by David P. Greisman
Not all work is easy work, no matter what one of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s motivational credos insists, not when your nose and mouth are bloodied and your left hand is sore, and not when your opponent makes you fight through all this, all while battling against him, for the 12-round distance.
It wasn’t easy work for Floyd Mayweather against Miguel Cotto, despite the clear win in the eyes of nearly all of the unofficial observers watching in the arena and on television, and the even clearer win, a wide decision, from the official tallies of the three judges scoring at ringside.
Perhaps it was because of his bloodied nose. Perhaps it was the injured hand. Perhaps it was the weight difference or the bigger gloves or age finally beginning to catch up with a 35-year-old man. Perhaps it was just a rare off night for a fighter not accustomed to having them when it matters most. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these, or perhaps it was none of that. Maybe Cotto had much to do with it, too.
Miguel Cotto wasn’t easy work for Floyd Mayweather, but Mayweather made it through, made it past Cotto because of his talent and because of his tenets, those two characteristics from another credo — hard work and dedication.
Mayweather had been the betting favorite, the former Olympian, future Hall of Fame inductee and, some suggest, one of the greatest fighters of all time. He’d never been defeated as a pro; as he was fond of saying, 42 had tried and 42 had failed. Granted, he’d faced one opponent twice, but the sentiment remained the same.
Cotto, meanwhile, was the clear underdog, a talented three-division titleholder yet not as talented as the superlative superstar who would be standing across the ring from him. He’d suffered devastating damage in his two defeats, losses to Antonio Margarito in 2008 and to Manny Pacquiao in 2009 in which he sustained punishment for a combined 23 rounds. And even when not beaten, he’d been beaten up, winning wars over other opponents.
Mayweather had the skills to hit a fighter who had been hit often and hurt often. Cotto, meanwhile, had to find a way to defeat a fighter who’d yet to be defeated.
This was a different Cotto, though. He wouldn’t be as vulnerable, and so Mayweather wouldn’t be as able. Yet while Cotto found a way to make Mayweather less effective, Cotto himself still wouldn’t be able to do enough to win.
Mayweather is always good, but he’s even better at certain distances and against certain styles. From afar, Cotto maintained a high guard and a patient approach, rarely overextended himself, not giving Mayweather as much to work with, neither with potshots nor counter shots. Mayweather was less mobile than usual, too, either because of age or because of a resolution to stand and trade and entertain more than he had in years past. Perhaps it was both.
Cotto, then, was able to push Mayweather to the ropes, where he would put his head on Mayweather’s shoulder or chest and dig to the body or aim upstairs for the head, not going overboard with his output as others had done on the ropes against Mayweather, other opponents who felt their offensive opportunities to be few and therefore expended themselves excessively yet not effectively.
Mayweather, as usual, moved and rolled and blocked, limiting the accuracy of most of those shots but failing to avoid them all.
Mayweather began to adjust to what was being presented to him. At one point against the ropes he set a trap, leaning his head forward and inviting Cotto to throw a right uppercut, then dodging it when Cotto bit and countering with a left hook. The high guard of Cotto, meanwhile, could block straight shots better than targeted looping punches, which became one of Mayweather’s go-to weapons.
“The right hook and the uppercut were working for me tonight,” Mayweather said afterward. “I had watched tapes of Shane Mosley [who fought Cotto in November 2007], and I saw that the right hook was working. And I also watched Zab Judah [who fought Cotto in June 2007] use the uppercut against him, too, so I knew I was going to use those shots tonight.”
Mayweather’s signature shots came less than they had against other foes: the lead right hand and move to his right out of harm’s way, and the counter right hand over a jab. Cotto’s jab didn’t land much, but it caught Mayweather cleanly when it did, a well-timed, off-rhythm punch with what is actually Cotto’s power hand.
Mayweather is neither a pressure fighter along the lines of Antonio Margarito nor a whirling dervish of activity like Manny Pacquiao. He is calculated and clinical, and so he would not have the style to break down this disciplined Cotto with quantity, but would rather aim for quality.
He sent out eight looping right hands over one section of the fourth round, many of them landing in what was one of Mayweather’s best rounds of the fight and one of Cotto’s worst. Mayweather went 19 of 58 in that round, according to CompuBox statistics, including 17 of 32 power shots, a fight-high 53 percent connect rate. Cotto, meanwhile, was just 4 of 30, with three of those being power punches and the other being a jab.
Through four, Mayweather had landed 66 punches, including 40 power shots, an average of 10 power shots a round. Cotto was limited to 30 landed punches total through four, of which 19 were power shots, an average of five per round. At least one of those punches had brought blood from Mayweather’s nose.
Cotto remained undeterred despite how little he was hitting Mayweather, continuing to press forward in the fifth, forcing Mayweather to the ropes and strafing him with shots. Mayweather was willing to oblige but was forced to work, weaving to try to make Cotto miss and countering to try to make him pay.
It was one of Cotto’s best rounds of the night, with 11 landed power shots, one of just two rounds in which he was in double figures. It was also one of Mayweather’s best rounds, with him landing 24 punches, more in that round than in any other, including a fight-high 23 power punches.
It seemed as if the fight was about to kick into a higher gear.
It didn’t happen.
This was more war game than blitzkrieg, with each fighter considering his own tactical maneuvers while being all too respectful of what his enemy might do in response. The sixth and seven rounds got off the ropes and returned to the center of the ring, where Cotto sent out sporadic jabs and body shots, while Mayweather sought openings for occasional two-, three- and four-punch combinations.
It had often been said that will was what would make Mayweather uncomfortable. In this fight, though, it was Cotto’s skill that had Mayweather reading his opponent and then recalibrating his offense.
Mayweather landed a three-punch combination in the eighth. Cotto stood up to it, stayed in front of Mayweather and shouldered him back to the ropes, where he went back down to the body and then back up to the head. Mayweather adjusted, seeing Cotto leaning on him and sensing that the left uppercut would land. That punch came once, then again, and one more time, bringing the bout back to the center of the ring.
Cotto kept the distance close there, and Mayweather moved back to the ropes, taking more shots, then shaking his head as some landed, some glanced, and others missed. It was the last round that Cotto would win on the judges’s scorecards, the sole round in which Cotto out-landed Mayweather, 20 to 13 in total punches, 16 to 11 in power shots.
The blood from Mayweather’s nose was splattered on his face, the crimson shown on-screen as he sat on the corner between rounds, drawing cheers from the crowd. Mayweather smiled; he could only acknowledge what had happened, then try to do something about it.
The most versatile boxer in the sport varied his approach in the ninth, putting together a right hand followed by a left and then another right, sending out a one-two combination later. There were single right and left uppercuts, a looping right hand, a right counter as Cotto came forward, left hook body shots and a pair of left uppercuts.
As for Cotto, his strong round in the eighth proved to be his last gasp, his output fading in the final four rounds. He kept coming, but he was throwing and landing less, going 10 of 41 in the ninth, 7 of 33 in the 10th, 6 of 36 in the 11th, and 5 of 28 in the 12th.
Mayweather was still picking his spots, and he had more spots than Cotto, including setting him up for a counter left hook in the 11th, and leading him into a right hook and left uppercut that staggered Cotto with a minute to go in the 12th. Mayweather finished stronger, following a 10 for 49 effort in the 10th with 15 of 53 in the 11th and 18 of 59 in the 12th, nearly all of those connected shots in the championship rounds coming from power punches.
The fight went the distance. Mayweather was still bleeding. Cotto was still standing.
Not all work is easy work.
Cotto made Mayweather throw more than he normally does, but he also made Mayweather land less. In his previous five fights, Mayweather averaged about 40 total punches thrown per round and 18 landed, a 45 percent connect rate, and an average of about 10 of 21 on power shots, for a nearly 50 percent connect rate.
Against Cotto, Mayweather averaged 57 punches thrown per round and 15 landed, a 26 percent connect rate, and an average of 11 of 32 on power shots, for a 34 percent connect rate.
Mayweather historically excels both on offense and defense, limiting his opponents to a 16 percent connect rate over the nine fights prior to the Cotto bout. Cotto did better on average, landing 21 percent of what he threw, including 23 percent of his power shots. Still, that only amounted to 105 landed punches in total, or less than nine per round, of which 75 were power punches, or about six per round.
It wasn’t enough to win. Two of the judges scored it 117-111 for Mayweather, while the third had it 118-110.
It was enough to make Mayweather work.
It wasn’t just the nose or the hand or the weight difference or the gloves or age or an off night. It was Cotto who made Mayweather think and adjust, who made Mayweather show what he is capable of doing even when he isn’t able to do everything that has made him one of the best boxers in this generation, and, some would suggest, of all time.
Mayweather won clearly and decisively, though it’s doubtful that he’d say it came easily.
Forget what Mayweather has said before: Not all work is easy work.
It takes hard work to do hard work. “Money” Mayweather might be a gambling man in the sports book, but he’s not a betting man in the sweet science. He’s invested his life in boxing, an investment that once again paid off for him.
The 10 Count — Admissions Edition
1. I admit to being very wrong in my prediction that Mayweather would demolish Cotto — and I admit to being very happy that I was oh so very wrong.
2. I must admit to not knowing whether I was as blind as the judges, or whether several other members of the boxing media whom I respect just saw a much closer fight than I did.
My scorecard pretty much matched those of the judges — I had it 118-110, giving just the sixth and the eighth rounds to Cotto, rounds that Robert Hoyle, Patricia Morse Jarman and Dave Moretti saw for Cotto, too. Moretti also gave the third round to Cotto, while Morse Jarman awarded him the fifth.
My scorecard is in line with those “turned in” by Eric Raskin, a veteran boxing scribe who now does the “Ring Theory” boxing podcast; Adam Abramowitz of the Saturday Night Boxing blog; and Jake Donovan of this very website.
Many others had it 116-112 or 115-113 for Mayweather. A few out there actually had it a draw or, in a couple of rare cases, 115-113 for Cotto.
I can’t give myself any credit for being in line with the official judges, not in a sport where so often the judges turn in scorecards that just seem plain wrong. I thought Mayweather clearly beat De La Hoya, too, five years ago, and that was a bout that somehow ended up a split decision.
I admit to still being mystified about that.
3. Admit it: You were waiting for Mayweather to score another cheap shot knockout early in the second round, when Cotto apologized to Mayweather after lifting him up in the air during a clinch.
4. Admit it: The idea of Mayweather apologizing to Larry Merchant about his outburst after last September’s win over Victor Ortiz seems about as far-fetched as me dating both Christina Hendricks and Christina Ricci at the same time.
Yet Mayweather did apologize. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.
How much of Mayweather’s contrition comes from the aftermath of his court case and his impending jail time?
Somehow I don’t see this kindler, gentler Floyd Mayweather Jr. being the rule — there’s no marketing muscle without the character, or caricature, that is “Money” Mayweather.
Now if he finds peace with Brian Kenny, R.A. The Rugged Man and Rude Jude? Then we’ll have something to worry about.
5. Admit it, decision makers at “THE RING” Magazine — your decision to revamp your championship policy, however well intentioned, is being roundly criticized for good reasons.
(But before I get into that, I must admit in this full disclosure: I am a monthly columnist for “THE RING.”)
The main thrust of the new policy announced last week is to counter the number of vacancies — only six of the 17 divisions have a “Ring Magazine” champion, a number that didn’t seem on the path to changing much any time soon.
Previously, vacancies could only be filled by the winner of a bout between the No. 1-and No. 2-ranked fighters, or in rare instances from a match between No. 1 and No. 3.
Because No. 1 and No. 2 fighters aren’t facing each other often enough to fill those vacancies, the magazine’s new standards are far more lenient. From the announcement: “If the Nos. 1 and 2 contenders choose not to fight one another and either of them fights No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5, the winner may be awarded THE RING belt.”
The magazine’s editor, Michael Rosenthal, told this scribe that the amount of time it’d take before the decision-makers would decide that No. 1 and No. 2 weren’t going to face each other depends on the situation, but would be “within a reasonable amount of time.”
I’m not a fan of the new policy.
The real question for those at the magazine is this: Is it more important to have a champion, or to have THE champion.
I don’t think there’s a need to rush to award a RING belt, despite all the vacancies. If you want to know who the top guy is in a division, even if there is no champion, that’s what the No. 1 slot in the rankings is for.
The championship should be reserved for, well, the true champion.
That’s why there was such criticism when previous editorial leadership at THE RING opted to make the 2004 fight between Vitali Klitschko (No. 1) and Corrie Sanders (No. 3) for the magazine’s championship, which had been left vacant with Lennox Lewis’ retirement, completely skipping over the No. 2 guy, Chris Byrd, who held a win over Vitali — a fluky win, but a win nonetheless.
And if Klitschko vs. Byrd couldn’t have been made, or even Klitschko vs. Sanders? Under the policy now in place, the vacant championship could’ve been filled by Klitschko or Byrd vs. Sanders, Roy Jones Jr. or even James Toney (who at that point only had a win over Evander Holyfield).
And now? The vacant 140-pound championship could go to the winner of either Timothy Bradley or Lamont Peterson against one of these three: Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Zab Judah.
At junior middleweight, if Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez weren’t to fight each other, either one could face Vanes Martirosyan, Erislandy Lara or Carlos Molina for the championship.
At lightweight, if Antonio DeMarco and Miguel Vazquez don’t fight, either one could face Ricky Burns, Kevin Mitchell or John Murray for the newly vacant championship.
Those fights with lower-ranked foes are quality wins, but not the kind of wins that should make somebody the true champion. This policy doesn’t sound right, not for a belt that had often been recognized as coinciding with the true championship lineage.
Winning in the NCAA Final Four doesn’t win you the national title. Defeating the one other top team remaining does…
6. Admit it: You were worried that Shane Mosley had declined so far that he was going to take an unnecessary beating against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez — but you’re glad, in a way, that Mosley lost as badly as he did on Saturday night.
There was no turning back of the clock for one more last great performance, not like Mosley did against Antonio Margarito. That fight, that last great performance from the aging former champion, was more than three years ago.
I admit that I wasn’t sure before just how far gone Mosley was. I hesitated to call him “shot,” and wondered how much his tentative performances against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sergio Mora and Manny Pacquiao could be attributed to their speed and/or unorthodox offenses. Mosley hadn’t looked too good against Ricardo Mayorga either back in September 2008 — too tense and too tentative — before loosening up and scoring the stoppage.
But others noted they had seen other signs of slippage, and they were right. Mosley’s inability to commit to his offense isn’t just a matter of activity, but a matter of power. Though he threw a total of 745 punches against Alvarez, more than 500 of those were jabs, a shot so ineffective that he landed less than one in every five he sent out. Mosley only threw 242 power shots, or about 20 per round, landing a total of 100, or about 8 per round.
Except for the very rare exceptions, those “power punches” had very little pop behind them. And when Mosley did land a clean, head-snapping shot, Alvarez just glared at Mosley with disdain before punishing him with his own, true power.
Nothing exemplified Mosley’s loss of power better than a moment in which Alvarez was on the ropes, and Mosley sent out a flurry of pitty-pat shots that looked as if they were targeting a speed bag made of eggshells.
Mosley not only offered little for Alvarez to worry about offensively, but he put up little resistance defensively, with not much in the way of foot movement and even less in the way of head movement.
Alvarez pummeled Mosley, landing a total of 348 punches, or nearly twice what Mosley landed, a number that CompuBox statisticians said is the most punches landed on Mosley in any fight of his that they have counted. Canelo landed a total of 252 power shots, which is 10 more than Mosley even threw. Alvarez landed 52 percent of all of his punches, including 57 percent of his power punches.
This is the kind of fight that should push a fighter toward retirement.
If only Mosley will admit that it’s time, coming to a realization that too few fighters reach before they take even more unnecessary damage.
7. Admit it, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has become a lot better than you expected him to be and has come a long way from the prospect who got rocked by an under-sized, over-matched Jose Miguel Cotto.
And that was just two years ago.
Granted, Alvarez’s run since then has come against a not-quite-murderer’s row of Luciano Cuello, Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore Ndou, Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron and Shane Mosley.
Yet he’s enjoyable to watch, and he’s improving, putting power punches together in effective combinations, and doing so with seemingly more hand speed than he had exhibited in the past.
He might just run into an opponent who exposes his limitations and shortcomings, but, really, doesn’t nearly everyone in the long run?
He’s in entertaining fights. He does ratings. He sells tickets. Enjoy him now for what he is, rather than waiting for the day when we find out what he isn’t.
8. Admit it, you’d get as excited about a fight between Alvarez and James Kirkland as you do about any of the major boxing pay-per-view shows.
How about Erislandy Lara vs. Alfredo Angulo on the undercard? Put it in Mexico and time it with Mexican Independence Day weekend.
9. Admit it, you wish that more boxers came up with nicknames for their punches.
There was Manny Pacquiao and his “Manila Ice” right hook that was introduced several years ago.
And now there is featherweight titleholder Chris John and his special “Dragon Fire punch,” according to the Agence France-Press news agency.
Just think about the possibilities that would come if boxing became a combination of Street Fighter II and professional wrestling.
I do hesitate, though, about the possibility of Floyd Mayweather Jr. scoring knockouts with the double entendre “Money Shot.”
10. Admit it, the saddest thing about Saturday night’s boxing card in Chester, Pa., isn’t the fact that its special guests in attendance were Riddick Bowe and the actor who played Screech on “Saved by the Bell.”
It’s the fact that Dustin Diamond has had more high-profile boxing matches in the past decade than the former heavyweight champion…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to email@example.com
Tags: Floyd Mayweather Jr.