Back in 2006, Top Rank kicked around the idea of matching two of its brightest young stars: Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. Mayweather, at the time, was coming off the biggest win of his career, a one-sided destruction of Arturo Gatti. Cotto was undefeated and in the middle of a two-year reign as junior welterweight champion.
The fight never happened, of course: Mayweather split with Top Rank and went on to fight Oscar De La Hoya in 2007; that same year Cotto jumped up to welterweight and won high-profile fights against Zab Judah and Shane Mosley.
"Everything happens in life for a reason," Cotto said. "Fights can't happen four, five, six years ago, but they happen now. I think this is the right moment for this fight."
On Saturday night, Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) and Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) will finally face off when they fight for Cotto's junior middleweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV). Though Cotto believes it is the right moment, many have argued it is years too late, that Cotto is a fraction of the fighter he was before brutal beatings at the hands of Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao. Cotto is unbeaten since moving up to 154 pounds but his opponents (Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, Margarito) are nowhere near the same class as Mayweather.
"Nobody is invincible in life," Cotto said. "I know that because I passed through this point in my life. I'm ready for anything Floyd brings me. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him? I know he's a hard worker. He has said to everybody he's a hard worker, but he's going to have in front of him a hard worker like him. I'm trusting in myself. I know what I have to do to get the victory."
Cotto says he is in a good place mentally now, in part due to his recent win over Margarito. In 2008, Margarito battered Cotto, forcing a bloodied and beaten Cotto to quit in the 11th round. However in his next fight, against Shane Mosley, Margarito was caught trying to slip a plaster-like substance into his hand wraps, calling into question all of Margarito's wins, including the win over Cotto. Last December, Cotto got a measure of revenge, when he stopped Margarito in a decisive 10th-round TKO.
"I have everything I took from Margarito's victory, the things he stole from me," Cotto said. "The things he grabbed from me. I have [them] back and I feel much better right now."
Cotto believes his experience is an advantage going into the fight. While Mayweather and Pacquiao are the two biggest pay-per-view draws in boxing, Cotto is right behind them. He has sold out Madison Square Garden. He has been in high-profile fights and felt what it is like to be in a fishbowl, with HBO's
Consider: When Mayweather declared that Puerto Ricans will be disappointed with Cotto's performance, Cotto said ... nothing.
"I am a different fighter," Cotto said. "I will not play into Mayweather's games. I am not the type of fighter that will just fall into the games of Mayweather. He wants his opponents to behave a certain way. I will not respond to whatever he has to say. By the end of [Saturday], everybody will see who will be disappointed."
Another edge Cotto feels he will have will be the weight. Mayweather is moving up to 154 pounds, a weight class he has only fought at once (against De La Hoya) in his career. Cotto is comfortable at 154, having been fighting at that weight since 2010.
"If he wants my title, he has to fight in my weight," Cotto said. "And he does it in the correct way. It's my weight class. I feel comfortable in here. I'm feeling pretty strong."
Still, Cotto knows he is a big underdog. Oddsmakers have established Mayweather as a 7-to-1 favorite, just slightly lower than the 8-to-1 favorite Mayweather was in his last fight against Victor Ortiz. Yet Cotto has a cool, natural confidence that has not waned.
"Everything is running according to plan, right on schedule," Cotto said. "I will be ready to counter anything that Mayweather brings. "When I step into the ring with Mayweather in front of me, I will be completely ready to obtain the victory."