Head to head: Cotto vs. Mayorga
MIGUEL COTTO vs. RICARDO MAYORGA
When: Saturday, March 12
Where: Las Vegas (MGM Grand)
TV: Showtime PPV, 6 p.m. PT/ 9 p.m. ET
Weight: Junior middleweight
Title(s) at stake: Cotto’s WBA junior middleweight
Also on the card: Miguel Vazquez vs. Leonardo Zappavigna, 12 rounds, for Vazquez’s IBF lightweight title; Yuri Foreman vs. Pawel Wolak, 10 rounds, junior middleweights.
Height / Reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 67 (170cm)
Hometown: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Turned pro: 2001
Record: 35-2 (28 knockouts)
Trainer: Emanuel Steward
The Ring rating: No. 3 junior middleweight; No. 4 welterweight
Titles: WBO junior welterweight (2004-06; vacated); WBA welterweight (2006-08; lost it to Antonio Margarito); WBO welterweight (2009; lost it to Manny Pacquiao); WBA junior middleweight (2010-present).
Biggest victories: Kelson Pinto, Sept. 11, 2004, TKO 6 (won first title); Carlos Quintana, Dec. 2, 2006, TKO 5 (won vacant welterweight title); Shane Mosley, Nov. 10, 2007, UD 12; Jennings, Feb. 21, 2009, TKO 5 (won vacant welterweight title); Joshua Clottey, June 13, 2009, SD 12; Yuri Foreman, June 5, 2010, TKO 9.
Losses: Margarito, July 26, 2008, TKO 11 (lost welterweight title); Pacquiao, Nov. 14, TKO 12.
Height / reach: 5-9 (175cm) / 70 (178cm)
Hometown: Managua, Nicaragua
Nickname: El Matador
Turned pro: 1993
Record: 29-7-1 (23 knockouts)
Trainer: Al Bonanni
The Ring rating: None
Titles: WBA welterweight (2002-03; lost it to Cory Spinks); WBC welterweight (2003; lost it to Spinks); WBC junior middleweight (2005-06; lost it to Oscar De La Hoya).
Biggest victories: Andrew Lewis, March 30, 2002, TKO 5; Vernon Forrest, Jan. 25, 2003, TKO 3 (won title); Forrest, July 12, 2003 MD 12; Michele Piccirillo, Aug. 13, 2005, UD 12 (won title); Fernando Vargas, Nov. 23, 2007, MD 12.
Major losses: Spinks, Dec. 13, 2003, MD 12 (lost title); Felix Trinidad, Oct. 2, 2008, TKO 8; De La Hoya, May 6, 2006, TKO 6 (for title); Shane Mosley, Sept. 27, 2008, KO 12.
Skills: Mayorga’s bread and butter is power punching but he’s a smarter fighter than he appears. His technique is wide and sometimes wild but he has good timing and he knows how to get in position to get to his opponents. However, the Nicaraguan veteran is nowhere near as polished as Cotto, a former amateur standout who represented Puerto Rico at the 2000 Olympic Games. Cotto is a versatile boxer-puncher who employs basic technique that has proven to be effective against a number of styles.
Power: Cotto’s heavy hands are part of his success but he’s never been one to turn a fight or stop a quality opponent with a single shot. The Puerto Rican star is a classic “grinder” who wears his opponents down with pressure, body punching and hard combinations. Mayorga, on the other hand, won his first two welterweight titles by bombing out “Six Heads” Lewis and the late Forrest, who was a 7-to-1 favorite. Mayorga is naturally bigger than Cotto (the taller, rangier veteran fought comfortably at junior middleweight 11 years ago) and he appears to carry more power in single punches than the titleholder.
Speed and athletic ability: Both fighters are above-average athletes. In his prime, Mayorga was explosive. He still probably has faster hands than Cotto, who possesses very good hand-eye coordination and fluid footwork when he wants to use it. Mayorga’s reflexes might be a bit quicker than Cotto’s.
Defense: Cotto is there to be hit, especially when he’s in with an offensive force (such as Pacquiao, Margarito, and Ricardo Torres), but he makes more of an effort to protect himself than Mayorga, who has actually offered up his chin to be hit by some opponents (including the murderous-punching Trinidad). Cotto blocks hooks and crosses well with his high guard (which is easily pierced by uppercuts), but he usually uses his underrated footwork to escape punishment.
Experience: The fighters have close to the same number of pro fights (Cotto has 37; Mayorga has 38). Cotto’s stellar amateur career must be factored in with his experience, as well as the 14 titleholders he’s faced that includes the elite likes of Pacquiao and Mosley. Mayorga didn’t have much of an amateur career and he hasn’t faced as many titleholders as Cotto, but he’s been in with plenty (nine), including the late Forrest, Mosley, Vargas, and future first-ballot hall of famers De La Hoya and Trinidad.
Chin: Both have been stopped in punishing bouts with elite fighters. Survival tactics enabled Cotto to make it into the 12th round with Pacquiao and he was battered to an 11th-round TKO by Margarito, although the Mexican mauler may have had loaded wraps in that bout. Mayorga was beat down by Trinidad (TKO 8), De La Hoya (TKO 6) and stopped in the final round of his competitive fight with Mosley. The difference between Mayorga and Cotto is that the Nicaraguan can take many hard, flush shots to his jaw without being wobbled before he succumbs. Cotto has been repeatedly rocked by single punches, including shots landed by fighters who aren’t known for their power, most notably against DeMarcus Corley.
Conditioning: This category isn’t hard to figure out. Cotto is a consummate professional who takes his preparation very seriously. Mayorga? Well, not so much. The guy doesn’t bother to quit smoking for most of his camps. ‘Nuff said.
Wear and tear: Cotto has been in some tough fights and a few bona-fide ring wars, such as his shootout with Torres. He’s packed a lot of action in his 10 years in the pro ranks and he’s taken his share of lumps in that time. However, Mayorga, who turned pro in 1993, has had as many (maybe more) grueling fights as Cotto, plus he’s led an unhealthy, self-indulgent lifestyle for many years.
Corner: Mayorga’s trainer, Al Bonanni, is an underrated veteran. The Florida-based cornerman has trained or co-trained nine major titleholders, including junior welterweight KO artist Randall Bailey, former super middleweight standout Byron Mitchell, and junior flyweight stylist Will Grigsby. Bonanni also trains current light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud. However, Coto’s new trainer Emanuel Steward may be without peer. The hall of famer has developed and coached more legendary fighters than any other trainer in the modern era and he’s still going on strong in the twilight of his career as evidenced by his work with heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko.
Outcome: Mayorga isn’t in Cotto’s class in terms of skill and technique but he’s bigger, stronger, quicker and harder-punching. The 37-year-old veteran also possesses an unorthodox style that can be difficult for traditional boxers to adjust to. In other words, fans can expect a fight — and a darn good one — for as long as the bout lasts. Mayorga will have his moments in the early rounds, occasionally buzzing Cotto with uppercuts and overhand rights and bullying the titleholder to the ropes a few times. However, the cool-headed Puerto Rican will survive the rough spots, establish his jab, and pick his power shots, which will include counter hooks, hard lead rights, and of course, body shots that will sap the strength and eventually the will of his antagonist. Cotto will begin walking Mayorga down by the middle rounds and he’ll punish the trash-talking huckster down the stretch.
Prediction: Cotto by late stoppage.