On the very day that nice guy and legendary trainer Angelo Dundee — in the corner with Ali, Foreman, and Sugar Ray Leonard — died, it was announced that the troubled fighter with arguably the fastest hands in all of boxing, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., has been licensed to fight in Las Vegas on May 5 against Miguel Cotto. Cotto, whose only real loss is to the best fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO), will fight Mayweather (42-0, 26 KO). And so the third-best fighter will fight the second-best, while the world of boxing waits and hopes for Pacquiao-Mayweather.
Miguel Cotto doesn’t just beat people; he destroys them. 38 fights, 30 knockouts. You may be wondering about his other loss; that came to one Antonio Margarito, who was later banned for using plaster in his gloves. Cotto avenged that dishonor in December. If he can catch Floyd, he’ll destroy him.
Mayweather had a close fight a few years ago with “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, Olympic gold medalist and perhaps the best fighter this side of the 1970s. True, Oscar was long in the tooth, but it is also true that he made it to the end. When Oscar fought Pacquiao, he was knocked out in 8 rounds. You can say this for him: he went from world’s best to has-been in public, against the highest level of competition. And that’s more than we can say for Mayweather.
An unblemished record cobbled together from nobodies and foot speed does not the greatest make. He’s all the elusiveness of Pernell Whitaker without the charm. Because all my sports predictions go awry here at OFB, I admit that eating a crow sandwich is a distinct possibility. But is a 35-year-old a prima donna who’s never really been hit so fast as to make Cotto look slow? I don’t think so. It would be a just result for a man who makes 30 million dollars to run his mouth, it would appear.
It would also be just if the crowd-pleasing Cotto got a re-match against Manny, after this great victory, which I confess, pleases me to contemplate. Pacquiao deserves some measure of blame that the superfight with his loquacious nemesis has not taken place. Surely he knows that time is running out even on him, so in the absence of such a fight. A return bout with Cotto might be a fitting swan song, especially since a close decision win widely held to have been wrongly decided over rival Juan Manuel Marquez was the last image of “Pac Man” that we have.
Moreover, in my opinion, it is a grave mistake for Manny to fight Timothy Bradley, who has been much heavier than him and is quite equipped to beat the pound-for-pound king at the apex of his adulation.
All that is to say that the clock ticks for the two best in the sport to finally engage. Mayweather, for his part, faces the prospect he has faced the entire length of his career: a lack of respect, much like the fictional heavyweight Mason “The Line” Dixon, before pushed to the brink by a 59-year-old Rocky Balboa. For Mayweather, that respect will not come until he beats Pacquiao.
Can’t we almost hear Angelo giving us his view? “Ali never ducked Frazier, and Frazier never ducked Ali. And they fought, even though the government took Muhammad’s best years from him.” More than that, when boxing’s top division is held hostage by two Slavic Drago-like brothers who refuse to fight in a promise to their mother, (Wlad holds three belts, while Vitali holds the other) it is even more important that these two biggest stars give boxing a cause to rally behind, given that, fair or unfair, the sport has relied on A) heavyweights; and B) Americans in the days of its greatest cultural influence.
The largest governing body of the rival sport of mixed martial arts and its head, Dana White, often uses the politics of boxing and the inability to make the biggest fights happen as a selling point. And it’s a good one. Quite apart from the fact that MMA, in my opinion, is often mind-numbingly boring when it does not mimic a boxing match, (when the combatants prefer grappling to pugilism) one has to say that the biggest fights never fail to be made.
Can you imagine if the 1971 “Fight of the Century” between Ali and Frazier never took place because of “promotional issues”? How about the “Thrilla In Manila” in 1975? Will Mayweather stand in an Olympic stadium ravaged by disease, yet beloved by an entire world in his latter days if he doesn’t fight this fight? Will the wider world care about a welterweight Filipino years from now if he fails to do likewise? Even if (and when) Cotto wins, Manny and Floyd need to fight, for the good of their sport.
Jason Kettinger is a contributing editor to and senior sports writer for Open for Business.