From Comcast SportsNetLAS VEGAS (AP) -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. got almost everything he wanted Wednesday, receiving a boxing license and naming an opponent and a date for his next fight. The unbeaten champion got everything except a showdown with Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather will fight Miguel Cotto on May 5 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden after Nevada's athletic commissioners granted him a conditional license for one fight before he goes to jail in June. Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) chose Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs), the respected Puerto Rican champion, as his next opponent only after failing to land a date with Pacquiao, the superstar Filipino congressman. The two sides have discussed what's likely to be the most lucrative fight in boxing history for nearly three years without reaching a deal. "I presented Pacquiao with the fight," Mayweather said after meeting with the Nevada commission. "Pacquiao is blowing a lot of smoke. ... He doesn't really want to fight. I gave him a chance to step up to the plate. We're talking about a 10 million fighter that I tried to give 40 million to. We didn't even talk about the back end." While Mayweather once appeared to be uninterested in the bout, he's now very interested -- but Pacquiao's interest appears to have cooled. In recent weeks, Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum repeatedly discounted the possibility of setting up the fight. Mayweather and Pacquiao are boxing's top two stars, and they have taunted each other with jabs including a posting on Twitter on Wednesday in which Mayweather referred to the Filipino star as "Miss Pac Man." They also have a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court in Las Vegas stemming from Mayweather's accusations that Pacquiao took performance-enhancing drugs. "He's ducking and dodging me," Mayweather said of Pacquiao. "He really didn't want to fight from the beginning. He got famous basically by piggybacking off my name. When you mention Floyd Mayweather, man, you mention an all-time great, an icon in the sport of boxing. When you mention Manny Pacquiao, they say, Oh, that's the guy who's trying to fight Floyd Mayweather.' When it's all said and done, all the guy did is just piggyback off my name." Mayweather will take on Cotto at light middleweight (69.9 kilograms, 154 pounds), a move up from the longtime welterweight's past four fights. Mayweather, who beat Oscar De La Hoya at super welterweight in 2007, beat Victor Ortiz last September to win the WBC welterweight title. Before getting his license on a 5-0 vote, Mayweather got a lecture from Nevada athletic commissioners. They told the fighter, his manager-promoter and his lawyer they want a prefight report May 1 to ensure Mayweather abides by conditions set by a Nevada judge in a criminal domestic violence case. He will begin serving 90 days in jail June 1, but is likely to serve only about 60. Commission Chairman Raymond "Skip" Avansino Jr. said it would be a "tragedy" if Mayweather didn't meet the requirements to make the multimillion-dollar Cinco de Mayo bout. Mayweather received a temporary reprieve on his short jail sentence last month so he could fight on a traditionally huge weekend for boxing in Las Vegas. "But we think Mr. Mayweather is certainly going to comply with this," Avansino said. Commissioner Pat Lundvall told Mayweather he can't postpone or delay serving his jail sentence and must stay out of trouble for the 14-plus weeks he's training to take on Cotto. "I'm just happy to be fighting May 5," Mayweather said as he emerged from the hearing room. "They granted me one fight. I need to conduct myself like a gentleman and do everything that the court ordered and then come back in front of them and show them that I deserve to have a license for a whole year." Mayweather, a seven-time world champion in five weight classes, will turn 35 this month. Cotto is coming off of the second defense of his title, a 10th-round technical knockout win over Antonio Margarito in December. Cotto's only defeats are against Margarito and Pacquiao, who stopped Cotto in November 2009 in perhaps the Filipino champion's most impressive victory. "He's the best at 154," Mayweather said of Cotto. In a joint statement announcing the fight, Cotto said he intends to be the first boxer to beat Mayweather. "I am here to fight the biggest names in boxing," Cotto said. "I've never ducked anyone or any challenge in front of me." Both fighters have agreed to Olympic-style drug testing for the 12-round fight handled by Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Miguel Cotto Promotions. The May 5 fight date was set before Mayweather pleaded guilty Dec. 21 before a Las Vegas judge to a reduced battery domestic violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges. The plea stemmed from a hair-pulling, punching and arm-twisting argument in October 2010 with Josie Harris, the mother of three of Mayweather's children. Prosecutors dropped felony and misdemeanor charges that could have gotten Mayweather 34 years in prison.
Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots.
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away.
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away?
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had.
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier.
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss.
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense.
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.”
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation.
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique.
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles.
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape.
2. Multiple weapons
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely.
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play.
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
3. History repeating itself
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.”
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday.
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”