How Miguel Cotto can Defeat Floyd Mayweather
“There’s no blueprint on how to beat me.”
-Floyd Mayweather, Jr., on March 27, 2012
Developing a strategy for facing an undefeated fighter is both a blessing and curse. On the downside, footage does not exist over which to pour over and pick apart, looking frame by frame to find where he has stumbled in the past. A writer’s job is made infinitely easier when actual analysis is possible. When you cover a guy who has yet to lose in his professional career—save for a round here or there—a great deal of supposition and hypothetical prognostication is required. On the upside, tens of thousands of dollars of legal training has provided me with the ability to do just that.
Love or hate the man, Floyd Mayweather Jr. enters his May 5th bout with Miguel Cotto as the easy-money favorite to prevail and keep his oh-so-important blemish free record intact. Yet, when I sit back and think about it, it’s hard to recall a time where an underdog, with seemingly so much of the industry and betting sentiment against him, looked more unfairly positioned. My thought almost immediately shifts from the intrigue of a potential Larry Merchant-Floyd Mayweather scrap to, “C’mon … this is Miguel Cotto, here. Show the man some respect.”
Cotto has done plenty to earn that respect, too, so it’s hard to discount what he brings to this fight other than being a big name roadbump between Mayweather and immortality (which, coincidentally, he’s already achieved in his own mind). Sparing the world his usual pre-fight vitriol, Mayweather has been relatively decent toward Cotto leading up to the bout (as opposed to their battle of words earlier in the decade), which is both comforting and, at the same time, off-putting. There’s something much more fun about the guy when he’s the clear-cut villain.
Although I should probably preface my next sentence with the oft-used “SPOILER ALERT”, allow me to go on the record here as saying: Floyd Mayweather will win the fight. Sorry, but it’s true. I love watching Miguel Cotto and can see myself pulling for him at times throughout the fight when fan overtakes writer.
But, the fact remains that Mayweather is just the better fighter, right now. Still, if Cotto is to pull off the unlikely—not impossible by any stretch of the imagination—here’s the way I think he’s going to do it. These keys may seem simple but, perhaps, that’s the best possible approach when facing arguably, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
1. Exploit The Experience At 154
Mayweather’s greatest hindrance in this fight, if there is one, is that he’s moving up in weight to take on Cotto, who has fought, and won, in this weight class for his past four bouts. Mayweather’s last fight at 154 was his victory over Oscar De La Hoya five years ago, although it’s safe to assume that he’ll be up for the challenge. Still, if there’s an advantage to be had it’s that Mayweather is now coming to fight at Cotto’s comfort weight. Mayweather will train and spar but has not seen active, game-speed fighting at 154 in some time. Cotto will need to fight his fight and appreciate the affect 154 will have on Mayweather’s speed and lateral movement.
2. Take Liberties
For as foolish as he came off looking after the fight, Victor Ortiz may have been on to something aside from, you know, all the faux-love and knockout-inducing hugs. Sure, the blatant head butts were silly and didn’t really serve much of a purpose in the long run, but at the time it threw Mayweather off his game enough to make things interesting. The problem with Miguel Cotto is that he’s too straight-forward and decent a fighter to resort to something like that. As evidenced in his blood-feud with Antonio Margarito, Cotto prefers to win with honor, and I dig that about him. But, you have to imagine that if he can shake Mayweather mentally, he’d be wise to take that opportunity.
3. Any Distractions?
Of course he’s a pro, but you have to imagine that his pending taxpayer-sponsored vacation in a Nevada state penitentiary might be weighing on him, no? Over the next two weeks this intriguing angle of the fight will undoubtedly rise more to the forefront of discussions and analysis. Whether this will have a discernible impact on Mayweather’s approach to training or on fight night remains to be seen. Still, the impact of a 90-day prison sentence should not be discounted.
4. Play Up The Strength Advantage
What Mayweather holds in an advantage of reach, Cotto maintains in strength. The most important punch in Cotto’s arsenal will have to come from the left-hand side. Sharp left hooks while evading Mayweather’s flashy jab will allow Cotto to move back to his right hand side and throw for power. The problem with any concerted strength approach to a fight with Mayweather is that “Money” is as excellent a defender as there is in the sport. Cotto cannot attempt to force the offense where it doesn’t exist, otherwise he’ll simply be hitting gloves or forearms all night long.
5. Finish strong
Cotto would be wise to not play for the tie or leave the fight in the hands of anyone other than himself, regardless of how obvious that may seem. Many—myself included—see this fight going the distance which works for both Cotto and Mayweather. If Floyd can control the flow of the fight and evade Cotto, he’ll let the judges do the work. But, if Cotto reaches the ninth, tenth, eleventh rounds, he’s going to need to truly push for the knockout. Worst case scenario, Cotto doesn’t get the knockout and loses on the cards; best case scenario, the boxing world is turned on its ear and things suddenly get very interesting.
As it stands, there are just too many variables that have to go Cotto’s way for him to win this fight. Cotto has to pitch the perfect game and, simultaneously, the man who doesn’t make mistakes in the ring has to make at least one. My thought is that it’s Mayweather whose arm is raised as a result.