Two great fights on tap for autumn

Jun 30, 2009 5:04 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

These gems could set up a third winner

In a summer week with no real gambling action, boxing fans can sit back, let the bankrolls grow and be thankful for the autumn harvest.

Two fights, happily related, will cross the street and command the attention of more than the niche public.

In the first, finally, the postponed return of Floyd Mayweather Jr. (pictured) takes place Sept. 19 at the MGM Grand Arena against the brilliant Juan Manuel Marquez.

Good fight, but on paper not nearly as anticipated as the Nov. 14 shindig, also in Las Vegas, between Manny Pacquiao, who succeeded Mayweather as the pound-for-pound king, and Miguel Cotto.

What’s best, maybe, in accordance with the ancient Talmudic law that great fighters make great fights, the winners of these fall classics appear destined to meet in the spring.

And, no, the winners are not necessarily Mayweather and Pacquiao – although at first glance, and second, it seems almost ordained for king and former king to fight for supremacy.

Mayweather figures to be about a 9-2 favorite against the man many regard as No. 1A to Pacquiao’s No. 1. There are those who will tell you that Marquez, the brilliant Mexican counter-puncher who survived three opening round knockdowns against the Pac Man in their first meeting, won both affairs, though the official scoring was a 2004 draw and a 2008 split-decision loss. Bah, humbug. Pacquiao won both and my Exhibit A is that Dan Rafael, the ESPN.com guru, a good fellow and bad scorer, had Marquez ahead in both.

That is why if Marquez should upset Mayweather, and then Pacquiao get past the hard-hitting Cotto, a third bout would have magnificent appeal. Of course, that would lose the colorful Mayweather family from the inevitable HBO 24/7 buildup. Floyd Sr. is back with his son, though his estranged brother Roger remains as the head trainer.

It’s six, two and even that before Floyd Sr. proclaims himself the greatest assistant trainer in the world he leaves the corner in a huff, or maybe a minute and a huff (thank you, Groucho).

Thus, losing the Mayweathers before the finale would not be a marketing disaster. Pretty Boy, who now insists his nickname is "Money," may be one of the best pure boxers of recent decades, one who had the late Eddie Futch marveling at some of his escapes. But he is not, despite his arguments to the contrary, the king of pay-per-view.

Mayweather has been the co-star, if you will, in his two biggest money-makers, his last fights before "retirement" against Ricky Hatton and Oscar de la Hoya – who happen to be the last two guys Pacquiao has beaten (and much more efficiently; it took Pretty Boy until the 10th to dispose of Hatton, while Pacquiao did it in two brutal rounds. And while de la Hoya was somehow given a split decision against Mayweather, he was forced to surrender by the Filipino after eight rounds of brilliant torture).

There were reports, denied by promoters, that the reason Mayweather’s fight with Marquez was postponed from July 18 was not about aching ribs but sick ticket sales (the postponement to the weekend of Mexican independence celebration perhaps preserving Money’s bargaining position for a possible Pacquiao showdown).

There is no guarantee, of course, that victories by Mayweather and Pacquiao will immediately produce the desired showdown. Negotiations will be tough. Mayweather seems to think he deserves the lion’s share. It is my opinion, though, that Pacquiao is the big star here, and if anyone is going to get more than 50 percent, it should be him.

Of course, there is the little matter of the autumnal bouts to take care of first. Yes, I can see the bigger, faster and younger Mayweather blitzing the slow-starting Marquez – much like Pacquiao did in 2004, though it is unlikely the Mexican would survive to make one of his comebacks, as he did in his last fight when he slowly broke down the talented Juan Diaz for the lightweight title.

On the other hand, at 32, and with a 22-month respite, who knows if Mayweather’s body won’t betray him. No one works harder than PBF, but he does have a history of bad hands.

And Pacquiao cuts, which means he bloody well may not be worth more than 2-1 favoritism. Plus, while he is getting a two-pound concession from Cotto and will meet at the contractual weight of 145 pounds, there is no telling how he will stand up to blows from a true welterweight.

Against de la Hoya, he didn’t take too many shots. Cotto figures to land more, though he is vulnerable to straight right hands – like Pacquiao’s hammer-like jab.

Two wonderful fights – both with very live underdogs – with prospects of at least a third ensuing, will conjure memories of other golden ages of welterweights. Of course, these days, I am of the opinion that all four participants in this mini-tournament would be fodder for the Punisher, Paul Williams.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz