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Cotto, Algieri get benefit of many doubts

Miguel Cotto landed punches early and often against favored Sergio Martinez in their middleweight title bout June 7.
Miguel Cotto landed punches early and often against favored Sergio Martinez in their middleweight title bout June 7.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The scoring issues in Chris Algieri’s upset of WBO super lightweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov on HBO Saturday have inspired enough spirited debate to overshadow a more important issue that was the No. 1 reason to tune in: How significant was Miguel Cotto’s upset of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez the previous Saturday?

Considering that some are conferring mythical status upon Cotto’s victory, and considering that there have been several predictions that Algieri earned himself a shot at Manny Pacquiao with his victory, it’s time to set some facts straight, even though we can’t end the scoring debate.

For those of us who didn’t buy the pay-per-view telecast, Saturday’s replay preceding Algieri-Provodnikov was anti-climactic. We went in knowing Cotto scored three first-round knockdowns, that Martinez’s knee problems were a factor from the first knockdown on, if not before, and that the taller champion never was effective enough to win more than a round or two.

Some are proclaiming Cotto’s return to top-10 pound-for-pound status, and there’s no doubt trainer Freddie Roach fashioned a game plan for Cotto that might have beaten Martinez at his best, but it was clear from the first time that Cotto beat him to the punch that Martinez, 39, was no longer at his best.

Canelo Alvarez vs. Cotto becomes a marketable fight in the aftermath, and there are a lot of people this week saying Cotto would win, but the reverse would be true from the first instance Canelo beats Cotto to the punch.

Beating Provodnikov to the punch from the outset, Algieri nevertheless had trouble with Provodnikov’s counter punches during the first two rounds of their 140-pound event. A spectacular hook simultaneously knocked Algieri to the mat and rendered his right eye useless late in the first round. He soon took a knee for a second knockdown.

But Algieri (20-0, 8 knockouts), tall and slick but not powerful, continued to press the action and set up power shots with his jab, though Provodnikov made him pay frequently in the second round and occasionally in most rounds thereafter. I thought Algieri won the third and fourth rounds, and four other rounds in the bout, so I had Provodnikov winning on the strength of two knockdowns in an otherwise-even fight.

No one else thinks it was even. One contingent maintains that Provodnikov consistently landed more telling blows and that Algieri’s pitty-pat attack was no way to wrest a title. The other contingent maintains that Algieri boxed rings around Provodnikov, dictated most of the action, and was so much busier that he won eight rounds.

One judge agreed with the former opinion, as did HBO scorer Steve Weisfeld, and had it 117-109 Provodnikov. The other two officials agreed with the Algieri contingent, giving him eight rounds (114-112).

So how much should power matter in scoring? As Weisfeld said, there seems to be no consensus. It parses a bit like America’s red-blue divide. But there’s room for a centrist viewpoint. In the Algieri-Provodnikov fight, Algieri did enough to win some rounds but not others. These judgments need to be made both case by case and round by round.

What’s certain is that Algieri’s performance makes him the 140-pound version of Chris Byrd, the light-hitting heavyweight who was difficult to outpoint, especially for one-dimensional sluggers.

It’s hard to believe promoter Bob Arum would bank on Algieri off the one fight. Nobody wants to see an anemic attack against Pacquaio.

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