Undefeated American world welterweight champion Mayweather and super welterweight champion Cotto will clash for the Puerto Rican’s World Boxing Association crown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 5.
With hundreds of noisy fans crowded into the steep balconies at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Tuesday, a coronet player dressed in Elizabethan garb heralded the boxers’ arrival as Mayweather and Cotto made their way to high-backed golden thrones on the famed stage.
Although a long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao match pitting this generation’s greatest pound-for-pound fighters has dominated the buzz in boxing, even “Pacman” last week admitted Mayweather could have his hands full against Cotto.
“That will be a tough fight,” said Pacquiao, adding that he hoped Mayweather would survive against the hard-hitting Cotto to keep alive their potentially huge payday bout.
Mayweather, 42-0, said that after failing to arrange a date with Pacquiao, Cotto was a worthy opponent.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Mayweather told the audience. “I can solidify myself as one of the best fighters to ever live. We will give a toe-to-toe battle.”
Cotto, 37-2, stopped Antonio Margarito in the 10th round of his last fight, avenging a previous loss to the Mexican, whose reputation was tarnished after he was found to have used illegal hand wraps in a bout with Shane Mosley.
“My (previous) fight with Margarito, he took some things from me, my confidence in myself, a lot of things,” Cotto told reporters. “When I beat him in December, they come back to me. I feel better now.”
As for Pacquiao, who defeated Cotto in a catch-weight contest in which Cotto had to drop pounds, the Puerto Rican said he might look to avenge that 10th-round loss some other time.
“I can face Pacquiao in the future,” Cotto said. “Going down to 147 pounds, is not healthy for me right now. That was one of the reasons for my decision (to fight Mayweather).”
Mayweather said he was moving up in weight for the May title bout because he wanted to fight “the best” Cotto.
“I’m looking at this fight as Cotto is an undefeated fighter,” said Mayweather. “He lost to one guy who was cheating, and to another guy at a catchweight. I wanted to fight him at 154 so there would be no excuses.”
Mayweather also said he would soon reveal the truth behind his failed negotiations with Pacquiao.
Pacquiao said Mayweather had insisted on a larger share of revenues. Mayweather has said Pacquiao rejected his demands for blood testing.
“I offered Manny Pacquiao to fight for May 5 but he turned me down,” Mayweather said. “You hear different things. Soon I will put (it) out there and let the world see me talking to Manny Pacquiao and him turning me down.”