Love him or loathe him, Floyd Mayweather has been the most complete boxer in the sport for the past decade. I think you could make a cogent argument that as of May 2015, neither he nor is his upcoming opponent Manny Pacquiao occupy the top two p4p spots in boxing today, but it wasn't long ago that they did.
In the ring throughout his career, Mayweather has been so resourceful and confident. You can see during the course of his bouts that he just knows down to his core that he has the needed physical tools, and the aptitude to direct them so he can overcome whatever he's confronted with physically or stylistically by his opponent. He's also physically stronger and punches better than he's usually given credit for. He's never really been man- handled or punched around by the bigger and stronger fighters he has faced and Floyd is also durable. I don't think anyone has ever seen him really gassed or tired during any of his 47 career fights.
Since turning pro after winning a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, he's never officially lost. And during the course of the past 19 years, Floyd has turned in some virtuoso performances. Early in his career he looked terrific in taking apart legitimate guys the likes of Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy. His breakout win came on the night he stopped the late Diego Corrales who was undefeated at the time. He tripped against Jose Luis Castillo (I had Castillo winning 115-111) the first time they met despite winning the decision. He looked scary good against the late Arturo Gatti, and showed a year later that he was a class above the ultra-skilled Zab Judah. In the highest profile bout of his career, at the time, he wasn't impressive against a washed up Oscar De La Hoya winning via split decision. After beating De La Hoya he looked really sharp in his next three fights, beating Ricky Hatton, the undersized Juan Manuel Marquez, and the declining Shane Mosley. Since beating Mosley, Mayweather holds wins over Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, Saul Alvarez and Marcos Maidana twice.
Did I miss anybody? Oh, he beat Miguel Cotto after he stopped Victor Ortiz. How'd I miss that? I didn't. That's the fight I want to examine. If you're one of those guys and think Floyd Mayweather is a once in a generation fighter, all you have to do is watch his fight against Cotto. No, Cotto certainly isn't Roberto Duran, not even close. However, Cotto is without a doubt one of the best fighters of Mayweather's era. When Miguel defended his junior middleweight title against Floyd he entered the bout with a record of 37-2 (30). One loss was controversial because it's widely believed, (but never proven) that his opponent Antonio Margarito entered the fight with loaded gloves. His other loss was at the buzz-saw hands of Mayweather's next opponent, Manny Pacquiao, who fought the best fight of his life that night.
Throughout Mayweather's career, Floyd has been accused of picking his opponents and waiting for the right time to fight certain guys, such as Oscar De La Hoya (2007) and Shane Mosley (2010). Or totally avoiding others when the fights should've been made, such as anticipated bouts with Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito. However, Cotto doesn't belong on either list. He may not have been at his brilliant best when he fought Mayweather, but he was still one of the most formidable opponents around at the time. Cotto cannot be thought of as being a soft touch because he never is.
It really was a thing of beauty to watch Mayweather befuddle Cotto for 10 of the 12 scheduled rounds they fought. For the first five rounds Miguel never could get his footing. At times he wanted to jab and box, but Floyd beat him to the punch and bordered on the verge of embarrassing him a few times. Flustered by that, Cotto tried to do his best impression of “Smokin” Joe Frazier and forced the fight. And when Floyd sensed that, he did what Muhammad Ali often tried to do against Joe – and that was go back to the ropes on his own as if to say, “Oh, this is where you want me and feel you're at your best, okay, how about I go there on my own because I can beat you there just as thoroughly as I can at center ring.” And then Mayweather proceeded to win the exchanges with his back against the ropes, again emulating Ali by doing it on his terms and not Cotto's. With the difference being Frazier had more success than Miguel did because Joe didn't need his feet or hips set in order to punch with authority, the way Miguel does. And that aided Mayweather when it came to standing in Cotto's kitchen and beating him there as well.
If Mayweather ever boxed more intelligently than he did during the first five rounds against Miguel Cotto, I've never seen when. There were times Mayweather purposely allowed Cotto to pin him in a corner or against the ropes. Then he went into his shell and drew Miguel to start unloading big hooks and body shots, leaving the impression he was vulnerable to the head. Which lead to Cotto abandoning the body attack and start throwing to the head exclusively. After missing with 90% of what he threw and still leaning in, Mayweather showed him the double right uppercut. Cotto welcomed that and tried to further engage Mayweather into punching it out with him, however, Floyd turned and abandoned his uppercut and caught Cotto with a double left hook counter and Cotto halted his assault and broke off the exchange. That gave Mayweather time and room to pivot out; exchange goes to Mayweather.
Mayweather also did his feint, take a half step in to draw Cotto in, then countered with the one-two. After Cotto became cognizant of that, he didn't go for the feint, to which Floyd responded by taking the lead with body jabs and single hooks to the head that usually scored. Then when Cotto tried to pressure him, Mayweather tapped him with lead left hooks as he was turning to get out of the way. Oh yes, Floyd was definitely feeling it on this night.
During the last half of the sixth round it was masterful in how Mayweather was able to walk Cotto down and back him up with jabs, feints and a right lead sprinkled in once or twice. And it was interesting to watch Cotto try and shuffle back as if he had an answer and was only going back because he chose to. However, the reality was, he had no answer and was trying to figure something out to do. And there were a lot of patches during the second half of the fight in which Floyd at times stood in the middle of the ring and traded with Miguel, and won many of the exchanges. Cotto never fought a fight where for so much of it he couldn't find his identity. He didn't know if he was better attacking, countering or drawing Floyd to him. And whatever he tried, Mayweather showed him he had an answer for it. Even when he had Mayweather against the ropes, because of Floyd always getting the better leverage along with his quicker hands, he bettered Miguel in his own wheel house. Aside from sporadic flurries and runs by Cotto, Mayweather jogged to an overwhelming decision victory in this fight.
Without question if you ever want to point out one fight in which Mayweather makes his case for being a great boxer, watch his 2012 bout against the very formidable and dangerous Miguel Cotto. The first five rounds are one of the best boxing clinics in history. And Floyd's exhibition of pristine boxing came against one of the best fighters of his era to boot.
How many fighters can you think of who voluntarily let a top tier professional like Miguel Cotto fight their fight, never doubting for a second that they'll know what to do to shut it down? That's exactly what Floyd Mayweather did the night he fought Miguel Cotto.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted @GlovedFist@Gmail.com