By Kieran Mulvaney and Eric Raskin
Your faithful Inside HBO Boxing bloggers, Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney, are at it again, poring over the CompuBox stats and interpreting what they mean for Saturday night’s throwdown. Before Mayweather and Cotto exchange punches, Raskin and Mulvaney exchanged thoughts:
Raskin: Kieran, great to be back with you to break down another mega-event, this one featuring two of the very biggest stars in the sport, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. Looking over the CompuBox data on these fighters, it’s interesting that in his last fight, against Victor Ortiz, Mayweather averaged 52 punches thrown per round, his highest total since 2005. Do you see him approaching that number against Cotto?
Mulvaney: My initial response is to say no. Victor Ortiz is Victor Ortiz, and Miguel Cotto is … better. A lot better. But Floyd has, in his last couple of fights, stepped forward more and been a much more aggressive fighter. And when Cotto has been troubled in the past, it’s been by guys who have overwhelmed him with punches. Mayweather may have calculated he’d be best served doing the same.
Raskin: Quite true—while Cotto has at times struggled with pure boxers, he’s never actually lost to one. And part of the reason for that might be that he can go jab for jab with just about anyone. According to the CompuBox stats, these are two of the most accurate jabbers in the sport. How critical will the jab be to Cotto’s success in this bout?
Mulvaney: I think most analysts would agree—certainly, Emanuel Steward said as much when I interviewed him—that Cotto needs to set up his attack behind a good, stiff jab. But, looking at the CompuBox data, the difference in recent jab connect percentages for the two men is astonishing to me. And when you add in the very low connect percentages for Mayweather’s opponents, it does not auger well for Miguel.
Raskin: I’m of the opinion, actually, that while a potent jab certainly wouldn’t hurt Cotto’s cause, if he’s to have a chance here, the most important punch is his left to the body. That used to be his number-one weapon, but in recent years, he’s drifted from it a bit. He has to use bodyshots to get Mayweather’s respect and slow him down, doesn’t he?
Mulvaney: Yes. I would think he needs to use the jab to back Mayweather up so that he can land that left hook. Forget about trying to hit Mayweather in the head when his back is to the ropes. As Floyd himself might say, “42 have tried, 42 have failed.” These days, all Floyd’s movement is chest and higher; his theoretically most vulnerable area is Cotto’s greatest strength. Theoretically.
Raskin: Well, when we’re talking about defeating Mayweather, everything is theoretical—depending upon how you scored the first Jose Luis Castillo fight.
Mulvaney: For the record, I thought he won that one too. Of course, Floyd should more accurately say, “41 have tried, 41 have failed, and one of those 41 failed twice.” But ... semantics.
Raskin: I scored Mayweather-Castillo I a draw, so for me, it’s “41 have tried, 41 have failed, and one of those 41 failed once and sorta-kinda failed the other time.” So I see your semantics and raise you even stupider semantics. One last CompuBox topic on this fight: Cotto’s punch output has often faded as fights have gone on. Is there reason to worry about his stamina, in your mind?
Mulvaney: I think the bigger concern is that I can’t recall any of Mayweather’s opponents ever finishing more strongly than they started. He is happy to take his time early on, time his man, and then take over. So I don’t see a scenario in which Cotto does better in the second half of the fight than the first, unless Cotto manages in that first half to soften up Mayweather for the kill.
Raskin: Okay, let’s wrap up the conversation with a quick discussion of the co-feature, Canelo Alvarez vs. Shane Mosley. The stats are damning in terms of Mosley’s punch output over his last three fights, averaging just 36.2 punches thrown per round. It’s a worrisome statistic—but his opponents, Mayweather, Pacquiao, and Sergio Mora, are all capable of handcuffing their foes to some degree. Might Shane look more lively and youthful against the slower, easier-to-hit Canelo?
Mulvaney: Nope. Next question.
Raskin: All right then. If you didn’t care for that question, let’s put the shoe on the other foot and finish by having you ask me a question. Anything you want.
Mulvaney: It isn’t that I don’t care for the question. I don’t care for the answer. Seriously, it pains to me to say this because Mosley has been such a fantastic fighter, but I am concerned about him in this fight. In any case, here’s my question for you: Looking at the CompuBox figures, and looking at the fights themselves, seeing how statistically at least Floyd Mayweather appears to be actually improving, do you see anyone preventing him from retiring undefeated at this point?
Raskin: Excellent question. The somewhat obvious answer is to say, “It depends when he retires.” If he sticks around long enough, he will lose. There was a time we thought we’d never see Roy Jones soundly beaten. If Floyd is still doing this at age 40, I highly doubt he’ll be undefeated. But at the present time, I don’t see anyone beating him. And, let’s be honest, the guys with the best chance—Pacquiao, Sergio Martinez—don’t seem likely to get the opportunity anytime soon.
Mulvaney: Indeed. One of Floyd’s greatest qualities is how smart he is, both inside the ring and in terms of who he fights and when. I think he takes just enough risk to make things interesting. I think Victor Ortiz was an example of that, and so is Miguel Cotto. And I don’t mean that as a slam on Floyd at all, just an acknowledgement of how well he has managed his career.
Raskin: I agree completely. Well, it’s been a pleasure as always, Kieran. I know you need to get back to prepping for your new one-man show as the opening act to Mike Tyson’s one-man show at the MGM, so I’ll let you attend to that.
Mulvaney: Actually, now that the MGM Grand has closed the Lion Habitat, I am filling that role: occasionally prowling, occasionally sleeping, and people pointing at me and laughing. It really isn’t a big stretch for me.