Boxing suffers from short-term memory loss, which is why some fans (and even experts) are able to proclaim with a straight face that Miguel Cotto is old news or washed up and avoid being mercilessly ridiculed.
Even the most brazenly pro-Cotto crowd likely would admit that he has lost a little something off his fastball, but who's to say he hasn't made up that deficit with power, ring savvy and perhaps even stamina? He looked potent, if not impervious, in last December's dismantling of Antonio Margarito, one of only two men to have beaten Cotto as a pro. And the 31-year-old Puerto Rican star owns a junior middleweight belt and a top-10 ranking on ESPN.com's pound-for-pound list. Not too shabby for a has-been.
But will it be enough for Cotto to become the first fighter to knock Floyd Mayweather Jr., 35, off his unbeaten perch? ESPN.com enlisted HBO to ask Cotto this and other questions during its interactions with the fighter in the lead-up to the May 5 megabout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET). As part of an ongoing feature ahead of the fight, we will provide periodic updates with Cotto's responses.
On whether he's the same fighter that he was before the infamous 2008 defeat to Antonio Margarito, and how he'd compare himself to the fighter he was four or five years ago:
In December 2011, I avenged my loss to Margarito with a TKO in the 10th round. I have grown as a fighter and proven that the 2008 fight does not define me. I am stronger, faster and more engaged in knowing what it takes to win a fight; 2011 proves just that.
My experience in training has evolved, and I have never been more ready in my life. My focus now isn't looking back, just forward. It's all about May 5 now, and doing what I need to do to be as ready as I can be for that fight. There's not a doubt in my mind that what you will see on May 5 exceeds who I was even in the December fight. I am at the top of my game, and defeat is not a word in my vocabulary.
I think people like to look at past moments of defeat as hurdles, but my past has only accelerated me to here and now. I'm at a perfect place in my career for this. I have experience to know what it takes to win, but also the energy and aggression that it still takes to fight at this level. I can assure fans that on May 5, the Miguel Cotto they will be seeing is the best Miguel Cotto they have ever seen fight. If I don't fight at that level, I not only let the fans down, I let myself down. I don't tend to entertain those thoughts. Winning is the only option, and that is what I will do.
On how he's preparing for the fight, if he's focusing on any area more than others and whether there's any aspect of Mayweather's game that concerns him most:
I'm training really hard for this fight. I am motivated and focused to have a great performance on May 5. I know his style and his game and what he is capable [of], but my trainer, Pedro L. Díaz, has the perfect game plan to defeat Floyd. With that, we will have a great, overwhelming victory on May 5.
I am performing better than ever in training, strengthening all areas of my game plan and working extremely hard. I know how to make my opponent open to body shots. I'm an aggressive fighter, that's my style, and that's what puts me in a good position. Preparing is following up on these things that I already know and delivering each and every move with sharp accuracy. Accuracy is essential; I can't stress that enough. I'm a left-handed fighter and I know how to use that to my advantage. Look at my fight with [Shane] Mosley. I know how to land anything I throw, which is key. A powerful defense doesn't faze me because I know how to consistently crack it. It's about movement and mental strategy. Training and prepping has been about stressing that exact idea, and then again, following through. I am quick on my feet and will be able to anticipate whatever is thrown at me.
You will definitely see an evolved Miguel Cotto out there. I know you'll see some moves out of me that are familiar, but stronger and more on point than ever before. I know I'm going against a strong defensive fighter who doesn't consider losing an option. I know it will be tough. But based on where I am right know and where I know I will be on May 5, I can say without doubt that I will prove to the world that I am the better fighter.