Cotto’s only crime is not being Pacquiao

The Pugilist

With Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto on deck to do battle on Saturday night in Las Vegas it almost feels like boxing fans have been handed the keys to a Mercedes but are still complaining because it's not a Rolls-Royce.

The Cinco de Mayo showdown at the MGM Grand is undoubtedly the biggest fight of the year so far but predictably, and tiresomely, the pre-fight build-up has again been dominated by talk of Manny Pacquiao.

Even Mayweather himself has been roped into pontificating about his potential Pilipino nemesis as opposed to his live Puerto Rican one, by rehashing his old hypothesis that Pacquiao used performance enhancing drugs to join him at boxing's pay-per-view top table.

You would expect that Mayweather, a man so obsessed with dollar signs that he changed his nickname from 'Pretty Boy' to 'Money,' and who allegedly lost close to $1 million gambling on a college basketball game earlier this year, might be more interested in promoting the fight that's at hand than talking about some  Shangri-La showdown with the Pacman that may never happen.

The concept of Mayweather-Pacquiao being the "only fight anyone wants to see" reached its zenith on November 14 2009 when Pacquiao produced a performance of such brutal power and skill that his promoter Bob Arum was moved to say that: "Pacquiao is the greatest boxer I've ever seen, and I've seen them all, including Ali, Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard."

The man on the other end of that beating was Miguel Cotto; the unfortunate soul who caught Pacquiao on arguably the most outstanding night of his career.

Still, despite a systematic beating that even saw his wife leave the arena during the fight, Cotto showed the heart and courage of a champion to last until the 55th second of the 12th round when really nobody would have discredited him had he abandoned his mission a couple of rounds earlier.

It was the second, and to-date last, defeat of Cotto's career. His first was a highly contentious upset loss to Antonio Margarito in 2008 where the Mexican may or may not have used illegal hand wraps.

Before that fight Cotto was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but that defeat, compounded with the Pacquiao loss, saw him unfairly relegated to has-been status.

While the now 31-year-old Cotto could look back and curse Margarito for spoiling his marketability, he also owes the Mexican pantomime villain a degree of gratitude for reigniting it.

The pure unapologetic nastiness of Margarito, compounded with Cotto's placid and personable nature, made their rematch at Madison Square Garden last December a curiously mouth-watering prospect that generated more interest than perhaps their standings within the fight game at the time deserved.

It proved to be a perfect storm for Cotto who outboxed Margarito on his way to a 10th round stoppage in front of packed house of noisy Puerto Ricans and a large pay-per-view audience which put him back into the discussion for the biggest fights going.

When it was clear that *the fight* wasn't going to happen, the Mayweather-Cotto match-up was the best bout on the table, and we should at least be glad we have this to look forward to.

Sure Mayweather will probably win - with a late stoppage or points victory the most likely outcome. His hand speed and defensive capabilities should be too much for Cotto and the way Cotto tends to lean forward at times makes him vulnerable to sharp uppercuts — which has been one of Mayweather's trademark shots in recent years.

But Cotto, let us not forget, is also a three-time world champion and deserves more respect than he has been shown. The fight is also being fought at 154 pounds for Cotto's WBA Light middleweight title. Cotto has fought his last three fights in this weightclass while Mayweather hasn't been up this big since his 2007 megafight with Oscar de la Hoya.

If Cotto is to have a chance he will have to make hay with his left jab — which is one of the best in the business.  At times he has abandoned it too readily during fights; however, during his best wins, such as his victory over Shane Mosley in 2007 and throughout the rematch against Margarito — it has been his best weapon.

The fact that he is fighting against one of the best defenders of the jab of all-time is the one thing that makes it too hard to pick him as a real danger to actually win the fight though.

Mayweather's last opponent, Victor Ortiz, threw just 31 jabs in his fourth round loss last September but do want to take a guess on how many landed?


No wonder he didn't throw more.

Mayweather also has an uncanny knack of figuring out the trickier jabs during a fight too. For most of their 2007 fight, Del Hoya had some success with the jab but then managed to land just four of 77 attempts in the final three rounds when the fight was on the line. In his last seven fights, Mayweather's opponents have thrown a combined 1686 jabs and landed with just 204.

It will be intriguing to see if Cotto can unlock such a defence — the answer will probably be no, but the Puerto Rican at least has the talent to make it a relevant question.

This is a fight that stands up on its own merits and boxing fans can be genuinely excited by the prospect; certainly Cotto doesn't deserve to be presented as the mere afterthought he has been by many.

Sure Saturday's battle is not the Rolls-Royce fight we have been crying out for but it is no banger either.

So sit back, enjoy and may the best man win!

Follow live text commentary from Miguel Cotto v Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez v Shane Mosley on Eurosport Yahoo! from approximately 4am in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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