Well, Floyd Mayweather will be fighting on May 5 after all, but it won’t be against the fighter everyone wants to see him take on.
LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr. got almost everything he wanted Wednesday, receiving a boxing license and naming an opponent and a date for his next fight.
The unbeaten champion got everything except a showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather will fight Miguel Cotto on May 5 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden after Nevada’s athletic commissioners granted him a conditional license for one fight before he goes to jail in June.
Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) chose Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs), the respected Puerto Rican champion, as his next opponent only after failing to land a date with Pacquiao, the superstar Filipino congressman. The two sides have discussed what’s likely to be the most lucrative fight in boxing history for nearly three years without reaching a deal.
“I presented Pacquiao with the fight,” Mayweather said after meeting with the Nevada commission. “Pacquiao is blowing a lot of smoke. … He doesn’t really want to fight. I gave him a chance to step up to the plate. We’re talking about a $10 million fighter that I tried to give $40 million to. We didn’t even talk about the back end.”
While Mayweather once appeared to be uninterested in the bout, he’s now very interested — but Pacquiao’s interest appears to have cooled. Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum repeatedly discounted the possibility of making the fight in recent weeks.
Mayweather and Pacquiao are boxing’s top two stars, and they have taunted each other with jabs including a posting on Twitter on Wednesday in which Mayweather referred to the Filipino star as “Miss Pac Man.” They also have a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court in Las Vegas stemming from Mayweather’s accusations that Pacquiao took performance-enhancing drugs.
“He’s ducking and dodging me,” Mayweather said of Pacquiao. “He really didn’t want to fight from the beginning. He got famous basically by piggybacking off my name. When you mention Floyd Mayweather, man, you mention an all-time great, an icon in the sport of boxing. When you mention Manny Pacquiao, they say, ‘Oh, that’s the guy who’s trying to fight Floyd Mayweather.’ When it’s all said and done, all the guy did is just piggyback off my name.”
Mayweather will take on Cotto at 154 pounds, a move up from the longtime welterweight’s past four fights. Mayweather, who beat Oscar De La Hoya at super welterweight in 2007, beat Victor Ortiz last September to win the WBC welterweight title.
Before getting his license on a 5-0 vote, Mayweather got a lecture from Nevada athletic commissioners.
They told the fighter, his manager-promoter and his lawyer they want a prefight report May 1 to ensure Mayweather abides by conditions set by a Nevada judge in a criminal domestic violence case. He will begin serving 90 days in jail June 1, but is likely to serve only about 60.
Commission Chairman Raymond “Skip” Avansino Jr. said it would be a “tragedy” if Mayweather didn’t meet the requirements to make the multimillion-dollar Cinco de Mayo bout. Mayweather received a temporary reprieve on his short jail sentence last month so he could fight on a traditionally huge weekend for boxing in Las Vegas.
“But we think Mr. Mayweather is certainly going to comply with this,” Avansino said.
Commissioner Pat Lundvall told Mayweather he can’t postpone or delay serving his jail sentence and must stay out of trouble for the 14-plus weeks he’s training to take on Cotto.
“I’m just happy to be fighting May 5,” Mayweather said as he emerged from the hearing room. “They granted me one fight. I need to conduct myself like a gentleman and do everything that the court ordered and then come back in front of them and show them that I deserve to have a license for a whole year.”
Mayweather, a seven-time world champion in five weight classes, will turn 35 this month. He’ll step up in weight against Cotto for the WBA super welterweight belt.
Cotto is coming off of the second defense of his title, a 10th-round technical knockout win over Antonio Margarito in December. Cotto’s only defeats are against Margarito and Pacquiao, who stopped Cotto in November 2009 in perhaps the Filipino champion’s most impressive victory.
“He’s the best at 154,” Mayweather said of Cotto.
In a joint statement announcing the fight, Cotto said he intends to be the first boxer to beat Mayweather.
“I am here to fight the biggest names in boxing,” Cotto said. “I’ve never ducked anyone or any challenge in front of me.”
Both fighters have agreed to Olympic-style drug testing for the 12-round fight handled by Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Miguel Cotto Promotions.
The May 5 fight date was set before Mayweather pleaded guilty Dec. 21 before a Las Vegas judge to a reduced battery domestic violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges. The plea stemmed from a hair-pulling, punching and arm-twisting argument in October 2010 with Josie Harris, the mother of three of Mayweather’s children. Prosecutors dropped felony and misdemeanor charges that could have gotten Mayweather 34 years in prison.