"One of the greatest pure boxers who ever lived" will meet "one of the best fighters of this era" on May 5. That is how HBO's Max Kellerman described the showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto on the Tuesday night debut of his Face Off program.
Kellerman brought the 35 year-old Mayweather and the 31 year-old Cotto, two of the sport's top five draws, into a studio and had them sit across from each other, while he queried them about their take on the May 5 clash.
Kellerman's first launch went to Cotto. "How do you beat Mayweather?" he asked.
"We're going to figure it out in training camp," the Puerto Rican future Hall of Famer said, while Mayweather fixed his eyes on the 37-2 boxer, who last gloved up in December, when he stopped Antonio Margarito in NY.
He will be the first man to beat Mayweather, he said. This made me think about talking to Cotto when the duo made it to to NY for their press tour. I asked him about the matchup, and he said something along the lines of that he would do the best he could. I pressed him: Will you do the best you can, or will you definitely beat Mayweather?
"I guarantee a win," Cotto told me. I tend to put a lot of stock in how a fighter speaks before the bout; does he talk about doing the best he can, giving a great effort, which is what we hear quite often when a boxer is in over his head...or does he evince true confidence that he will have his hand raised?
Remember when Juan Manuel Marquez underwhelmed with his conviction before he took on Mayweather in 2009? "It's going to be a very difficult fight," Marquez said. "It's a very hard fight, but mentally I'm preparing myself to win and I feel I can beat Mayweather."
Many times before Shane Mosley fought Floyd Mayweather, he said stuff like, "It's going to be a great fight," and "Every fight has its own significance, but this would be a great win. It would definitely be a feather in my cap if I beat Floyd Mayweather." Not it "will be a great win" but "it would be."
I seek true conviction in the voice and mannerisms of fighters leading up to a fight in which they are seen as underdogs, so during "Face Off" I was on the lookout for Cotto's level of belief in self.
Mayweather said he didn't know how Cotto will fight him. "I don't know," the 42-0 sweet scientist said. "But he must know that I'm not like no other fighter. I can give it and I can take it."
No shortage of belief in self there, eh?
Mayweather said he considers Cotto unbeaten, because he thinks Antonio Margarito cheated against Cotto in their 2008 fight, and that Cotto was drained at a catchweight against Manny Pacquiao in 2009. Floyd disarmed Cotto a bit by pointing out his good taste in watches, as he was wearing a piece by Cartier. Cotto grinned, and Kellerman then brought up the "Money" persona. The boxer-entertainer said when he's out and about he likes to entertain the people, but at home, he acts like a normal person. Floyd then asked to check on the score of a game he bet, featuring "Ohio (State against Northwestern, in basketball, on Feb. 29) in the first half," for which he laid down $100,000, he said. (Ohio State led 39-29 at the half, by more than the four points Floyd gave the house, giving Floyd the W.)
Cotto said Floyd can act however he wants to, and gamble if he wants to.
Cotto said inexperience killed Victor Ortiz against Mayweather and that he thinks Floyd is still in his prime. Can he out-box the master craftsman, or will he need to rumble and brawl his way to a win? He will need to use all his skills to beat Floyd, he said, as Mayweather asked for a phone so he could check a game he bet on.
"Gotta watch my money," he explained. (Not sure if this is pure persona, or an indication that Mayweather is a problem gambler, who is too focused on his bets.)
He explained how the bet worked to Cotto, and said, "So (if I win) I walk away with $86,000 today," he said, as Cotto's eyes grew bit wider. "If he lived in Vegas, he'd do the same thing," Mayweather said. Is it dangerous to live in Vegas, the host asked. "No, not at all," Mayweather said. (I guess there are people who exist who end up ahead of the house when all is said and done, but the odds aren't in Floyd's favor...we shall see down the line if the gambling bug bites him, or he is master of that domain.)
The Margarito subject came up, and Floyd asked Cotto point blank if he thinks Margarito used loaded gloves when they fought in 2008. "I don't know," Cotto said, but allowed that his face was busted up more than he might've expected. Floyd concurred. Mayweather said he thinks if he did what Margarito did, he would be banished forever from boxing. "Should he have been banned for life? Absolutely," Mayweather said.
Cotto said the Mayweather fight, not his revenge tussle with Margarito, is the biggest fight of his career. He said he won't do anything different or special to prepare for Mayweather.
Mayweather was asked why Cotto is the third biggest PPV star, behind him and Pacquiao. Why? Because he earned it the hard way, not by getting a catch-weight advantage. He said Pacquiao piggybacked on his popularity but said he wasn't bothered by Manny calling him a chicken, saying he is ducking him. "I'm OK with my legacy, with or without Pacquiao," he said. "Floyd Mayweather is happy with what he's done in the sport."
Cotto said it doesn't bother him that people fixate on Mayweather-Pacquiao. Mayweather, asked if it is hard to work up anger towards Cotto, said, "He's a quiet killer." Asked for a prediction, he said, "Tune in. I can't say what's going to happen. May 5 you got the super welterweight champion versus the pay per view king. May 5th, blockbuster."
Cotto in closing, said, "I'm going to be prepared enough for Floyd, and I'm going to work really hard." Not what I want to hear. My gut tells me that Cotto, a reasonable man who has never trafficked in illusion when I have talked to him, knows that Mayweather is on a different level than him, and deep down thinks that he cannot win on May 5. He's right. Nobody beats Floyd right now, not unless Mayweather goes up to 160. Then, we can talk...