By Jason Keidel
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Turns out I could have saved you sixty bucks – seventy if you watched in HD.
But then you would have missed an exquisite bout that belied the normally mundane yet masterful offerings from Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who came to bang against a naturally larger man.
On Friday I said that if he still had his speed, Mayweather would defeat Miguel Cotto with jabs and lead rights. And that’s exactly what happened. The lead right in particular, thrown with a windmill’s regularity, pierced Cotto’s guard in a percussion of pounding leather on his left temple.
But Cotto got his, too, slugging Mayweather with body shots and jabs, though the gritty Puerto Rican boxer relied too often on a punch he couldn’t land, the right hand. Despite the incessant punching from both men (who fought at 154 lbs.) there was no time when either fighter was in serious trouble, even if their swollen, bloodied faces suggested otherwise.
For his part, Cotto (37-3) has nothing to be ashamed of, ever. Except for an unseemly escape after the fight – when he ducked under the ropes and a post-fight interview – Cotto fought like a champion. My card had him winning four of the twelve rounds, which is an accomplishment considering Mayweather’s defensive acumen. There isn’t a fighter alive who puts fear in Cotto’s heart, an organ he has in spades. His only bugaboo is everyone’s foil – lightning fast fists. No nutritionist, trainer, or witchdoctor can prepare a slower man for a faster man.
After the fight, Larry Merchant – to whom Floyd apologized for a public, profane rant last year – noted that Mayweather would be “out of circulation” as of June 1. Merchant’s quaint euphemism means that Mayweather will be in jail for three months on domestic violence charges. Some magnanimous magistrate allowed Floyd to scoop up about $40 million before preening from the pokey. He said he will do his time like a man, whatever that means.
Mayweather is the maddening dichotomy we see with many pro athletes – a master on the court or canvas but acts like a moron offstage. (Don’t confuse the ability to make money with common sense or decency.) And it’s too easy for Mayweather to nestle into some trite cliché about talent and torment. He built the very fishbowl through which we view him.
Frankly, Mayweather (43-0) is a genius when he paints on the boxing canvas, especially defense, the left shoulder roll where he twists his torso to the right and invites long, lunging right hands from the enemy, which invariably bounce off his left arm. Along with his hand speed and ring intellect, he is a subtle, complete, and dominant boxer.
Outside the ropes, there’s no nuance to Mayweather, which includes his partner, a woman called Miss Jackson: an obscenely beautiful creature who wore about as much clothing as Mayweather did. Even the most dire romantic sees that their bond is based on a fleeting premise: fame and fortune.
Because of his talent and the exotic lifestyle it spawns, Mayweather may indulge in every impulse, which often gets him public relations cauldrons and local courtrooms. Yet somehow he’s able to juggle an entourage and an ensemble of Rolls Royces without succumbing to the darkest shades of stardom. He neither drinks nor drugs, and stays in supreme shape all year, often opening his gym at midnight for an ad hoc workout.
At 35, Mayweather should have one bout left on his bucket list: a date with Manny Pacquiao, the tornadic Philippine fighter who doubles as a congressman in his native country. A shame the two can’t write bipartisan legislation that includes fighting each other. If they don’t settle this score in the squared circle, it will be a pockmark on both careers, thwarting perhaps the final megafight in the sport’s history.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will get old and slow someday. That is unavoidable. What is quite avoidable, however, is his penchant for provoking such vitriol from the masses. Considering he’s an American who came from squalor to become a boxing savant, he could be America’s darling.
Instead, the crowd roared between rounds when the big screen showed blood spilling from Mayweather’s nose. Indeed, if he ever fights Pacquiao, more Americans will root for the man whose last name no one can spell.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is not misunderstood. Everything he does is premeditated, from his racially charged rants to challenging an ancient boxing reporter to domestic violence. Now he has three months behind bars to think about it, without as much as a dollar or 50 Cent in his pocket.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org