Wait for it, Amir: Another year and Floyd may be beaten
21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012
Money talks and Floyd Mayweather spoke so eloquently inside and outside the ring in Las Vegas on Saturday night that the whole world sat up and took notice.
The brilliance with which Mayweather repulsed Miguel Cotto’s machismo assault on his unbeaten record spelt out his claim to be recognised above Manny Pacquaio as the best pound-for-pound fighter on planet earth.
Those fight-by-fight exchanges of bragging rights are important since, as Mayweather admits himself: ‘That fight between me and Pacquaio which all the fans want to see is not going to happen.’
Champion: Floyd Mayweather extended his unbeaten record against Miguel Cotto
For that he blames the PacMan’s promoter, Bob Arum, but there are also issues about his own demand for the lion’s share of the $100 million-plus purse.
Only one thing was left unsaid at the MGM Grand Garden: If boxing is dead, then nobody has told the corpse.
As each three minute stanza of dazzling intensity came to its climax the sell-out crowd rose to its feet. Not just to roar its excitement but to applaud the celestial quality of what all 16,047 of them had just witnessed.
Boxing still can be a noble art and when it is performed with such virtuosity it deserves its standing ovation.
When it is shot through with such courage as this the protagonists deserve their rich rewards, on this hot night in Sin City a minimum $32million and $8million for Mayweather and Cotto respectively.
Amir Khan would like to share in such a pay-TV bonanza but Mayweather’s master-class sent out another message, once which warned Britain’s Olympian talent to be patient.
In control: Mayweather got the better of Cotto over 12 thrilling rounds
Before trading with the man who calls himself Money our former – and hopefully soon to be reinstated – world light-welterweight champion should have at least one acclimatising fight at full welter and wait until next year.
Khan seeks to regain his titles in a grudge re-match with Lamont Peterson on this Strip in less than a fortnight. But it is not in his best interests to be the first challenger in waiting when Mayweather comes out of the Clark County jail some three months from now.
Not only does he need to test himself at the heavier weight but by next summer Mayweather will be another year older and Khan another year wiser.
At 35, the not-so-quiet American remains a remarkable athlete and a demonic trainer. But even on this impressive occasion the first subtle signs that Father Time is catching up with him became apparent.
Mayweather explained his willingness to engage in a full-blooded battle with Cotto as a desire to entertain the masses. Maybe so but even the greatest pugilists go through the transition from boxer to fighter as they age.
Tough challenge: Cotto gave Mayweather the toughest fight of his career
As they become less light on their feet and less fluent in movement – almost imperceptibly at first – they find themselves standing and exchanging punches instead of dancing and dazzling.
It is more dramatic to watch but it takes its toll and for the first time in his 43-win career Mayweather was bleeding from nose and mouth as the battle raged.
Although he won, deservedly, that proved to be a maturing experience. At the final bell he told Cotto: ‘You’re a helluva a champion, the toughest guy I ever fought.’
When the officials gave him victory by a Cotto-insulting 118-110 points on one card and an exaggerated 117-111 on the other two, this man who has always liked to announce himself perfect was the first to voice dissent: ‘This was a night of blood, sweat and tears and Miguel won a few rounds.’
That he did, four of them on my 116-112 scorecard.
Cotto troubled Mayweather with his violent persistence at close quarters, even though he was caught marginally more often by the accuracy of his celebrated challenger’s mix of counter punches and offensive combinations.
Wait: Amir Khan (right) must beat Lamont Peterson before facing Mayweather
The fight was in the balance until Mayweather changed up a gear with four rounds to go, culminating his effort with a grandstand finish in the 12th which had the Puerto Rican staggering.
But Cotto , whose WBA light-middleweight belt was on the line, is nothing if not defiant and when the last bell sounded they embraced in mutual respect.
Perhaps the imminence of the June 1 start to his prison sentence for domestic violence is enabling Mayweather to put his life in more reasoned perspective. It certainly sounded like that as he said: ‘Going away is an obstacle I must overcome by strengthening my mind – and next time I am in a situation like that I hope I will deal with it a different way.’
He spoke after adapting in the ring to become a world champion for the eighth time in five different weight divisions.
Despite the degree of difficult and discomfort which Cotto brought to the equation, Mayweather said: ‘It was a cool fight.’
It is also one which breathes life back into a sport requiring resuscitation.
As Oscar De La Hoya, president of promoters Golden Boy, put it so succinctly: ‘This was a beautiful thing for boxing.’