By Ivan G. Goldman
As it stands now, Floyd Mayweather, should he ever stop dancing away from a $40 million purse, would be favored against Manny Pacquiao, largely because of how they looked against common opponent Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao-Marquez III, which many people believe was really won by Marquez, is still fresh in everyone’s memory. But what if Miguel Cotto gives Mayweather trouble on May 5? There would be an even fresher memory, and everything would change. After all, thoroughly dominated Cotto couldn’t even reach the final bell against hell-bent Pacquiao.
Photo: Jeff Fusco – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Analysts love to tell us that styles make fights, but in fact, common opponents, especially world-class opponents like Marquez and Cotto, have more to do with odds and predictability than weary clichés.
And guess what? Mayweather is unlikely to do to Cotto what he did to Marquez. After the first two minutes Floyd knew for sure that Marquez couldn’t hurt him. But Cotto can hurt anybody, which means safety-first Floyd will have to execute an entirely different game plan.
Cotto-Mayweather will more likely resemble De La Hoya-Mayweather, a contest that took place five years ago in the same MGM Grand Arena. Like Cotto, Oscar was an extremely solid fighter, powerful but not quite as fast. Although Floyd was favored, Oscar was still the man whose left hook destroyed super-tough Fernando Vargas in one inattentive split second. That was clearly on Floyd’s mind as he stayed away, executing occasional lightning quick lead rights. He’d shoot one punch and get out, leaving no time or space for a successful counter. But Oscar was always the one pressing the action, and that means a lot to some judges.
If the two fighters had been less celebrated it would have been considered a pretty boring fight, thanks to Floyd. There were no sustained exchanges until round twelve, when Floyd finally decided to tango and paid a price. Oscar tagged him with a mean left hook that should have dropped him. Floyd shook it off and clinched.
Mayweather’s lead right is a beautiful weapon and psychologically debilitating to the receiver, who’s hit over and over with a punch that really shouldn’t work at all. It’s got a long way to travel there and back. But most of the time there’s no counter. Zip, the opportunity is there, zip, it’s gone. And so is Mayweather. I expect he’ll beat Cotto pretty much the same way.
On the other hand, this will be a 35-year-old Floyd. We’ve seen no signs of him slipping, but everyone gets old eventually, except maybe Superman and Angelina Jolie.
It’s always possible Cotto will force Mayweather into a vicious battle. But though Cotto will be 31, he’ll probably look like the older fighter. He’s been involved in some hellacious wars, especially four years ago when he was beaten nearly to death by plaster-fortified fists courtesy of the lying, scheming, felonious team of Antonio Margarito and his trainer Javier Capetillo. I know, it was never proved in a courtroom. But California Deputy Attorney General Karen Chappelle, who investigated the loaded wraps Margarito tried to use against Shane Mosley, keeps a photograph of Margarito in the bloody wraps he used against Cotto, and can show you why they’re identical.
Few recall that Mayweather’s fight with Oscar was close, won by split decision. In fact, De La Hoya may have prevailed on the scorecards. After everyone had cleared the ring, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer noticed one score announced for Mayweather had the fighters’ names transposed. He got the commission on his cell, and I watched his face as an industry chieftain informed him there’s no Santa Claus. The sports books were already shoveling out millions of dollars to Mayweather bettors while De La Hoya tickets were torn up and discarded all over Nevada. To reverse the decision would have shattered the state’s economic foundations like a 9.1 quake under the Vegas Strip.
Cotto, a fine man and a devastating warrior, will have his believers May 5. I hope they’re right. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
Goldman’s next novel, Isaac: A Modern Fable, will be out next month from The Permanent Press. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon HERE.