IF it wasn’t for the hype around Mayweather vs Pacquiao, the much anticipated clash between Miguel Cotto and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez would be the biggest fight of the year by far. Boxing purists are probably more excited for this middleweight clash than the proclaimed ‘Fight of the century‘.

It’s not just a match up of the two best middleweights in the world, its Puerto Rico vs Mexico with the winner possibly lining up a fight against the highly rated Gennady Golovkin.

In keeping with our tradition of analysing training practices for super fights, here’s our take on what we’ve seen so far in the build up for Cotto vs Canelo…

Battle of the Hooks

The preferred damage shot for both these guys is the hook. But why is it so effective? A good hook shot is thrown well within the mid-range, and connects before full elbow extension. We showed you in the Science behind Golovkin that this type of action enables a boxer to capitalise on the mechanics of muscle function to create force both during the punch and then on impact. A scientific study published in 2011 by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University demonstrated that both lead hooks and reverse hooks generated much faster peak hand speed than jabs or crosses. This probably occurs because hooks require more rotation from the core and a greater contribution of force from the lower body.

Quite simply, if you can generate more lower-body and rotational forces, like required for the hook technique, you’ll be able to generate more hand speed and transfer that momentum to your target. This increases your chance of connecting with a big shot.

Age difference

The mean average age of an Olympian across all sports at London 2012 was 26 years old. In amateur boxing it was 24 years. Does this point to anything at all when we consider the 10 year age gap between Cotto (35 years) and Canelo (25 years)?

A lot is made of athletes being over the hill by the time they reach 30. But physiologically there’s probably not much difference, all things being equal.

Where we might see older athletes competing less well is probably due to a complex interaction of past injuries (that limit effective movement) or reasons for decreased motivation (due to years of mundane training camps). Canelo has already had a fair share of injury worries, including a persistent ankle injury and Cotto has struggled with hisshoulder.

So those that point to the age difference playing a factor in this contest really need to look deeper into the training and injury history of both boxers. Age alone will not be a discriminating factor in this contest.

Danny Wilson is a strength and conditioning coach at Sheffield Hallam University and the co-founder of www.boxingscience.co.uk