Saturday's fight between Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey pits two boxers at the height of their professional careers, in their physical prime and with a whole lot to lose.
Throw in a legendary venue (Madison Square Garden) and two wildly popular fighters (Clottey was born in Ghana but resides in the Bronx, while Cotto has a very loyal and boisterous Puerto Rican following) and the stage is set for a world-class event.
Here are five key areas in which to compare both fighters.
1. Punching power
The numbers tell the story: Cotto boasts an astonishing 80 percent KO rate, while Clottey has stopped 50 percent of his opponents. Both are known as pressure fighters who depend on the continuity of their punching output and the accumulation of punches to inflict damage, but if one of them has enough power to end a fight with a single decisive punch, it's Cotto.
Clottey hasn't missed a step while moving up in weight. Cotto, on the other hand, has lost some of his zip as he has added poundage, but his sneaky left hook is still lightning-quick. Cotto will be surprised to see Clottey's hands landing on him at a faster-than-expected rate.
Cotto has traded bombs with some of the hardest hitters in his weight class, including DeMarcus Corley, Randall Bailey, Carlos Quintana and Shane Mosley. Clottey is no slouch himself; he has taken solid shots from Zab Judah, Diego Corrales and Antonio Margarito. Still, Cotto has proved time and again that he can trade with the best of them and almost always come out on top.
Cotto's greater KO ratio implies that he has gone the distance in fewer occasions, but that does not imply that he is not ready to fight from bell to bell. Clottey has reached the distance in a greater number of fights, but that does not mean that he will be able to achieve that against a grinder like Cotto. Both fighters are known to be well prepared and in top physical shape in every one of their fights, but one thing is clear: Cotto likes to go all out from the get-go, trying to score KOs as early as possible, while Clottey is more comfortable as a fourth-quarter type of guy, always patient and willing to step it down a notch to take a few shots and wait for errors to capitalize on. The number of punches thrown and received by both fighters at the end of the sixth or seventh round will determine the pace of the final rounds and ultimately the outcome of the fight.
Cotto and Clottey share a peculiar characteristic (aside from the initial C's and the double T's in their surnames): They have both been defeated by Antonio Margarito in world title fights. In any other circumstance, this would serve as a good measuring stick, denoting in this particular case a shared weakness or the notion that there's one particular style that neither Cotto nor Clottey was able to figure out. If their conqueror had been any other fighter, that may have been the case. But given the suspicions that still hang over Margarito after he was suspended for using illegal matter inside his gloves, we might very well consider both fighters "morally undefeated" (Clottey's first defeat was a DQ), in which case it can be said that one of them might walk out of the ring Saturday with the first serious defeat on his résumé.
Since Cotto is the younger and more promising fighter of the pair, and given my evaluation of both of their performances against Margarito in spite of the "hardships at hand" during that fight, I believe Cotto brings the edge in terms of intangibles into the ring against Clottey.
Prediction: Cotto should come out on top against Clottey, be it by close decision or by late technical stoppage.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPN Deportes.