LAS VEGAS -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been doing this all his life, since he was a scrawny kid seeking solace in the gym. The ring is his comfort zone, and he'll enter it Saturday for the 43rd time as a pro, certain as ever that when the night is through he'll not only be a lot richer but still unbeaten.
Miguel Cotto is certain of a few things himself. Certain that he has conquered his worst fears in boxing, certain that he can be the first one to conquer Mayweather.
"I don't need anyone else giving me a chance," Cotto said. "If I can trust in myself, I don't need anyone else believing in me."
Not many are, especially the oddsmakers who make Mayweather a 6-1 favorite in Saturday night's fight. But if any fighter is a live underdog it's Cotto, a relentless puncher who believes in himself again after finally avenging a beating he took from Antonio Margarito four years ago that left him searching for answers about his chosen profession.
Cotto stopped Margarito in their rematch in December, and will be defending his version of the 154-pound title against a fighter who knows how to promote a big bout almost as well as he knows how to fight one.
"Nobody is invincible in life. I know that because I pass through this point in my life," Cotto said. "I'm ready for anything Floyd brings me. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him?"
Mayweather has answered that question every time he's stepped in the ring as a pro, winning all 42 of his fights while becoming the biggest pay-per-view attraction in the sport. If he needs any added incentive to win this fight, it would be that it might make the nights pass easier when he goes to jail June 1 for what is expected to be a two-month sentence for domestic abuse.
There are still questions, though, about why Mayweather doesn't fight Manny Pacquiao in the fight most boxing fans want, a fight that would be the richest in boxing history. Mayweather answered them in part earlier this week with a lengthy rant about how he believes Pacquiao uses steroids and that he wouldn't want to risk his health against him.
"Writers are saying, Floyd is scared,'" he said. "No, Floyd cares about his family. Floyd is smart. At the end of the day, Floyd is smart. My health is important. My health is more important than money. They can take all the money and my health is more important. If they say, Floyd, you can live a healthy life like you is right now, or you got to walk with a limp, and walk all bent over, but you can have a lot of money for the rest of your life, I'd say, `Take it all back.'"
Mayweather continues to insist he doesn't need Pacquiao, and he may be right. He gets the biggest cut of the revenues for all his fights, and he probably makes at least $30 million for this one. He may not be doing boxing any favors by not giving the sport a desperately needed fight, but he's doing fine for himself.
"When I get in the ring it's like, here we go again, it's just another day," Mayweather said. "I've got so much experience I can go to him if I want. I know when a fighter is starting to wear down and he will wear down."
Despite the odds in his favor, there's a decent chance Mayweather could be challenged by Cotto, who will be fighting at 154 pounds for the fourth time and appears to be comfortable at the weight. Mayweather agreed to move up from 147 pounds to take him on in a scheduled 12-round fight from the MGM Grand hotel that will be televised on pay-per-view.
Most in boxing, though, believe Cotto (37-2, 30 knockouts) is too slow for the slick Mayweather and will be unable to apply enough pressure to land effectively and often. They believe if he cannot get inside he will be easy pickings for the 35-year-old, who in recent fights has shown an inclination to fight more flat-footed rather than try to win by playing defense.
Not surprisingly, the Puerto Rican boxer disagrees.
"The only thing I can say is I'm ready, and I am prepared for anything that happens in the ring," Cotto said. "I'm going to work every second in there."
Cotto is coming off a dominating performance against Margarito, who had stopped him in the 12th round of their welterweight title fight in 2008. It was the first loss for Cotto, who was also stopped the next year in the 12th round by Pacquiao. He said beating Margarito in the rematch not only redeemed himself in the eyes of his fans, but gave him his confidence back.
"A lot of things got away from me," he said. "My confidence in myself, trust in my work. When I beat (Margarito) those things came back to me."
Also on the card is a fight between Canelo Alvarez and 40-year-old former champion Shane Mosley. Alvarez, a 21-year-old rising star from Mexico who is unbeaten in 40 fights, will defend his piece of the 154-pound title against Mosley, who dropped a lopsided decision to Pacquiao in his last fight and was beaten by Mayweather two fights before that.
Olympic medalist Floyd Mayweather of Grand Rapids, Mich., right, lands a right to the face of Roberto Apodaca of El Centro, Calif., during their super featherweight fight at Texas Station in Las Vegas. Mayweather scored a knockout at 37 seconds of the second round. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Carlos Gerena, left, of Puerto Rico mixes it up with Floyd Mayweather Jr. of Grand Rapids, Mich., during the WBC super featherweight title fight in Las Vegas. Mayweather retained his title when referee Richard Steele, on advice of a ringside physician, stopped the fight after the seventh round. (AP Photo/Lori Cain)
Floyd Mayweather, left, of Grand Rapids, Mich., stands in the ring with his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., after defeating Diego Corrales of Sacramento, Calif., in their WBC super featherweight championship fight in Las Vegas. Prior to the bout, both Mayweather and Corrales were undefeated. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Floyd Mayweather lands a left to Jose Luis Castillo of Mexico during their WBC lightweight fight at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. Due to the closeness of their first bout, Mayweather accepted a rematch, citing the rotator cuff injury to his left shoulder -- which he sustained during training two days before the original match -- as a hindrance the first time. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)
Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, of Las Vegas, Nev., hits Arturo Gatti of Jersey City, N. J. in second round action of their WBO world super lightweight championship bout at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. Gatti's corner stopped the fight after round six, giving Mayweather his third world title. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, throws a right at Oscar De La Hoya, during the fifth round of their WBC super welterweight world championship boxing match at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The Mayweather-De La Hoya bout set the record for most PPV buys for a boxing match with 2.7 million households, shattering the record of 1.95 million for Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson II. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Mayweather celebrates after defeating Hatton in the WBC welterweight boxing title fight at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Mayweather congratulated Hatton afterward, calling him the most difficult fighter he'd faced. Shortly after, Mayweather announced his retirement and expressed his interest in becoming a promoter. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, and Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, during their non-title welterweight fight in Las Vegas. On May 2, 2009, it was confirmed that Mayweather was coming out of a 21-month retirement to fight <em>The Ring</em> Lightweight Champion Juan Manuel Márquez. The fight marked only the fifth time in boxing history that a non-heavyweight fight sold more than 1 million pay-per-views, with the official HBO numbers coming in at over 1 million buys; and equalling a total of approximately $52 million. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Floyd Mayweather delivered a controversial knockout punch to Victor Ortiz during the fourth round of the WBC welterweight title fight in Las Vegas. Although Mayweather's victory was generally accepted as legal, it was also labelled as unsportsmanlike, as Larry Merchant reminds him after the match. Mayweather responded with a barrage of disrespectful comments before exiting the ring.
Boxers Floyd Mayweather, left, and Miguel Cotto face-off during a news conference in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Cotto and Mayweather will fight in Las Vegas on May 5, 2012 for Cotto's WBA World super welterweight title. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig).