SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s super welterweight title fight between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV). Share your prediction in the comments below.
This would have been a great fight six years ago, when Mayweather and Cotto were at the top of the 140-pound division. But too much time, too many beatings (for Cotto) have passed to make this fight anything more than it is: another high-profile win for Mayweather. Cotto won’t be a pushover; his experience and ring generalship, coupled with his comfort at 154 pounds should make it interesting early. But Mayweather is a master at hitting and not getting hit. He will pot-shot Cotto from a distance and rattle him in the later rounds. It will go the full distance but when the final bell rings there won’t be any doubt who the winner is. Mayweather by unanimous decision.
Cotto’s recent outings have been remarkable: Not only has he bounced back from the Margarito beating (a harrowing defeat that many assumed had ruined him for good) and from the loss to Pacquiao to produce wins over Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and Margarito (a particularly impressive and sweet victory), he has also shown that he has evolved into a more complete and effective fighter than ever.
Does that mean he has a real shot at beating Mayweather? I don’t think so. But for all of us who’ve been waiting to see Floyd at least extended a bit, Saturday night could bring some satisfaction. Once thought of as little more than an aggressive banger, Cotto has developed into a very skilled and effective boxer, a true elite. He outpointed Shane Mosley, after all, back when Mosley was far closer to his best then he was when he faced Mayweather. At the same time Cotto remains a brutally strong and rugged customer. Think of the briefly effective swarming tactics that Victor Ortiz tried on Mayweather (shortly before Floyd gave him a percussive spanking for his cheekiness); Cotto has the muscle and power to try something of the same — as well as the ring smarts not to lose control in the process.
Yet Cotto’s most promising gambit might not be to try to jump on Mayweather early — likely sending himself into a nightmare ride of shoulder-rolls, counterpunches and potshots that he’d never get out of. Cotto’s skilled enough to box early and slow the tempo and try to get Floyd to open up a bit himself. Eventually Cotto will need to get close and to bang, but if he can do it without reaching, he will limit the damage he sustains and make himself more effective.
In the end, though, Mayweather adjusts too well and has a reservoir of skills and physical gifts that is just too deep, and I see Cotto finally going under. A tougher fight than Floyd has had in a while, but he makes it 43 wins in 43 tries. Mayweather by late-round stoppage.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM
Mayweather’s demand of eight-ounce gloves for Saturday’s fight — his second outing at 154 pounds and first since a split-decision win over Oscar De La Hoya five years ago this week — is noteworthy because it would seem to favor the punching power that’s Cotto’s only apparent advantage. It tells me Floyd sees a someone in front of him who doesn’t have much left. Fact is, Cotto has been shrewdly matched since his 2009 knockout loss to Pacquiao: a feather-fisted Yuri Foreman; a shopworn Ricardo Mayorga; an Antonio Margarito who’s done virtually nothing (0-3 against world class opposition) since getting caught with loaded gloves. Cotto’s soft skin, not to mention the considerable scar tissue around his eyes, is prone to bleeding; the fact is not lost on Mayweather and I expect him to take full advantage.
Cotto must know he can’t outbox the sport’s consummate stylist — at least not for anything longer-term than a change-of-pace tactic — so look for him to crowd and pressure the unbeaten challenger and attempt to lure him into a slugfest. Easier said than done. Look for Mayweather to control the pace and style, connecting with lead rights, counters and uppercuts, adjusting on the fly and generally showing why he’s the top pound-for-pound fighter of his generation. Mayweather isn’t a volume puncher, but he picks his shots extremely well and the damage will accumulate until referee Tony Weeks intervenes. Mayweather by late-round stoppage.