By Ivan G. Goldman
Floyd Mayweather versus Miguel Cotto on Saturday raises some weighty issues.
It’s a bit of a mystery why Floyd agreed to meet Cotto at 154 pounds. Maybe he was just so eager and pleased to once again not have to fight Manny Pacquiao that he made a mistake, saying yes too quickly.
Mayweather, who essentially manages himself, has done a superb job of matchmaking so far, as his undefeated record proves. The strategy is simple to formulate, not as easy to execute. He looks for the toughest-looking fights he can get. That brings him money and acclaim. But at the same time he seeks contests that are much easier than they look. It’s a game just about everybody plays, but few have played it as well as Mayweather. For example, he punched right through lightweight Juan Manuel Marquez after agreeing to fight him at 144 and then ignoring the clause, coming in just where he wanted at 146. Marquez’s negotiators had failed to make the penalty stiff enough. This ugly ploy took the weight game to a different, nastier level because it required welterweight Floyd to lie while giving his word. Didn’t seem to bother him much.
You can almost hear Floyd, his uncle Roger, and advisor Leonard Ellerbe as they settled on Cotto as a pay-per-view opponent. Sure, he destroyed Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, and Antonio Margarito fighting without plaster in his wraps in his last three fights. But those are basically B-list fighters. Before that string, he faced Pacquiao, an A list fighter. And what happened? He was dominated and ultimately stopped in the 12th and final round.
But that wasn’t a one hundred percent Cotto. He’d weakened himself by agreeing to the catch weight of 145. Pacquiao has played the weight game well since he became a money magnet. He demanded that Oscar De La Hoya, who was walking around at 172, meet him at 145, and when Oscar foolishly agreed, he took the worst beating of his career and never competed again.
“I saw Oscar just before that fight,” trainer Anthony Huizar told me, “and he looked really drained, like he’d gone through hell to make the weight.”
Huizar, an ex-pro who trains both amateurs and pros in Carson, California, thinks that at 154 Cotto might have a chance to do what everyone tries to do against Mayweather, which is to bull his way in close and stay there, not letting him unleash that nasty little lead right of his from the distance he likes. That’s how Jose Luis Castillo made Floyd look bad in their first fight. Plenty of observers, me included, thought Castillo got robbed in that one. Of course Mayweather showed what he was made of by coming back with a superior game plan in their sequel and cruising to a decision victory.
I was out of the country when Emanuel Augustus met Mayweather in Detroit almost 12 years ago, but I recall Nigel Collins, then editor of The Ring, telling me that Augustus was doing well and inflicting damage for quite a while using an in-Floyd’s-face strategy. I asked Collins about it again last week. “Augustus took the fight to Floyd and they had some great exchanges,” he recalled. “He bloodied Floyd’s nose but was stopped in the ninth due to Mayweather’s superior punching power.”
Which is something we often forget — that Mayweather has power. But Floyd, who hates to get hit, uses his power only uses it when it’s safe. If he sets down on his punches it opens him up a split second more. And he knows split seconds can alter fight history. Obviously he would also call on his power if he got desperate, but in 42 fights he’s never been desperate.
Yes, strong, determined Cotto — a good guy and sentimental favorite competing at his weight, not Mayweather’s — has a chance. But it’s probably a smaller one than Huizar and some others think. Floyd’s stronger than he used to be, and if he’s lost any speed or conditioning, I haven’t noticed it. Maybe this is the outing in which age — he’s 35 now — will catch up to him, and maybe his June 1 date with a jail cell will weigh on him. But for all his faults, Floyd is in fact a truly great fighter, and the great ones find a way to win.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE