We heard Mayorga in the buildup talking about a fight with Pacquiao. He really, truly believed he'd beat Cotto, because he knew how hard he was training, and get a Pacquiao date. (Hogan Photos)The older I get, the better I'm able to to grasp the fact that I don't know squat.
Well, that might be a little harsh. I think I know squat. But you'll have to give me another decade or so watching and dissecting boxing matches before my knowledge base gets to where I want it to be.
After watching the Miguel Cotto/Ricardo Mayorga fight on Saturday, I couldn't nail down my take on the bout as firmly as I would've liked. I knew I saw Mayorga fighting a damned solid fight, and like I wrote on Saturday night, I would've been giving the Nicaraguan a bunch of 9.5 rounds, if our scoring system were tweaked so we could better indicate just how close a round was. But what I couldn't figure out was, were the rounds close because Mayorga was all that, or was Cotto just a bit off his game, or maybe not fighting the right strategy against the wildman?
I called Manny Steward, Cotto's trainer for this bout, and his previous outing, against Yuri Foreman last June. I asked Steward to grade Cotto, and admitted that I needed help clarifying exactly what I saw on Saturday. Steward set me straight.
"I give Miguel an eight out of ten," the Hall of Fame trainer/manager told me. "Mayorga fought his best fight."
Steward said inside sources told him that Mayorga trained like he did back in his heyday, when he beat Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis and Vernon Forrest, in 2002 and 2003. Steward heard Mayorga had been training nonstop since January. "He made up his mind that he'd fight the fight of his life because he wanted a fight with Manny Pacquiao, which would've given him enough to retire comfortably on. He was in unbelievable shape. I didn't expect him to be in that good shape. Cotto was never in a comfort zone."
Steward like Cotto's reliance on the jab, his footwork, that he didn't expend energy on wasted motion, that he didn't back up straight to the ropes, that he went in for the kill in the last round.
"I like knockouts," he said, succinctly, when asked if he was concerned the judges might be trippin, and if for that reason he told Cotto to finish the job after the 11th. "I don't like decisions."
Bob Arum is steering the course for Cotto, so Steward hears what we've heard, that a July date with Antonio Margarito is a smart bet for the Puerto Rican's next gloveup. "Or Chavez Junior," he said. "Then Pacquiao maybe. When I started with Miguel I saw a five fight series. These are the only three that make sense. If he does those five, he has to be considered one of the greats."
Back to that penchant for KOs. Steward has hammered the gospel of the knockout to Wladimir Klitschko for many moons. He's hoping that repetition will spur action when the younger brother gets it on with David Haye, date TBD.
Steward also told TSS that his kid Andy Lee, who showed a flair for drama when he dropped and stopped Craig McEwan in round ten after losing some rounds big, had a bug going into the fight. "He couldn't eat, he told me he had no appetite," Steward said. "But this was a good weekend for boxing. I'm kayo crazy! If we can continue this, boxing might be okay this year."
For awhile now, Steward has been preaching, as an adjunct to his power of the KO sermon, that the "pop pop padwork" of the new breed of trainers, where they do showy padwork sessions, which serve to make nice sound effects, are perhaps not such a useful tool for preparation. He thinks and hopes that maybe his sermons are being heard. He said he's seen more boxers getting fuller extension, punching through their targets, and looking to finish with an exclamation point.
Interestingly, he's a big fan of one fighter not known for his pop, Tim Bradley. Steward said he thinks a Manny Pacquiao-Bradley fight would make for entertaining viewing. He and I agree that Bradley's single greatest asset may well be his desire. Steward likened Bradley to Marvin Hagler, who also didn't look like a smooth operator, but who simply got it done. "Bradley and Pacquiao, that's a helluva fight," said Steward.
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?