When Floyd Mayweather Jr. meets Miguel Cotto for the World Boxing Association super welterweight championship on May 5 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, it will be one of the year's biggest boxing events.
Mayweather is unbeaten and is the top-ranked fighter in the world, according to the Yahoo! Sports poll and nearly every other service. Cotto is 37-2 with 30 knockouts, with his only losses coming to Antonio Margarito in 2008 and Manny Pacquiao in 2009.
In 2005, Mayweather and Cotto were both promoted by Top Rank and each were undefeated stars. Mayweather was preparing to face Henry Bruseles and told David Mayo of MLive.com he thought Top Rank was using Bruseles as a test run for an eventual pay-per-view bout with Cotto.
I think that was the tester. Puerto Rican, identical style -- if you go back and look at Henry Bruseles, identical style -- comes from the Cotto camp, same trainer at that particular time, which was his uncle. And Bruseles, he tried. I gave him the opportunity. He tried but I was the better man.
Mayweather stopped Bruseles in the eighth round, but no one on Earth ever thought Bruseles was remotely as good as Cotto.
At the time, Mayweather and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum were feuding over the direction of his career. Mayweather wanted to be marketed to an urban audience, and Arum wanted to paint him as the next Sugar Ray Leonard, e.g., a friendly, clean cut guy with a brilliant smile and other worldly skills. Mayweather also desperately wanted to fight on pay-per-view and Arum thought it wise to continue to build him via bouts on HBO.
After beating Bruseles, Mayweather got the pay-per-view bout he craved, against the late Arturo Gatti, and dominated in one-sided manner. More importantly, the fight did far better than expected on pay-per-view.
A few months after the Gatti fight, Mayweather bought his way out of his contract with Top Rank and talk of a match with Cotto cooled. Mayweather, though, never forgot about it.
I always thought it was a fight that was going to happen. He was with Top Rank, I was with Top Rank. I dominated at 130, moved to 140, fought at 147, I thought, eventually, the fight was going to happen. It didn't happen. I didn't pain none about it. But it's a great thing that [Cotto's] got his promotional company up and going, I've got my promotional company up and going, and now that we can make the fight happen. I think it's a great thing for the sport of boxing.
The Mayweather-Cotto fight is far bigger now than it would have been had it occurred in 2005. If it had happened then, it might have done around 350,000 units in sales. Now, it's likely to do in excess of 1 million and probably in excess of 1.25 million.
Cotto has become a pay-per-view attraction on his own. While Pacquiao was the A side in their 2009 fight that did 1.2 million, Cotto was largely responsible for the more than 600,000 units sold for his rematch with Margarito at Madison Square Garden in December.