Yesterday marked the anniversary of “Ring Kings,” the memorable clash between world titlists Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. Our own Rafael Garcia covered the showdown for The Fight City and we’re proud to re-feature his insightful report on one of the most significant victories and entertaining battles in the career of “Money May.”
Back in late 2007 there was much talk about a potential Miguel Angel Cotto vs Floyd Mayweather match-up. Both were undefeated title-holders in the welterweight division, with Floyd having dispatched Ricky Hatton with authority, and Cotto outpointing a still very game Shane Mosley in an action-packed war. So when Floyd decided to announce a retirement after the Hatton fight, some accused him of ducking Cotto, while others just lamented the fact that Mayweather vs Cotto would never come to be. But after last night’s entertaining twelve round battle the question has to be asked: would it really have been any better four years ago?
Last night Cotto and Mayweather finally locked up, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and punches flew, blood spilled, and fans cheered, and in the end the fighter once called “Pretty Boy Floyd” walked away with the decision. Cotto, however, put on a vintage performance of determination and courage, which made for a highly dramatic fight. Miguel is now a member of a very select group of fighters (Marquez, De La Hoya, Hatton, Mosley) who have faced the two best boxers of his generation. And he can boast that he put Mayweather to perhaps the toughest test of his career thus far.
And that is no small feat if you remember some people considered this a mismatch, with Miguel just not in Floyd’s league; Cotto certainly proved those pundits wrong. The Puerto Rican kept up the pressure from first bell to last, propelled forward by his will to win and his new-found confidence in himself and his team. He took the best tactics from the strategies of Jose Luis Castillo and De La Hoya and melded them into a plan of attack that almost worked. In the first Mayweather vs Castillo fight, the Mexican focused on making the combat as rough as possible, using his larger size to wrestle Floyd and push him back against the ropes. As a converted southpaw, De La Hoya had one of the strongest left hands around, and he had limited success against Mayweather’s defensive wizardry by jabbing and hooking to the head and body.
Cotto, being both heavier and, presumably, stronger than Mayweather, and also a converted southpaw, used both strategies to take Floyd into territory he hadn’t visited in years. As a clear-cut example, look no further than round eight of last night’s fight, when he cornered Mayweather and successfully landed both flush right hands and strong hooks and jabs. It’s difficult to remember the last time Floyd lost a round so definitively. And as he walked back to his corner at round’s end, a strange, almost bewildering image appeared before us: the face of the erstwhile “Pretty Boy” splattered with his own blood. He managed only a sheepish grin to try to hide the fact that he was getting more than he ever bargained for from the tough Puerto Rican.
Of course the difficulty for Cotto was that he just couldn’t replicate what he did during the eighth round often enough to win (this observer scored it for Floyd, eight rounds to four). The contest started out with Mayweather in control, keeping the action in the center of the ring and landing straight right hands to Cotto’s temple, threading them past and through Miguel’s guard. Floyd’s speed doesn’t seem to have diminished much with age, which is remarkable given the fact he’s 35-years-old.
But going by what we saw in the middle rounds, his ring mobility has taken a hit. Instead of circulating and minimizing the risk of getting caught by Cotto’s jabs and occasional hooks, he was often a stationary target, standing at the ropes and countering with precise right crosses during and after Miguel’s attack. But Cotto kept coming forward, applying crippling pressure, backing Floyd up and unloading a hefty amount of punches. Of these, only a fraction landed cleanly, but even the ones Mayweather deflected or caught with his arms and body served to remind him that this was no sparring match, this was some serious pressure and power being applied by a determined competitor.
However, in the championship rounds Cotto tired, could no longer put the heat on Floyd as he had before, and Money took advantage. He unleashed quick combinations, the lead right hand followed by the left uppercut being a very effective one. Round twelve was all Mayweather as he took command and landed flush uppercuts on a fading Cotto, buckling his legs. When the final bell rang, both guys embraced and traded words of respect and recognition. They had put on a hell of a show, and they knew it.
In the post-fight interview, Floyd stated that he decided to take more risks; in other words, he allowed Cotto to manhandle him, in order to “give fans what they want.” This statement can only be taken at face value; while it is plausible, the simpler explanation is that Miguel succeeded in putting Mayweather under pressure the likes of which he hadn’t seen in a long, long time. For his part, Cotto, disgusted with the official scorecards in favour of Floyd by six and seven points, departed the ring without giving an interview.
When it was all said and done, fans of all stripes had something to cheer for last night; if nothing else, an exciting battle between two future Hall of Famers. After all, as we all know, intense and exciting action is far from a given when it comes to Floyd Mayweather fights. But thanks to the rugged Cotto’s courage and determination, that’s what we got, as it took all of Mayweather’s skill and experience to fend off his attacks. Cotto, on the other hand, loses nothing by failing to get the win. There’s no shame in taking a defeat to Mayweather, and even less so after giving such an impressive and gutsy display.
That being said, the Boricua has been through yet another taxing war that may affect his long-term prospects in the ring. For his next outing, he would benefit from working more on his stamina; fading late in fights has always been an issue with the Puerto Rican. Conveniently, his current trainer specializes in conditioning. Additionally, now that he’s no longer under contract with Top Rank, Miguel has several intriguing options at 154 pounds: there’s rising star Canelo Alvarez, who pummeled Shane Mosley for twelve rounds in last night’s undercard bout, hopefully retiring him in the process, and there’s the ferocious puncher James Kirkland, who has slowly but surely climbed the rankings.
For his part, Mayweather will be “out of circulation,” to quote HBO’s Larry Merchant, for at least three months starting in June, but, as always, big fights await him when he gets back. Besides the obvious choice of the Pacquiao vs Bradley winner, the lightning-quick Amir Khan is a possible rival, or perhaps Andre Berto if he bests Victor Ortiz in their rematch. But while last night’s result was definitive and without controversy, here’s one fan who wouldn’t mind at all if the powers-that-be opted for Mayweather vs Cotto II. It likely comes as a surprise to more than a few fight fans, but last night’s showdown was all it was hyped to be and more, and I doubt anyone would object to “Ring Kings” Part II. – Rafael Garcia