Friday, November 9, 2007

Formula For Greatness

Every so often comes along a fight so rife with potential drama, so varied in its possible outcomes, so perfectly matched that you could spend months thinking about it and never have a strong feeling of what might happen until it actually does. And that's why you have to see it. It's why I have to watch Shane Mosley versus Miguel Cotto Saturday. Making matters even more mandatory? There simply isn't a more meaningful fight in all of boxing in 2007. Period.

I visited the respective histories of Cotto and Mosley at length here, so excited was I that the fight was even going to happen at all. The short of it: Mosley's a legitimate, established superstar. Cotto is the next generation. Throughout their careers, both have responded to getting knocked down -- literally and figuratively -- by getting back up and fighting better and harder. Both are among the 10 best fighters in any weight class, in my opinion and in the opinion of many, but they also happen to inhabit the best, deepest and most important weight class (welterweight, 147 lbs.) in the sport. This is the prototypical crossroads fight. If the 36-year-old Mosley wins it, he would garner one of the most astounding victories of his storied career by beating the most dangerous young gun around. If the 27-year-old Cotto wins it, he won't just be on the verge of superstardom, he will have fully arrived by beating a sure-fire hall of famer.

Now, let's talk about styles, because that's what deeply enriches all that import.

If you had to build the perfect fighter to beat a quick-footed, fast-fisted technician like Mosley, you'd build him like Cotto. You'd give him the ability to cut off the ring, you'd give him a knack for throwing a lot of hard leather, and most importantly, you'd give him a terrifying lust for body punching. Nothing slows down the quick ones like body punching, which makes it harder for them to skip around and land fast blows at will. And nobody punches the body like Cotto. Likewise, if you were trying to build a fighter from scratch who could unsettle Cotto, you'd give him most everything that Mosley has. You'd give him quick counter-punching skills that would make it so when Cotto lunges in, he gets hit three times for even daring. You'd give him enough power to rattle Cotto's chin, prone already to rattling, and enough all-around technique and height advantage to make it so Cotto doesn't land so many punches that he wears his man down like he does everyone he's ever fought. Those are the qualities that Mosley has used to make himself one of boxing's best for going on a decade.

This outcome of this fight turns on boxing subtleties that, regardless of how they play out, are sure to make for a dramatic fight. Take just one question: Does Mosley, who terrorized the lower weight classes with his power but has not knocked out many men as a welterweight, have the strength to knock out Cotto, who has been knocked down by lesser punchers than Mosley but has always recovered? Like I said: We won't know for sure until we watch it. And that's why it's must-see TV.

My prediction: Cotto by close decision. I see Mosley having the speed, power and fancy footwork to win most of the early rounds, and maybe even put Cotto on the deck. But Mosley doesn't have the one-punch authority at welterweight needed to stop the young tank-like Puerto Rican, who will recover and set about steamrolling the older man. Mosley's too proud and determined to get KO'd, so he'll hang on til the final bell, but he'll lose in the end.
Confidence: 55%. There are those, including Mosley himself, who think that Mosley has everything he needs to exploit Cotto's weaknesses. I don't think they're crazy. In fact, I've driven myself crazy wondering whether I should be a member of that crew. But when in doubt, go with younger and stronger over older. I'm in doubt, so that's what I'm going with.
My allegiance: Cotto. Sure, his tendency to hit below the belt when he gets in trouble offends the sportsman in me. I like everything else about him, though. And as nice as Mosley seems, I don't buy his explanation for how he really, really didn't take steroids "on purpose," and it's far less sportsmanlike to drug one's self to victory.

Cotto, left, Mosley, right. 'Nuff said.


JimPanzee said...

I'm with you 100% down to your 55% confidence, your loyalty, and your reasoning. If I was a better writer and I wrote a boxing blog, this is the boxing blog I'd've written.

BOB said...

I am also not so certain about the outcome...i like both seems just like yesterday I was watching Sugar Shane vs. Wink at Cheetah in Atlanta.

Here is my prediction...if Chuck Giampa is a judge I give the decision to Sugar. If Tom Kaczmarek is a judge I give it to Cotto.

Tim -- said...

Very generous, jimpanzee.

Somehow, I don't think you are sincere in this Giampa/Kaczmarek theory, bob.

dammrod said...

As someone with a burgeoning man-crush on Miguel Cotto, my allegiance is with the Puerto Rican boxing star. I'm a big fan of Sugar Shane, but Cotto is the fresh, young face, and his modesty, ambition, discipline, schooling, heart, and professionalism has captured my imagination.

Now all he has to do is remember to keep the punches above the belt.

Tim -- said...

Sometimes I'm not so sure it's a case of Cotto having a "failure to remember," dammrod. I think it's about doing the right thing.

dammrod said...

Wow. That was a close and clean fight. Strange how the fight ended with Shane the aggressor instead of Cotto, and what was up with Cotto in the later rounds of the fight? The HBO commentators pointed out the cut inside the mouth, but Cotto fought the Judah fight with a similar cut and he didn't tire out like that.