What's next for Floyd "Money" Mayweather? While the undefeated pugilist's choice of opponent for his September 13, 2014 date (the fourth fight of his record-breaking six-fight Showtime deal) is a mystery, what isn't nebulous is this: The list of viable opponents, both critically and commercially, is precariously thin.
The multiyear soap opera that has been the potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has seemingly run its course, as Manny Pacquiao lost major ground with his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez and his dominant (yet unsatisfying) victory over Brandon Rios. Unfortunately, the exclusion of the Philippines' Finest leaves Floyd a dearth of potential foes.
And while noted champions such as Danny Garcia, Amir Khan and even (literally) Bernard Hopkins have thrown their names into contention for the so-called Mayweather sweepstakes, the name that may represent the biggest threat (and commercial viability) is fighting this weekend.
Miguel Cotto, seeking to become the first Puerto Rican four-division champion, fights for the middleweight championship against Argentina's Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez on June 7.
The fight takes place at Madison Square Garden, practically Cotto's office since he burst onto the scene back in 2001. One of boxing's most historic and revered sites, The Garden has an 18,200-seat capacity and Cotto has zero problems filling every seat, having sold out the venue on nine previous occasions.
While it is his first foray into middleweight territory and victory is far from guaranteed (Martinez opens as the favorite in most Las Vegas gambling books and has had seven straight successful middleweight title defenses since 2010), a Cotto win all but assures that he is one of Money Mayweather's final two foils. Why?
First, Cotto is a known quantity.
As Puerto Rico's premier boxing icon since the retirement of the great Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Cotto has a built-in fanbase, one that he has been building meticulously for over a decade, taking on stiff competition the entire way. What's particularly amazing is how diehard his fans are, making it practically a non-factor whether he fights in New York City or in Las Vegas; he is a promoter's darling, generating a huge live gate each time out.
Most importantly, Cotto is an established pay-per-view star, which, more than any other factor, makes him attractive to Mayweather, who so often touts himself as the A-side of the promotion. The reality is that Cotto is nobody's B-side, and a Mayweather-Cotto scrap has already proved itself to be ratings gold, as their first matchup in 2012 generated a monstrous 1.5 million pay-per-view buys, a figure bested only by his bouts with Oscar de la Hoya and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, respectively.
Secondly, their first matchup (which Mayweather decisively won) was by no means the typical Mayweather affair with a befuddled opponent struggling to mount any type of competitive effort for 12 rounds.
Not only did Cotto bloody Mayweather's nose (a sight never before seen in Mayweather's professional career), but more tellingly, Floyd himself proclaimed Cotto to be the "toughest fighter I've faced thus far." This wasn't hyperbole or post-fight sycophancy; Floyd was indeed pushed every second of every round in what became an instant classic.
A second fight promises to be even better.
Finally, should Cotto prevail against Martinez, he would hold a bauble which will no doubt prove to be irresistible to Floyd: the lineal middleweight championship of the world.
While the middleweight limit of 160 pounds is too much for Floyd (who walks around close to 147 pounds between fights and has never fought above the 154-pound limit), the fact that Cotto, who also is moving up in weight, has the belt would make pursuit of the middleweight championship that much more appealing. He would be able to fight an opponent closer to his size, whose skill set he is already familiar with and who he has already beaten.
Most importantly, what better way to cap off an undefeated career than to capture the belt once held by the man universally (still) considered to be the greatest boxer of all time, the great Sugar Ray Robinson?
It's a no-brainer—just remember where you heard it first.