The sight of blood seeping out of the nose and mouth of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Saturday night in Las Vegas was an unfamiliar one, but it just might be the image that catapults the new WBA Junior Middleweight champion into conversations about boxing’s all-time great champions, even among his detractors.
For sure, at 43-0 now, after dominating a tough and determined Miguel Cotto for a 12-round unanimous decsion at the MGM Grand, no one can deny his overall brilliance as a fighter, nor his will to prevail in a nontraditional fashion for him. This victory for the 35-year-old may have been his toughest, but he handled it with aplomb, and it featured a willingness to trade punches more than ever before.
Consider that Cotto, from Puerto Rico, controlled the pace of the middle rounds with tough inside punches while Mayweather was on the ropes. At times, Mayweather inflicted damage from there, but it also was where Cotto was most effective.
When asked afterward about the in-fighting, Mayweather, almost untouchable in the center of the ring, intimated he stood there uncharacteristically to please fans.
“When fights are on pay-per-view, you want to give the fans what they paid for and that’s excitement,” Mayweather said. “[The bloody nose and mouth] comes with the territory when you fight a future Hall of Famer like Miguel Cotto. I had to fight hard, suck it up. He’s a tough competitor. I knew I’d have to come in the ring, fight hard and execute the game plan.
“Cotto is a future Hall of Famer. He’s no pushover, and he came to fight. He didn’t come just to survive, he came to fight. I dug down and fought him back.”
Mayweather would have been foolish to stay on the ropes, even as his deft defense minimized Cotto’s assaults. Mayweather is a smart tactician who maneuvered most of the fight in the center of the ring, where he pounded Cotto with an assortment of punches, even as blood trickled down his face. He located a weakness in Cotto’s defense and repeatedly rained looping right hooks to the side of his head, outside of his gloves that were held up to protect him.
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Neither fighter went down, but a vicious combination in the 12th round—right hook and left uppercut—wobbled Cotto. Mayweather did not follow up with much after that, instead using the ring to display his footwork in a coronation of sorts until the final bell.
Mayweather, who is now 20-0 in championship bouts, earned a boxing record $32 million (plus some of the pay-per-view take), Cotto $8 million (plus some of the pay-per-view take). This historic payday for Mayweather came with a prison stint hanging over his shiny bald head. In less than a month, on June 1, he starts an 87-day stint at Clark County Detention Center for domestic violence and harassment stemming from a 2010 incident involving his ex-girlfriend Josie Harris. That prospect did not deter him from a fantastic effort in the ring.
Rapper and close Mayweather friend 50 Cent said the time away “can be a therapeutic kind of thing for him. It can clear his mind and he will come back from it even better. Spending one day in jail is two days too long.”
“You deprive a man of his liberty,” 50 Cents added, “and it is such a powerful thing. It is a test of character and resilience. But here is the thing about Floyd; he has all the character that you could ever want. He knows how to fight in life. His whole life is a fight and I’m not just talking about boxing. He has come through that. That’s why he is the greatest.”
Mayweather insists he wants next to fight champion Manny Pacquiao, who reportedly has refused to take a blood and urine test to prove he is not on performance-enhancing steroids. Certainly Pacquiao saw in Mayweather a fighter many had not seen before Saturday—one willing to exchange punches more than ever before. And if that meant losing some of his blood, so be it. It only showed the depth of his boxing character.