What a difference four months makes. In December of 2011, when Miguel Cotto faced off against Antonio Margarito many thought it would be Cotto’s last stand. But Cotto turned in a virtuoso performance by outsmarting (entering the ring to a custom recording of “El Hormiguero” by Calle 13 blasting Margarito as a criminal was a genius BTW) and out boxing Margarito over 10 rounds. The victory made Cotto relevant again. After Floyd Mayweather, once again, failed to set up a fight with Manny Pacquiao – no surprise there – he was in need of an opponent for his May 5th slot at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Enter Miguel Cotto.
First let’s be clear. This is not the fight the public has been clamoring to see. But don’t sleep people – it’s still a quality match with the potential to be an exciting night. Although Mayweather has been unusually respectful and devoid of drama in pre-fight promotion, he’s still touting the mantra that 42 opponents have tried, and failed, to defeat him. The biggest question leading into the bout is whether Cotto will be number 43 or maybe be number one – as in the first to defeat Mayweather. Many predict a Mayweather victory; but don’t be surprised if Cotto pulls off an upset, or at the very least, puts Mayweather in some troubling places as both face certain advantages and disadvantages going into the fight.
Points: Cotto’s power, a proper strategy and confidence give him a shot. He’s a power boxer who will remain at his natural weight. Mayweather on the other hand is the smaller man, moving up in weight for the bout. In addition, Cotto is likely the strongest fighter Mayweather has ever faced, which gives him an interesting advantage. As for strategy, Cotto would be wise to watch the Zab Judah and Oscar De La Hoya fights. Both opponents experienced a degree of success against Mayweather by working behind a strong jab, a tactic that gave Mayweather fits. Finally, Cotto has built some momentum going into this bout. He has won all his fights since the loss to Pacquiao, most notably exorcising the demons of his defeat against Margarito. Many question the legitimacy of these wins which were against opponents that were past their prime, but whether its resurgence or a mirage, Cotto credits it for returning his confidence and swag. This will be key for him on fight night, as he is sure to lose a few rounds. When that happens he’ll need to soldier on and have the confidence to make necessary adjustments to deal with Mayweather.
Deductions: Money May is probably the most technically proficient fighter Cotto has ever faced. His hand and foot speed will cause Cotto fits of his own and it will be interesting to see how he handles this.
Intangibles: Call us superstitious, but Cotto will be back in Las Vegas, Mayweather’s backyard and a city that has never been kind to the Boricua. You may recall it’s the scene of his only two defeats (Margarito and Pacquiao). How will he deal without the home field advantage?
Points: For Mayweather, it’s his superior speed, defense and ability to figure out an opponent during the early rounds and tailor a strategy to out box them. He will need to have sharp defense to withstand Cotto’s power. However, if he utilizes his boxing and counterpunching ability he should be successful.
Deductions: That being said Mayweather’s got some of his own issues to deal with. He is moving up in weight and people generally don’t get faster when they get heavier. Facing a naturally bigger opponent calls into question whether he can withstand Cotto’s power. What will happen when Cotto lands a solid shot?
Intangibles: The big house is waiting, namely in the form of a 90-day jail stint he will serve shortly after the fight. The specter of heading to the clink would weigh on anyone. How is he dealing with it? Is it a distraction as he prepares for the bout?
Insiders believe that Mayweather will win a close, but unanimous decision. Conventional wisdom believes Mayweather will figure out Cotto after a few rounds, make the necessary adjustments and cruise to victory. That being said many of these same insiders were singing a similar tune of defeat for Cotto back in December. The mere fact that we are debating this again means that Cotto may be, just maybe, number one.
Cotto Mayweather face-off- ©Gene Blevins/LA Daily News/Corbis