THE GOODBYE LOOK: Miguel Cotto-Floyd Mayweather Jr. Preview


“You’re the good good guys. We’re the bad good guys.” Whitey Bulger


Floyd Mayweather, Jr., squeezes in another Powerball-sized paycheck before he heads off for a short bid at the Clark County Detention Center when he faces veteran Miguel Cotto tomorrow night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Will Mayweather look back in anger when the cell doors close behind him? Or will he be ready, as usual, with a knowing wink for all four admiring walls?

No matter. For now, he still has a pretty fair piece of business to take care of before his next act. After months of hoopla and multi-part HTML sagas written in the worst blogese imaginable, the master of negative appeal finally gets into the ring to do what, after all, he ought to be most famous for in the first place: fist-fighting.

Coast-to-coast “Ring Kings” junkets—complete with prop thrones not fit for a treehouse production of Macbeth—kicked off overkill coverage the likes of which is usually reserved for Lindsay Lohan. For the E! Online, Gawker, OMG! crowd tired of blinking at blinkering posts about Octomom, Drag Race Superstars, and Kourtney, hot Kim, and Khloë (with an umlaut), there is Floyd Mayweather Jr. to give the sporting crowd its ADD fix. These days who needs the antiquated ballyhoo of P.T. Barnum, Doc Kearns, or even Bob Arum circa 1974, when he let Evel Knievel shoot himself across Snake River Canyon in a haywire rocket ship far less stylish than Space Capsule X?

It goes without saying, of course, that Mayweather generates a disproportionate amount of media coverage. Never mind the fact that probably somewhere around 6 million people in the U.S. saw Mayweather bushwhack peaceable Victor Ortiz last September. Compare that, say, to the night Ken Norton faced Duane Bobick on NBC in 1977. This fight, aired on a Wednesday evening in prime-time, earned a 42% audience share and was estimated to have been viewed by 48 million people. (Source: International Boxing, October 1977). Well, it is probably unfair to compare Mayweather with Norton—or even Bobick, for that matter—but if we want to pretend that more than a few million people care about “Money,” we have to keep listening to penny-click addicts and websites obsessed with celebrity cellulite and tanorexia. Hell, it takes a lot of hard work to hit the Alexa G-Spot.

And, between Face Off, Floyd Mayweather Speaking Out, 24/7, a live weigh-in, and 1 hour of prefight coverage, HBO has done more than its share to create the illusion that Mayweather is some sort of cultural touchstone. There is something cynical about all this in-house hype. Think about it: You pay X dollars a month for a premium network and are forced to sit through hours of infomercials designed to get you to buy extracurricular programming. It suggests one of these quarterly PBS or NPR pledge drives, except the motivation is far more calculating. Why Time Warner would hitch itself to a star recently convicted of domestic violence and on his way to doing points in a jail cell instead of scoring points in the ring is another puzzle altogether. It is one thing to produce Mayweather pay-per-view outings, but another thing to make a convicted criminal some sort of network flagship week after week. One can only assume that branding is important…until branding is no longer important.

Like most fights, Mayweather-Cotto has to undergo a “Ruse or Reality?” test to determine its competitive merits. Does Cotto really have a chance against Mayweather, or is this just another celebrity boxing match?

Miguel Cotto, 37-2 (30), has become the third biggest attraction in the United States by being the exact opposite of Mayweather: quiet, low-key, industrious, and always willing to reach for the big fights. A stone cold pro, it was Cotto who fought all the hard cases at welterweight when Mayweather seemed reluctant to do so over the years: Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, and Manny Pacquiao. Cotto would have faced Mayweather, too, but somehow—cue the Theremin—that fight never materialized. And Cotto, Caguas, Puerto Rico, was willing to fight Oscar De La Hoya, as well, but the tarnished “Golden Boy” offered perhaps the lamest excuse in history for avoiding another fighter. It went something like this: “My wife is Puerto Rican, and I promised my wife I would never fight another Puerto Rican.” That was one vow to his wife De La Hoya actually managed to keep.

Now, at 31, Cotto gets the biggest fight of his career and, with it, a whopping $8 million guarantee. And Cotto deserves the payday, since Mayweather will be the first live opponent Cotto has faced in over two years. After all, since being broken down by Manny Pacquiao in 2009, Cotto has faced a smoke and mirror gauntlet conjured up by the abracadabrant Bob Arum. First, it was budding rabbi-cum-track-and-field-aspirant Yuri Foreman; then came the human piñata to the stars, Ricardo Mayorga; and, finally, ramshackle Antonio Margarito, who squared off against Cotto last year with an eye that threatened to pop out of its socket from the moment he entered the ring.

A charmed life inside the ring—if a rather charmless one outside of it—has left Mayweather a physically well-preserved 35. Even past his peak, Mayweather, poised, intelligent, disciplined, remains a master technician, with moves as precise as those of a watchmaker. Slightly less mobile than he used to be—and far more judicious with his punches—Mayweather still has the tools to beat a fading veteran. Cotto has slowed down visibly over the last few years. He no longer switch-hits, no longer digs left hooks to the body, and no longer defends consistently against right hands.

Against Mayweather, Cotto will likely box more, moving from side-to-side on the outside, similar to what he did against Margarito last December. But, these days, Margarito moves like a wino through a peat bog. But a distance fight is probably the best way for Cotto to neutralize that lead right Mayweather relies on so much. If Mayweather, Las Vegas, Nevada, gets Cotto to open up in close, he should be able to score heavily, since Cotto remains mediocre defensively.

In the end, Mayweather, 42-0 (26), simply has too many edges going into this fight. Mayweather is still faster than Cotto, still a better boxer than Cotto, and still more defensively sound than Cotto. Perhaps the only variable going into this fight is the 154-pound weight limit. Mayweather, moving up from welterweight, did not perform particularly well the last time he fought there in 2007, when Mayweather scored his defining but dull win over Oscar De La Hoya. (Despite the difference in weight, Mayweather still retains edges in height and reach over Cotto.) Add 10-ounce gloves and you have the possibility of a less effective Mayweather in the ring tomorrow night. This is a possibility, yes, but a major factor? Maybe not. Look for Mayweather to score a unanimous decision or a possible late stoppage if Cotto breaks up as he has in the past.

With the win, Mayweather will have even more opportunities to compare himself to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali. And when Mayweather is released from the Clark County Detention Center a few months from now, he will no doubt have something to look forward to as soon as he steps onto South Casino Center Boulevard: TMZ, maybe, or a carload of paparazzi.






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Tags: Floyd Mayweather Floyd Mayweather Jr. Miguel Cotto

  • HitDog

    Sequence is off here (Foreman, then Mayorga) but a smoldering piece all the same.

  • jet79

    Hi CA, 
    First, kudos for finding a way to make reading about this fight enjoyable. I thought it was a mismatch when it was signed, and nothing’s changed to make me think otherwise, but you opening paragraphs draw attention to some interesting issues. So much lipstick on this pig.
    I thought Cotto should’ve retired after the Margarito fight – nothing left to prove, anything worth accomplishing being beyond his ability. But if he’s going to fight on (hopefully one last time) I’m glad he’s getting compensated handsomely. 
    I also wanted to crap on Mayweather for taking such a soft touch, but ultimately the fight makes sense: Cotto’s a big name, so it’s a passable event, and Martinez – Mayweather isn’t ever going to happen. 
    Still, I can’t get excited about this one. It took you one paragraph to thoroughly examine how the fight might play out. Cotto’s my favourite fighter, and I won’t enjoy watching him choose how he loses after 6 minutes of action. 
    But I’ll watch nonetheless. And lubricate my irrationality enough to think there’s always a chance. 

  • thenonpareil

    Thanks, JD….It’s hard to concentrate when thinking about Kim Kardashian….

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey CA,
    I take glee in any and every clever dig at DLH, but “that was one vow to his wife De La Hoya actually managed to keep” was particularly well done. 
    I haven’t watched a second of the 24/7s, and have my thumb on the ‘recall’ button in case one of those lame commercials comes on, but I’ll check the fight in the faint hope Cotto makes it interesting.  Cotto’s jab is the strongest one Floyd’s seen since DLH, so there’s that, I guess.  Otherwise, it looks like a mismatch.

  • dennis wise

    Great preview.  I think Cotto gets some things accomplished early before the wheels come off.  I do think even a shopworn Cotto is the best offensive fighter Mayweather has seen in a long time, and I’d like to believe that Diaz may have Cotto performing better than we think is possible.  But as you say his defense is mediocre (at best) and he marks up awfully easily. 
    Carlos, if Mayweather didn’t “retire” after Hatton, and fought Cotto next, how do you think that fight would have gone down?

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT,
    thanks much, man.  I like to put lipstick on pigs, actually! 
    I agree, there is definitely no denying the sense this fight makes from the fight racket (business) perspective.   On the other hand, it’s sort of funny to see–literally–thousands of breathless articles written about what some consider a mismatch.  To me, a steady pro like Cotto is never going to be in a mismatch (unless he’s completely shot) but this is as close as it gets.  I think his general know-how will get him by early, but Mayweather will close in on him in a few rounds. 
    I just hope it’s a good show and, of course, if the improbable upset happens, I’ll probably spill my biscuits.  Whatever that means. 

  • thenonpareil

     @Michael Nelson 
    Hi MN,
    anytime I can get a good dig in at ODLH, I’m happy. 
    I’ll tell you something strange:  Yesterday I turned on the TV three times and switched to an HBO channel and each time, Mayweather was on!  Including a whole three-hour block from about 2 a.m. on, which I watched because “Ancient Aliens” was a repeat. 
    You’re right, Cotto does have a pretty good jab, and he doesn’t just lead with it.  Sometimes he likes to counter with it; that might get Mayweather thinking in there for a round or two.  But I see Mayweather dropping rights over it eventually.   Still, maybe Cotto can make it interesting for a while.  That’s what I hope for, anyway, and a guy can dream, can’t he?

  • thenonpareil

     @dennis wise Hi Dennis,
    thanks, man.  I agree, maybe Cotto has his moments early.  I have a feeling he’ll be moving a lot, which will diminish his offense somewhat.  Trading with Mayweather leaves Cotto open–especially when he throws some of his arcing hooks–and Mayweather is too accurate for Cotto to get away with more than a few mistakes.  My biggest issue here is that I’m not sure Cotto hits hard enough at 154 to make Mayweather honest.  If you take away that one-punch capability, then it’s really hard for me to see Cotto winning. 
    That’s an interesting scenario–Cotto versus Mayweather in 2007.  I’d have to say that Mayweather was always superior in every category when they were both closer to their primes.  Cotto might have tried harder back then to get close and work the body, but Mayweather would’ve have taken him apart with quick counters.  If Judah, Torres, and Corley could get to Cotto, I think Mayweather could have as well.  On the other hand, I think Cotto might have been a more thudding puncher at 147–especially that wicked left hook to the body that has disappeared recently–and that might have forced Mayweather to be much more cautious.  I think he would have been content to potshot and win a tepid decision.  
    I like Cotto a lot, but I think Mayweather is just a better all-around fighter, one with few weaknesses. Maybe if Cotto pulled a Jose Luis Castillo imitation, it could have been close, but Castillo was a little sturdier, I think, than Cotto was and he was a devastating puncher.  Too bad Cotto-Mayweather is a few years too late, but that’s boxing for you. 

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hi Carlos,
    I’ll be watching tonight, but with limited enthusiasm.  Agree with your take… Cotto’s best days are more than a few years in the past, and I don’t think the current version can offer up anything to worry Mayweather.  Cotto as his best probably wouldn’t have won more than a few rounds either, but at least that guy would have brought a bit of menace into the ring – especially early, when he might have have been able to test Mayweather with some hard hooks downstairs.
    Throw in the dismal undercard, and it’s hardly an evening to get excited about.