Mayweather v Cotto: In The End It Boils Down To Levels

boxingBy John Wight: Floyd Mayweather Junior steps into the ring once again in Vegas this weekend, this time to challenge Miguel Cotto for his WBA light middleweight strap. But where Floyd Mayweather is concerned, belts and titles have long ceased to matter. What does matter is an unbeaten record that has remained intact in 42 fights over 18 years as a pro. This is an astonishing record, made more so by the fact that he will step into the ring on Saturday night betraying no evidence of either mental or physical defects after such a long career as an elite level fighter.

The brash, arrogant, bling persona he exudes in public has perhaps had the effect of distracting from his ring craft. This is a shame, because in terms of what he brings to boxing, FMJ is one of the best athletes to ever grace the sport in any era. Indeed, he has succeeded in elevating defence and counterpunching to an art form distinct from any of the other aspects of the sport. In other words, you know that you are describing a special talent when you watch each of his fights not expecting his opponents to win but to see how much they can test and push him. Only a few fighters have reached this level of greatness – Ray Robinson, Ali in his prime, Tyson in his prime, etc..

Over the past few years there’s been a sharp polarization between fans and commentators over the merits and demerits of Mayweather compared to Pacquiao and vice versa. Making such comparisons especially intriguing is the fact that each represents in its purest form defensive and offensive boxing respectively. For me, Pacquaio’s stock dipped during and after his last fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. He looked out of ideas when up against an opponent with the ability to nullify his hand speed and relentless come-forward style by constantly changing the distance to make his miss and punishing him with sharp counterpunches. In this regard, Mayweather is virtually peerless in the sport today, matched only by Andre Ward when it comes to applying a strategy to take away his opponent’s strengths while emphasising his own.

As for Miguel Cotto, he brings an honesty and integrity to the ring that has deservedly gained him huge respect. Indeed, the word ‘honour’ was invented with the Puerto Rican in mind. His victory against Antonio Margarito in particular was a massive shot in the arm for not only him but for the sport in general, which in failing to ban the Mexican for life over the handwraps scandal brought it into disrespute. Over the course of the pre-fight 24/7 documentary series by HBO, Cotto has cemented his status as an advert for everything positive about the sport both in and out of the ring.

It will be interesting to see the blueprint that he and his trainer Pedro Diaz have come up with against Mayweather. Will they tpressure him throughout in the hope they can keep him working harder than he’s used to? If so, will it be smart pressure behind a paient but relentless jab while cutting off the ring, rather than aimlessly stalking Mayweather around the ring and lunging with the jab if closing the gap proves difficult? Will Cotto consistently go to the body in order to get Mayweather’s hands down before focusing on the head? How will he penetrate Mayweather’s shoulder-roll defence and nullify his hand speed and reflexes? Will he adopt angles to try and keep Mayweather off balance?

Diaz is clearly a fighter who brings a scientific approach to his work, leaving nothing to chance or instinct it seems. On the other hand Mayweather Jnr’s trainer, Roger Mayweather, is a man for whom boxing is a simple sport in which the tried and tested methods of the past have not and cannot be improved on. Watching him on the pads with his nephew, which comes over as a choreographed and rehearsed dance for the benefit of the cameras, it is easy to underestimate his role in his success. For all his lack of communication skills when talking about the game to the cameras, Roger Mayweather’s knowledge of the sport is unsurpassed. No one should believe for a second that he doesn’t study tapes of his Mayweather Jnr’s opponents. This is a professional and dedicated camp from top to bottom when it comes to preparing for fights, the evidence for which is the nothing less than peak condition which Floyd Mayweather always turns up in.

This is why I believe that come Sunday morning he will wake up in possession of Cotto’s title. More importantly, he will have registered yet another ‘W’ on his record. The reason is very simple. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Junior is and always will be a level above Miguel Cotto.

Article posted on 04.05.2012

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