LAS VEGAS – When I informed Miguel Cotto that many of’s well spoken readers and responding posters felt he was a strong choice for 2007’s Fighter of the Year award, his demeanor took on an air of serious consideration. As the concentrating Cotto took time to make sure his English conveyed his feelings properly, he looked me in the eyes and spoke with a sincere tone.

“Tell those readers they have my honest thanks,” said Cotto. “People like them are one of the main reasons I work so hard, to earn their respect. And I respect them and wish them good luck, also. The people that support me know boxing.  I hope the next year brings prosperity to us all.”

Floyd Mayweather Jr and Kelly Pavlik round out a trifecta of top performers who shared excellent ‘07 slugging seasons, and a legitimate argument can be any of them in terms of demonstrating the most excellence (my vote went to Floyd). If aficionados get their wishes, Cotto and Mayweather will meet each other, while Pavlik, presuming he gets past Jermain Taylor again, gets a shot at Joe Calzaghe, another boxer coming off a banner campaign calendar.

Maybe the Fighter of the Year award should go to the sport itself, which silenced a lot of the goobers, including some prominent correspondents, who’d been repeating the “boxing’s dead” chorus too frogging long. It was a shame to see longtime, supportive wags displaced ringside at Mayweather – Oscar de la Hoya by larger outlets that wouldn’t be at another fight all year and whose only reporting was derogatory. To them I say stay the hell out away from the game then, we’re having a pretty nice party without yaz.

But back to Cotto, who improved both his rumbling resume and mainstream public profile. Cotto is looking at an HBO date in March, probably versus a much lesser light but hopefully against Antonio Margarito. That’s almost a mismatch in my book, and I’d be surprised if Margarito lasts the distance, but he’s earned the opportunity if it’s available.

There’s speculation that after whatever spring marketing appearance Cotto does or doesn’t make, he’s on the short list of potential opponents for what has been announced as De la Hoya’s grand Cinco de Mayo finale.

Cotto and promoter Bob Arum discussed a few of the possibilities.

“2007 was by far my best year,” reflects Cotto. “The Shane Mosley fight was my best performance ever. I respect Mosley very much because he was a gentleman before and after the fight. I’m available to fight him again, but I see him the same as any future opponent. I don’t know if I’d fight him any differently or not. I’d have to see what he does.”

“I’m not just looking ahead to get a fight with Oscar de la Hoya,” continued Cotto, “I’m ready to keep fighting any big named opponents that are willing to fight me, and I mean it when I say it really doesn’t matter who. I always do what I have to do. I’ve never said no to any (proposed) opponent. Business is business.”

“Floyd (Mayweather, Jr.) has the biggest name, so I’m going after him. Mayweather always has an excuse not to fight me. He says I don’t represent enough money for him, but he knows I have a lot of fans. The real reason he won’t fight me is because he knows what I can do.”

“Paul Williams is a good fighter and getting a bigger name now, so that could be a big fight soon.”

“We’re looking at a fight March 8th,” said Arum. “Then in June. We have all these great welterweights out there and we’ll pick one, then we’ll pick another one. Do we go first with Margarito, or second? That we’ll have to determine.”

“We can’t call Oscar out, it wouldn’t be appropriate, because he’s at the end of his career and he’s fought everybody. He doesn’t have to fight Miguel and if he doesn’t want to, fine. I’ve talked to Richard Schaeffer about it.”

“Cotto – Mayweather will never happen,” promoted Arum, “Never, never. Because Floyd will not fight anybody who has a chance to beat him. This is the biggest con game ever. He will not fight anybody competitive. Not because he’s a coward, he’s not, but because he’s afraid of losing. When he has a chance to fight Margarito or (Carlos) Baldomir, he fights Baldomir because that’s not competitive. (Ricky) Hatton is not competitive. He won’t fight Mosley because Mosley’s got a shot to beat him.”

“I don’t think any boxer can have a better year than beating Shane Mosley and Zab Judah,” concluded Cotto. “I don’t know what Top Rank has planned for me next but I am very happy with them. I’d prefer to fight early in the year. I feel good and don’t have a necessity to change (anything). I’m pretty comfortable at this weight.”

Here’s hoping all Sweet Science readers get to weigh in for as good a 2008 as Cotto had in ’07, and that’s saying quite a bit.