By Mark F. Villanueva
If a man is never really free unless he is truly able to speak his mind, then American boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is among the freest men I know. Having built his career with superior defensive skills, many boxing experts have heavily criticized the fighter who calls himself “Money” for not matching his fight game in proportion with his trash talking. Some even breach the point of having branded his style as boring for not taking enough chances during matches, lacking back and forth action, content mostly on scoring over an opponent’s mistakes rather than committing himself forward to make a fight. His “offensive” nature in public appearances, per se, contradicts his safety-first-style of fighting backwards. That was then.
Boxing is to hit and not get hit. Excitement has nothing to do with winning a match and throughout history there is a wide array of boxers with intriguing styles. But like change, challenges, too, remain constant even for the seemingly incorrigible Mayweather Jr. Perhaps in an initial attempt to stay relevant after his long absence from the sport and for contracting to fight only on a once a year basis since his comeback from retirement against Juan Manuel Marquez, plus being amidst the growing number of up and coming boxers with fan-friendly fighting styles, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has tweaked his boxing in recent bouts.
Against the crowd favorite, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr. would take more hits than he is accustomed to. At one point, late in the match, the black American came out of his corner with a bloodied nose, which is a rare sighting in itself all throughout the defensive wizard’s sixteen year professional career. The heavy handed Miguel Cotto would try to press the action. The heavily tattooed Puerto Rican has made an impressive career with his feared body punching skills, and if this match up had happened years ago I recon Floyd Mayweather would stealthily spin out of this trap, stay away from pockets and smartly use the ring to his favor. He’d be slippery, using his quickness in foot to his advantage. But the reinvented Mayweather courageously stood his ground like a warrior asking for more. He intentionally remained flatfooted, up close with impeccable balance, shifting his upper body side to side and coldly looked at Cotto in the eye while simultaneously parrying his punches. He wouldn’t keep off and push Cotto back, and then he’d quickly break out from his Philly Shell defense to stun Miguel Cotto with stinging punches and readily snap back in to defend himself. Sometimes he’d break off the cycle of rugged infighting and beautifully circle around like a predator to resume in distance fighting, hitting the Puerto Rican with clean jabs and overhands. He was winning from all aspects of the fight, in and out.
There’s heaviness in Miguel Cotto that’s threatening. He doesn’t talk much and fighters like that work hard alone and away from the spotlight. They are ironic in that they are dangerous because they are stable yet ready to explode. He fought hard the whole gamut and gave Mayweather problems. He hit Floyd Jr. yet didn’t follow it up, but he was able to hit him hard and put real pressure and maintain it ‘til the end. But there’s a way he carries his arms that makes him susceptible to uppercuts. He doesn’t tuck his guard and holds his gloves close to his ears, and these tactical issues were clearly exploited by the American. Floyd Jr. let go of the usual left hook counter as he would sway on his side and operate on the middle, hitting Cotto with jolting uppercuts, and then smartly stepping in, utilizing his quick footwork, staying too close for Cotto to extend his shots and fully counter with effective body punches and clinching him.
The fight didn’t appear so much as about Mayweather’s speed versus Cotto’s power as most projected it to be when it was formally announced. Miguel Cotto has dealt with fighters with blazing hand speed and beat them squarely, such as Zab Judah and Shane Mosley back in 2007. Floyd Jr. threw more accurate punches in the match, but beat him in the head by a wider margin.