Cotto-Judah: Keys to victory

Kevin Iole

NEW YORK – Miguel Cotto, the WBA welterweight champion, is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top fighters in the sport. He defends his belt Saturday in Madison Square Garden against former undisputed champion Zab Judah. Here are what each man must do to come out on top:

Cotto's keys
Judah's keys
1. Start quickly. Cotto is a notoriously slow starter, while Judah almost always begins fast. Judah hasn't won a fight in more than two years and Cotto can't afford to let him build confidence by getting ahead early. 1. Punch in combination. Judah has the faster hands and has to use them. Cotto has been hurt and a quick-handed fighter like Judah has the potential to put Cotto in trouble.

2. Work the body. Judah slowed noticeably in his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year after Mayweather landed a series of hard body shots. Cotto is one of the game's best body punchers and needs to go downstairs early and often. 2. Put Cotto on defense. Cotto is an offensive fighter, so Judah should make him play defense. If he throws a lot of punches from a lot of angles, he'll disrupt Cotto's attack.

3. Avoid clinches. Judah will look for clinches to try to get a break. Cotto should fight his way out of the clinch and not let Judah get rest. 3. Throw the left down the middle. Judah's straight left is good when he uses it. Cotto can tend to throw wide shots, leaving an opening down the middle for a hard, fast left from Judah.

4. Cut off the ring. Cotto can't let Judah roam freely around the ring. He has to cut off his escape routs and make him fight in a confined area. 4. Change directions frequently. Judah knows he'll need to move, but he can't afford to fall into predictable patterns that will let Cotto be able to corner him or pin him on the ropes.

Rating the fighters

Comparison of Miguel Cotto and Zab Judah on a rating of 1 to 10 in several categories:

Punching power 8 7 Cotto breaks opponents down with thudding shots to the body.
Jab 6 7 Judah has a tendency to get lazy with the jab, which he can’t afford to do.
Body attack 10 6 This is Cotto’s strength.
Speed and quickness 5 9 Judah’s speed and quickness gave Floyd Mayweather Jr. problems early.
Defense 7 7 Neither has been compared to Willie Pep.
Chin 7 7 Kostya Tszyu once knocked Judah out; Cotto has been down.
Stamina 8 6 Cotto’s energy has been appreciably better since he moved to welterweight.
Ring smarts 8 6 Cotto has shown an ability to adjust when needed.
Corner 6 6 Both men use family members: Cotto’s uncle, Evangelista, and Judah’s father, Yoel.
Intangibles 10 4 The crowd will be heavily pro-Cotto and Judah hasn’t won in more than two years.

Total 75 65 Judah’s a dangerous opponent early, but look for Cotto to come on late to retain the belt.