Not In Their League Yet…..

26.02.05 - By Joseph Buro: Those were the words uttered by Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, comparing Miguel Cotto to Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather Jr. On Saturday night, Cotto stopped Corley in five competitive rounds before ten thousand die-hard Puerto Rican fight fans. Corley’s comments after the fight were in fact the very purpose of the broad cast.. After all, Zab Judah, only three weeks ago, won the undisputed welterweight championship by kayoing the usually durable Cory Spinks, and Floyd Mayweather is generally regarded as the second best pound for pound fighter in the world. So it was no surprise that Larry Merchant would, in customary fashion, approach Corley after the fight and get his opinion on how Cotto stacked up the other greats. According to Corley, not so well.

The fight between Cotto and Corley was unexpectedly exciting, especially when Cotto came in weighing 157 pounds, a full 17 pounds heaver than his opponent. The table was being set for a major blow-out. Corley, who usually plays his part as the “opponent” so well, had other plans.

Both fighters came out swinging in the first and second stanza. Corley was floored once by a left hook that was more or a push than a punch. Indeed, the replay clearly showed that Cotto’s glove curled around the back of Corley’s head before he was sent to the canvas. While the HBO commentators were oooing and aahhing over Cotto’s tremendous strength and technical prowess, Corley was in fact doing some nice work on the inside, particularly in round two with the right hook and left upper cut.

Those power shots finally found their home in round three when Corley landed a beautiful right hook to the temple that had Cotto out on his feet. As Merchant would later say: “His legs went to spaghetti.” Unfortunately for Cotto, there were more than two minutes left in the round. He was bailed out by an opponent who deserves an “F” in closing the show and made it through without hitting the canvas. The collective horror of the crowd was deafening.

Round four saw more of the same: Corley using his quicker hands effectively, and Cotto bulling his way through. You could have given it to either fighter.

Finally in round five, Cotto floored his opponent with a beautifully placed left hook to the body after trapping him against the ropes. When Corley got back in there, Cotto walked in to close the show and missed with three power shots in a row, once again trapping Corley against the ropes. Corley, in the process of weaving away from those punches, took a knee to avoid the barrage. Unexpectedly, the referee call a halt to the bout. It reminded me of Larry Marks on Friday Night Fights getting floored by Tokunbo Olajide. After rising to beat the count, Marks dropped into a squatting position to collect himself before the action would start again. In response, the referee halted the bout. In a nutshell: He probably wouldn’t have done it had he known what would happen.

Cotto’s performance shouldn’t be a surprise to most who have followed this division. Corley has been considered a top ten junior welter for quite some time now. The Ring had him in their top five before the Judah bout, and top seven before the Mayweather scrap. Lovemore NDou was Cotto’s only other opponent ranked by the Ring, the other opponent Cotto struggled with. NDou prevailed (morally) by taking Cotto’s best shots. Corley was able to exploit Cotto’s other weakness: Defending against quick-handed fighters.

If you have a tape of Cotto’s fight with Victoriano Sosa, take it out and watch it. What most of us remember from that fight is Cotto’s awesome display of power. He blew Sosa out in four rounds, flooring him three times in the process. What most people don’t discuss (again, due to the outcome) is how Cotto handled Sosa’s handspeed. In the first two rounds, Sosa was able to use the ring as Cotto came forward stalking. When he saw an opening, Sosa moved in, fire off four or five punches in combination and step back out. He was consistently getting the better of these exchanges before he got caught.

The reason is as follows: When his opponent throws a flurry of punches, Cotto has a nasty habit of putting his earmuffs on and thinking about how to counter. Usually, this means he’ll be able to get one or two punches off before his opponent retreats. Other times, those counterpunches appear so mechanical, so thought-out, and develop so slowly, that he leaves himself wide open or gives his opponent that window of opportunity to retreat. Corley, who displayed much faster hands than Cotto, and a much sturdier beard than Sosa, was able to exploit that weakness and nearly floored the Puerto Rican superstar.

If Cotto ever stepped into the ring with Mayweather or Judah, I have no doubt that their faster hands would be the story of the fight. Mayweather not only has the fastest hands in the business, but is also a defensive wizard. Judah’s fast hands won him the undisputed welterweight title against Cory Spinks, and nearly won him their first encounter. The fact that he has hands that fast and can deliver them with such force does not bode well for Cotto if the two were ever to meet (it certainly doesn’t bode well for Oscar De La Hoya if he decides to challenge Judah).

With Cotto, you get the feeling that if you turned on some salsa music, he wouldn’t be able to dance to it. He is quite comfortable coming forward and patiently placing his punches. But when the action is at a frenetic pace, where both fighters are throwing avalanches of punching, the more proper question (the one Larry might have wanted to ask) is whether Cotto has can fight instinctually.

Article posted on 26.02.2005

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