EDMONTON - When two guys who really don’t give a damn about anything but winning decide to duke it out, will patience trump punching prowess?
That could turn out to be the storyline May 5, when WBA junior middleweight champ Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) puts his 154-pound title on the line against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
If past performances are anything to go by, neither man will be overly concerned about amping up the excitement level to match the hype.
In fact, if you’re thinking about shelling out for the PPV in anticipation of a stylish war of attrition, think again.
Still, promoter Oscar De La Hoya — whose split-decision loss to Mayweather at the same venue came exactly five years ago fight night — is among those who believe Cotto, 31, might have the best chance yet of ending the 35-year-old Mayweather’s string of perfection.
“One thing about Mayweather is that he doesn’t care what the people in the arena, or whatever, are talking about. He just wants to win the fight. No matter what, he wants that W,” De La Hoya said in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports.
“So, if Cotto can have that same mentality, it can cause some problems for Mayweather.”
As for his own 2007 loss to Pretty Boy Floyd, De La Hoya blames a rigid propensity for allowing outside influences to dictate the way he fought.
“It’s very difficult, especially for me. It was very, very difficult,” he said.
“If I heard one boo from the crowd, I had to start throwing punches. But if Cotto can stay in that zone and he can stay focused and stick to what he’s working on, what he’s worked on in the gym, he has a shot at beating Floyd. Absolutely.
“Cotto doesn’t like a fighter to put a lot of pressure on him. It makes him box. It takes him out of his comfort zone. Mayweather doesn’t like a fighter to be more patient than him. It’s a matter of what style is going to win out.”
Therein lies Cotto’s conundrum.
While trying to ignore Mayweather’s favourite tactic of luring an opponent into wading in and attempting to outmuscle him, the Puerto Rican champ will have to selectively sharpshoot against the sport’s premier practitioner of the ‘hit-and-don’t-get-hit’ strategy.
According to CompuBox statistics compiled by ESPN.com, Mayweather’s average connect rate of 46% over his last nine fights is by far the best among current fighters across every division.
Nine fights is the ‘prime’ gauge used by the computerized scoring system that counts every punch a boxer throws and lands.
Even more impressive is that Mayweather’s opponents have landed a mere 16% of punches thrown — the lowest collective figure in Compu-Box’s database of over 4,000 fights.
That means Pretty Boy has a plus-minus connect rate of 30% — twice as good as the next best, super middleweight champ Andre Ward (15%), and almost three times better than multi-division champ Manny Pacquiao (11%).
Cotto’s rating doesn’t even merit a blip on the plus-minus radar — which might be the most significant stat when he steps in against Mayweather, despite the fact he’s younger and busier than the challenger.
Cotto took the WBA title from Yuri Foreman at Yankee Stadium in June 2010 and defended twice in 2011: a 12th-round TKO of Ricardo Mayorga in March and a 10th-round stoppage of former conqueror Antonio Margarito in December.
Mayweather’s only fight in 2011 was a fourth-round KO of Victor Ortiz in September.
So how will all this play out on May 5?
Look for Mayweather to do what he’s always done: stab the jab, backpedal, slip sideways … then vanish like a mirage when Cotto falls into the trap of trying to crank up the pressure.
Cotto is a superb fighter, but Mayweather is an all-time great who’s proven again and again that he can adapt to any style thrown his way.
It should be an entertaining fight for purists, with Pretty Boy Floyd prevailing by late stoppage.