Las Vegas – For once Floyd Mayweather set the bluster and bombast aside as he looked forward to his battle Saturday with Miguel Cotto for the Puerto Rican's World Boxing Association super welterweight world title.
“Miguel is a true warrior, a tough champion, and to go down in the Hall of Fame as one of the best, you have to face the true champions out there,” Mayweather said as the two met earlier this week.
The American's gracious words were a stark contrast to the kind of vitriol he has directed at Manny Pacquiao – the Filipino fight king who has evolved into Mayweather's nemesis even as a mega-fight between the two has repeatedly failed to materialise.
The mention of Pacquiao was enough to set Mayweather off on a diatribe, although he insisted he bore Pacman no ill-will.
“Just speaking my mind,” Mayweather said. “When you have two fighters who get to this level there's no losing. That's the ultimate goal is for the top fighters to meet each other. Somebody got to win and somebody got to lose when you get to this level.”
Cotto, meanwhile, has been unapologetic in the build-up to the fight even as pundits bemoan the fact that it's not a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown.
“I didn't care about hearing one more thing about that,” Cotto said in a Los Angeles publicity stop prior to the bout. If people want to see that (Mayweather-Pacquiao) fight, they have to wait until I beat Mayweather.”
This week the 31-year-old Cotto, a three-division champion, promised to end Mayweather's unbeaten run.
“I'm a quiet guy, and I prefer to talk in the ring,” said Cotto, who brings a record of 37-2 with 30 knockouts to the bout. “I had a tremendous camp in Orlando. All the work that we put in will bring me the victory Saturday night.
“No matter what, I am going to use what I have to fight Floyd. I'm prepared for his style.
“I am going to be the first guy to beat Mayweather.”
Mayweather, needless to say, has other ideas, even though he's stepping up in weight to challenge for Cotto's title.
Mayweather hasn't fought at 154 pounds since beating Oscar De La Hoya in a split decision in 2007.
In his last fight, Mayweather came off a 16-month layoff to knock out Victor Ortiz and take the World Boxing Council welterweight title in September, a triumph that took his record to 42-0 with 26 knockouts.
Cotto easily retained his WBA super welterweight title in December with a technical knockout of Antonio Margarito.
He pounded Margarito, who fought the last few rounds with his right eye shut, the result of a barrage of strategically aimed left hooks from Cotto.
While the bout is projected to be a clash of Mayweather's speed and precision against Cotto's tough physical presence, Mayweather said it might not pan out that way.
“I don't have to be moving and running,” he said. “I just have to box. I just have to take my time and whatever happens, happens. Whatever plays out, plays out.”