Boxing


Mosley Cotto: Questions That Are About To Be Answered Once And For All

09.11.07 - By Taj Eubanks: It’s that time again. The critical week before a fight when all the fans and pundits come out of the woodwork like flies at a barbecue, prognosticating, quarreling and extolling the virtues of their favorite fighter. The message boards on this site alone are jammed with more traffic than midtown Manhattan at noon..

The Cotto-Mosley “Fast and Furious” match has even managed to stir up more than the usual contention. Everyone seems to know all the angles, citing reason after reason why one will triumph while the other fizzles. More often than not, the key elements in these arguments for or against either fighter are steeped heavily in myth and bias. Or are they? We shall explore some of these theories here and you, the reader, shall decide.


Point of Contention #1: Mosley’s Time Has Passed

After tearing up the lightweight ranks, skipping junior welterweight altogether and trouncing future Hall of Famer Oscar de la Hoya twice, “Sugar” Shane Mosley sat astride the boxing world like a colossus (in the words of Shakespeare). Ranked #1 pound-for-pound, his skills seemed to be matched only by his ambition and bravery as he proceeded to defend his World Boxing Council welterweight strap. After three successful defenses, he ran into the matrix that was Vernon “The Viper” Forrest, the first man to introduce Mosley to defeat and give him his very first knockdown. The rematch was the same outcome, different day. Ever the competitor, Shane eventually made the wrong choice and faced Winky Wright (at junior middleweight), by now renowned as one of the best in the game. Wright pulled a Forrest maneuver, handing Shane not one, but two defeats. Out of the blue it seemed that “Sugar” had turned sour. Tongues wagged and many wrote him off. Mosley returned to the land of 147 pounds and fired off two less-than-spectacular unanimous decision wins against David Estrada (the same one torched by Andre Berto) and Jose Luis Cruz. Confidence-builders to be sure, yet nothing that would impress hardcore fans.

Then came the Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas tandem of matches. Shane suddenly looked like a world-beater again, winning by TKO both times out. Suddenly Mosley was hotter than baked clams again, so hot in fact that even “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather took notice and made overtures to fight him, though Shane declined. Overnight Shane was back. Or was he? He had speed and he had power, dropping the warrior Vargas with a crushing left. And while such a spectacular victory was thoroughly enjoyable, what was its import in predicting how he would fare with the young guns of the division?

Enter Luis Collazo (of Ricky Hatton fame). Fast, slick, and ten years younger, Collazo would serve as a litmus test to determine if Shane had truly regained his mojo. Vargas was war-ravaged and plodding, while Collazo was young, fresh, and hungry. Yet Mosley prevailed once again, dispatching his opponent with panache. He looked very convincing and served notice that he would once again wreak havoc on the welterweight ranks. The problem was that while Collazo was a formidable foe, he was not a pound-for-pound fighter. And while he is definitely a force with which to be reckoned, Collazo is by no means a Miguel Cotto. Whether Mosley can once again overcome Father Time and summon a spectacular effort against a man who many feel should already be near the top of the pound-for-pound list is the question.

Point of Contention #2: Cotto Has No Chin

Miguel Cotto is beloved not only because of his destructive capabilities but also for his willingness to take one on the ticker and keep on going. Still suffering from a porous defense, Cotto has had to find out the hard way several times what a determined opponent can do if he connects. His 2005 matchup against Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley found Cotto in unfamiliar territory as he, for the first time, was on the receiving end of the abuse. Corley clocked him on the chin and Cotto was clearly hurt, eventually hitting the deck (though it may have been due to a low blow on Corley’s part). Cotto held on to survive, but Corley, not the biggest of punchers, had opened up the floodgates of doubt about the Puerto Rican’s whiskers. The concerns about Cotto’s ability to take a shot would continue as he found himself in possession of a one-way ticket to the canvas, courtesy of Colombia’s rugged Ricardo Torres. Cotto rose from the canvas to win the bout in rousing fashion but the damage was done. Cotto had for the second match in a row been seriously hurt. Even more damning was that fact that the challenger took the fight on short notice, leaving many to wonder what might have become of Cotto’s “0” had Torres had time for a full training camp. Now, the Top Rank brass explained that they later discovered that Cotto had a busted eardrum during the fights in question and that it had since been treated (an explanation many scoffed at). No more beard issues from Cotto, they assured. And with the exception of the Zab Judah uppercut that stunned him, Cotto hasn’t had another “glass jaw” episode. Others speculated that the strain of making the 140-lb limit had weakened him, leaving him extra-vulnerable to headshots.

Whatever the case, “Sugar” Shane is a man that will test these assertions to the limit.

Point of Contention #3: Speed Kills

The most oft-cited argument for a Mosley victory is the time-honored notion that speed trumps power. Time and time again we have seen the veracity of this claim borne out (see: Mayweather-Corrales, Mosley-Vargas, Calzaghe-Kessler, to name a few). However, what most seem to forget (or ignore) is that Cotto has already faced in Zab Judah as fast a fighter as he will ever see, a man who appeared to be even quicker than Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Flying colors resulted from that bout, albeit not without the requisite controversy. Some would argue (buoyed, of course, by Cotto’s own recent statements) that Cotto couldn’t handle speed and resorted to illegal tactics. Others dispute this notion vociferously, stating that the notorious low blows were accidentally and that Judah got flat-out whipped by the better fighter. If the former notion is true, then Cotto will get served as the referee has been put on notice by the Mosley camp. If the latter is true, then Mosley’s speed may make no difference at all, as Cotto’s own reputation for being plodding and slow may be the most dangerous underestimation since everyone picked Tsyzu to beat Hatton. Speed kills indeed, yet the missing piece of the puzzle (where Mosley’s speed is concerned) is Shane’s mental fortitude. He has been there, done that many times on the world stage and succeeded. Thus, while Cotto may have faced one of the fastest speedster’s in the game today, he has never faced a fighter as mentally tough as Mosley, which may be the difference. As a counterargument, one might point out that Mosley was faster than Forrest and still lost. Or that Judah was faster than Baldomir and still lost. Or that Leonard-Duran I resulted in a Panamanian Sugarsmackdown.

It may just be, to paraphrase Bob Arum’s recent comments, that youth will be served. Or the old master may summon one more great performance, one of two final fights of a legendary career.

The clock is ticking.

Article posted on 10.11.2007



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