Match will pit aggressive Miguel Cotto against fleet-footed Floyd Mayweather
Team Cotto says boxer has "blueprint" to hand Floyd Mayweather first loss
Former champ Roy Jones Jr. skeptical, says Cotto will have to change style
Mayweather uncharacteristically heaping praise on Cotto before fight
Miguel Cotto says he will beat Floyd Mayweather – “no doubt” – but don’t expect him to dance around the gym, making it rain and running his mouth about it.
It’s not how he rolls.
Unlike his opponent in Saturday’s WBA super-welterweight title fight, Cotto doesn’t resort to third-person, braggadocio-packed soliloquies when a reporter asks a question.
“I’m ready and prepared for anything he can bring to me the night of May 5,” Cotto said of Mayweather.
Period. That’s it. Cotto has trained his trunks off and all the Mayweather jawing in the world can’t get into his head.
“Those guys can’t penetrate our minds,” he said.
HBO, which is airing the fight on pay-per-view, has used its prefight coverage to paint the men as entirely different species ahead of their bout in Las Vegas. It’s Puerto Rican vs. African-American, inconspicuous vs. flamboyant, custom Freightliner vs. Rolls Royce, wife and kids vs. 50 Cent. And if not for a segment showing Mayweather running a 5K for charity and cutting a six-figure check to Habitat for Humanity, good vs. evil.
And let’s not forget their purses: A reported $8 million for Cotto and $35 million for the man appropriately known as Money.
Where Cotto says he doesn’t want to dictate how history remembers him, Mayweather demands to author his own legacy. When HBO’s third installment of the behind-the-scenes “24/7” aired last week, Mayweather tweeted that he didn’t like it, apologized to fans and called for HBO to replace the producer.
Even the fighters’ styles are at odds, with Cotto employing a more aggressive technique that can resemble brawling when his opponent forces it. Mayweather prefers to size up his opponent and rely on footwork, defense, counterpunching and Joe Louis-like accuracy.
Max Kellerman, a boxing analyst and commentator for HBO, which like CNN is owned by Time Warner, said their styles have evolved in recent years and he sees Mayweather today as a “consistent, thudding puncher” who relies less on the ropes and the ring’s perimeter and more on a high guard and his ability to “walk down” or pressure his opponent.
Cotto, on the other hand, is not the all-out brawler he’s sometimes made out to be. He’s a deft puncher and he’s aggressive, but don’t expect him to go blow for blow with Mayweather.
“He’s looking to inflict damage, but he’s not like a wild, face-first brawler,” Kellerman said.
Former four-division champ Roy Jones Jr. said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Mayweather chase Cotto around the ring. He said that if Cotto is to win against a smaller, quicker Mayweather, he is going to have to “change the game,” something he hasn’t seen Cotto do since his 2007 WBA welterweight title bout with “Sugar” Shane Mosley.
In that fight, Cotto used his jab to neutralize Mosley’s speed. He moved around a lot so Mosley couldn’t settle down, and he took a lot of punches (248, to be exact) to set up his own attack.
He’ll need to do the same with Mayweather to slow him down and change the fight’s rhythm. Cotto will also need to take some punches, something Jones isn’t sure he’s ready to do.
“They’re not the most devastating punches, but at the same time, (Cotto’s) still got to take them,” he said, adding with skepticism, “He’s not going to stay and take no punches to get his attack in.”
Reach: 67 inches
Birthplace: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Past titles: WBO light welterweight, WBA welterweight, WBO welterweight, WBA super welterweight champion
Current titles: WBA super welterweight super champion
Last five fights: Antonio Margarito (won in 10th), Ricardo Mayorga (won in 12th), Yuri Foreman (won in 9th), Manny Pacquiao (lost in 12th), Joshua Clottey (won by decision)
Jones was also concerned about some of the statements coming from Mayweather, a notorious prefight smack talker. In a recent appearance on Kellerman’s HBO show, Mayweather called Cotto “solid” and “one of the best fighters out there.” He went on to say he viewed Cotto as “an undefeated fighter.”
“You don’t hear him talk like that till after the fight,” Jones said, speculating that Mayweather may feel Cotto lacks confidence or can be easily outclassed. “That bothers me.”
Cotto has lost twice in his professional career, once against eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, in which Pacquiao made Cotto drop weight, and another against Antonio Margarito, who was suspended for a year after a subsequent fight against Mosley when officials found plaster in his hand wraps. Those circumstances are what prompted Mayweather’s remark that Cotto was undefeated.
Many in the boxing world, including Cotto and Jones, believe Margarito cheated when he fought Cotto the first time in 2008. Cotto, who defeated Margarito in last year’s rematch, said his evidence was simple: “All the swelling in my face in the first fight did not even compare with how good, how healthy I looked on December 3.”
Cotto himself blew off Mayweather’s “undefeated” remark, saying the losses made him a more mature fighter.
“If it weren’t for those defeats, I wouldn’t be this person,” he said.
The reigning WBA super-welterweight superchamp also dismissed comparisons of his and Mayweather’s performances against common opponents. The pair have each fought Mosley, Zab Judah, Victoriano Sosa, Justin Juuko and DeMarcus Corley.
They earned unanimous decisions against Mosley, and Cotto won by technical knockout in the other four fights. Mayweather knocked out only Juuko, winning by unanimous decision in the other three.
On their face, those outcomes would seem to favor Cotto, but the pugilist flatly stated, “Every fight’s different … The fighters we have in common doesn’t mean anything.” It’s an assertion with which Jones and Kellerman concurred.
Despite Mayweather being a heavy favorite, Cotto’s close friend and manager, Bryan Perez, told Fight Hype last month that Team Cotto had devised a “blueprint” for beating Mayweather and that he hadn’t seen Cotto this motivated in “many, many fights.”
Reach: 72 inches
Birthplace: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Past titles: WBC super featherweight, WBC lightweight, WBC light welterweight, IBF, welterweight, WBC welterweight, WBC super welterweight
Current titles: WBC welterweight
Last five fights: Victor Ortiz (won in fourth), Shane Mosley (won by decision), Juan Manuel Marquez (won by decision), Ricky Hatton (won in 10th), Oscar De la Hoya (won by decision)
“I trained a lot. I make my training the right training to beat Mayweather,” Cotto added Tuesday.
Cotto will need something special if he’s to hand Mayweather his first loss, Kellerman said. Unlike many champs before him, Mayweather never takes an opponent lightly, and “he has never shown up in less than top-notch condition.”
Despite the sideshows surrounding Mayweather, which include a domestic violence plea that will land him in jail for 90 days beginning next month, the Money Team’s mantra has always been “hard work and dedication,” and it pays off, Kellerman said.
The analyst pointed to the once-invincible Mike Tyson, who successfully defended his heavyweight title only nine times before James “Buster” Douglas, a 42-to-1 underdog, clocked him in the 10th round, leaving Iron Mike scrounging for his mouthpiece.
Former middleweight champ “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler said it best, according to Kellerman: “It isn’t easy to get up at 6:30 on a bitterly cold morning for road work when you’re wearing silk pajamas.”
Kellerman said he expects a good fight. He felt the odds of a Cotto win, which reached as high as 7-to-1 (they were 9-to-2 as of Friday morning), were a little long but that “Mayweather is correctly the substantial favorite.”
Jones had less confidence in Cotto’s chances, especially if he doesn’t alter his technique. He predicted it will be a close fight for about five rounds before Mayweather starts wearing his opponent down.
Cotto, of course, doesn’t care what the bookmakers or commentators think. He’s known he was the underdog since he began training in March, and he’s unfazed, he said.
“I’m going for victory,” he said. “I have no doubt I’m going to be the winner.”