This past Saturday, Miguel Cotto reminded me why he is one of my all-time favorite fighters, and why boxing is easily my favorite sport. Over the past few months we have seen precious few meaningful fights, coinciding with your typical boxing garbage (bum decisions, good fights postponed or cancelled, Jose Sulaiman still drawing breath). However, Saturday night's main event, while not a great fight, was a great moment.
The end result appears monotonous enough: Mayweather UD12 . Some years from now people may look at that, and draw the ignorant conclusion that Cotto was just another opponent severely outclassed by the sublime skill and speed of Floyd Mayweather. They will group him with Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, and others as men that were overwhelmed by arguably the best fighter since a prime Ray Leonard in the early 1980's. And they will be wrong.
Displaying an educated jab, Cotto dipped into a reservoir of boxing ability that he tends to ply when he finds an opponent that will not crack easily like the opposition of his younger days. It seemed a genuine shock to Mayweather that Cotto could exchange jabs with him and score points from the outside. On the inside, Cotto tried to rake Mayweather's body with hooks while coming over the top with a generally inaccurate right hand. He did not achieve much clean work here, but he did something that nobody else had been able to do since Jose Luis Castillo in 2002. He made "Money" have to work for every minute of every round.
Mayweather's face wore an expression between rounds and during the course of the fight different than what we have been accustomed to seeing. While his cutman stuck Q-tips up his nostrils to slow the flow of blood sliding down, Mayweather looked around his corner as if checking for approval that he was winning the fight. During the middle rounds, particularly the eighth, his arms moved as if dumbbells had been placed in his gloves. When one is as blazingly fast as he is, any change in speed feels like a huge one.
This is all not to pretend that Cotto deserved to win the fight (I scored it 116-112 for Mayweather). Ultimately, Floyd was still Floyd. To the chagrin of the live crowd (and probably most people watching on television) he made Cotto miss an awful lot of shots, especially upstairs. Cotto also sported his usual self-induced red marks on his temple from his own gloves being punched into his face due to the high and tight guard. Finally, he was clearly rocked in the last round from a Mayweather flurry. A different fighter may have gone in for the kill, but not Floyd. Like a master thespian, he never breaks character. He will not be hurried.
In a way, Cotto's performance recalls boxing's most famous movie. The theme of Rocky was about going the distance, win or lose. Curiously, one has to pay close attention to the climax if one wants to know if he wins or loses. It had become a moot point.
Cotto did not win, but that is irrelevant. Whereas most fighters would have mentally and physically checked out when they recognized the steepness of the task at hand, Cotto bit down on his gumshield and came right at the best fighter in the world. On paper, he looked to be badly outclassed. On the canvas, for one night, he was nearly the best fighter on the planet. That's what makes boxing so fun. That's what makes Cotto so special.
Some Random Thoughts:
During Andre Ward's brief commentary session Jim Lampley asked Ward if he had ever been cut in a fight. This is the guy who will be hosting The Fight Game.
Is the Jessie Vargas-Steve Forbes fight over yet?
I hope Juan Manuel Marquez and Zab Judah come together. I thought Marquez would take it easy until a possible Pacquiao fight in the fall. This could be a great fight.
I have loved watching Shane Mosley's career, but it needs to end quickly. The long, gradual beating he received is the worst possible thing that could happen to an old fighter.
No way Canelo Alvarez signs to fight Mayweather. But seriously who is out there for Floyd? Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez are highly unlikely. Winner of Ortiz-Berto II? Amir Khan? I can't see Lamont Peterson getting the shot. I would not be completely shocked if Cotto got a rematch.
I have never made a list of people that I would want to walk me out to the ring while holding my belts. But, if I did, I think Justin Bieber would rank somewhere between 42,103 and 98,767.