It’s a classic setup, the young gun on the cusp of superstardom, a climber who's ready, we think,  to jump to the next level of popularity and pay.

The young gun first has to get past a fighter who used to enjoy that young gun status, and who now is an old gun.

The vet may, however, have enough ammo left in the holster to do some serious damage, and add another notch on his belt.

Miguel Cotto (30-0, 25 Ks) versus Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 Ks) is another tasty showdown we have to look forward to in the Boxing Year 2007, and fight fans are pretty well split down the middle on what they think will go down at Madison Square Garden on November 10.

Cotto, who turns 27 on October 29, could well become Puerto Rico’s single fistic sensation, eclipsing the last icon, Tito Trinidad. To do that, he’ll need to turn in a controversy-free, knockdown-free performance against Mosley.

Sugar Shane looked to be teetering on ‘E' with back to back losses to Winky Wright, and underwhelming showings against contenders David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz in 2004 and 2005.

But his rep and career have been on an uptick lately, with back-to-back wins over Fernando Vargas in 2006, and a UD12 over Luis Collazo in February.

He tuned 36 on September 7, and for a lighter weight fighter, that has to leap out at anyone trying to dissect this pairing. Have his reflexes slowed noticeably? No. Have they slowed enough to make him a plump target for the steamrolling Cotto? Quite possibly.

But Mosley was still banging away effectively in round eleven of his fight with Collazo, and dropped the New Yorker in that round.

We contemplated the distinct possibility that making 147 pounds (for the first time in two years) would be too difficult for SSM against Collazo, that the effort would sap his energy. Not even close.

To add intrigue, there is the perception that Cotto has a precarious chin. Is the rep deserved? Does he truly have weak whiskers, or are we searching too hard for termite holes in his foundation? And even if his wiring is suspect, do we think Mosley has the pop to do much about it? He’s notched KOs in just two of his last 11 outings, so do you think he has enough pop to keep the bullish Cotto from parking himself in his face for three minutes of every round? Another point for us to debate.

Cotto has made it clear that he’ll be as up for this fight as any of his bookings. “Everybody knows what type of caliber fighter Mosley is,” he said. “But everyone also knows about my capacity, and for this fight if I have been training 100%. I'm going to train 200% because I'll be ready for whatever Mosley is going to bring to the table.”

Part of what Mosley brings is a tremendous resume built against varied styles. He’s a consummate vet who can switch up mid-fight.

“I felt weak to make lightweight and then when I moved up to welterweight I started to feel that my opponents knew about my power,” he said. “I already proved in super welterweight that I can knock out people…with my two knockouts against Fernando Vargas. However Cotto is one of the best welterweight out there besides me, but on November tenth I don't want to leave any doubt that I am that best.

Mosley has tried to inject some doubt into Cotto’s head by questioning the validity of his resume.

“I respect Cotto, he's good,” Mosley said. “But he hasn't faced the opposition that I have faced in my career which includes victories over Oscar De La Hoya twice.

“Cotto only has one style (a conventional fighter) and I have been facing fighters with different styles. I can adjust my style and I believe Cotto's style is perfect for me. I believe Cotto is going to come straight forward right at me and that's exactly what I'm looking for. I know that he is not a KO artist with one punch, but I also know that I can knock him out.

“I'm the type of fighter that knows how to deal with any situation and for this fight I'm going to bring everything, whatever is necessary to win.”

I’m leaning heavily to Cotto in this one. Call me an ageist, but I like the youth factor to speak volumes on November 10. Plus, I get the feeling that Cotto is ready, mentally, to make the leap to the next level. He’s not shy these days about announcing his desire to make his mark on his nation of origin, and the sport.

“In Puerto Rico, New York and Las Vegas I have been watching how my fans have been growing,” he said. “I have to get more fans and defeating anyone will put me on that level. And defeating Shane Mosley will do that.   I'm not the same as Tito Trinidad…I'm going to be even more popular.”

That’s a bold, borderline punk-a** statement, am I right? And I like it. I like Cotto going out on that limb, because it will force him to dig deep when the inevitable time comes when Mosley is still in front of him, still tossing, still energized when by all conventional wisdom he should be regressing.

Of course, if all else fails, Cotto isn’t unafraid to reach into his boot for that super-shady weapon, that hidden game-changer, the low blow. Cotto will aim for Mexico instead of Texas with that left hook when he deems it necessary to change the tempo, as Zab Judah will gladly attest, when he gets done glueing together his cajones. Something tells me that Mosley, who has faster hands and is better at throwing bunches of punches than is Judah, will force Cotto to reach into his boot once again. And Mosley isn’t Judah—he’s a family man, not prone to the body-sapping partying lifestyle. This one will go 12, it says here, and will come down to willpower, more than technique. I say these two are equal in the heart department, and that leaves age, and the fact that Cotto hasn’t learned to lose, as the tie-breaking elements. Cotto, UD12.