Speed Kills: Why Mosley will Prevail

07.11.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: The long awaited championship showdown between two of the most exciting fighters in the game has finally arrived. Saturday night, in what might well go down as a Fight of the Year candidate, undefeated World Boxing Association welterweight champion, Miguel Cotto, will defend his crown against future Hall-of-Famer, ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. For Cotto, this will be the biggest challenge of his career; for Mosley, it represents an opportunity to re-establish himself as a dominant force in the sport.

Mosley and Cotto are both offensive-minded fighters who do their best work when moving forward. Since neither fighter likes taking a backwards step, this one has the potential to become an exciting slugfest between two of the best talents in boxing. Given the high stakes and the fact that the winner of this contest will most likely be in position to get a crack at Floyd Mayweather Junior (given he wins his upcoming bout against Ricky Hatton), it is safe to assume that each pugilist will be highly motivated and prepared to do battle.

This begs the question: Which fighter will be successful in implementing his fight strategy? In other words, which fighter’s style will cause the other to take more backwards steps?

Miguel Cotto is undefeated in 30 contests, with 25 of his victories coming by way of knockout. He is the younger of the two, and it is probably fair to say that he has just entered his prime years. He’s hungry, young, and relentless, and has showed unrivaled determination in the ring. His will to win is an absolute marvel and he has proven on more than one occasion that he is able to overcome adversity and win. A battle-tested warrior, Cotto does some of his best work when attacking the body. In fact, an argument can be made that he is the best body puncher in the game.

All of Cotto’s skills were on full display in his recent victory over Zab Judah. He looked absolutely sensational in dominating the highly skilled Judah as he pressed on with an unfaltering attack for the duration of the bout before stopping Judah in the eleventh. The fact that this was Cotto’s most impressive bout to date, and that he actually seems to get better with each passing challenge, seems to suggest this fight might represent a passing of the torch, from one great to another.

On the other hand, Mosley only recently seemed to get his career back on track. Following back-to-back losses against Winky Wright, it appeared as if Mosley’s career was nearing an end. He had not looked like the Shane Mosley of old since his first bout with Oscar De La Hoya way back in June of 2000. Unlike Cotto, who seemed to grow more impressive with each passing fight, Mosley appeared to be in steady decline with each passing fight.

This all changed when Mosley scored back-to-back wins against Fernando Vargas in 2006. Earlier this year, he continued his winning ways when he absolutely dominated Luis Collazo in his return to the welterweight division. In the process, Mosley physically began showing subtle signs of his old self, but even more impressively, he also seemed to be fighting much more intelligently than ever before. This seemed to rekindle some lost confidence, stemming back to when Mosley first squared off against Vernon Forrest.

I think the most telling aspect of this fight is that Miguel Cotto is a notoriously slow starter, whereas, Shane Mosley is an incredibly fast starter. This, I believe, will be the difference in the bout. Cotto has historically proven to be at his most vulnerable during the earlier rounds. It is in this stage of the fight where he is most apt to be cracked by a punch he never saw coming. This might well spell disaster for Cotto in his upcoming bout with Mosley.

Cotto has only been knocked down once during his career, and that was in his bout against Ricardo Lopez. Other than that, he has only seriously been hurt on two other occasions, once against aforementioned Torres and once against ‘Chop Chop’ Corley. He has also been stunned or stopped in his tracks a few times, most recently, in his last match against Judah. The common denominator in all these incidents where Cotto was hurt is that they always invariably occurred early-on in the contest.

For whatever reason, Cotto takes a few rounds to get warmed up and really get going. Usually by the fifth round, he morphs into the relentless pressure machine that best defines his style. Up until that point, he is extremely vulnerable to being hit. To his credit, Cotto has overcome adversity each and every time he has been hurt in the ring. In fact, on each occasion, not only did he come back to win these fights, but he actually came back to win via knockout—a strong testament to Cotto’s fighting spirit and mental fortitude.

The problem for Cotto is going to be that he has never faced a fighter with Mosley’s unique blend of speed, power, and accuracy. Mosley typically comes out like a ball of fire and rarely ever loses the first round of a boxing match. He is speedy and flashy and this often keeps his opponents confused and bamboozled, not to mention off-balance. Should Shane come out in vintage-Mosley fashion, I suspect he will land something big early-on. Unfortunately for Cotto, Mosley is much better than Torres, Judah, and Corley in four important aspects: (1) he is faster, (2) he is stronger, (3) he is a better finisher, and (4) he has greater ring smarts.

In his recent match with Zab Judah, Cotto appeared very vulnerable in the early-going. Time and time again, he left himself wide open for lead lefts that constantly found their mark. Each and every time Judah unleashed a crisp left down the pipe, he stopped Cotto in his tracks. Amazingly enough, not only did it appear that Judah was unaware he had stunned Cotto, but it also seemed he may not even have realized he landed the shots to begin with. Simply put, Judah is one of the least intelligent pugilists ever to enter the squared circle.

As mentioned, Mosley is a very intelligent fighter who seems to be fighting smarter than ever in recent years. If Cotto leaves himself open to lead lefts against Mosley the way he did Judah, he is going to be in serious trouble. Not only will Mosley exploit a weakness like this once he sees it, but he will also capitalize on it and try to help set up other openings in the process. That Mosley is a much more intelligent fighter who hits harder than Judah does not bode well for Cotto.

In the fight itself, I suspect each fighter will be predictable in his actions. That is to say, I believe Shane will come out quickly and Cotto will come out a bit rusty, as is ordinarily the case. In fact, I will not be surprised to see Mosley come out with guns’a’blazing, for surely, he knows that Cotto is most susceptible to big shots in the beginning of a fight. In all likelihood, Mosley will be able to hurt Cotto early—he may even be able to stop him if he unleashes his fury following a big opening.

Cotto, however, is a resourceful survivor, and one who I do not believe will go down (or stay down) easily. Cotto is good at making adjustments, and Shane has a bad habit of slowing down in the middle rounds when Cotto begins warming up and reaching form. If Mosley does not take advantage of Cotto’s typically slow start—if he is unable to hurt Cotto before the fifth round—it is possible that Mosley will go into one of his shells where he is caught between styles, being driven forward by his instincts while simultaneously being reluctant to act on them.

In the end, I do believe that Mosley is going to take Cotto out of his game by utilizing his unique blend of speed and power. If Mosley can hurt Cotto early, as I believe he probably will, then he will more than likely be able to secure enough rounds to box his way to victory—he might even be able to stop Cotto, for Mosley is usually a strong finisher once he has an opponent hurt. Even if he cannot stop him, if he can set the tempo and take an early lead, his big fight experience should see him to victory.

They say speed kills, and for Cotto, this may have a double-meaning. First he obviously needs to contend with the tremendous hand-speed and cat-like reflexes possessed by Mosley. More importantly, however, he is going to need to deal with Shane’s fast start where, in all probability, Mosley will charge out like a bat out of hell.

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Article posted on 08.11.2007

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