Good guys hoping for great numbers for Nov. 10 fight

The fact that you're reading this article means that you know that the place to be on Nov. 10 is Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Miguel Cotto will put his undefeated record and WBA welterweight title on the line against former three-division champ Sugar Shane Mosley.

You know that if you can't be in the storied mecca of boxing that you can watch it on HBO pay-per-view, and no one has to tell you that it's going to be one of the most intensely competitive and entertaining fights of the year, maybe one of the best fights you'll ever watch live.

"The ticket requests for this fight have been incredible," Oscar De La Hoya, whose company, Golden Boy Promotions, promotes Mosley and is co-promoting the event, told the assembled L.A.-area media at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif., Tuesday afternoon. "This fight needs no promotion."

De La Hoya's former promoter, Bob Arum, whose company Top Rank, Inc. promotes Cotto and is co-promoting the event, concurred with his former star fighter-turned-bitter rival-turned-colleague when it was his turn at the podium.

"The people know just how competitive this fight is," said Arum. "Mosley is one of the most accomplished fighters of this era; you've all seen what he can do in the ring. Miguel Cotto is an up-and-coming superstar who has beaten all comers on the way to winning world titles at junior welterweight and welterweight.

"There have been polls done on many boxing Web sites asking which fight do fans want to see the most this fall and winter, and they list great bouts like Pavlik-Taylor, Calzaghe-Kessler and Mayweather-Hatton, but by a wide margin boxing fans picked Cotto-Mosley as the best fight of the remainder of the year."

Chances are that you, reading this article, were one of those folks who voted for the welterweight showdown. And why wouldn't you? You know their styles, and you know their mentalities -- both Cotto and Mosley specialize in systematically breaking opponents down in skilled-but-aggressive fashion. They are the perfect blend of the sweet and savage sciences, and they respect each other because of it.

"Miguel Cotto is very strong and very strong-willed," said Mosley, who has compiled a 44-4 (37 KOs) record on the way to winning world titles at lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight. "I admire him. Although I think I'm the better man, I know Cotto didn't become world champion for nothing. He's gotten up from knockdowns to win fights by knockout and he's beaten good fighters, like Zab Judah. I do not take him lightly."

Cotto, who has compiled a 30-0 (25 KOs) on the way to winning world titles at 140 and 147 pounds, says he is bracing for the best fighter (on paper) that he's ever faced:
"I guarantee that I am going to be prepared to go in the ring and [either] come out a champion, or I'm going to go out like a champion."

Jack Mosley, Shane's father and trainer who, after a year-long separation, reunited with his son for last year's Fernando Vargas rematch, believes the title for the event "Fast & Furious" fits his son. But he also acknowledges that Cotto is a formidable opponent.

"I know Miguel will be coming at us throwing body shots and Shane will be throwing body shots right back," he said.

Jack's not telling you anything you don't already know about this matchup. You're a hardcore fight fan, so you know Cotto-Mosley pits not only two of the best welterweights in the world against each other, but two of the best body punchers in the game, pound for pound.

You know that Cotto vs. Mosley is a battle between two well-schooled boxer-punchers with excellent amateur backgrounds. You know that both men possess those intangibles that elite fighters must have: desire, focus, toughness, and courage/heart -- the kind of things that can't be taught. You know this because you know boxing. But you also know that most people are pretty ignorant of the sport you love.

De La Hoya and Arum were only half right when they said Cotto-Mosley didn't need promoting and is the most anticipated fight of the rest of the year, because they were referring to guys like you -- the hardcore fight fan.

The casual boxing observer and the general sports fan -- the crossover population that pushes a pay-per-view boxing event over the 500,000 pay-per-view mark -- most likely don't know as much about Cotto and Mosley as you do; because while both fighters definitely possess those attributes that can't be taught (desire, focus, toughness and courage/heart), they also lack that other key ingredient that can't be picked up in a gym -- the one that can make a prize fighter into a superstar -- charisma.

In the ring Cotto and Mosley are all action, but outside of the squared circle they are nice guys who lead very boring lives. Tony Walker of HBO pay-per-view described both men as "pleasant," which they certainly are.

But will "pleasant" sell a pay-per-view match that should be a major event? Can two good guys do more than 500,000 pay-per-view buys in this day and age?

Generally speaking, recent boxing pay-per-view history tells us that rivalries and rude behavior rule. Give the fans a good guy, a bad guy and a story line and then watch the casual fans order up a storm. The numbers (900,000+ PPV buys) of De La Hoya vs. Vargas, Bernard Hopkins, Ricardo Mayorga and Floyd Mayweather all back this theory up. Someone with personality played the villain role to compliment De La Hoya's rather plastic white hat-wearin' hero shtick in those four fights between 2002 and today.

Then again, De La Hoya's pay-per-view bouts vs. Mosley did 586,000 (the first fight in 2000) and a whopping 975,000 (for the rematch three years later), and the story line to those matchups was basically two friends who came up the amateurs together. Not exactly the "Bad Blood" story line that backed up the De La Hoya-Vargas grudge match. It should also be noted that the previous non-heavyweight pay-per-view record holder, De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad (which did 1.4 million buys) was a bout that pitted two undefeated champs who certainly weren't at each other's throats during the multi-city press tour.

However, it could be argued that De La Hoya's name sold the first bout with Mosley, while the action and the story of their first fight plus the opportunity for the Golden Boy to get revenge fueled the excellent numbers for their rematch. While De La Hoya-Trinidad merely showed the buying power of loyal regional/ethnic/national fan bases (in this case, West Coast Mexican-American and East Coast Puerto Rican).

De La Hoya and Trinidad might have sheepish personalities, but they still possess bucket loads of charisma in comparison to most today's top fighters -- including Mosley and Cotto.

Mosley has two wins over both De La Hoya and Vargas. By all rights, he should be the king of Southern California boxing, a fighter who could sell out the Staples Center on the strength of his own name, but we all know that he'd have trouble filling up the Home Depot Center's tennis court arena. De La Hoya and Vargas have fan bases that dwarf Mosley's meager ticket-buying following.

Cotto, on the other hand, can sell tickets, particularly in his native Puerto Rico and, of course, in New York City, but all Trinidad has to do is announce yet another un-retirement, and suddenly Puerto Rican fight fans stop talking about Cotto vs. anybody and immediately start chanting "Tito! Tito! Tito!" Trinidad won't even be fighting this year, but Tito-mania is back, just like that.

Right now Puerto Rican fans will back Cotto, but they love Tito.

However, while Cotto is not as passionate outside of the ring as Trinidad, Puerto Rican fans could grow to love the 2000 Olympian that the good folks at Top Rank believe has the potential to be an eventual hall of famer. All Cotto has to do is keep winning.

Chavez didn't get his entire country behind him until he beat Edwin Rosario in late 1987. He didn't become a Mexican hero until his epic battle with Meldrick Taylor in early 1990. Manny Pacquiao didn't have the entire Philippines behind him until he beat Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003; and the Pac-Man didn't become that nation's biggest celebrity until he knocked out Erik Morales in their rematch early last year. Bona fide national icons take time to cultivate. Cotto's only 26 years old. He's got time.

Mosley, who turned 36 last week, is already a hall of fame lock; but it's not too late for him to become a crossover star. Ring legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler -- every bit the pure gym rat and fighter's fighter that Mosley is -- didn't cross over until the final three bouts of his storied career. The breakthrough for the Marvelous One came vs. Thomas Hearns. Their middleweight showdown was the hardcore fight fans' fight of 1985, but in terms of personalities and charisma, it was a matchup of two regular guys who lacked the kind of mainstream appeal of Sugar Ray Leonard or even Roberto Duran.

The fight, however, which hardcore fans like yourself knew would be explosive, transcended the sport of boxing and defined both the winner and loser for the rest of their careers, enabling both Hagler and the Hitman to rise to the commercial and celebrity ranks of their more charismatic counterparts, Leonard and Duran.

Perhaps Cotto and Mosley can do the same for their careers on Nov. 10.