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Is Miguel Cotto the best opponent Floyd Mayweather has ever faced?

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Floyd Mayweather (L) faces Miguel Cotto (Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)

LAS VEGAS -- For all the accusations that he has ducked this guy and ducked that guy, notably Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has certainly fought a laundry list of the world's greatest fighters of the last 20th and early 21st century.

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Juan Manuel Marquez (AP)

Already on his resume are wins over greats such as Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez, all three of whom are destined to wind up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Mayweather also has victories over elite fighters like the late Diego Corrales, Zab Judah, Jose Luis Castillo, the late Genaro Hernandez, Ricky Hatton, Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez, among others.

But is it possible that his opponent on Saturday in the HBO Pay-Per-View mega-fight at the MGM Grand Garden, Miguel Cotto, is the best of all of them? You can make a good case for it.

Cotto, now the World Boxing Association super welterweight champion, is 37-2 with 30 knockouts and has been a world champion at super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight. His only losses were to Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito. The loss to Margarito, avenged in December, is somewhat questionable because of Cotto's belief that Margarito fought him with loaded hand wraps.

They have five common opponents: Mosley, Judah, DeMarcus Corley, Victoriano Sosa and Justin Juuko. Mayweather won decisions over Mosley, Judah, Corley and Sosa. He stopped Juuko in the ninth round. Cotto decisioned Mosley and stopped the other four: Judah in 11, Juuko and Corley in five and Sosa in four.

Given that he has a win over a prime Mosley, Cotto would have to be regarded as the better of the two. That would seem to leave only De La Hoya and Marquez to compete with Cotto as Mayweather's best opponent.

You could argue the merits of those three over drinks for hours, but Cotto stands up well in the debate. Pacquiao has beaten all three of them, stopping De La Hoya and Cotto and beating Marquez twice and drawing with him once.

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Manny Pacquiao (AP)

Mayweather didn't take the fight that everyone wanted him to take -- against Pacquiao -- but he took the next-best opponent he could find. And while he's beaten a slew of greats in his career, it's not much of a stretch to say a win over Cotto would be his most significant.

So all of you who want to trash Mayweather and accuse him of ducking, it might be wise to check the records. It sounds good, but it's not necessarily the truth.

It would have been great if he had fought Kostya Tszyu at 140, but there is really no notable fighter he could have met that he has not met other than that. Hopefully, the Pacquiao fight happens, but if it doesn't, remember that blame belongs on all sides of that equation.

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