, which doesn't hold nearly as many fans as the MGM Grand Garden, Madison Square Garden, an outdoor Texas stadium or any other location seriously considered for this bout. Alvarez's camp wanted the fight in Texas, where Alvarez drew 31,588 Houston fans to watch his stoppage of James Kirkland earlier this year.
Alvarez's camp was careful not to assign too much public blame for the torturous negotiations to Cotto, a famously deliberate decision-maker, and his new promoters at Roc Nation Sports.
"Let's put it this way — it was quite interesting, the negotiation," said Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez's promoter at Golden Boy. "But it was fun, because we all wanted the same thing. This is one of the most anticipated matchups in several years, so we all had one goal, and we eventually got there."
Cotto's promoters say he'll be fighting for the biggest purse of a decorated career that includes world titles in four weight classes, a first for a Puerto Rican fighter. He became the WBC's middleweight champion in June 2014 by beating Sergio Martinez, but is undersized for the weight class.
Alvarez also has never fought as a true middleweight, and they'll fight each other at a 155-pound catch weight, barely above the super welterweight limit.
Cotto has revitalized his career under Roach, who cut down on Cotto's heavy cardio work and focused him on workouts designed to keep him fresh.
"Negotiations were tough because you've got two fighters who want to be the 'A' side," Roach said. "We've got the title, and he's got plenty of things on his side. It was a hard negotiation to get through, because everybody wants an edge."
Still, Roach said he is thrilled the deal got made because "this is the fight I wanted really bad, that I've been dreaming about for Miguel." Roach is confident Cotto's toughness and veteran skill, coupled with the trainer's game plan, will allow him to upset Alvarez, whose punching power has been too much for anyone except Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Cotto and Alvarez have both lost fights to Mayweather, and both would welcome a rematch with the pound-for-pound king of boxing in 2016. They also realize the WBC has ordered the winner of their bout to fight the winner of WBC interim middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin's October pay-per-view showdown with David Lemieux, or be stripped of the title they worked so hard to win.
"I'm only focused on this fight, on this day," Cotto said. "Everything after that does not matter. It's a big fight, but it's just another fight, and I'm going to be the winner."