The intrigue is where it's at
I have no doubt that the same fans who will watch the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto fight will tune in a month later to watch Manny Pacquiao take on Timothy Bradley Jr. I also have no doubt about how every one of those fans will feel afterward: Those who saw Mayweather win will be disappointed. Those who saw Pacquiao win will be satisfied.
I'm not writing ahead of the facts, merely exercising my memory. If we think about the recent history between Floyd and Manny, this question seems obvious: Which of the two have disappointed us more often with their performances? The votes are stacked against Mayweather, in a landslide. So isn't it only natural to have greater expectations for a Pacquiao bout?
Still, there are more reasons. Their respective fighting styles, for example. Does anyone expect to see a war and an uncertain ending between Cotto and Mayweather? No, absolutely not. It will be a cat-versus-mouse game, until the cat gets bored and decides to end the charade.
In Pacquiao-Bradley, at least in prefight estimations, things promise a bit more emotion. On the one side, there's the anticipation of discovering whether the American will improve at a higher weight class and carry his power up with him. On the other, there's the delight of what Pacquiao has taught us time and again: He comes to fight, doesn't run away from exchanges and never fails to put on a good show -- against opponents good or bad, big or small.
Against Bradley, we'll see him in another entertaining fight, one in which Pacquiao will go for the knockout and Bradley will try to use his speed to avoid it and counterpunch. It won't be easy. Bradley hasn't looked good against left-handed opponents, but word out of his camp is that he's preparing for the challenge and putting much thought into the problem.
Offensively, Bradley doesn't offer much of a challenge to Pacquiao, although we can't be sure whether his climb to welterweight might improve (or worsen) his lack of punching power. Yet another reason to be seduced by this fight -- something we don't get from Mayweather-Cotto.
Cotto's revenge in a rematch with Antonio Margarito might blind some to the fact that he has been a shadow of himself since being pummeled in their first fight, but we shouldn't forget it. Mayweather's speed and style are simply too much for Cotto. Floyd will punch him at will for a few rounds, until the fight ends, likely by TKO. It's impossible to fathom a different ending.
Mayweather will be facing an opponent who is approaching the end of his career, an opponent whose concerns don't necessarily dovetail with his putting on a compelling fight. Cotto, a future businessman, will earn good money, and that will compensate for even the worst possible outcome. Pacquiao, however, will face an opponent who hasn't yet found his place among boxing's elite, one who needs big fights in order to earn the respect he craves. Will he sense the moment and take chances to seize it?
We'll have to wait and see. But there's no doubt we'll be watching.
This is the one we've waited for
A few people argue (including me) that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao have already had it out for a few rounds. Each time they fight separately, there's an implicit battle being waged between them -- one in which scorecards, highlights and punch stats have been replaced by gate receipts, TV ratings and pay-per-views sold.
The next round in that saga will happen within a period of 35 days -- the span between Mayweather's May 5 fight against Miguel Cotto and Pacquiao's June 9 bout with Timothy Bradley Jr., with both fights taking place at the MGM's Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and being broadcast by the same network (HBO). As soon as the lights go down after the second fight, the comparisons between the two will capture the attention of the boxing world.
But until it's resolved then, it's clear that Mayweather-Cotto should be favored to be the more exciting fight.
During the past six years, through Mayweather's repeated retirements and comebacks and Pacquiao's adventures in politics and show business, Cotto has been one of the anchors of the world boxing scene -- a fighter who has consistently delivered good performances and great fighting action, and been able to grab the attention of huge audiences, both live and via pay-per-view. Despite the light erosion of his skills and his longstanding defensive problems (especially more recently), the Puerto Rican has always left everything in the ring, and he has never been inactive for too long. In fact, his box office success, ironically enough, might have been the only thing that kept Cotto from facing Mayweather sooner.
Transformed into his own franchise by promoter Top Rank, Cotto raked in millions of dollars and great victories during a career that ran parallel to Mayweather's for the better part of a decade, and seemingly only the faceoff between Mayweather and Top Rank's Bob Arum kept this fight from happening. Cotto's recent break from Top Rank finally opened the door to a fight that, with the exception of Pacquiao-Mayweather, has the potential to turn into the most profitable fight in recent memory.
And the clash of styles isn't bad, either. There are many angles to this fight: Cotto is younger, but he has accumulated much more punishment. Mayweather, though older, is faster and slicker, and has more resources than his veteran opponent. Both have sterling amateur pedigrees, top-notch professional résumés and intense pride. Cotto's defense will probably let through many of Floyd's sharp hands, but if Mayweather -- the challenger to Cotto's junior middleweight crown on this occasion -- loses concentration for a split second, he'll find himself on the receiving end of punching power that he has never felt before. Cotto has the ability to put Mayweather's chin and heart to the test, to dismiss (or confirm) once and for all the many questions surrounding those two largely unexplored regions of Floyd's anatomy.
This year will surely bring a smorgasbord of delights to boxing fans, but the main dish (at least on the current menu) will be served May 5. Mayweather-Cotto has the potential to be not only the best fight during those aforementioned 35 days spanning May and June, but also a memorable battle and a landmark in the careers of these two future Hall of Famers.
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