By Kirk Jackson
Three division champion Miguel Cotto 37-2 (30 KO’s) recently revealed a little bit his game plan against his next opponent, undefeated five division champion Floyd Mayweather 42-0 (26 KO‘s).
“You can’t let Mayweather have time to think, you have to pressure him, I will bring pressure to him.” said Cotto.
Cotto’s plan sounds great in theory, especially when facing the typical boxer/counter puncher. When you are technically outgunned and facing this style of fighter, the goal is to overwhelm the great defense your opponent has with insurmountable offense. Score points and do not allow the counter puncher to calculate a plan, essentially, pressure busting pipes.
Mayweather however, is a different case. Although primarily thought of as a defensive, counter puncher, he has a style that can adapt to his opponent, and in recent fights has looked more like a boxer/ puncher as opposed to strictly a counter puncher, because of how he has walked down his opponents. His last two fight against Victor Ortiz and Shane Mosley, he kept the fight center of the ring and took the fight to his opponents, similar to how he fought when he was a super feather weight and a light weight back in his younger days.
Looking at Mayweather’s career, pressure fighters usually meet an unfortunate demise when applying pressure against him. It’s like blindly walking into a lion’s den. Ask Jesus Chavez or Ricky Hatton for instance. Two premier pressure fighters, who basically set up shop in Mayweather’s backyard, fought to their heart’s content, but in the end fell victim to the surprisingly skillful inside fighting and precise punching of Mayweather, ultimately succumbing to knock outs in the later rounds.
Cotto is an intelligent man, a consummate professional, a dignitary in and out the ring, and based on his personality, the recent resurgence in his career and new found discipline established with his trainer Pedro Diaz, Cotto probably intends to apply intelligent pressure and not just walk into a hell fire of punches.
This intelligent pressure includes attacking behind the jab, cutting off the ring instead of chasing Mayweather, offering different angles and great head movement, feinting, and if in a position to land punches, attack with combinations primarily to the body more so than the head, so he can wear Mayweather down.
The problem is obviously, it’s easier said than done and Cotto lacks the tools to effectively execute his plan. He lacks the foot speed and tact to effectively cut off the ring, because he has not displayed the ability to do so in recent fights. Ask yourself when is the last time Cotto successfully cut off the ring? Or at least against a noteworthy opponent because I’m not going to include Michael Jennings. You would have to go back years, to his fights against Carlos Quintana and Zab Judah which took place in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Sure he did it against Judah, a fighter known for notoriously fading late in fights and I’m sure the low blows Judah received from Cotto early in the fight did not help his cause either. Although credit should be given to Cotto for successfully cutting off the ring against a tough, crafty fighter in Quintana, no offense, but Mayweather is light years ahead of both Judah and Quintana even at his age and current form.
Once upon a time there was a fighter who walked through the lion’s den and had some success against Mayweather and that was the former light weight champion Jose Luis Castillo. While Castillo had some success against Mayweather, he possessed a thicker beard compared to Cotto and primarily focused on attacking the body. Although both Castillo and Cotto appear to be naturally bigger than Mayweather, there may have been more of a size disparity between Castillo and Mayweather than with Cotto and Mayweather.
Maybe Cotto can utilize his natural size in his game plan against the smaller man in this fight. The thing is, Mayweather faced a huge welterweight in Victor Ortiz in his last fight, was outweighed by more than 13 pounds and was able to handle the size of Ortiz in an effective manner. Cotto may be more skilled than Ortiz, but he does not impose his size and strength advantages like Ortiz does. Mayweather is also an inch taller than Cotto and has a five inch reach advantage, so Cotto’s size advantage may not play a huge role in their fight.
Another flaw with Cotto’s plan in his stamina issues. Like Judah, Cotto also has a tendency to fade late in big fights. He faded against Antonio Margarito in the first fight, faded late against Mosley, fading a bit in his fight against Joshua Clottey and in a loss against Manny Pacquiao. Although there can be an argument made that his stamina issues in regards to his losses against Margarito and Pacquiao may be prevalent because of other factors involved in those respective fights, (Margarito inflicting more damage with the plaster wraps) and (fighting Pacquiao at a catch weight). Consistently missing your opponent and swinging at air saps a lot of energy out of a fighter so it’s crucial that Cotto is efficient and accurate with his punches. Cotto also has to keep in mind, Mayweather is no stranger to attacking the body. His jab to the pit of the stomach is one of his signature punches, and one of the best punches in the business.
Another question for Cotto in trying to execute his plan is how will his face hold up? We all know he is not a defensive wizard, and he has a ton of scar tissue in his face accumulated over the years. Margarito is probably the slowest fighter south of 160 and he was able to land a few combinations on Cotto in their last fight. And if that’s the case, this does not bode for the Puerto Rican star when facing a lightening quick, sharp shooting marksmen like Mayweather. Fast punches can rake and cut the face easily, especially a face with a lot of mileage and cuts may play a huge factor in this fight.
If there is a shining light for Cotto, it is he does have a proven weapon, that is essential to executing his plan. The one great weapon Cotto possesses is his jab. It is a quick, stiff jab, that can set up his offense. But with that said, even with this effective weapon, it can still be a liability against an all time great counter puncher in Mayweather. Although not known for counter punching prowess, Pacquiao was able to counter punch Cotto’s jab early and often in their fight. In order to keep that from happening against Mayweather, Cotto is going to have to double and triple his jab all night to avoid those pull back counters Mayweather so effectively uses.
During the recent HBO telecast of the Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin fight, Hall of Fame Trainer Emmanuel Steward offered his insight on the fight between Mayweather and Cotto.
“Well, he’s got to fight a very specific style of fighting and really operate a good solid jab and keep his balance. Whether he fights with his head down, feet too far apart, Floyd will break him down.” said Steward.
This illustrates the problem at hand for Cotto. Mayweather will probably adapt to anything Cotto throws at him. It looks like Cotto is going to have to bring a plan A, B, C and D if he wants to pull off the upset. From my perspective, although things look grim for Cotto, he does have a punchers chance and the heart of a lion. Anything can happen in boxing. As fans of the sport, all we can do is speculate, but we shall see what happens in the May 5th in what is to be one of the more interesting fights this year.