LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been doing this all his life, since he was a scrawny kid seeking solace in the gym. The ring is his comfort zone, and he'll enter it Saturday for the 43rd time as a pro, certain as ever that when the night is through he'll not only be a lot richer but still unbeaten.
Miguel Cotto is certain of a few things himself. Certain that he has conquered his worst fears in boxing, certain that he can be the first one to conquer Mayweather.
"I don't need anyone else giving me a chance," Cotto said. "If I can trust in myself, I don't need anyone else believing in me."
Not many are, especially the oddsmakers who make Mayweather a 6-1 favorite in Saturday night's fight. But if any fighter is a live underdog it's Cotto, a relentless puncher who believes in himself again after finally avenging a beating he took from Antonio Margarito four years ago that left him searching for answers about his chosen profession.
Cotto stopped Margarito in their rematch in December, and will be defending his version of the 154-pound title against a fighter who knows how to promote a big bout almost as well as he knows how to fight one.
"Nobody is invincible in life. I know that because I pass through this point in my life," Cotto said. "I'm ready for anything Floyd brings me. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him?"
Mayweather has answered that question every time he's stepped in the ring as a pro, winning all 42 of his fights while becoming the biggest pay-per-view attraction in the sport. If he needs any added incentive to win this fight, it would be that it might make the nights pass easier when he goes to jail June 1 for what is expected to be a two-month sentence for domestic abuse.
There are still questions, though, about why Mayweather doesn't fight Manny Pacquiao in the fight most boxing fans want, a fight that would be the richest in boxing history. Mayweather answered them in part earlier this week with a lengthy rant about how he believes Pacquiao uses steroids and that he wouldn't want to risk his health against him.
"Writers are saying, 'Floyd is scared,'" he said. "No, Floyd cares about his family. Floyd is smart. At the end of the day, Floyd is smart. My health is important. My health is more important than money. They can take all the money and my health is more important. If they say, Floyd, you can live a healthy life like you is right now, or you got to walk with a limp, and walk all bent over, but you can have a lot of money for the rest of your life, I'd say, 'Take it all back.'"
Mayweather continues to insist he doesn't need Pacquiao, and he may be right. He gets the biggest cut of the revenues for all his fights, and he's guaranteed to make at least $32 million for this one, while Cotto will pocket $8 million. Mayweather may not be doing boxing any favors by not giving the sport a desperately needed fight, but he's doing fine for himself.
"When I get in the ring it's like, here we go again, it's just another day," Mayweather said. "I've got so much experience I can go to him if I want. I know when a fighter is starting to wear down and he will wear down."
Despite the odds in his favor, there's a decent chance Mayweather could be challenged by Cotto, who will be fighting at 154 pounds for the fourth time and appears to be comfortable at the weight — which is the class limit. Mayweather agreed to move up from 147 pounds — he weighed in at a 151 pounds Friday, his highest ever — to take Cotto on in a scheduled 12-round fight from the MGM Grand hotel that will be televised on pay-per-view.
Most in boxing, though, believe Cotto (37-2, 30 knockouts) is too slow for the slick Mayweather and will be unable to apply enough pressure to land effectively and often. They believe if he cannot get inside he will be easy pickings for the 35-year-old, who in recent fights has shown an inclination to fight more flat-footed rather than try to win by playing defense.
Not surprisingly, the Puerto Rican boxer disagrees.
"The only thing I can say is I'm ready, and I am prepared for anything that happens in the ring," Cotto said. "I'm going to work every second in there."
Cotto is coming off a dominating performance against Margarito, who had stopped him in the 12th round of their welterweight title fight in 2008. It was the first loss for Cotto, who was also stopped the next year in the 12th round by Pacquiao. He said beating Margarito in the rematch not only redeemed himself in the eyes of his fans, but gave him his confidence back.
"A lot of things got away from me," he said. "My confidence in myself, trust in my work. When I beat (Margarito) those things came back to me."
Also on the card is a fight between Canelo Alvarez and 40-year-old former champion Shane Mosley. Alvarez, a 21-year-old rising star from Mexico who is unbeaten in 40 fights, will defend his piece of the 154-pound title against Mosley, who dropped a lopsided decision to Pacquiao in his last fight and was beaten by Mayweather two fights before that.