TSS Welterweight Tourney:  The Final Four

#1 Floyd Mayweather (39-0) vs. #3 Shane Mosley (44-5)

If this fight were ever to take place, it would likely present Floyd Mayweather with his toughest stylistic matchup to date.  Even at 36, Mosley remains one of the fastest guns in the welterweight division, and backs that speed with respectable punching power.  Factor in an iron will, solid chin, and willingness to go to war, and you get one of the greatest fighters of this era.

However, the current version of Shane Mosley is not quite vintage “Sugar Shane.”  He’s just a half-step slower, and a split-second more hesitant to pull the trigger than Mosley circa 2000.  The question in this matchup would be whether a slightly eroded Mosley would be enough against a prime Mayweather.

For Mayweather, it would obviously be foolish for him to trade with Mosley.  Shane may not be as quick as Floyd, but he’s close, and would likely find the mark more regularly than most of Mayweather’s opponents.  Also, Mosley is the naturally bigger, and much stronger, man.  Floyd would quickly find that muscling up to Mosley is a much different story than pushing around a smaller man like Ricky Hatton.

None of this would be lost on Mayweather.  He’s at the top of the pound-for-pound list because he’s one of the smartest fighters in the game.  Against Mosley, he’d keep his distance and would have to keep the fight at a measured tempo.  The busier the pace, the worse it is for Floyd.  Keeping the fight manageable will be difficult; Mosley would know that Floyd couldn’t hurt him, so he’d likely keep the heat on.

Eventually, though, it would be easy to picture Shane getting frustrated.  Mosley’s recent success has been partially a result of intelligent matchmaking.  Mosley performs best when presented with an opponent who is not particularly mobile or elusive.  A faded Fernando Vargas presented the perfect foil.  Even against Luis Collazo, Mosley didn’t have to track him down.  In his most recent effort, Shane had success against Cotto because the Puerto Rican star is more preoccupied with offense than defense.  Even when Cotto backed up, he was well within Mosley’s punching range.

Against Mayweather, it would be defense, not punches, which would discourage Mosley.  After missing enough of his punches, Mosley would find his offense disrupted and would begin to second-guess himself.  He did exactly that in his first meeting with Winky Wright.  As soon as his offense was thwarted, his punches came with less fluidity and commitment.  Against Floyd, any hesitation on Mosley’s part plays right into Mayweather’s strategy.  That would allow Floyd to sit back and methodically dictate the happenings of the fight.

This isn’t to say that it would be a Mayweather wipeout.  He definitely wouldn’t score a stoppage; his handlers could load his gloves with horseshoes and he still probably couldn’t hurt Mosley.  Sugar Shane would pose plenty of problems for Floyd.  In fact, Mosley would give a solid enough account of himself for many to wonder how the Pretty Boy would have dealt with the Mosley of eight years ago.

The Pick:  Mayweather by split decision, with the winning cards reading 115-113

#2 Miguel Cotto (31-0) vs. #5 Kermit Cintron (29-1)

In a battle of Puerto Rican punchers, Cotto and Cintron have the potential to create a nuclear war.  Cotto’s consistency and aggression would be favored in this matchup, but all those advantages could be erased with one punch from Cintron, whose right hand is probably the hardest punch in the division.

Compared to Margarito, Cintron’s opponent in our tournament’s opening round, Cotto would match up better with Cintron because he is more defensively deft.  While Margarito applies just as much pressure as Cotto, he does so at the expense of his brain cells.  His head is a painfully still target, and his hands are not always as high as they should be.  Cotto is certainly no defensive wizard, but he is savvier than most give him credit for.  He utilizes a satisfactory amount of head movement, keeps his hands up, and can pick off many punches with his arms and gloves while rolling with others to lessen their impact.  Even the quick-handed Shane Mosley had some difficulty landing clean punches during stretches of their fight.

For Cotto, the key is to apply steady, intelligent pressure.  He can’t give up too much real estate to Cintron, but he needs to remember that, if he makes a mistake, he and his head could be leaving the arena in separate limousines.  As a result, he has to keep his technical errors to a minimum and therefore reduce Cintron’s hopes to those of a puncher’s chance.

Against Cotto, Cintron must keep him at range by any means necessary.  He simply cannot fight inside with the rougher, tougher, more compact Cotto.  To keep this fight at a distance, Cintron must pump an authoritative jab in Cotto’s face constantly, occasionally dropping his long right hand behind it to earn Cotto’s respect.  Cintron needs to show the fortitude that wasn’t there the first time he fought Margarito.  Improved technique won’t be enough to win this one for him; he has to prove that he wants it more than Cotto.

In forecasting a Cotto-Cintron matchup, a key fight to consider is Cintron’s war with journeyman David Estrada.  A pressure fighter from the same mold as Cotto, Estrada gave Cintron a life and death struggle in 2006, one in which Cintron prevailed via a tenth round TKO.  However, Cintron’s difficulty with the technically limited Estrada does not make for a promising proposition against the vastly superior Cotto.  Miguel Cotto’s intelligence, strength, and suffocating pressure will ultimately wither Cintron.  A fighter who has desperately sought respect since crumbling against Margarito, it would not be surprising to see Cintron try to gut this out to the bitter end, but he will reach his breaking point somewhere along the line.

The Cinderella story of the tournament comes to an abrupt end.

The Pick:  Cotto TKO 9 Cintron, via referee or corner stoppage.

Championship Match:

#1 Floyd Mayweather vs. #2 Miguel Cotto