5 keys for Floyd Mayweather
Plotting a path to victory for Floyd Mayweather Jr. against Miguel Cotto
When the eyes of the boxing world are fixated on what potentially would be the biggest fight of all time -- a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao showdown -- it's easy to forget that there are other megafights to be made. On Saturday, when Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) will face Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) for his junior middleweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, we'll get one. When two future Hall of Famers climb into the ring together, it's a treat that shouldn't be taken for granted, and Cotto and Mayweather in particular are a good bet to produce as many or more fireworks as any other fights of this magnitude.
With both fighters having spent more than a decade at the top of their respective divisions, they are two of the most watched and scrutinized boxers of our era. Mayweather's strengths are his blazing speed and spot-on accuracy, while Cotto's ruggedness and great boxing technique make him a favorite among fans of all persuasions.
With the stage set, here are five keys to victory for Mayweather on Saturday:
Speed, speed, speed
This becomes harder and harder to emphasize without sounding repetitive or obvious. Don't just take our word for it -- go ahead and watch those slow-motion segments from Mayweather's fight videos. What you'll see, over and over again, is Mayweather landing punches while his opponent is still initiating his own punching motion, and then moving out of harm's way before the other guy's strike lands. Simply, Mayweather operates at a different speed than everyone else. If he manages to keep the fight clean and in the mid- to long range, Cotto has no chance.
Do that D you do
More than anything else, boxing is "the manly art of defense," in which avoiding punches is just as important as hitting an opponent. And Mayweather hates getting hit. He is a master of deception, sometimes getting right in his opponent's face and just staring at him while making imperceptible head and body movements to avoid punches. He creates a false sense of vulnerability that is too tempting for his foes, who subsequently fall into the trap and find themselves punching at air. Mayweather makes defense look easy, and that's the mark of his genius: simplifying one of boxing's most demanding tasks and frustrating opponents into submission.
Left is the new right
Or maybe it's the other way around. Who knows? At any rate, Mayweather will find Cotto's left hook slightly stronger than the average one -- that's a fact. But he could very well use this to his advantage by connecting his blazing right hand through Cotto's open left side before Cotto can even think about mounting any kind of defense. Cotto's converted southpaw stance serves him well in most senses, but in this case, he might find himself at a disadvantage by leaving himself so open to Mayweather's counter right hands. If Floyd can make wise use of this weakness, it's all over for the champion.
Pick up the pace
Mayweather's precision is another legendary aspect of his game. His punches are deadly accurate, and the accumulation of pinpoint jabs and blazing hooks keeps his scoring consistently high throughout fights. He might not carry the one-punch knockout power of his opponent, but he is routinely on the mark and leaves a lasting impression in judges' minds. Cotto has been known to miss wildly with some of his punches and frequently leave himself open to counterattacks. If the trend continues, Mayweather will feast on the weakness and make him pay dearly.
Mayweather's intense pride and cash-grabbing ways have turned him into a focused, systematic winning machine. He is one of the greatest fighters of his time, but he is even greater when it comes to the business of winning fights. Whether pretty or ugly -- and most of the time, it's quite pretty -- he turns back every challenge by imposing his will and channeling his desire to prove he's the best. Arguably, every fighter must possess this strain of competitive DNA to become champion, but Mayweather has turned his ambition into an asset greater than any of his other superb boxing skills. If Cotto doesn't want this fight even more than Mayweather -- and that's unlikely -- he's in for a bad day at the office.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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