Ten Years Ago This Week: Mayweather-Castillo I: “Money’s” Toughest Fight - And A Blueprint For Cotto To Use To Spring The Upset May 5th?

By James Slater: Exactly ten years ago this week (April 20th 2002) unbeaten superstar Floyd “Money” Mayweather, then still calling himself “Pretty Boy” came through the single toughest, roughest and most controversial fight of his 42-bout pro career.

Going up against Mexican warrior Jose Luis Castillo, at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, 25-year-old Mayweather Junior challenged the 28-year-old “El Terrible” for his WBC lightweight crown. What happened in the ring became the subject of great debate; becoming even more so as the years have passed and as Mayweather’s greatness has grown. Was Castillo robbed that night a decade ago, or at the very least, is the Mexican the only man to have come close to putting down a blueprint on how to defeat the exceptionally gifted multi-weight king?

Mayweather won the early rounds that night, but Castillo, an underrated boxer who was also uncommonly tough, came on after a slow start and began putting rounds in the bank. How did Castillo achieve the mid-rounds success he enjoyed? - by forgetting about Mayweather’s head and instead targeting, with efficiency, his midsection, that‘s how. Castillo, cutting off the ring, boxed a patient fight, he did not get flustered by Floyd’s superb defensive moves and head movement, and he also leant on Mayweather, looking to both slow him down and tire him out. And Castillo came darn close to pulling it off.

In fact, in the opinion of many fans, along with some experts - most famously Harold Lederman of HBO (who had it a wide 115-111 for Castillo) - the Mexican star DID pull off the victory. Officially, however, Mayweather won the bout and the WBC 135-pound belt via scores of 116-111 and 115-112 twice

Later, Mayweather underwent surgery on his left shoulder (Floyd partially blamed his damaged rotator cuff for the close win) and the two boxed a rematch; with Mayweather winning in a more clear manner this time. But fans have refused to forget about that first fight.

In light of how Mayweather has never been pushed so hard, either before or since, fans who hope to see the other guy win whenever “Money” puts on a show point to the April 2002 fight as proof that it can be done. Rest assured, Miguel Cotto, the next man to try and take Mayweather’s “0,” will have studied the decade-old fight long and hard. Castillo was a great body puncher and he was able, at times, to use his edge in physical strength, combined with his talent for torturing the bread basket, to get to Mayweather.

Cotto, as we know, will be the bigger, possibly stronger guy on the night of May 5th, and Miguel’s body attack can be nothing short of devastating. Add to this the fact that Mayweather is not quite as blurringly-fast as he was when he was a 135-pounder (although Floyd sure hasn’t slowed down too much), and the upcoming fight sure looks interesting. Cotto is a big, powerful 154-pounder who may have something like ten to 12 pounds or more on Mayweather come fight night, and as a result he certainly cannot be written off as giving Floyd his toughest, most physically demanding test since the first rumble with that man from Mexicali.

Okay, Cotto may be somewhat faded; or as some less charitable critics have put it, “damaged goods” - the wars with Margarito and Pac-Man certainly have done the Puerto Rican legend anything but good. But even if he has lost something in terms of sharpness and timing, Cotto might, just might, be able to fight a fight that makes this a relative non-factor. And Mayweather, the counter-punching pot-shotting boxing master that he is, will not “bust up” Cotto the way Margarito and Pacquiao did anyway. It won’t be that kind of fight at all.

If Cotto can lean on Mayweather the way Castillo did (and Castillo was never all that fast), and if he can bang away to the body, the defending WBA light-middleweight champ may not need to be super-fast. And, if Cotto can dictate the action by using his physical strength and body attack, and if he can slow Mayweather down, he will have a great chance of being able to make it HIS fight.

It’s a big ask of Cotto - and maybe Mayweather simply got it wrong that one night against Castillo (and the shoulder handicap won’t have helped, obviously) - but perhaps “Junito” will be able to use the blueprint Castillo laid down and fight his way to the upset of the year.

Article posted on 19.04.2012

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