Shane Mosley appears to have some formidable advantages over Miguel Cotto, and would be favored in this fight except for the one cloud hanging over his head: he turned 36 in September. Cotto is 10 years younger, undefeated and possesses a will to win. But if Mosley can beat Father Time, he will take down Cotto in the process.
Shane Mosley has four clear-cut advantages over Miguel Cotto. Let's break them down.
Mosley's greatest assets are hand speed and power. When he moved up to junior middleweight in 2003, he had to switch from the eight ounce gloves used by all divisions from welterweight on down, to 10 ounce gloves, the same size heavyweights wear. Many dominant champions have lost the power edge when fighting with heavier gloves.
"As you get in the ring with bigger and bigger opponents," boxing historian Bert Sugar said, "your punches do not have as much effect, and the punches of the bigger opponents begin to have more effect on you.
Mosley's rise in weight class from lightweight to junior middleweight has clearly produced a power drain. In his first 37 fights at lightweight and welterweight, using eight ounce gloves, he was undefeated and had knocked out 34 of his opponents (90 per cent). The only boxers to go the distance with Mosley at that point were an obscure Oscar Lopez in just Mosley's ninth fight in 1994; reigning lightweight champion Philip Holiday, who was 31-0 when they fought in 1997, and Oscar De La Hoya in 2000.
Lopez was an aberration. Holiday, however, had 45 fights when he retired in 2003, and had only been knocked out once, in his final bout. De La Hoya has fought 43 times and only been knocked out once, too -- by Bernard Hopkins, with a single shot to the liver.
In seven fights at junior middleweight with 10 ounce gloves, Mosley has managed only two knockouts, both TKO victories over a faded Fernando Vargas. Mosley comes into this fight with Cotto off a lackluster, unanimous decision at welterweight against the awkward Luis Collazo, but it was not a true test of whether Mosley's power will return at 147 pounds. The fight with Collazo was held in Las Vegas, where this year the Nevada boxing commission mandated that all bouts from welterweight on up were with 10-ounce gloves. Mosley did manage to knock down Collazo in round 11, but the fight went the distance. Collazo is also a southpaw, and Mosley has had trouble with left-handed boxers throughout his career.
Wearing eight-ounce gloves for the first time since 2002, look for Mosley's pop and hand speed to be a major factor against Cotto.
At 5'9, Mosley enjoys a two-inch height advantage over Cotto, and his 74-inch reach is five more than his younger opponent. Important? Not important? Consider this: Mosley has never been beaten by a boxer smaller than himself. He has lost only four times, twice each to fighters who had a size advantage.
Mosley's first defeats came in back-to-back losses to then unbeaten Vernon Forrest, who is 6'0. His only other losses came in 2004 in consecutive fights with then junior middleweight Winky Wright, who is 5'10 1/2. After the second victory, Wright moved up to middleweight, where he beat Felix Trinidad, Sam Soliman and Ike Quartey, and drew with Jermain Taylor. In his last fight, Wright lost to light heavyweight Hopkins at a catch weight of 170.
Mosley's style of fighting played right into the two bigger men's hands. He likes to apply constant pressure and take the fight to his opponent. Both Forrest and Wright were too big and too strong for Mosley, who paid a price for fighting in his offensive mode.
(As a footnote, Mosley compiled a sensational amateur record of 230-12, but was denied a spot on the 1992 Olympic team when he lost a three-round decision to Vernon Forrest in the finals of the trials).
If you're going to beat Shane Mosley, you're going to have to win on points. In 242 amateur fights, Mosley was never knocked out. Only once in his 49 professional fights has he even been down, and there were extenuating circumstances.
Early in the second round of Mosley's first fight with Forrest, the boxers clashed heads and both staggered backward as referee Steve Smoger called time. Mosley sustained a cut on the hairline. When action resumed, Forrest landed a tremendous right that sent Mosley backward. Forrest followed up with two more rights, and Mosley went down.
In contrast, Cotto's chin remains somewhat of a question mark. In 2005, Cotto was in serious trouble against the light-hitting Demarcus Corley, who had only 16 knock outs in his 29 victories at that point. Corley nearly knocked Cotto down with a succession of right hooks in the third round. Cotto recovered and scored a fifth round TKO.
Two fights later that year, Cotto fought an all-out war with unheralded but unbeaten Ricardo Torres, a current junior welterweight champion. Torres rocked Cotto in the first round and then knocked him down in the second after battering him around the ring. While Cotto again rallied to score a 7th round knockout, he took some serious blows along the way.
This past June, Zab Judah stopped Cotto in his tracks with a first-round, counter-left, but the champion may have taken the fight out of the challenger when he countered with a left to the groin.
The common thread running from Corley to Torres to Judah, is that in all three fights the slow-starting Cotto was hurt within the first three rounds but his opponents could not finish him off. Mosley is a top-flight finisher when wearing eight ounce gloves.
Also worth pondering is that in Cotto's last fight at junior welterweight, he broke Paulie Malignaggi's cheek bone in the second round but was unable to put the slick boxer away, going on to win by decision. Mosley, while not as good a boxer as Malignaggi, is slicker than most.
Cotto has knocked out 25 of his 30 opponents and apparently thinks he will do the same to Mosley. At a New York press conference for this fight on the eve of Mosley's 36th birthday, Cotto presented him with a birthday cake showing Mosley down on a sugar-frosted canvas as the Puerto Rican sensation hovered over him.
Given Mosley's chin and size advantage, when Cotto swaps frosting for canvas on Nov. 10, don't look for him to have his cake and eat it too.
Cotto has been brought along carefully by his promoters at Top Rank -- much as Kelly Pavlik was before knocking out Jermain Taylor -- and has never faced an elite fighter such as Mosley.
In contrast, Mosley has been in the ring with several A-list fighters, and while he hasn't always won, generally has given a good account of himself. For starters, he holds two victories over De La Hoya. Unlike Floyd Mayweather Jr., who won a split decision over a 34-year-old De La Hoya, Mosley beat a 27-year-old Oscar in his prime, also by split decision. That loss was just the second in 34 fights for De La Hoya at the time. In a rematch three years later, Mosley won again, a close but unanimous decision.
And while Mosley lost twice to Wright, in their second bout the bigger man could only manage a tight majority decision, with scores of 114-114, and 113-115 twice. Forrest, it should be noted, is still a serious junior middleweight contender, having only lost twice in 41 bouts, both times to Ricardo Mayorga.
Mosley also has experience defeating fighters who were unbeaten when they met, including Holiday (31-0), Eduardo Morales (26-0) and Shannon Taylor (28-0-1).
"I respect Cotto, he's good," Mosley said. "But he hasn't faced the opposition that I have faced in my career which includes victories over Oscar De La Hoya twice. Cotto only has one style (a conventional fighter) and I have been facing fighters with different styles. I can adjust my style. I'm the type of fighter that knows how to deal with any situation, and for this fight I'm going to bring everything, whatever is necessary to win."
My prediction? Mosley by TKO under six rounds.
As a counterpoint to the above analysis, here's HBO's longtime commentator, Larry Merchant, who once told me there are only three boxers in history who deserved to call themselves "Sugar": Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard and Mosley.
"In the big picture, Cotto should win, in the same way that Hatton overwhelmed Tszyu and Castillo, a young, restless and hungry fighter wearing down a great old fighter. Cotto, however, is vulnerable, as all such fighters are, and until he beats a Tszyu, a Castillo, a Mosley, he won't get full recognition for his qualities of resolve and grit.
"That being said, Mosley has a history of toughness, and at 147 pounds fights like a younger man with his quickness and passion, and is more versatile than Tszyu and Castillo.
"In general, veteran fighters just don't want to deal with a non-stop onslaught, as we also saw in Diaz-Freitas. So not to straddle a fence, I like Cotto and I like Mosley. I wouldn't be surprised if Cotto wears Mosley down, which is the logic, or if Mosley stops Cotto.
"I saw Oscar Bonavena knock Joe Frazier down twice early and Frazier got up to win decisively. We'll find out if Cotto has that kind of rare right stuff."