Mosley-Cotto, Hatton-Mayweather: This Fall, Full Aces High till there are two Last Men standing
24.08.07 - By Francisco Lobo: Every once in a great while, two top-notch fighters are given a chance against each other that will forever set the course for the future of a whole division. A cascade of unpredictable, uncontrollable events has engendered such a confluence of natural talent this fall that it can hardly be trivial happenstance.
Article posted on 25.08.2007
Likewise, not two but four of the most skilled, toughest, most imposing players in the welterweight division are eager to get at their most prized, overriding objective: seize an opportunity to control their own destiny and thus, follow the only right path to glorious triumph but being stitched tighter and tighter to an otherworldly fate at the same time. Therein lies what is the sheer magnitude of the two upcoming welterweight championship confrontations.
Next November 10, in Madison Square Garden, New York City, a capacity crowd is expected for another awe inspiring, promising clash of styles when young, undefeated WBA welterweight champion and former light welterweight titlist, Miguel Angel Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs), defends his 147-pound championship for the third time this year against one accomplished veteran, worthy challenger in the former three time world champion at three different weight classes, Californian, Sugar Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 KOs). With autumn drawing to an end and winter soon upon them, on December 8, five divisions world champion and boxing’s unquestioned pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., 30, finally happens to come across with the equally long time unbeaten British and Manchester’s Pride, two-time light welter champion and former welterweight titlist himself, Ricky Hatton, 28, for a WBC welterweight title bout, most probably to take place in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and with an unexpectedly personal aura to it.
Whichever way you look at the Cotto-Mosley rendezvous, whether it is just little more than mere, random opportunity or without any doubt whatsoever that this was planned all along, result of chance or intent, this one seems the right thing being done at the right time.
Miguel Cotto has been said to have been put on the slow track against punch-less boxers or punchers who just can’t box by his handlers and after being stunned almost senseless by Colombian Ricardo Torres and wobbled by Demarcus Corley when defending the WBO 140-pound title. Even though winning all seven title fights with six kayos, capturing a second division world title and after the significant triumph over top class, former undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah, Miguel Cotto is yet to fight a strong welterweight, one world class fighter like Shane Mosley.
And Mosley undeniably needed one monumentally brutal threat in the ultra-aggressive, stoic and resolute, young blood champ Cotto after two back to back defeats to Vernon Forrest at 147 pounds three years back and other two losses to Ronald Wright at 154 pounds two years ago, those were slick, long armed fighters that out-punched Shane at the end of their fists to clear and narrower decisions. Mosley is put to test if his determined commitment to the wisest course of action was able to turn back the clock like it seemed so in his last fights against respected light middle Fernando Vargas and crafty, younger welterweight Luis Collazo, this last one a WBC welterweight interim title fight that Shane won by lopsided decision.
Inside this wild cards game quartet, Miguel Cotto would be more likely the Ace of Hearts. Beneath that straightforward simplicity, his short-spoken introverted personality, and the somber mood, there’s smoldered rage hidden, a whole lot of sheer willpower and invigorated spirit too, he is one ravenously hungry wild-animal on the brink of upheaval to his personal piece of sky, waiting someone upon whom to ignite a chain fire that, burning out of control, would crush anybody down, regardless of who comes to stand in front of him, a sort of hardcore attitude that is most cheered by Puerto Ricans in NYC and the mainstream boxing public in general.
Unlike the other major architect of mayhem across the Atlantic Ocean, Ricky Hatton with whom he would have a guaranteed brawl, Cotto seems to keep immersed concentration within, watching for hesitations, openings and mistakes and then, at any given instant of the action, gets started right away, making best use of his oddly strong, broad shouldered, large body and inherent strength to trigger the power, break out, launch fierce attacks, get through shields and create havoc to bring enough discomfort to his opponents, overwhelmingly suffocating and compressing them against the ropes.
Furthermore, Cotto is a supreme, venomous body puncher who focus mostly below his opponent’s chest, sits down on his body punches, swings away with so much leverage, connects so consistently and accurately that he tends to wear down opponents, smashing the rib cage and eventually following up to the head like it happened against another 35 plus year older in Oktay Urkal last March and more lately, in May, against Zab Judah. Also, many of his fights end right there when he lands right on the button, on the side of the body, at the liver or in the soft spots of the kidneys like so shockingly happened against previously undefeated countryman Carlos Quintana and when moving up to capture the vacant WBA 147-pound title… In case the bouts don’t finish there, there is a great line in boxing that says that if you land more than 50% of your body punches or power punches, you gonna win the fight and he has underlined that so far, just winning until this point, even though he was caught too many times by a snappy jabs and straight rights by Paulie Malignaggi in the 7th defense of the WBO light welterweight title and by counter lefts and uppercuts by Zab Judah in his last welterweight title fight, both in Madison Square Garden, NYC.
As pleasing as his boxing often looks and being one of the nicest guys in the game, there’s a tendency to overlook how tough Shane Mosley really is. Sugar Shane has been inside the toughest, most spirited fights one can remember of and his combination of warrior spirit, explosive punching and lightning-swift fast ability make him something like the Ace of Spades in this Game. Puncher-Boxer Mosley may have been driven to the wrong battle as he was set aside by pure boxer Mayweather into the lap of a complete different preposition in Miguel Cotto – unaware and maybe unprepared for Cotto’s physical strength and punching impact in such a short notice, it seems pivotally important to Shane’s benefit that he is able to summon up the strength, put together his large resources and best weapons that made him succeed several times before, as well as using a wise strategy so that he can come to unleash all the talent that will have this defining fight won for him, he simply must not let the chance slip away.
Rising to the challenge at hand, there’s no way Mosley can test the other man’s will and try to muscle up like he did when losing to Wright and Forrest, loading up to throw one punch at a time, nor can he come about to take too much time off at close quarters like against Vargas or Cruz, since motionless and defenceless, can endanger himself and have his tight abs, well muscled midsection slammed or his solid jaw mashed too many times. On the contrary, it becomes clear as crystal that Shane must take a restrained approach with a heightened sense of awareness so that he can manhandle his opponent from the get go, very much like when he beat soudly Luis Collazo in his last performance.
Shane Mosley should always be conscious to read the signs of the action as it unfolds, drive off or deflect Cotto’s onrushing charges, dodge his flying ammunition as he outdoes him fast with feints and light on his feet, moving in circular motion, sideways, back and forth. He should steady him with double effect punches as he loosely unfolds flashy bursts of 3, 4 punches a time, with faster jabs (since Cotto may be a sucker to a jab), unexpected right hand leads through the middle, setting him up with the left lead and cracking him with power punches through his defensive gaps too such as overhand rights and short sudden left hooks just like he was able to do with recent Latin American opposition, Jose Luis Cruz, David Estrada, specially against Fernando Vargas twice, and Puerto Rican origin, New Yorker Louie Collazo in his way to what were unquestionable victories.
No less important or less meaningful is Shane’s ability to hold his own in emergency, never shy away, fighting back hard and timing Miguel with subtle undercurrent activity such as double hooks in close as the borinquan, sometimes given to reckless impulse, opens up. Never letting Miguel narrow the field too much so that he may come to stretch his tightening muscles, Shane must know how to break the action too, close the distance effectively, hold here and there to buy time, get his breath evened so that he doesn’t get spent too fast and then wrestle to free himself out of danger.
All of what has been suggested doesn’t mean that Cotto may scare the daylights out of Mosley and that Shane cannot blossom back with his trademark power-punching flurries, rushing Miguel backwards so that he loses his not so great balance and footing and lands smack on his butt… But he should not stay and trade like sometimes he gets carried away. Starting on good foot, staying busy and making it as snappy as possible, stealing rounds early and sticking to plan won’t hurt Mosley chances just like it happened in the Collazo fight last February – it becomes a flat road to follow then and a hard, steep incline for his opponent later on.
More expected should be the Puerto Rican younger Champ to connect solid to the body inside, snap his less than elusive Californian elder’s head back with stiff jabs, occasional straight rights and meaty hooks and step up the pace, coming on extremely strong in the end stretch to try to take him over just like in the Judah fight pattern – question remains if those early laps will tire and weaken up the more athletic, cooler Shane as it did happen to the more hot-headed but physically weaker Zab…
Despite the clouds of villain upon whom many fixate their envy rather than their anger, it grows defiantly clear who is at the very top at the moment, Floyd Mayweather Jr., hardly surprising should be that he is the Ace of Diamonds in this situation, so much worthy is what his superbly polished boxing skills, caution born experience, level of self-control and superb physical athleticism have conquered He won not only championships but also the perception that he is a virtuoso, reminiscent of the most skilled boxers of all times. Short and to the point, in the last couple of years, he rose up so fast to the most daring challenges, not only he conquered everything in his path that within his grasp is the realm of legend and therefore, the right to turn down opposition but his temper, insecure, self-centered mind and obstinate self have created as many haters as supporters.
At the brightest of spotlights and put against different styles such as sharp-shooter Zab Judah, relentlessly aggressive Carlos Baldomir and bigger, charismatic Oscar De la Hoya, he used graceful mobility, great ringside generalship, peripheral vision, defensive skills and successful counter measures such as lightning fast, sharp counter punching. Mayweather proved nothing less than being too clever to be out-witted and simply out-manoeuvred the big names helplessly in his way to victory… So much so that he comes back from announced retirement just to prove himself superior to another unbeaten superstar in the making, Ricky Hatton, who simply happened to look better than him in dismantling that one past opponent of his, said to have given him the toughest fights to date and also unfairly decisioned once, now weary Jose Luis Castillo.
More than skeptical to accept Mayweather’s challenge right away, Hatton grows into a higher division from summer to fall after having vacated a WBA world title in his single fight at 147 pounds, two fights ago to be precise, and takes the place of Mosley who was supposed to fight Mayweather for the WBC title now but takes on Miguel Cotto instead for that same title Ricky Hatton vacated – those are the twists and turns of the business that sometimes doesn’t resemble a straight line strategy.
By exclusion of parts, Ricky Hatton may be considered the Ace of Clubs and a minor force in the hand of cards, but just like Cotto, he embodies a whole nation in the toughest of tasks, edging someone who is already there and maybe, feeling a little bit too much on the edge. This is nothing new to the stoical Hatton, since he and his camp know all to well how to struggle mightily, something like when he came well north of duty against veteran, former dominant IBF light welterweight Champion, Russian born, Australian big puncher Kostya Tszyu, through the barriers of pain and exhaustion, to make the “Thunder from Down Under” step out of the fight in front of a exhilarated crowd in his home turf, Manchester, two years ago.
Just like Mayweather, at his own personal peak, slick muscled shaped Ricky also succeeded in winning that IBF light welter title for a second time, against Colombian Juan Urango, but that was just after earning a tough call over former WBA welterweight champion Luis Collazo in his way to win and vacate that title that fast, these last two being the first fights fought out of the British Islands and in the United States – these two fights were also the ones wherein was exposed some uncharacteristic lethargy that could have weighted him down ( but didn’t). So much as to forever wipe that of his mind, Hatton produced a magnificent display against famed Jose Luis Castillo, finishing him with a perfect liver punch as early as in the 4th round and, vacating the IBF 140-pound title for the second time, has shown that he never wanted to remain in the shadows, he wanted to be seen, really seen, and an impossible dream before like this against Mayweather at center-stage, suddenly became a real possibility and now, more than that, reality itself, as real as the Manchester “kiddo” Ricky Hatton is.
Ricky has a forthright attitude and always believed he has everything within him to succeed. Having an excellent spirit, great sense of humour and a playful nature, Hatton can show obstinate brutality, ultra-aggressive, fast paced tactics to give’em hell in there… He hurries into action, renewing the rough body attack breathlessly, wrestling inside endlessly, keeping up the punishing, enormous pace and that somehow amplifies his less visible punching power. Down the line, it doesn’t come about to abruptly snatch his opponent with the one punch like he was able to against Castillo but to take them apart bit by bit by the accumulation of punishment like against Tszyu. Whatever the consequences, whatever the cost, he goes for all or nothing, as unaware of the sense of danger itself, suits him just fine getting tagged while he nails his opponent good, and since he unconditionally takes the initiative, tends to transform every fight of his into a sordid game of who wants it the most, who is about to endure more pain to overcome the other and has found no match at it.
Hatton’s exasperating rough-house tactics may become Mayweather’s Achilles heel and is the main reason he is given so much credit and may step in level-headed with the superior boxer. Possibly, Mayweather will not have time to react or adjust as the stockier, smaller guy rushes into him and systematically pounces on him inside where Floyd is more ineffective, neither will he be able to run nor methodically pick his punches, may not have leverage to break Ricky’s grasp as well. On the flipside, if Ricky’s timing is off or if Mayweather scrutinizes his rhythm, Ricky is into a wild goose chase and a helluva nightmare too… Mayweather is supposed to keep him from jumping in and swing away, then freeze his fire, come sideways and chop him until his legs buckle and wobble like jelly, collapsing in a heap… At best, in that worst-case scenario for him, Hatton will all be concentrated on holding Floyd steady and lasting to lose a lopsided decision.
Floyd and Ricky may harbour some kinda grudge or unsolved rivalry between themselves as they head into a career crossroads and inevitably one 0 gat to go but even so, they are likely to get all their tension out early as accomplished fighters who know the score inside and out. Some don’t value the challenger’s chances due to the gap in boxing quality between the two fighters and due to the fact that Floyd endured punishment by strong welterweights and even a light-middleweight without showing any indication of getting hurt whatsoever so it may be highly unlikely he would get hurt by a natural 140 pounder.
At the end of the 2007 season, boxing may not get as yet a punch-fest in the Hatton vs Cotto style or a highly technical confrontation in the Mosley vs Mayweather sort of bout, but the WBA and WBC welterweight championship events gather all four aces in the game, capture undivided attention and neither one alone looks wholesome to the definition of boxing’s most competitive division. There may be other kings, jacks and jokers to play an important role in this game such as WBO champion Paul Williams, IBF titlist Kermit Cintron, former champions Antonio Margarito and Zab Judah but there is a growing perception that the two bouts will set a defining unification fight between the two last men standing and in the best movie tradition, one will surely live happily ever after.
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