Brilliant Mayweather beats Cotto, I face facts

May 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport by pacejmiller

I finally got a chance to watch the Mayweather-Cotto bout fought last night in Las Vegas.

Just the day before, when previewing the fight, despite admitting that Floyd Mayweather Jr had all the advantages, I decided to go out on a limb and pick Miguel Cotto to score a stunning upset. Part of it is because Mayweather is 35 and is going to prison in less than a month. But subconsciously, it may have simply been because I wanted Mayweather to lose his perfect now-43 and 0 record.

And now, after Mayweather defeated Cotto in a unanimous victory (117-111, 117-111, 118-110), I have to give the man props and eat crow. Quite simply, Mayweather was sensational, and together with the game but outclassed Cotto, put together the most exciting fight of his illustrious career — which hasn’t always had a lot of action.

Watching the fight after already having read the fight recaps was a strange experience because it turned out slightly different to what I had expected. I thought Cotto would come out strong and fade in the later rounds, but it was Mayweather who came out on the offensive, being, surprisingly, the more aggressive fighter in peppering Cotto with jabs and right hands. After the first three rounds I wondered how Cotto would be able to get back into it, given that Mayweather was clearly faster, sharper and more accurate with all his punches.

But to Cotto’s effort — the dude is a flat out warrior — he fought back like a champion, busting up Mayweather’s nose and making him bleed profusely from the nostrils and mouth for the majority of the second half of the fight. It was the first time I had seen so much blood on Mayweather’s face. I’m not sure if it was a strategic decision by Mayweather to make the fight more exciting by often exchanging with Cotto in the corners (and if so, good on him), but the fact is Mayweather took Cotto’s best shots and dished back his own, and then some.

The difference between the two fighters was clear. Cotto was more plodding, looking to trap Mayweather against the ropes and the corners where he could unleash furious body blows and powerful head shots. The problem was, even when he got Mayweather where he wanted he still couldn’t do significant damage — for the most part — due to the incredible defensive reflexes and that famous shoulder roll of his opponent.

On the other hand, Mayweather simply controlled distance and pace like a masterful technician. Hate the man as much as you want for being an arrogant show-off, a wife-beater or a racist, but watching him fight last night was an absolute pleasure. He was always moving to a distance that suited his offense, which allowed him to get off first with his lightning quick hands. When Cotto closed the gap, he either opened it up again or closed it up even more so that Cotto couldn’t get off his own shots. When Cotto appeared to be getting the other hand with his relentless pressure, Mayweather just used his arms to tie up Cotto’s gloves. And later on in the fight, Mayweather adjusted and found a new weapon — the left uppercut — that became his most effective weapon down the stretch. He was just flat out better.

Let’s not forget Cotto here because his effort ensured that we were able to see Mayweather at his best — Money himself admitted afterwards, with rare marks on his face, that Cotto was the toughest guy he had ever fought. I had the fight a little closer than the judges in the end with a 8-4 scorecard (116-112), but there was no doubt Mayweather had won it convincingly. There was no feeling that Mayweather would have faded had the fight continued either. In fact, round 12 was probably Mayweather’s best round, in which he rocked Cotto with several vicious left uppercuts and right hands.

Cotto left the ring before interviews, and Mayweather, as usual, was back to his irritating self, basically ignoring all of Larry Merchant’s questions to say only what he wanted to say. Needless to say, Manny Pacquiao’s name came up and it was the usual excuses, showing that there’s almost no point in expecting something to happen at this point.

But that’s still not going to stop people from fantasising about what might happen if they do eventually meet in the ring. And despite years of having believed that Pacquiao has the tools to beat Mayweather, after this fight and Pacquiao’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, maybe I’m not so sure any more.

Supporters from either side are going to point to their common opponents as evidence that their guy will win. Pacquiao beat Oscar de lay Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and now Miguel Cotto with more ease and in more dominating fashion (though it is impossible to overlook that they fought at different weights — especially Cotto, who weighed 154 for Mayweather and just 145 against Pacquiao; and the popular argument that Mayweather had softened them up first). Mayweather, on the other hand beat Marquez, a guy many believe bested Pacquiao one or two or maybe even three times, with utmost ease (though that was at a catch weight too ).

Previously, I believed that Pacquiao’s relentless activity, punching power and endless stamina would eventually wear down Mayweather en route to a points win. But I realised that was an oversimplification of the facts. It’s not that Mayweather doesn’t like to throw — he showed against Cotto that he can be a very active offensive fighter himself, landing 179 of 687 punches compared to 105 of 506 from Cotto — it’s just that he prefers to just do enough to win. That’s why Mayweather hasn’t been as impressive as Pacquiao in beating up some of their common opponents.

I was also wrong about Mayweather’s inability to throw combinations. Before this fight I thought he had become more of a pot shot puncher who threw only one or two punches at a time. But against Cotto, he was tearing it up with sick combinations from all angles. These combinations were different to Pacquiao’s, which tend to be quicker but wilder; Mayweather’s combinations were more methodical, not in rapid Pacquiao-like succession but each one was snappy and dead on the mark , and arguably, even more effective.

If the two were to match up now, you’d have to pick Mayweather, with his bigger size, longer reach and superior defense, as the favourite. As much as I like Pacquiao and want him to win, it’s time to face the reality of the situation.

But does that mean Pacquiao is sure to lose? I don’t think so either. After having watched Cotto land a few on Mayweather despite his orthodox style and plodding speed, I still believe Pacquiao has the best chance of beating Mayweather than anyone else on the planet. If Cotto could land some effective punches throughout the fight, then surely Pacquiao, with his blazing speed and footwork, could as well — and with greater snap and power. Pacquiao is also less likely to fade, as Cotto did a little when he put together a string of three solid rounds from around the mid-point of the fight. However, what I see as Pacquiao’s greatest advantages are his southpaw stance (kryptonite against the shoulder roll) and his bizarre punching angles and timing, which could catch Mayweather off guard. That said, Mayweather is better than adjusting mid-fight than anyone else in boxing, so perhaps that’s not saying much either.

What is maybe more worrying for Pacquiao now is Mayweather’s offense. We all know Pacquiao can get a little out of control at times, and against Mayweather, the ultimate counter puncher, he will surely pay for it. It might depend on how disciplined Pacquiao can be, because we know he’s going to be pissed off. I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mayweather might have become more of a favourite after the Cotto fight, but Pacquiao may also have a bigger chance of winning than he had before. Does that even make sense?

At the end of the day, there are going to be people from both camps who are going to defend their guy no matter what. Right now Mayweather seems to have the upper hand, but who knows if that will change if Pacquiao comes out and blasts Tim Bradley away on June 9.

So all of this back and forth banter between the two sides is rather pointless because no one will really know for sure until these two get it on. Unfortunately, right now it looks as unlikely as ever.