By Jake Donovan
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was forced to work at his hardest in more than a decade, but still came up aces in a unanimous decision win over Miguel Cotto in an entertaining pay-per-view headliner Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Scores were 117-111 (twice) and 118-110 for Mayweather, who weighed 151 lb for the super welterweight title fight. Cotto came in at the divisional limit of 154 lb.
Both combatants were cordial throughout the pre-fight promotion, though tension quickly arose during Friday’s weigh-in. The threat of it spilling over into the fight was quickly averted, as Cotto shoulder lifted Mayweather off of the canvas but stopped well short of dropping him through the ropes in the second round. The two exchanged pleasantries as they were separated, with Cotto offering a mea culpa in the form of a love tap on the side of Mayweather’s head.
It was the closest that the Puerto Rican superstar came to landing anything significant in the early rounds. Mayweather was stellar as usual on the defensive front, proving to be an elusive target without ever traveling very far. The offering early on was a brilliant display of hit and don’t get hit, a reminder of why is he rapidly gaining universal recognition as the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
The frustration could be felt in Cotto’s attack as the rounds wore on. The gap was closed considerably in the fourth, but any success enjoyed by Cotto was still limited to one or two punches at a time. Mayweather found his back touching the ropes, but uppercuts were key in fighting out of harm’s way.
Mayweather is traditionally a slow starter who picks up steam as the bout progresses. However, the undefeated American decided to coast a bit in the middle rounds, while contending with a potentially broken nose that bled throughout. Cotto was still unable to score with much, but offered enough shoe shines to keep the crowd on its feet and on his side.
Whatever success Cotto enjoyed in the middle portion of the bout quickly dissolved once the rounds hit double digits. Mayweather found second wind and was successful in keeping Cotto on the outside, avoiding further damage to his busted nose while potshotting from a safe distance.
Cotto closed the gap once again in the 11th round, as Mayweather spent much of the frame fighting in reverse and off the ropes. A combination landed for Cotto while in the corner, but its effectiveness was limited as Mayweather quickly escaped and brought the fight to the center of the ring.
Leaving nothing to chance, Mayweather put on a clinic in the 12th and final round. Cotto did his best to press the action as was the case throughout the evening. As was also the case for much of the night, Mayweather made him miss and made him pay.
A looping right hand landed just behind Cotto’s guard to freeze him, though the follow-up left uppercut provided far more damage. Mayweather was unable to inflict further damage but still closed the show strong in what was by far his best round of what was his most entertaining fight in years.
“When it’s PPV and fans are paying, you want to give the fans excitement,” said Mayweather, who improves to 43-0 (26KO). That comes with the territory. You have to suck it up and fight hard. Miguel Cotto was a great competitior. I had to go out there and fight my game plan.”
Cotto didn’t bother to stick around for the customary in-ring post-fight interview, instead walking back to his dressing room in disgust. Still, the Puerto Rican star has plenty of which to be proud even in defeat, as his record dips to 37-3 (30KO). The loss was his first since suffering a 12th round stoppage at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in their Nov. ’09 catchweight bout.
As is always the case with Mayweather, the question now is what’s next if not the long awaited mega showdown with pound-for-pound rival Pacquiao.
Whatever his plans may be for the fall, nothing can be confirmed until he’s done taking care of other business.
Awaiting the five-division champ – including two title tours each at welterweight and super welterweight – is a prison sentence that begins June 1. Mayweather stands to remain in lock up for roughly three months, as per the terms of a plea bargain reached last year stemming from domestic violence charges.
“You can only take the good with the good and the bad with the bad and keep striving,” Mayweather said of what awaits him in less than a month.
The plan is to return the ring in the fall once he returns to civilization. Rather than speculate who is in the hunt, Mayweather instead chose to speak on why a dream fight with Pacquiao still remains a tough deal to close.
“This fight, I was looking to fight Manny Pacquiao. Bob Arum continues to stand in the way,” Mayweather insists. “Let’s see what the fans want, let’s make that fight happen.”
The two most significant hurdles in making the fight happen have been money and the disagreement over the cutoff point for random drug testing. Mayweather has called for the latter, while Pacquiao remained resistant before softening his stance.
The latest wrinkle is how to split the pie. Mayweather demands more than 50% and the pay-per-view upside, with his only guarantee to Pacquiao that the Filipino will make more than he ever has at any point in his career.
Yet when called on the subject, Mayweather instead reverted to the other obstacle that may or may not still be an issue.
“I’ve been trying to make the fight. Miguel Cotto didn’t have a problem taking random blood and urine tests, so why can’t Manny Pacquiao. If you the best, take the test.”
Unbeaten 154 lb. titlist Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez remains the leading candidate for Mayweather’s next opponent later in the year, thanks to a strong showing in soundly outpointing Shane Mosley. Scores were 119-109 (twice) and 118-110 in their 12-round bout, dominated by Alvarez (40-0-1, 29KO) but never to the point of cruise control.
Mosley (46-8, 39KO) was valiant in defeat but still convincingly outworked in nearly every round. The post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant suggested that Saturday evening could mark the last ever ring appearance for the former three-division champ, who hasn’t won in more than three years.
Jessie Vargas kept his unbeaten record intact with a virtual shutout of Steve Forbes. Vargas
(19-0, 9KO) was in control for much of the evening, never in any real danger against the former 130 lb. titlist. Scores were 100-90, 99-91 and 97-93. Forbes (35-11, 11KO) has now lost three straight.
A minor (though predictable) upset occurred in the televised opener of the pay-per-view portion of the card as Carlos Quintana knocked out Deandre Latimore in six rounds. Quintana jumped on Latimore from the opening bell, drawing blood in round two and constantly beating his foe to the punch.
The end came when Quintana (29-3, 23KO) landed a flurry of punches to put Latimore (23-4, 17KO) down and out for the ten count, at 2:19 of round six.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments via e-mail.