Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto are nearly done dancing and speaking for the cameras. All that is left will be for them to lace up their boots, tape up their hands and put on their gloves to get ready for the biggest fight of the year this Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Mayweather is putting his undefeated streak on the line. That 42-0 record is the most cherished thing in Money's life. He will do anything and everything he can to protect it and it's integrity, even at the expense of his own dignity.
Cotto has put together quite an impressive resume in his own right. His career record of 37-2 includes 30 knockouts and victories over Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey, Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga.
The only blemishes on his record are a knockout loss to Antonio Margarito, whom he was able to defeat last December, and Manny Pacquiao, who rivals Mayweather as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
In anticipation for this dream matchup, we offer 10 bold predictions for Mayweather vs. Cotto this Saturday night.
Cotto needs to set the tone for this fight right out of the gate. He is one of the best and most powerful punchers in the sport, so he needs to bring the fight to Mayweather early.
As a result, Cotto's best strategy is going to be trying to land more punches than Mayweather in the early rounds. That is much easier said than done given Mayweather's style, but it is hardly an impossible task.
To do this, Cotto will have to play defense and wait for Mayweather to get aggressive, then jump at the chance to throw shots to the head and body of the challenger.
If Cotto is going to have a chance to win this fight, it is going to be in the first four rounds. Even if he doesn't end it in those rounds, Cotto can stun Mayweather and make it easier for him to attack in the later rounds.
In a shocking turn of events, Mayweather will hit the canvas in the fifth round after Cotto catches him with a hard shot to the body.
Don't be alarmed, Mayweather fans; he is going to get back up and the fight will continue. Cotto's power is going to catch Mayweather by surprise at some point in this bout, I believe.
Cotto doesn't have long arms or a great reach, but he knows how to attack opponents and when to move in if there is even the slightest opening. There is going to come a point where Mayweather gets overanxious and Cotto drops him.
The fall to the canvas will not be one that ends the fight, or even comes close. It will be a shot that stuns Mayweather and will make him shake his head in bewilderment. It will also be the key to getting him back in this fight.
Despite dictating the pace of the fight early, Cotto is going to find himself at a loss in the middle rounds against the frustrating style of Mayweather.
That frustration is going to cause Cotto to make a lot of mistakes. He is going to start throwing punches at the expense of protecting himself and everything is going to fall apart for him.
Given that Mayweather is a faster fighter, Cotto is going to feel pressured to end the fight earlier because he can't keep up with that kind of tempo over the course of 12 rounds. Stamina is going to be a deciding factor, so it is imperative that Cotto saves as much as he can for the later rounds.
The temptation to knock Mayweather out, or at least keep attacking him with heavy shots, will be too much for Cotto to pass up.
As you can surmise from the previous pages, I don't see Mayweather being able to dominate Cotto in this fight.
By dominate, I mean put together a quintessential Mayweather performance. That is not to say he won't end up winning, but there are some red flags that give me caution before saying that he is just going to walk through this fight.
Cotto has a bigger frame than Mayweather, and he will use it to his advantage. He is more powerful with his punches and will be able to crack that great wall of defense. That power is going to play a role, especially early, in giving Cotto a shot at pulling off the upset.
I have an idea how this fight will play out in the end, but it is hard to come up with a scenario in which Mayweather just controls all aspects of it.
It is easy to look at a great athlete like Floyd Mayweather and believe he is invincible, impervious to anything, including time and natural physical decline.
In a sport like boxing, where your body goes through so much just to make it into the ring and the punishment you take when you finally step through the ropes, that age is going to catch up to you faster than it would a normal athlete.
At 35 years old and with 42 professional fights under his belt, Mayweather is closer to the end of his peak than the beginning. He is going to show signs of a clear decline against Cotto. They might be small—not hitting a punch as flush as he used to, unable to move his head as quickly, etc.—but they will be noticeable.
You can credit Cotto for taking advantage, but it is going to be the start of the slow decline for Mayweather.
Despite my belief that Mayweather will start to show his age in this fight, I also don't see how Cotto is able to keep up with him over the course of 12 rounds.
Mayweather, even if he loses some power or a step, is one of the best conditioned athletes in the world. His stamina is the biggest difference between him and Cotto. Mayweather is going to do enough to eventually wear Cotto down late and that is when he will pounce on the opportunity.
The end of the fight is going to be Cotto fighting to catch his breath as Mayweather peppers him with shot after shot.
Cotto is going to keep the fight close, but he is also going to find out why Mayweather has had an impenetrable wall around him in the ring for so long.
The last huge boxing match to air on pay-per-view was Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III in November. That was one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory, as Marquez appeared to have done enough damage to warrant a victory.
Instead, the judges saw fit to give Pacquiao the decision and all hell broke loose. So whenever the idea of going to the scores to determine a winner comes up, it makes everyone cringe a little just because of how the 10-Point Must System works.
The good news is that the judges are not going to determine the outcome of the Mayweather-Cotto fight because it will not get that far. These two are going to have a long, drawn out contest that goes back and forth, but there will be a clear winner before the final bell rings in the 12th round.
This is more of a hope than a prediction, just because I don't like to see the judges doing anything. I'm not convinced a lot of them are even aware of how to score fights properly, but that could just be from years of watching mixed martial arts.
Not that this will come as a shock to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to this article or happens to have noticed that he never loses, but I am going to go out on a big limb and predict that Mayweather wins this fight.
Not only is Mayweather going to walk away with a victory, however; he will score the 27th knockout of his career.
Cotto has been knocked out in both of his losses. The first one came in the 11th round against Margarito and in the 12th against Pacquiao. He is going to stand toe to toe with Mayweather, but it will not be enough to have his hand raised in victory.
Mayweather came back after a 16-month absence to defeat Victor Ortiz via knockout, though there was some controversy about the end of that one. There will be no controversy or asterisks involved with this finish.
This is another prediction that I am more hoping to see than expecting to see. When last we left Mayweather and Merchant, they were going at each other about how Mayweather's fight with Ortiz ended.
The way that Mayweather reacted to Merchant's questions was clearly an overreaction, though completely in line with his character and media persona throughout his career.
Merchant was practically begging for Mayweather to get riled up, and he didn't keep it professional by saying that if he were 50 years younger he would kick Mayweather's a**.
As unprofessional as it was for both men, it was as entertaining a moment as boxing has provided in years.
Reuniting those two in the ring after the fight will be even more must-see TV than the actual fight between Mayweather and Cotto. Well, not quite, but it will be close.
Our final prediction is a bonus one that will come to fruition at the post-fight press conference. That six million number I threw out is just the number of times Mayweather will either be asked about or hear Pacquiao's name when he sits down with reporters after this fight with Cotto.
Mayweather made headlines earlier this week for his latest rant on a proposed fight with Pacquiao and why it is not going to happen.
Instead of worrying about whether Pacquiao is using performance-enhancing drugs—which he has never tested positive for, nor been accused of by anyone other than Mayweather—he should go out and beat him to stop the questions and then he can say whatever he wants to whomever he wants.
Since Mayweather doesn't appear to be doing that, he is going to have to answer millions of questions about Pacquiao in the moments after defeating Cotto.