So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2012, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Miguel Cotto on May 5 on HBO pay-per-view. Previously: the stakes of Mayweather-Cotto; the undercard, previewed. Next: keys to the fight, part II.
Mind. Matter. How do Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Miguel Cotto stack up in those categories? In the first of two parts, we compare their physical attributes.
The (hokeypo)keys to the fight.
Size. Among the pressure points whereby underdog Cotto could burst through the vaunted Mayweather defense and claim victory, “size” is maybe the most important. Cotto was a tank-like junior welterweight, too thick and too broad to last there as he aged. He was a pretty thick welterweight, too. Now, at 154, he seems about right, just in terms of his frame’s ability to hold weight. That’s not the same as saying he’s a very big junior middleweight; he stands just 5’7” with a 67” reach. It’s only to say that his body likes 154, and there’s every reason to believe he’ll be the bigger man, generally speaking.
Mayweather, though, has always been very long-limbed, with a 72” reach, and he’s actually listed taller than Cotto at 5’8”. In his last appearance at junior middleweight, there wasn’t much zip on his punches and Oscar De La Hoya muscled him against the ropes at times. We’ll see how much stronger he looks this time around, since it will be five years after said appearance, when Mayweather clocked in at a mere 150. There have been reports of Mayweather’s “walking-around” weight going up in recent years, not that he should be expected to outweigh Cotto on actual fight night. That could translate into Cotto having more success on the inside, where the stronger-than-you think Mayweather has often been very effective at tying up his opponent to prevent their offense. Edge: Cotto
Speed. Of course, there are reasons you’d want to be the smaller man. There’s been a good deal of speculation about whether Cotto will be too big on fight night, because he might want to be smaller and quicker so as to deal with Mayweather’s own quickness. Cotto isn’t slow, per se, but his speed is mostly above average. Sure, he outquicked Antonio Margarito considerably in his last fight, but Margarito is a talking pineapple when it comes to speed. He fared all right speedwise against quicksters Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao, but that had more to do with his short, straight punches, I suspect.
One way or the other, Cotto can’t be and won’t be as fast as Mayweather, who at age 35 still has some of the fastest hands in the sport. And if Cotto looked quicker than expected against Mosley and Pacquiao because of technique, that won’t hold here – Mayweather is faster and punches pretty straight and short himself. The only area where Mayweather has slowed down much is in his legs, and that could be a boon for a Cotto who’s probably going to have to trap Mayweather at times and force exchanges. Cotto’s legs looked awfully fresh against Margarito, but, again, talking pineapple. Edge: Mayweather
Power. The collective stoppage victories of Cotto and Mayweather over the past few years are the result of a variety of kooky factors, none of them having to do with sheer punching power. Mayweather knocked out Victor Ortiz during a period where Ortiz thought they were hugging it out like pals and got slugged with two cheap shots while he wasn’t looking. Cotto’s last stoppage win came in a rematch with Margarito when swelling clamped shut Margarito’s eye, which was of questionable health from the start. Injuries — Yuri Foreman’s knee, Richard Mayorga’s thumb – led to the other two.
Cotto has the higher knockout percentage — 30 of 37 wins for Cotto, 26 of 42 for Mayweather – so that makes him the obvious choice here. But we don’t have a real strong view of Cotto’s power at 154 yet due to the kooky business, and just eyeballing it, it doesn’t look like he carries the same dynamite in his current division compared to his old ones. Mayweather showed against Shane Mosley that he can make normally sturdy fighters retreat, if nothing else, with his power, often generated by speed and accuracy, but he also couldn’t finish off a very small Juan Manuel Marquez at 145 pounds. It’s fair to wonder whether he’ll have enough pop in his mitts to make Cotto think twice. Edge: Cotto
Chin. Both Mayweather and Cotto can be wobbled, rocked or otherwise given the stanky legg. Both have demonstrated top-notch recuperative powers. Whether you think someone either of them has a good chin or not probably depends somewhat on your definition: Is it complete inability to get hurt, or simply the ability to stay conscious?
I say both matter when assessing chins, and while they’re tied on the “stay conscious” count, we’ve seen Cotto on the canvas and in trouble more often than Mayweather. Some of that has to do with Cotto tending to get hit a lot more than Mayweather, no doubt. And some of Cotto’s past trips to the mat or queer street had a lot to do with him not fighting at an ideal weight; he’s yet to be similarly troubled at 154. But just based on the hardest available evidence, we have little choice but to assume Mayweather has the superior whiskers. Edge: Mayweather
Condition. This is kind of a catch-all for stamina, wear and tear and general physical condition. We’ve seen Cotto wear down, in the first Margarito fight (no matter how suspicious a figure Margarito has become since) and against Pacquiao, so we know he can be ground out. We’ve seen him accumulate as much wear and tear as any top-level fighter over the past decade; rarely is Cotto in a fight where he doesn’t get hit a lot, and hard. Cotto, at 31, is “older” in the ring than Mayweather.
Mayweather is always in superb condition, has suffered virtually no wear and tear, and his stamina has never been remotely tested; he’s been in numerous fights where he was fresh as a daisy late in a bout and his opponent, be it Zab Judah, Mosley or De La Hoya, was coming up short. Cotto might be looking better-preserved these days than he did a few fights ago because he hasn’t taken as many shots in recent fights and has a trainer he is gaga about, but it’s not near enough to award him this category. Edge: Mayweather