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Mayweather vs. Cotto: Full card preview

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Step right up, step right up, and feast your eyes on an instant classic. Or watch a disaster like the one Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) put on against Victor Ortiz last year.

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Mayweather faces the much more accomplished Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) in the main event of the Ring Kings pay-per-view event on Saturday 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HBO PPV.

The undercard is much shabbier than what normally accompanies a Golden Boy-presented pay-per-view event; with a truly dreadful co-feature in the corpse of “Sugar” Shane Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs) facing simultaneously overrated and underrated (more on this later) Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KOs). Meanwhile, the remaining televised portion of the card involves Mayweather’s house fighter Jessie Vargas (18-0, 9 KOs) taking on Steve Forbes (35-10, 11 KOs) and a scrap between Deandre Latimore (23-3, 17 KOs) and Carlos Quintana (28-3, 22 KOs). With a less-than-stellar undercard, the main event is going to be under exceptional pressure to deliver the goods.

Without further ado, a breakdown of every fight on the televised card:

Deandre Latimore (23-3, 17 KOs) vs. Carlos Quintana (28-3, 22 KOs), junior middleweights

On the distant fringes of the junior middleweight division, ranked No. 18 by the Boxing Tribune and No. 23 by Boxrec, stands Deandre Latimore, who has done more to milk one lucky masterpiece for all it’s worth than anyone since George Lucas after "The Empire Strikes Back" (32 years and counting now.)

Latimore broke a deadlock on all three judges’ cards against Sechew Powell back in 2008, turning a competitive fight into a decisive victory for himself by way of TKO in the seventh round. Since then, Latimore is 4-2 with only a single knockout, the KO coming over an 11-19 fighter (Darien Ford) and the losses coming to Cory Spinks (for the IBF 154-pound crown in Latimore’s next fight after the Powell fight) and in a rematch against Powell in March 2010 that would set the table for Powell’s ill-fated title shot against Cornelius Bundrage.

Latimore’s other three wins in the last six were against 21-19-1 Sammy Sparkman, Dennis Sharpe (who had lost six straight coming into the fight), and Milton Nunez, who knocked Latimore down twice and probably should have at least stolen a draw — the allegedly fabulously corrupt Richard Ocasio was ringside judging and turned in a 96-92 score that may as well have been written on the back of a personal check.

Meanwhile, Carlos Quintana is not exactly a world-beater at junior middleweight himself. Quintana has spent the bulk of his career beating mediocre fighters and losing to good ones; his three losses were against Andre Berto, Paul Williams (by first-round TKO as Williams avenged his first pro loss, suffered against Quintana by decision four months prior), and Miguel Cotto. To be fair, Carlos Quintana can call himself “former world champion;” the win over Williams was for the WBO welterweight belt currently held by no less a figure than Manny Pacquiao.

Except for the Williams fight, Quintana’s wins have come against a puffed-up record (Joel Julio, in what was Julio’s first major step up in class of his at-the-time 28 fights) and a string of hobos. Whether Latimore is an honest contender to make one more run at a world title or just another great talent wasted will be laid shockingly bare in this fight; the ability to beat a guy on Carlos Quintana’s level is the very definition of a litmus test. Quintana is a known quantity. Latimore is the one with everything to prove.

Jessie Vargas (18-0, 9 KOs) vs. Steve Forbes (35-10, 11 KOs), junior welterweights

This fight will be contested at junior welterweight from Jessie Vargas’ point of view. Whether Steve Forbes comes in as a junior welterweight or whether he packs middleweight bulk onto the scale come weigh-in day is still an open question. Forbes, a late replacement for Alfonso Gomez who took this fight on a week’s notice, has battled trouble with the scale in the past, coming in over the 147-pound limit in his last fight. It seems a stretch to suggest that he can get to 140.

Vargas is the classic example of “it’s all who you know.” Fighting under Floyd Mayweather’s promotional umbrella, Vargas has grown in stature as a prospect, fighting an ever-stronger list of opponents and graduating from the hobo circuit to beat Josesito Lopez in a coming-out party of a fight on the Mayweather-Ortiz PPV undercard last September. Since then Vargas has fought once, disposing of Lanardo Tyner in a laugher of a 10-round unanimous split decision to run his record to 18 wins without defeat or draw and earn himself what was supposed to be a shot at Gomez, who himself was last seen getting the snot beat out of him by Saul Alvarez on that very same Star Power event.

Steve Forbes, on the other hand, joins a too-long-to-list cadre of fighters who continue to fight on long after it has become bleeding obvious that no glory can possibly be had in their continued efforts to do battle (see file under Mosley, Shane for more of this philosophy at work). Forbes’ decision on short notice to step into the ring may, at least for the duration of this fight, supplant Mosley as the most tragic, pathetic figure on pay television Saturday night.

Forbes is 3-7 in his last 10 fights dating back to a split-decision loss to Grady Brewer on “The Contender” reality series back in 2006. Forbes has since lost to the good (Oscar De La Hoya, Andre Berto), the bad (Harrison Cuello), and the prospects (Demetrius Hopkins, Karim Mayfield, Ionut Dan Ion) while winning against Roberto Valenzuela (55-55-2 coming into the fight including a you-gotta-be-kidding-me 27 losses by KO at the time), Jason Davis (the second of what is currently an eight-fight losing streak for Davis in which he has had his bell rung more often than the cathedral at Notre Dame), and Francisco Bojado (ending Bojado’s career in 2007).

The long and the short of it is that Steve Forbes is nowhere near the fighter he was when he held the IBF world title at junior lightweight way back in 2001. In the Mayfield fight, a guy who was once as nimble as anyone in the featherweight/lightweight range could not even make 147 pounds and looked like what he is — a shot fighter, shopworn and broken down, with no business being anywhere near a boxing ring unless he’s filling in for Teddy Atlas on Friday Night Fights for a night like Sergio Mora or Andre Ward.

So what does this mean for Jessie Vargas? It means we get to see how he handles a glorified “Walking Dead” zombie in front of him. Does he knock the head off? Or does he let Forbes shamble around the ring saying “braaaaaains” for 10 rounds while impressing exactly nobody? Vargas needs a knockout on pay TV in order to continue his rise to prominence as a possible heir apparent to his promotional benefactor and patron in the welterweight division.

Saul Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KOs) vs. Shane Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs), WBC junior middleweight title

Some people on social media platforms are predicting Shane Mosley to shock the world and defeat Saul Alvarez on Saturday night. If anyone can determine what drugs these people are on and procure samples for your columnist, that would be a hell of an article for High Times magazine. Either these people really are on drugs (or delusional) or else they’re watching a Shane Mosley that is no more a real entity in 2012 than is that holographic representation of Tupac they’ve been parading around on stage lately.

Mosley is done. Over. Kaput. Stick a fork in him. Mosley’s last win was against Antonio Margarito ... in January 2009, when Sugar Shane was 37 years old. Mosley turns 41 in September, and he is more Roy Jones than Bernard Hopkins at that age. If Mosley agreed to gain 40 pounds, Denis Lebedev would fight him. Whenever he goes on TV or radio for an interview, he sounds the way Muhammad Ali sounded in 1981. The Nevada State Athletic Commission needs a good overhaul if this is the sort of guy to whom they give a license.

To put this as bluntly as possible: Shane Mosley is NOT winning this fight. Dude couldn’t even beat Sergio Mora, and you expect him to beat a guy who is rapidly becoming a true force in the junior middleweight division?

Speaking of Alvarez, he is overrated and underrated at the same time.

Overrated, because despite his best efforts to convince us otherwise, "El Canelo" still cannot plausibly claim that he has truly earned the strap around his waist, having gained it through the machinations of Jose Sulaiman’s WBC cabal. Thanks to Pacquiao vacating a junior middleweight title he had no hope of defending, earned while weighing in at 145 for a 150-pound catchweight fight as part of a completely bogus, fabricated “eight-division titlist” con job, Alvarez found himself with the shiny belt all but placed in his freckled lap.

Yet Alvarez is also underrated, because for all the criticism about his mysterious double life as a prospect and a world champion, he always delivers the goods, having fought four world title fights in the space of a year, keeping up a work rate that brings to mind the champions of old, and although Alvarez has fought tomato cans, he has knocked out those tomato cans, which is what a champion is supposed to do. Basically, Alvarez has turned himself into a 14-pounds lighter version of Lucian Bute, who has similarly knocked out an array of opponents of very questionable quality.

Carlos Baldomir, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron ... all have fallen at the vicious fists of "El Canelo." Mosley, unless he clutches, grabs, and pulls his best Omar Narvaez impression (Nonito Donaire edition), will be similarly introduced to the concept of having one’s brain smashed against the inside of his skull. At what point do we look at Alvarez and start saying he may be a dubious champion, but titles do not defend themselves?

It will be interesting to see what Alvarez’s handlers do with him after this fight. Does he step up to middleweight and take on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.? Does he fight a guy like Cornelius Bundrage or Zaurbek Baysangurov, unifying belts and making his claim to glory that way? Or does he continue to sit at Mayweather’s table like a dog begging for scraps? No matter what he does, until he fights a guy like James Kirkland or Vanes Martirosyan or even Paul Williams, Alvarez will continue to be overrated and underrated at the same time.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) vs. Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs), WBA junior middleweight title

Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. While Pacquiao needed a catchweight and a hand-picked opponent (Antonio Margarito, a guy tailor-made for Pacquiao’s style) in order to win a farcical “154-pound title” for no other reason than to add a talking point to Bob Arum’s Greed-O-Rama, Mayweather is fighting an honest-to-gods Ring Magazine No. 1 guy (though not the “champion” for Golden Boy’s media mouthpiece — Cotto would need to fight Alvarez to earn that distinction) at a weight limit that is the limit for the division, not the limit for Arum’s sense of fairness.

Mind you, when it comes to “styles make fights,” Mayweather could not ask for a much better opponent than Cotto. But having one’s style come by honestly is a massive difference here. Cotto is a Puerto Rican fighter, and Puerto Rican fighters walk into counter punches like Kate Upton walks into rooms full of guys staring at her boobs. Cotto showed he is at his best pressing forward when the guy he was pressing toward, Antonio Margarito, just happened to be a guy Cotto wanted to kill with his fists.

All of the above is a recipe for a fourth- or fifth-round KO for Mayweather. At least this time the Nevada commission did not entrust the horrifically incompetent Joe Cortez to referee the fight. Tony Weeks will be the third man in the ring this time, and the judges, Dave Moretti, Patricia Morse Jarman, and Robert Hoyle, are not blatantly bad at scoring a fight.

Does Cotto have a chance in this fight, despite what the odds stacked against him both in the style of his opponent and the literal odds in the sports books may say? Of course he does. Mayweather has, in the course of his career, shown a tendency to get frustrated when an opponent puts heavy pressure on him, and if Cotto can back Mayweather up and cut the ring down to limit his ability to box him, he may be able to drag Mayweather into a slugfest, where the advantage would clearly be with the slugger.

However, such things are easier said than done. Victor Ortiz tried that and all it got him was a face full of fist when he forgot to protect himself at all times. Mosley tried it and nearly got rid of Floyd in the second round before Mayweather settled down and spent the rest of the fight making Mosley look old. Arturo Gatti tried it and discovered that Mayweather is not Micky Ward, getting knocked out in six.

If Cotto tries pressure fighting and succeeds, he will establish himself as the sole member of a truly elite club; men who have beaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing ring. That is a very, very compelling reason to tune in, even if Cotto’s quest is very likely to be futile. He will at least go out on his shield.

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