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As Floyd Mayweather Jr. is so fond of saying, 42 have tried to best him in a professional ring, and 42 have failed. But very few of them had the skills and experience of Mayweather's next opponent, junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto. Fewer still had the edge Cotto will enjoy Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (HBO pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET): a slight weight advantage, which Mayweather has been so loath to give away in past fights.
But is Cotto, 31, capable of the upset against a fighter whom many consider to be in the discussion for the mantle of greatest of all time? Even at age 35, Mayweather seems the far fresher fighter, and his unmatched quickness and defense are strong antidotes to Cotto's power.
ESPN.com enlisted HBO to engage Mayweather in a conversation asking these and other questions during its interactions with the fighter in the lead-up to the Cotto bout. As part of an ongoing feature ahead of the fight, we will provide periodic updates with Mayweather's responses.
On having taken so little punishment during his career and how much longer he anticipates fighting:
I plan to end my career when I am 37, but we will see how I feel then, too. At 35, I am in the best shape of my life. I'm dedicated to my craft and to the sport of boxing. For those reasons, I know that as long as I feel and remain healthy, I can continue to fight for as long as I want. I have the best team, "The Money Team," in my corner who works with me day in and day out to make sure that I'm prepared every time that I step into the ring. Staying focused is definitely a big part of my success, and it will continue to be. At this moment, I'm the fighter to beat and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Of course, I would like to fight for the fans, too. They have supported me throughout my career, and without them I would not be the fighter I am today. Forty-two have tried, 42 have failed. I will hang up the gloves when I'm ready.
When my career is over, I know I will live with no regrets. Everyone asks about other fights and fighters I might fight, but none of that will affect my decisions to fight moving forward. I don't live with regrets. No way. I work for me, I fight for me and I will always do what's best for my career and my family. But right now, I'm focused on my upcoming fight with Miguel Cotto on [Saturday], and once I beat him, I can then worry about what's the next step in my career.
On his answering some of the criticism against him by moving up in weight to fight Cotto, and whether he'd consider more fights at 154 pounds or more:
It's no surprise that when you're the best at what you do that you become topic of debate. It comes with the territory. My career has been criticized and critiqued since day one. In my last fight, against Victor Ortiz, people thought that he wasn't experienced enough, yet he held a championship belt. It doesn't matter who I fight, when I fight them or how successful I am, people will always have something to say.
|Floyd Mayweather Jr. says Victor Ortiz was nitpicked as an inexperienced opponent despite being a titleholder.|
Guess what? I don't listen to the negative. I stay positive and focused. I love a big challenge, and that is what I have in Miguel Cotto on [Saturday].
Criticism has never played a role in determining what I do in the ring, and it never will. I went up in weight because I am confident that I can beat Cotto at his preferred weight -- or any other weight, for that matter. The fact that I'm a champion in five different weight classes proves that weight is not a factor, and I'm willing to consider more fights at 154 or heavier if I believe that it is the next, best move for me. After the Cotto fight, whatever is the next best option for me, then my advisors, Al Haymon and Leonard Ellerbe, will negotiate and make that happen. I have accomplished great things in my boxing career and will continue to look for the best fighters available to fight.
For every critic that I silence, there will be another one out there to come up with something to discredit my success and my legacy. All I can do is stay focused on my fight against Miguel Cotto and look at it as yet another opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong. I am going to show, once again, that I am the best fighter in the world today. I will silence the critics -- even if it is just for one night.
On Cotto's most dangerous attribute as a fighter and whether the Puerto Rican star has a fighting chance on May 5:
As I've said before, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that is what Miguel Cotto has to do on May 5. He has to beat me.
Cotto is always dangerous in the ring. He is relentless and has already proven his heart and will to win. He is definitely one of the top champions in boxing today. Miguel Cotto, without a doubt, is a great matchup for me. Any boxing fan knows that there is a long line of champions who hail from Puerto Rico, and Cotto definitely ranks up there with the greats. That's why I know the Puerto Rican fans will be watching on May 5 -- but they are going to be disappointed.
I never write off any opponent until I meet him in the ring. I am aware that I will be moving up in weight for the first time since 2007, which not only poses a challenge for me, but it does give Cotto a slight advantage because he will remain at his comfort weight of 154. While many may see this as Cotto's chance and opportunity to end my undefeated record, I think that it's also important to remember that I chose to move up in weight and give Cotto that advantage because I am confident that I can beat him at any weight.
I know Cotto will be a very hard fight. He is at a place in his career where he is confident and experienced, and I know that because he is fighting me, this is the biggest fight he has ever had. Those factors always make a fighter dangerous and might be the most important part of what he is bringing to the ring that night. Cotto is an aggressive power-punching fighter in the ring, but I know that I have the skills to beat him. I am faster, and his strength could be the thing to get in his way when he starts swinging and I start ducking. One thing that the success of my career has thrived on is the fact that I'm willing to challenge myself, understand what my opponent brings to the ring and take full advantage of it. I am too smart, experienced and determined to let anyone beat me.
I'm well aware of Cotto's potential and the advantages that he possesses in the ring on any given night, but come May 5, those advantages aren't going to do him any good. Fight fans, get ready, because I'm about to dethrone the current king of the 154-pound weight class.