(by Chris Farina-Top Rank)
Ricardo Mayorga 29-7-1 (23) is doing everything in his power to get under the skin of WBA junior middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto 35-2 (28). And based on Cotto's reactions, it doesn't seem to be working. At Monday's press conference Cotto let promoters Bob Arum and Don King shield him instead of taking place in the traditional staredown pose with Mayorga for the press. And of course Mayorga started with the name calling and accusing Miguel of being afraid of him. Which of course is preposterous to any boxing fans who have even followed Cotto's career on the periphery. If there's one thing we know about Miguel Cotto, it's that he's never balked at the thought of fighting anyone.
Apparently Cotto was forewarned to avoid any and all contact with Mayorga due to the fear that the two boxers could get into some sort of a ruckus at the press conference. And Cotto smartly let Mayorga carry the show and only did what he had to before leaving for Las Vegas. Miguel is too much of a pro to fall for Mayorga's tired antics.
“He’s gentlemanly when we’re alone, like this morning,” Cotto said. “He’s just trying to sell himself. When I want to put pressure on him and move, I will … if he has better skills than me, I’ve never seen them.”
Does that sound familiar? Interesting on the day after the 40th anniversary of Frazier vs. Ali I, Cotto says that. Because that was Ali's way with Frazier leading up to all three of their historic battles. Whenever Muhammad and Joe were together and out of the public eye, Ali was very cordial and complimentary to Frazier. But once the cameras and media arrived, Ali ridiculed and demeaned Frazier as a man and fighter every way imaginable. And Joe kept it inside and only let it all out once they were in the ring. To this day I'm perplexed as to why Ali never figured out after their epic first fight that taunting Joe Frazier only made it tougher for him on fight night.
Granted, Cotto is no "Smokin" Joe Frazier, and Mayorga is barely Rahman Ali. But one gets the sense that Cotto is keeping everything inside and will show no mercy on Mayorga if he gets him in trouble during the fight. That said, if you're in Las Vegas and betting the fight, Mayorga is the pick. In order to win $100.00, you have to bet anywhere between $1000.00 - $1200.00 on Cotto, whereas as $100.00 Mayorga will net you $600.00 - $800.00 back.
Let's be honest, there's not one sophisticated boxing observer alive who would say as a joke that Mayorga is a class fighter in Cotto's league. Not one. However, Mayorga is bigger with an unorthodox style and he can punch. On top of that there isn't a bit a pressure on him. If he loses he was expected to. And if he wins, he thinks he's suddenly a player in the running to fight Manny Pacquiao for what would be the biggest payday of his career. On the other hand, Cotto is hoping to get a rematch with Antonio Margarito if he gets past Mayorga, so there is definitely more pressure on him.
From a style vantage point, Mayorga is good for Cotto. Those wild and unorthodox fighters give stylish guys like Vernon Forrest trouble, but systematic fighters who break down the body can eat them up. But remember, Cotto is small at the weight and is pretty banged up. If you take into account the long odds and Mayorga's advantage in size, along with him fighting with no real pressure, it's hard to pass up the between six and eight to one odds against him.
Then again, it's hard to think Bob Arum would take this fight if it wasn't a sure Cotto win. And after the way Mayorga looked against De La Hoya, it just might be. No, I can't pick Mayorga to beat Cotto, but I'd still take the Vegas odds and bet him if I was betting the fight. It's not like I'd lose sleep if I lost the bet. Not with those odds.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com