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Preview: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Miguel Cotto

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Back around 2006 and 2007, when Miguel Cotto was tearing through the 140 and 147-lb weight classes, I would have bet the house on Miguel Cotto to beat Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Cotto was made to pose a challenge to a fighter with the defensive brilliance that defines Pretty Boy Floyd.

When I first saw a full Cotto fight back in 2004 (they typically didn’t last long), I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe the blend of power, speed, and accuracy. Offensively, he was a gift from the boxing heavens. What he lacked in defensive skills he made up for with aggressiveness and explosive punches from all angles.

Cotto is and always has been a brutally hard puncher. He didn’t necessarily have the one-punch knockout power of Tommy Hearns’ right hand, but he hit hard. And with both hands. If you don’t believe me, ask Paulie Malignaggi. Better yet, just do a Google search looking for photos of his smashed orbital bone after fighting Cotto. Or ask Carlos Quintana, a solid, technically-sound southpaw who Cotto fought for an interim welterweight title back in 2006. Quintana seemed to be winning the early rounds against Cotto, but it was Quintana that looked like he was on the wrong end of a street fight after just four rounds. Cotto went on to stop him on a chilling body shot.

The body shot. Cotto’s most potent weapon.

As his career evolved, Miguel Cotto continued hammering opponents with great body shots while improving on his ever-suspect defense.  In 2007, he faced Shane Mosley, who still had plenty left in the tank at this point, in what was by far the stiffest test of his career. In a performance that lifted him into the boxing elite and pound-for-pound lists, Miguel Cotto boxed and landed heavy power punches utilizing both an orthodox and a southpaw stance. He landed on the inside, and he landed from the outside. In the late rounds, he was landing significant power punches to win the decision while moving backwards. He was out-boxing Shane Mosley. This was when Shane Mosley was still “Sugar” Shane Mosley.

This hungry version of Miguel Cotto would have been a nightmare for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He would box, throw heavy leather with both hands, and constantly attack from all angles with great accuracy and subtle speed. Oscar De La Hoya was mildly successful in being able to pressure Floyd even though Oscar was well past his prime when they fought. Oscar even won that fight on one questionable scorecard. If Cotto had him on the ropes at this point, he would have ripped Mayweather’s body until he was able to land up top. I just know it.

Unfortunately, the beating Cotto suffered at the hands of Antonio Margarito in their first fight has really taken a toll on him. I firmly believe that it was the lack of body punches from Cotto that made the difference that night. Margarito seemingly landed more body punches than Cotto threw. Would a few of Cotto’s devastating body punches have turned the tide? Who knows? But as a Cotto fan, I sure would like to have seen a few. Cotto’s stoppage loss to Manny Pacquiao was as much a result of the Margarito beating as it was attributed to the fact that Joe Santiago was not equipped to be training Miguel Cotto for a Manny Pacquiao fight. He offered absolutely no tactical advice throughout that entire fight when some adjustments absolutely had to be made. Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter in the world, and you simply can’t beat him without making adjustments.

Even if it seems like he’s mentally recovered, having now stopped Margarito in their December 2011 rematch, this is not the same Miguel Cotto. He’s slowed down a bit, lost his patented aggressiveness, and has become somewhat of a counter-puncher at this point. Even in the second fight against Margarito, it looked eerily similar to the first. Cotto landed at will, but he simply couldn’t hurt the bigger man who kept stalking forwards. The only difference in the second fight was that Margarito has regressed dramatically. In addition to clearly having career-threatening eye issues, he has been a shot fighter since Shane Mosley knocked him around in a one-sided drubbing (in Margarito’s first fight defending the title he won from Cotto… insert hand wraps scandal here).

I digress.

Cotto still allowed himself to be backed into the ropes, but Margarito was simply too slow to stop him from rolling out of danger this time. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will not let you off the hook if you make a mistake. He’ll make you pay like he did to Victor Ortiz. If anything, he’ll bait Cotto into making mistakes by setting traps that only Floyd can set.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is one of the most polarizing figures in any sport today, but his greatness lies in the ring. He is the most dominant, technical, skilled, and natural defensive fighter I’ve ever seen. Floyd is always aware of exactly where he is in the ring, and is simply a master of his craft. Outside of punching power, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. does not lack a single boxing skill.

Mayweather’s brilliance was on full display as he was just entering the prime of his HBO career in a fight against another defensively-limited fighter in Arturo Gatti. He laid such a savage beating on Gatti that it was hard to watch. As a fan of the fight game, seeing big punches doesn’t make me squeamish. However, this was the single most one-sided beatdown I’ve ever seen in a sanctioned fight. Gatti was never Pernell Whitaker defensively, but seeing what a prime Floyd did to a faded Gatti was mystifying. He’d land six hard power punches cleanly by the time Gatti had the sense to cover up or return fire.  It is his accuracy as much as it is his hand speed that makes him such an elite fighter.

All Mayweather has done since that fight is dominate. Granted he hasn’t necessarily fought the best boxing had to offer since then; Floyd Mayweather hasn’t been in more than a few mildly competitive fights. That speaks more to his greatness than his selection of opponents.

I want Miguel Cotto to prove me wrong more than anything, but all I can see is the same outcome as his fight against Manny Pacquiao. It will be competitive for awhile, but Mayweather will take control around round five like he always does. He’ll largely coast en route to a one-sided victory (if he stops him, it will be a TKO in the 11th) with precise right hands landing repeatedly. In all likelihood, we can add Miguel Cotto to a growing list of fighters that could have once given Mayweather a good fight, only to get their chance once they are past their athletic prime.

I sure hope Manny Pacquiao doesn’t make that list as well. It’s a sad truth in boxing, but the one fight everyone wants is Floyd vs. Pacman. It is the only one that has questions to be answered. Where does that fight take place? In the center of the ring? On the outside? Who’s the stronger man? These are questions we all want to know now while both fighters still seem to be at the peak of their pugilistic prowess.

Personally, I think Manny would beat Floyd Mayweather. I don’t think it’s fair to use the transitive property when comparing their respective fights vs. Juan Manuel Marquez. Styles definitely do make fights, and JMM and Manny were made to fight one another.

While Victor Ortiz posed no threat to Floyd, seeing him get off combinations with Floyd against the ropes (although only landing with his head), I’m convinced that Manny could employ the same strategy but land with effectiveness. Ortiz is a very good prizefighter, but Manny is a once-in-a-lifetime fighter. So is Floyd Mayweather. They both are deadly accurate with extremely fast hands.  It’s so rare for the two best fighters of a generation to be in the same weight class, and it would be an epic shame for us to really not know who wins that fight until one of them is past their prime. Come on, Bob, come on Floyd, come on Manny, make it happen.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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