|Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) of the U.S. and WBA super welterweight champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico face off at a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada May 2, 2012. Mayweather will challenge Cotto for the title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 5. Photo by Steve Marcus, Reuters and Las Vegas Sun.
LAS VEGAS - Floyd Mayweather Jr. is renowned almost as much for taunting his opponents outside the ring as for dominating them inside the ropes but he has struck a complimentary tone ahead of Saturday's fight with Miguel Cotto.
Undefeated American Mayweather will challenge Puerto Rican Cotto for the World Boxing Association (WBA) super welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
"Miguel is a true warrior, a tough champion, and to go down in the Hall of Fame as one of the best, you have to face the true champions out there," Mayweather, 42-0 (26 knockouts), told reporters on Wednesday.
Cotto, 37-2 (30 KOs), who successfully defended his crown with a 10th-round technical knockout win over Antonio Margarito in December, was also full of praise.
"He's been a gentleman the whole way with me," the Puerto Rican said of his opponent. "I've been a gentleman with him. That's the way it should be. You get paid to fight in the ring, not outside the ring."
The mutual respect reflects the two fighters' credentials. Mayweather, who won his first title at super featherweight in 1998, is regarded as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, with the possible exception of Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao.
Cotto, whose first championship came at super lightweight in 2004, has suffered only two defeats in 39 contests while winning titles in three weight divisions.
The two men have been mooted as possible opponents since both were campaigning as super lightweights, but Cotto felt his chances would have been significantly diminished had they met earlier in his career.
"I didn't think about him because he was a great champion, he was a guy who was above me on all levels," he said. "But now, we are in the same boat, and the preparation we had in our camp is going to be what gives us the victory on Saturday."
On paper, the contest matches the peerless speed of Mayweather against the relentless body-punching of Cotto, but each man was at pains to play down his perceived advantages.
"I may come out and not be that fast," Mayweather said.
"He may come out and be fast. You don't know what they've been working on in their camp. They may have been working on just a certain thing just to get his speed up."
Cotto, meanwhile, said he was likely to lose if he focused on just going to Mayweather's body.
"If you go into a fight with just one plan, to fight a guy like Mayweather, who can punch or who can run, who has skills, you're going to fail," he added.
"We have prepared ourselves for more than one plan."
Mayweather smiled when presented with possible strategies Cotto might follow, pointing out that all of his other opponents had spoken of grand plans for defeating him, none of which came to fruition.
"It looks a lot easier from the outside," said the American, who improved his perfect professional record to 42-0 by claiming the WBC welterweight title from Victor Ortiz in September.
Cotto, however, expressed a calm confidence about Saturday's bout which is scheduled for 12 rounds.
"Nobody has found the way to beat Floyd Mayweather so far," he said, "You're going to see how a person can beat Floyd Mayweather on Saturday."
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)