Cotto may be favored, but Sugar should be

Nov 6, 2007 3:38 AM

I’m trying to calm down and see how easily Miguel Cotto can justify his favoritism and knock out Sugar Shane Mosley this coming weekend.

It’s not too difficult to envision. Mosley has a reputation for an iron chin, but I was at ringside in the same building, Madison Square Garden, when he was dropped a couple of times and virtually out on his feet twice against Vernon Forrest in 2002.

Yes, Mosley can be hurt and the undefeated Cotto, 30-0 with 25 knockouts, is a punishing puncher, especially to the body. And, Mosley’s body is now 36 years old.
Yes, Cotto could easily bring up one of those left hooks to the chin at any moment and end what, to me, is the most intriguing match of the year, the fight I have most anticipated.

But I don’t think so. In fact, I’ve put on tight shoes, am chewing on glass and hanging by the lone tie in my closet — all to temper my natural inclination to believe that the oddsmakers have gotten this one all wrong.

I can’t see how Mosley is not the favorite. Cotto could, especially if he wins Saturday, become one of the all-time greats. Even if he loses to the future first-round Hall of Famer, he could go on to a spectacular career. But for now, I am afraid the Puerto Rican icon - and he will have a huge home-field advantage in New York because of his heritage - remains a highly talented terrific prospect. He should not be -150 or 145 against a tried-and-true great fighter who also happens to be bigger.

And Mosley, plus +120 or 115 last time I looked, in my opinion, is not only taller (5-foot-9 to 5-7) with a longer reach (74 inches to 67), he is faster, stronger, much more experienced and probably hits just as hard, especially to the body.

Height is an important factor in handicapping Mosley bouts. He has four losses in a brilliant career with 44 victories - two to Vernon Forrest and two to Winky Wright, both of whom made it impossible for Mosley to land his lightning-quick combinations because he had to punch up.

The tale of the tape for this fight, though, is in Mosley’s favor. Cotto will, as he always does, be moving forward, trying to pressure the taller fighter, trying to get close enough to land those hooks and right hands to the sides. The geography, though, favors Mosley, who should be able to keep his distance while not only countering, but firing first and stepping to the side.

In fact, the only part of the tale of the tape that should be of concern is age, Mosley’s nine years older; Cotto is just coming into his prime.

But reports I trust from California, where Mosley has been training, indicate that he is as quick and as strong as ever for his return to 147 pounds after winning another title at 154. He packed on muscle lifting weights to compete against the junior middleweights, winning a title against Oscar de la Hoya four years ago and three years after defeating his current Golden Boy Promotions partner at welterweight.
Jack Mosley, his father and trainer, says his boy regained his old speed by stopping his weight-lifting. It certainly looked that way in February, in his return to 147, when he completely outsped the slick Luis Collazo, a former welterweight title-holder who had made Ricky Hatton look somewhat feeble.
Mosley hasn’t fought since, but he has had some hellacious sparring, helping de la Hoya prepare for his bout earlier this year with Floyd Mayweather Jr. And Sugar is looking past Cotto a bit by looking for Mayweather, who seems to not want any part of him but who, if he as expected gets past Hatton next month, will have to face this fight’s winner or lose much standing.

I sense Mosley, who loves boxing so much he is willing to help 16-year-old Shane Jr. get started if that’s what his boy really wants, is as hungry as ever. He has been an elite fighter for so long that it’s difficult to see him as an underdog here against a guy who was hurt several times at 140 pounds. Maybe Cotto had trouble making the weight, but at 147, he was wobbled by Zab Judah this year and Judah doesn’t punch nearly as hard as Mosley. A knockout by the underdog would hardly surprise me.

Okay, calm down ...

On the Garden’s over-hyped undercard, where Antonio Margarito faces Golden Johnson - whom Mosley knocked out in 7 back in 1999 - the semifinal pits the real lightweight champion, Joel Casamayor, reunited with trainer Joe Goossen, against tough Jose Armando Santa Cruz. I haven’t seen any line, but I’m a big Casamayor fan - I think he could beat Juan Diaz.

Over in France, Jean-Marc Mormeck - the cruiserweight champion I have dubbed Le Tank - rates as a slight favorite (-125) over Britain’s harder-punching David Haye (-105). If I had to lay money on one of these guys, it’d probably be on Haye, sight unseen, because Mormeck looks like he’s on the downside.

But I don’t have to lay money on foreign cruiserweights and neither do you.