Miguel Cotto and the Art of Guerilla Warfare
By Martin Wade (May 5, 2012) Photo © German Villasenor, Doghouse Boxing
Floyd Mayweather - Miguel Cotto
“The Enemy is infinitely inferior to the King’s Troops in Open Space”
                                                        -  Anonymous British soldier
Sound familiar? Consider it the most historic scouting report you’re ever going to read on a boxing website and a lesson in warfare. I’ll bet you didn’t know the very country that allows you to put your feet up Saturday Night and indulge in “sport” as entertainment was basically won by tactics considered dishonorable. So the next time you hear someone complain about “tactics,” remember, we had snipers in trees teeing off on Redcoats standing in perfect alignment. This brings me to tonight’s main event and what we consider to be a “championship bout.” It really isn’t. Technically, Miguel Cotto secured a belt at a weight far from his prime without having to face anyone who can expose the considerable damage he absorbed in lower weight classes. Floyd Mayweather is the boxing equivalent to OxyClean; he will systematically rinse any foe of the preparation he thought he had and leave nothing but clarity. There’s a talent gap here and nothing on Pedro Diaz’s résumé can close it without an ode to the unconventional, the “dark arts,” so to speak. Miguel Cotto is a deliberate and thoughtful man and it comes out in his approach inside the squared circle but this is the safest place in the world for Floyd Mayweather. Without the element of surprise, Cotto will find himself reduced to boxing’s version of Johnny Bench. He’ll be catching (punches) all night long.
He Need not Look Far for His “Inner Black Swan”…
Many fighters have had success in just as many endeavors against odds and opponents they had no damned business being competitive against. Joe Frazier did extremely well against a 6’3” gazelle with an 80” reach and Roberto Duran jumped from lightweight to nearly run an optimum version of Ray Leonard out of the ring. Cotto need not look very far down his own ledger for inspiration, namely the gutter language and cigars of Ricardo Mayorga. If playing the results, surmising the buffoon he became, it would be easy to discredit him but not many welterweights today- even Mayweather- could have stood up to Mayorga the night he mugged the late Vernon Forrest. One of the things each of these men had in common was malice; none of them wanted to “win” the fights they were in- winning was a byproduct. Miguel Cotto should strike “win” from his vocabulary because that word is derived in the tangible universe where everything makes sense but most fighters think they’d at least land a jab in round one- until they meet Mayweather. Victor Ortiz figured he was at least due a jab, maybe even a flush shot, until Mayweather put him in survival mode, mentally. Remember, Ortiz was KO’d by two punches Mayorga in his brief zenith allowed his opponent. When “El Matador” did this, he shifted the unspoken rhythm and conventional terrain of a boxing match- he tampered with the psyche of a decorated amateur and world champion. Vernon Forrest was no longer sure what “winning” meant nor (face it) his personal safety vs. a guy like Mayorga. Floyd is all about winning; Cotto has to show him it’s about something different –he should simply go in there with the intention of harming Floyd. I’m sure Pedro Diaz is telling Cotto, “You beat speed with timing” but the only timing he should employ is that of Rocky Marciano’s “anytime”, anytime, anywhere, including the wrist and arms. Guerilla Warriors don’t aim for parts of the body nobody in 42 fights have been able to hit consistently-they aim for what he shows you because they aren’t keeping score.
The Brooklyn “Head Crack”…
Iran Barkley was like that hood-ass cousin you love but you can’t take him nowhere because he don’t know how to act. In the late 1980s/early ‘90s, he crashed a super talented middleweight/super middleweight landscape with varying results. There were long, fast, gifted guys like Michael Nunn and technicians like Mike McCallum who roamed that jungle but Barkley made himself viable by beating future Hall-of-Famer Tommy Hearns twice. He didn’t win vs. elite opposition (other than Hearns) after that but his rugged style was no picnic for opponents. It took a tough S.O.B. to beat him. Barkley had a way of making much more talented men fight his fight and there’s genius in that. Sun Tzu once said a great “tactic” of war was to appear ineffective while concealing that you are effective- Mayweather can make this easy because he seems to do that for opponents simply by showing up. Iran Barkley befuddled a generation of guys that should know better with a swooping overhand right he hilariously christened “The Bronx/Brooklyn Head Crack.” Save for the Darryl Dawkins-like name, the actual punch was organic and Cotto, while attacking Mayweather with “something that appears ineffective,” should find the unusual to dress up his vaunted left hook to the body. Mayweather already tipped his hand by telling anyone that will listen that Emanuel Burton was his toughest fight. If your ears stand up when Floyd makes the comment, you’re probably combing through the words for something “disrespectful” to pounce on. Not me; I can see it and instead of focusing on the then-Emanuel Burton’s career as a whole, I asked myself who and what the recently retired “Drunken Master” was.
He was extremely competent while appearing incompetent, to some, a clownish figure but underneath it all lay one badass little dude. Burton (now Augustus) didn’t wither in the light of Floyds great talent because he knew Floyd knew all of the answers in a book he rarely reads. Cotto is, in Floyd’s words, “solid” and watching him with his family, you get the same sense that this is a guy who you call first when you’re “jammed up.” But is he eccentric enough to create something that isn’t there, “guerilla” enough to cause Mayweather harm and puncture his confidence? Emanuel Burton made him work for it but Jose Luis Castillo made him run. Like any great fighter, Mayweather knows Miguel Cotto; he’s been watching him since day one and knows the Puerto Rican believes in himself- believes he has enough to win. A Guerilla Warrior is in no way unrealistic; he takes to the trees and caves because he has to. He ambushes because it’s the only way to even the odds; he isn’t worried about his reflection because he’s covered in mud. Mayweather’s opponents either fail through attrition, stupidity or both- and Floyd knows that his ability to shapeshift and adjust is more intimidating than punching power. Shane Mosley showed he can be hurt but Mayweather morphed in stance and became the hunter while Mosley remained himself- not good enough. Floyd knows when he shells up and gets defensive, punch counts plummet and men who shouldn’t be thinking start thinking. Emmanuel Burton didn’t “go there”; he didn’t have the boxing sense of self to try and prove that he can “box too.” He simply fought.
“Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been associated with long delay”- Sun Tzu
Floyd Mayweather has a mantra, something he repeats no matter who he fights and it isn’t repeated without purpose: “It’s different when you get in there”; “Don’t make a mistake” and “There’s no blueprint to beat me.” All of these statements are designed to create pause and give him that nanosecond needed to put his computer to work and his opponent at a disadvantage. Ortiz “looked” like he was in a hurry to get to Floyd but had no plan once he cornered him; like a great jazz drummer, Floyd fills any empty measures with a punch. Once the crowd’s awe become pronounced, the unprepared Ortiz unraveled into a sickening headbutt. Cotto has to appear to be easy to hit while disallowing actual flush punches to take a toll. Before long, he will put Floyd in a situation he isn’t used to: exchanging. This has to start early; Floyd’s biggest deception is that he isn’t a tough, gritty fighter- to bring it out of him is to bring him into an arena where he can be hurt. Cotto already (without fighting) put Floyd in a position where he had to go against his nature and suspend denigrating his opponent- one of his biggest psychological weapons was forfeited by the master. Cotto should be unconcerned with making Floyd respect him. What he should be going for is that “What the hell?” expression. Floyd mimicked Cotto’s stance and approach to the letter in episode three of HBO’s “24/7.” Cotto and Pedro Diaz should consider Floyd’s genius as an invitation (for Cotto) to throw shots he hasn’t previously put in combination before. High lactic acid thresholds and optimum muscle endurance will mean nothing if you’re doing the same things. Cotto (with Diaz) must mix the conventional with the ludicrous.
It’s right there for the taking and all Cotto has to do is become unpredictable but it’s not as intimidating as it seems. We all have to get “guerilla” when faced with reaching out and grabbing what we want and it will always take a last-minute revelation requiring decisiveness to see it through. Songs are written about it; just listen to the lyrics of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” We all know that at some point staying on a conventional path can be a death sentence and, hopefully, Cotto knows this going in. Quit that job and move. Start that website with $200 and no food. Throw an overhand right at medium range against the greatest defensive fighter who ever lived- it’s all the same sh*t. One thing is for sure; if Cotto stays the same, he’ll make another great payday to continue being the greatest husband/father in the world but if he unlocks a slightly schizophrenic alter ego, he may be the greatest Puerto Rican fighter in history.
“Invincibility lies in the defense, the possibility of victory in the attack”- Sun Tzu

This Article provided to Doghouse Boxing by © MaxBoxing.com

E-mail Martin: mar10world@aol.com
For more of Martin's work, visit BraggingRightsCorner.com

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