Next month, on May 5, 2012, the UFC will return to FOX for the third time since the promotion reached a historic seven-year deal with the broadcast network late last year.
While all eyes in the mixed martial arts world will be trained on the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there is another major combat sports event taking place that very same evening, as superstar boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather will take on Miguel Cotto in a light middleweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
MMAMania.com will be providing coverage of the event from the lead up right on through until the final question has been asked at the post-fight press conference. We'll begin by providing a quick introduction to the fight as well as some of the recent promotional happenings relating to it.
Let's get to it.
While most casual fans of boxing are likely taking the approach that unless Mayweather is fighting Manny Pacquiao, they aren't really all that interested, die hard fans of the sweet science should recognize that this fight is certainly one of the great challenges of Mayweather's career. Consider:
- Mayweather has only fought in the light middleweight division (154 pounds) one other time, a split decision victory over "Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya back in 2007. De La Hoya was in the twilight of his career, and while the decision was somewhat controversial in the respect that most thought it should have been unanimous and not split, the fact remains that it has been one of the closest bouts of Mayweathers career.
- When they fought, De La Hoya was 34, Mayweather 30. This time around, the tables are turned, with Mayweather the elder statesman, having just turned 35, four years older than the 31-year-old Cotto.
- The two losses on Cotto's record are both somewhat defensible. He was stopped via TKO by Manny Pacquiao in round 12 of a 145-pound catchweight fight in 2009 and he was stopped via TKO by Antonio Margarito in round 11 of a welterweight (147-pounds) title fight the year prior, a fight which many believe to be tainted after Margarito was caught with loaded handwraps in his very next fight.
In a clip from the HBO promotional vehicle "Face Off" shown last weekend, Mayweather alludes to this last point, stating that he views Cotto as an undefeated fighter. The clip is worth a viewing if only because it reveals some of the differences in the way boxing fights and MMA fights are promoted. Check it out:
The show is heavily stylized, with host Max Kellerman (one of the great sports talk radio personalities of all time) taking turns asking leading questions to the two combatants. Mayweather doesn't seem particularly interested in building any hype for the fight during the segment, as he was pre-occupied with a $100,000 sports bet that he had on the go, but he was very respectful of Cotto in the statements that he did make.
"Face Off" differs from the typical UFC "Countdown" fare that we are used to in the MMA world in a couple of ways. It brings the fighters together in a studio setting and we get to hear the questions being asked of them, unlike the narrated and heavily edited "Primetime." During the lead up to this weekend's UFC 145 we saw Rashad Evans and Jon Jones get together for a similar question and answer session with Jon Anik on Fuel TV's "Ultimate Insider." Is the UFC taking a page out of HBO's fight promotion book? They'd likely never admit it but I get the sense they are paying close attention.
As the combat sports spectacular gets closer, the tired MMA vs. Boxing debates will inevitably get brought up by pot stirring journalists whose imaginations have failed them, ignoring the logical assumption that fight fans are fight fans and a rather large chunk will be watching both the UFC on FOX 3 and Mayweather vs. Cotto events.
Lorenzo Fertitta pointed out that fact earlier this week, noting that the decision to again put a UFC on FOX event on the same night as a major boxing pay-per-view (you might recall that the first UFC on FOX show went down on the same night as Manny Pacquiao's last fight) was largely made by FOX executives (courtesy of MMA Fighting):
"That's kind of FOX's deal. They do all the research; they're really smart guys.The theory is that people are home. It's a great fight night; you're going to watch Pacquiao or whatever; you can turn on FOX, you can watch our fight; you'll have a great night."
Seems like a reasonable approach to me, especially when you remember the nearly nine million viewers that tuned in to watch Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez fight for the UFC heavyweight title.
Will the approach work again? Both the UFC and FOX would certainly love to see the ratings jump back up after they declined for the second show this January, and Mayweather is definitely the biggest stateside attraction in combat sports both at the box office and in the media coverage he receives. Will he hog the spotlight in the next couple of weeks and take away from the UFC event? Or will the eventual viewing numbers on fight night reveal a mutually beneficial result?
And what about the fight itself? Does the bigger, stronger and younger Cotto present a real challenge to Mayweather? Or is he simply a stepping stone to the fight that everyone wants to see?
Let me know what you think, Maniacs.