When people look back at the Hall of Fame-worthy careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto, the boxers’ fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will be the one they probably remember.
It was a barnburner, one of the most exciting fights of Mayweather’s career; Cotto, of course, is typically in exciting fights. But as usual, it was Mayweather who put his punches together and evaded enough to win, taking a unanimous decision and a junior middleweight title for the second time in his career.
“You’re a helluva champion,” Mayweather said to Cotto in the ring after the fight. “You’re the toughest guy I ever fought.”
Now Mayweather — headed to jail on June 1 for an 87-day sentence at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas for a domestic battery conviction — can offer a new mantra: 43 have tried and now 43 have failed.
“Look, when fights are on pay-per-view, you want to give the fans what they pay for, and that’s excitement,” said Mayweather, who elected to do an in-ring interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant after threatening not to following their blow-up during a postfight interview after Mayweather’s September victory against Victor Ortiz.
Cotto didn’t go down without a fight. He pressed and pushed and cracked Mayweather with many hard punches, probably as many punishing shots as Mayweather has ever been hit with.
Mayweather is 35 now, and maybe the pound-for-pound king has lost just a step, so he is a little easier to hit. But he still got the job done and, for a change, in very exciting fashion.
In picking up his eighth world title belt in five weight classes, Mayweather looked good in victory. But Cotto, 31, a three-division champion in his own right, also looked good. In fact, Cotto gave Mayweather a tougher fight than he gave Manny Pacquiao in their 2009 welterweight title bout, a 12th-round knockout for Pacquiao.
“The judges said I lost the fight. I can’t do anything else. I have to take my defeat,” Cotto said. “I brought my best and I did my best every morning in training camp and I did my best tonight.”
Mentally reborn following his emotional victory against Antonio Margarito in their December rematch, Cotto fought as well as he has in years.
“I’m happy with my fight and with my performance,” he said. “So is my family. I can’t ask for anything else.”
With most of the crowd of 16,047 cheering for Puerto Rico’s Cotto, he was able to bull Mayweather into the corner and make him fight back round after round. And Mayweather was happy to oblige.
Most of the rounds appeared competitive, but Mayweather pulled away to win 118-110 on judge Robert Hoyle’s scorecard, while Dave Moretti and Patricia Morse Jarman each scored it 117-111. ESPN.com had it 116-112 for Mayweather.
Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) sat down on his punches and rocked Cotto in the fourth round, turning over his right hand to land several of them flush.
Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs), who made $8 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view profits, got Mayweather’s respect in the sixth round when he landed a pinpoint jab to his nose, drawing blood. After the punch, Mayweather nodded his head to Cotto out of respect.
“When you come to fight and are in the heat of the battle, those things happen,” Mayweather said.
Every time Cotto trapped Mayweather on the ropes — which he did often and had some success with it — the crowd would go wild. But Mayweather would eventually escape the trouble.
Mayweather closed strong with a huge 12th round, hurting Cotto with a nasty uppercut and right hands.
The fans had gotten their monies worth, and Mayweather had a satisfying victory. HBO will replay the memorable fight, along with the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Shane Mosley undercard fight, on May 12 (10:15 p.m. ET/PT).
“He’s a tough competitor,” Mayweather said. “I knew I was going to have to come in the ring to fight hard and execute the game plan. Cotto is a future Hall of Famer and he is no pushover. We fought at his weight class. He came to fight. He didn’t come to survive, he came to fight. So I dug down and fought him back.”
Mayweather, who earned a boxing-record guarantee of $32 million (plus a hefty percentage of the pay-per-view profit), was focused on the fight throughout the promotion, never seeming to let the looming jail sentence unnerve him. He kept up the brave front after the fight, as well.
“You’re dealt obstacles in your life,” Mayweather said. “You have to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad. When June 1 comes, the only thing I can do is accept it.”
Mayweather said he plans to fight again this year after his release from jail. The fight the world wants is to see him face Manny Pacquiao.
Round 1: Cotto swings a left that misses. Mayweather throws a left hook, then he jabs. Cotto, with head down, leading with his left. Cotto swings and misses with a right. Mayweather continues to jab. They’re separated twice. Cotto tries a hard right, Mayweather dodges. It happens again. Mayweather sneaks a left to the body. Mayweather wins the round, 10-9.
Round 2: Cotto shields head with both hands. Picks up Mayweather and leans him against the ropes. Mayweather lands right to Cotto’s head. A good combo by Cotto, who continues to cover his head with both hands. Cotto presses Mayweather into the corner, then lands a hard right followed by a combo. Mayweather strikes with a left uppercut. Mayweather lands a right. Cotto holding, pressing. Mayweather turning shoulder, sneaks in some shots. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Fight is even, 19-19.
Round 3: Mayweather lands a right uppercut from inside. Cotto answers with a combination to the body. He wants to do that all night. The pair exchange blows. Cotto gets better of the next exchange. Cotto lands shots Mayweather’s body and head. Cotto lands two good jabs. Mayweather counters with a right overhand. Cotto lands a flush left to Mayweather’s face. Cotto shifting arms in front of body. He can defend too. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Cotto leads fight, 29-28.
Round 4: Mayweather jabs to open. Mayweather looking to land, flinging rights past Cotto’s gloves to get to his head. Mayweather lands a combination, makes Cotto duck away. Mayweather in middle of ring now, avoiding the corners. But Cotto eventually corners him, and it’s a good exchange. Hard right by Cotto to Mayweather’s head. Mayweather ducks in a late right. Mayweather wins the round, 10-9. Fight is even, 38-38.
Round 5: Mayweather cornered again to open the round. He lands a blow but takes a hard right in exchange. Cotto goes to Mayweather’s body, but takes five or six punches to the head. Mayweather strikes with a left-right combo. Mayweather dodging Cotto’s punches. They exchange soft rights, then Cotton lands a hard right. Impressive combinations by both fighters. Mayweather nods off any effect. Close round. Mayweather wins the round, 10-9. Mayweather leads fight, 48-47.
Round 6: Cotto has some cut cream on his left eyebrow. Cotto jabs, the lands a right. Mayweather smiles. Cotto goes to his left hand. He lands another left while circling Mayweather. Cotto gets in another left. Cotto then goes to the body. They hold until bell. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Fight is even, 57-57.
Round 7: Chants of “Cotto!” can be heard. Cotto covering and blocking Mayweather punches. Cotto lands a good combo, ended with a right to Mayweather’s head. Mayweather back in the middle of ring again. Mayweather lands a combination to the body and head. Cotto’s blocking the head shots now. Cotto ducks in, presses Mayweather toward his corner. They hold. Good Mayweather combination to close. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Cotto leads the fight, 67-66.
Round 8: Cotto is trying to win this fight. He presses Mayweather to the ropes, barrages him with blows. Mayweather lands a right, but Cotto buries more body shots to Mayweather in the middle of ring. Cottpo gets Mayweather back to corner and works him over with combinations. Mayweather trying to smile through it, but Cotto pounds him against ropes. A right to the body, a left to the head. Best round of the fight. Crowd is roaring. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Cotto leads the fight, 77-75.
Round 9: Mayweather lands a left to open the round, followed by some uppercuts. The fighters exchange again. Cotto gets in good combination, then throws multiple jabs. They hold. Cotto pushes Floyd off to ropes. “Cotto!” is heard in the arena. Mayweather combo. He’s throwing aggressively. He knows it’s close. Mayweather wins the round, 10-9. Cotto leads the fight, 86-85.
Round 10: Cotto opens with a right to Mayweather’s body. Mayweather is looking for openings. He lands a right to Cotto’s head. Cotto answers with a left to Mayweather’s head. Then there’s a good Mayweather counter. Straight left to Mayweather’s face by Cotto. Mayweather jabs. Cotto goes to the body twice, then head. Cotto rocks Mayweather with a left uppercut during a good end exchange. Cotto wins the round, 10-9. Cotto leads the fight, 96-94.
Round 11: Big left to Mayweather’s chest by Cotto, who follows later with a hard left to Mayweather’s face. They’re holding again. Mayweather lands with an uppercut. Two good lefts to the jaw by Cotto. Brilliant combo by Mayweather. Cotto lands twice to the body, then slips a right. Mayweather lands a left-right combo. Close round to Cotto, 10-9. I have him up 106-103, but the technical fan might like Mayweather. It’s close, going to the 12th.
Round 12: Mayweather jabs to open. Pair have good exchange near Mayweather’s corner. Mayweather strikes with a left-right combo. Cotto on top of Mayweather with a combination. Right-left by Mayweather. He hurts Cotto with a right. Cotto jabs in vain. Another hard right by Mayweather. He was at his sharpest this round. All Hail The King of Boxing!