It started when Cotto landed a quick, direct left hand square on Mayweather’s nose in the fifth round. Blood trickled down his chin and dripped off his face, an announcement to the packed Grand Garden Arena that Mayweather, the self-proclaimed best boxer in the sport’s history, had himself a fight.More telling was what happened next. As Mayweather wiped the blood with a red glove, he turned to Cotto and actually smiled. He seemed to draw energy from this, a boxing vampire in front of another sold-out crowd pleading for his opponent, for any opponent, to hand Mayweather his first defeat. Cotto gave Mayweather a fight beyond expectation, a close fight, a tough fight, an instant classic. In the end, it was not enough. Mayweather triumphed in a unanimous decision and blew kisses to the crowd, which, naturally, booed him. Then he talked with the rapper Lil’ Wayne. “You’re a hell of a champion,” Mayweather told Cotto afterward. “You’re the toughest guy I ever fought.” In victory, Mayweather added to his copious belt collection the W.B.A. super welterweight belt and the vacant W.B.C. one. On this night, it seemed as if the fight that actually took place was more interesting than the one that did not. It did not seem to matter if Mayweather was not fighting Manny Pacquiao. On this night, Cotto did some damage. The more Cotto landed right hooks to the body, the more he pinned Mayweather in corners, the more the crowd rose and screamed for him. Yet as Cotto continued his onslaught, Mayweather continued to shake his head. By the ninth round, it was fair to consider whether Cotto could win the fight, whether he could knock Mayweather from the ranks of the undefeated. Before the round, when Mayweather’s picture flashed across the big screen here, his lip busted, his face bloody, the crowd erupted in applause. As the bell for the 12th round sounded, the bout was too close for an obvious call. Again, Cotto pinned Mayweather in the corner. Again, they traded blows. With two minutes left, the crowd stood on its feet, chanting Cotto’s name. Mayweather landed one combination, then another. When the final bell sounded, the fighters hugged. Cotto (37-3) had come close. But Mayweather (43-0) had done enough. He landed more total punches, more jabs and more power punches and at equal or higher rates. On Saturday, Mayweather did what Mayweather does best. He put on a show, the usual mixture of sports and entertainment, another pageant of the absurd, another series of moments best summarized with “only Mayweather.” If the lights that flashed and the crowd that booed served as a distraction, the din would fade by Sunday morning. Once the fight finished, another date of utmost importance loomed larger than before. On Friday, June 1, Mayweather is scheduled to report to jail for misdemeanor domestic violence and harassment charges reached in a plea bargain. For the superstar with the 18-room mansion, a 10-by-6-foot cell awaits. Mayweather, because he is Mayweather, sauntered into the ring flanked by Justin Bieber and 50 Cent, with celebrities as divergent as Sean Combs and Triple H in the stands. Because he is Mayweather, he wore what looked like red leather shorts. Early on, it appeared Cotto wanted to force the action, to steer Mayweather, the most brilliant technical boxer of his generation, toward a brawl. Cotto was the aggressor, even as he wore pink socks. In the second round, he lifted Mayweather off the canvas in a bear hug. At the very least, Cotto made Mayweather look uncomfortable, forced him to fight in tight quarters and bounce around the ring. In the fourth, Mayweather landed a series of stinging right hands. The first snapped Cotto’s head back. So did the fourth, and the fifth, until it was as if Mayweather controlled Cotto’s head like a puppet master, snapping it back and forth.
It started when Cotto landed a quick, direct left hand square on Mayweather’s nose in the fifth round. Blood trickled down his chin and dripped off his face, an announcement to the packed Grand Garden Arena that Mayweather, the self-proclaimed best boxer in the sport’s history, had himself a fight. More telling was what happened [...]Rating: 4