Monday, April 30, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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Forget for a moment that this isn’t the fight you want, or, in some cases, the one you feel like you deserve.
The camps of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao still have more differences to settle than a third-grade math test, which leaves both men taking other fights in Las Vegas this summer.
Focus instead on the spectacle and contrast of styles leading up to the first of those fights, Mayweather (42-0) vs. Miguel Cotto (37-2), this Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Mayweather is a heavy favorite (-750 at most places), he’s got whatever home-court advantage exists in boxing and this time he’s got the right gloves. Mayweather’s only other move up to light middleweight was exactly five years before this May 5 bout, in the same arena against Oscar De La Hoya.
In a fight that set pay-per-view records, Mayweather won a split decision while fighting with 10-ounce heavyweight gloves, which were De La Hoya’s choice. The heavyweight gloves are more rounded and contain a little more padding than the regular 10-ounce gloves Mayweather will wear against Cotto.
“Would have been more blood, more excitement (against De La Hoya),” Mayweather said. “And that’s what it’s about, getting more excitement.”
On that front, Mayweather feels like he’s carrying the entire promotion heading into Saturday night’s fight. That’s most evident on HBO Sports’ "24/7" series, which debuted five years ago for the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight.
Including Mayweather-Cotto, there have been 13 boxing productions of "24/7," six of them featuring Mayweather.
The first episode of this season opened with Mayweather discussing his own importance in the series’ success and saying he deserved 66 percent of the screen time. Then, as has been the case for most of his interviews lately, he asked for backup from longtime friend 50 Cent, who chimed in that the ratings plummet when Mayweather’s not involved.
The man who took center stage at his gym in Las Vegas last Tuesday was different from that pompous opening. Mayweather always exudes confidence, sure, but on HBO he purposefully takes it to another level.
“I’m carrying the promotion,” Mayweather said. “… When it gets to this level, it’s a business. … You’ve got to continue to put (people) in the seats and do creative things to get people to tune in.”
Cotto held his workout in Orlando, Fla., the week before, and by all accounts he’s the exact same guy you see on TV. Stoic, focused and more interested in preparing to fight than getting you interested to watch him do it.
“It’s my way of life,” Cotto told reporters at the workout. “I prefer to be quiet and calm.”
That’s a different tactic than Mayweather’s previous opponent, former WBC Welterweight champ Victor Ortiz, who tried to trade verbal jabs both on HBO and in person.
The ensuing fight finished with one of the more bizarre endings in recent memory, as Ortiz, struggling in the fourth round, head-butted Mayweather against the ropes. Ortiz then apologized multiple times, the last of which left him with his hands down as the fight restarted and Mayweather knocked him out with two quick shots to the head.
The crowd had wanted an upset and instead got an upsetting finish that reminded everyone that boxers are told to protect themselves at all times inside of the ring. Or, to put it another way, Hand down, man down.
Fans are unlikely to see a similar finish this time around. Cotto is an experienced, mature fighter with asterisks next to both of his losses, at least according to Mayweather.
Cotto’s loss to Antonio Margarito is under suspicion because Margarito’s corner is believed to have loaded his hand wraps, and the loss to Pacquiao was at a weight slightly below light middleweight, which negated a little of Cotto’s size advantage.
So, basically, Mayweather has not only been selling himself ahead of this fight, but he’s also doing Cotto’s job for him, too.
“My priority is going out there, fighting the best fight I can and winning,” Cotto said in a press release. “If, as a boxer, you’re paying attention to odds and bets and all that nonsense, then you’re not in the right sport.”
Contrast that with Mayweather’s media workout last Tuesday, during which 50 Cent got in the ring and ran around with his friend, telling everyone who would listen that a bet on “Money” wasn’t even gambling.
The mega fight with Pacquiao is still what everyone wants, but once again this will have to do, with Mayweather doing twice the promotional work he would need to do for that fight.
People will still tune in, of course. They’ll watch to see if the size difference matters or to see if Mayweather’s impending incarceration will affect him in the ring. They will pay attention because as good as Mayweather is at talking, he’s even better at boxing, and people want to see greatness. Even more probably want to see greatness fall.
Love him or (more likely) hate him, the opening minute of 24/7 accurately summed up the situation: This is clearly Mayweather’s show.