• Fight Insight: Floyd Mayweather Jnr v Miguel Cotto

Mayweather gamble worth its weight in gold

Josh Williams May 4, 2012

Floyd Mayweather Jnr has always walked arm in arm with belligerence, but on Saturday in Las Vegas he will make a significant concession to opponent Miguel Cotto, the WBA light-middleweight champion.

Unlike Manny Pacquiao, who met Cotto at 145 lbs, Mayweather will do battle at the Puerto Rican's preferred weight (154lbs) for only the second time in his career, following on from a hesitant triumph over Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007.

Mayweather has reached out to Cotto even though he has a 90-day jail term hovering over his head, which will begin on June 1 and is surely enough of a distraction without the weight worries. You might think he's building himself a list of mitigating circumstances just in case his unbeaten record crumbles - but he is insistent: no excuses.

It's not easy to see why he's adopted this stance: Mayweather, who has shrewdly crafted his brash 'Money' persona to keep fans and media enthralled, knows that he can be easily cast as the bad guy in the continuing wrangle with Pacquiao. When the pair spoke on the phone earlier this year, Mayweather reportedly offered Pacquiao a flat $40 million fee, and said he would be keeping all of the pay-per-view revenue. Unsurprisingly, Pacquiao told him where to go.

Whether or not Mayweather's offer was inspired by greed or fear, it was certainly not the most conciliatory of gestures, and so the fans are denied the battle they crave. So now we have Mayweather, all "I ain't scared of nothing", in effect doing the boxing community a favour, creating a more intriguing contest by supposedly putting himself at a disadvantage against Cotto.

How dangerous is Cotto, then? Well, he's got some good wins on his resume - Shane Mosley, Zab Judah - and the two defeats he has suffered aren't too damaging to his reputation when placed under the microscope. Against Pacquiao in 2009 he was weight drained, and the 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito, avenged last December, will always be dubious given what subsequently emerged about Margarito's use of illegal hand-wraps.

But, being frank, Cotto is not in Mayweather's league - Pacquiao is probably the only man who could lay claim to that honour - and for all his many attributes, the suspicion remains he is just too one-paced to surprise or disrupt the jerky and elusive master of defence. There is still a significant gap in terms of quality even if you factor in Cotto's supposed weight advantage - so make no mistake, this is a shrewd, calculated gamble from Mayweather, and one that will generate more pay-per-view buys.

Cotto hits hard, with 30 KOs in his 37 wins, and will be aware that Mosley wobbled Mayweather in the second round with a heavy right hook in February 2010; Floyd will do very well to recover if Cotto can muster such a clean shot. However, marching forward in search of that crushing early blow is likely to make him too easy a target for Mayweather's rapid-fire attacks.

So ultimately, as so many Mayweather opponents find, every tactic has a potential pitfall, and the road to victory is perilously close to the avenue of defeat. Cotto doesn't have the nous or speed to earn a points decision, and although he is working with a new trainer, it's unlikely his pressurising style, pushing for a KO, will have been stripped of all its crudeness.

Mayweather, 35, is adamant that he wants to be more active following his jail term, as he targets a high-quality handful of fights over the next couple of years to usher himself towards retirement at the age of 37. He will be eager to spark off the sequence with a comprehensive win over Cotto, and although Cotto is durable enough to avoid a stoppage defeat, it's hard to see anything other than a wide points decision in Mayweather's favour.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Josh Williams Close
Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk