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When people look back at the Hall of Fame-worthy careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto, the boxers' fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will be the one they probably remember.
It was a barnburner, one of the most exciting fights of Mayweather's career; Cotto, of course, is typically in exciting fights. But as usual, it was Mayweather who put his punches together and evaded enough to win, taking a unanimous decision and a junior middleweight title for the second time in his career.
[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMiguel Cotto "was no pushover," according to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who took more punishment from the Puerto Rican star on Saturday than in perhaps any previous fight in his career.
"You're a helluva champion," Mayweather said to Cotto in the ring after the fight. "You're the toughest guy I ever fought."
Now Mayweather -- headed to jail on June 1 for an 87-day sentence at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas for a domestic battery conviction -- can offer a new mantra: 43 have tried and now 43 have failed.
"Look, when fights are on pay-per-view, you want to give the fans what they pay for, and that's excitement," said Mayweather, who elected to do an in-ring interview with HBO's Larry Merchant after threatening not to following their blow-up during a postfight interview after Mayweather's September victory against Victor Ortiz.
Cotto didn't go down without a fight. He pressed and pushed and cracked Mayweather with many hard punches, probably as many punishing shots as Mayweather has ever been hit with.
Mayweather is 35 now, and maybe the pound-for-pound king has lost just a step, so he is a little easier to hit. But he still got the job done and, for a change, in very exciting fashion.
In picking up his eighth world title belt in five weight classes, Mayweather looked good in victory. But Cotto, 31, a three-division champion in his own right, also looked good. In fact, Cotto gave Mayweather a tougher fight than he gave Manny Pacquiao in their 2009 welterweight title bout, a 12th-round knockout for Pacquiao.
"The judges said I lost the fight. I can't do anything else. I have to take my defeat," Cotto said. "I brought my best and I did my best every morning in training camp and I did my best tonight."
Mentally reborn following his emotional victory against Antonio Margarito in their December rematch, Cotto fought as well as he has in years.
"I'm happy with my fight and with my performance," he said. "So is my family. I can't ask for anything else."
With most of the crowd of 16,047 cheering for Puerto Rico's Cotto, he was able to bull Mayweather into the corner and make him fight back round after round. And Mayweather was happy to oblige.
Most of the rounds appeared competitive, but Mayweather pulled away to win 118-110 on judge Robert Hoyle's scorecard, while Dave Moretti and Patricia Morse Jarman each scored it 117-111. ESPN.com had it 116-112 for Mayweather.
Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) sat down on his punches and rocked Cotto in the fourth round, turning over his right hand to land several of them flush.
Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs), who made $8 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view profits, got Mayweather's respect in the sixth round when he landed a pinpoint jab to his nose, drawing blood. After the punch, Mayweather nodded his head to Cotto out of respect.
"When you come to fight and are in the heat of the battle, those things happen," Mayweather said.
Every time Cotto trapped Mayweather on the ropes -- which he did often and had some success with it -- the crowd would go wild. But Mayweather would eventually escape the trouble.
Mayweather closed strong with a huge 12th round, hurting Cotto with a nasty uppercut and right hands.
The fans had gotten their monies worth, and Mayweather had a satisfying victory. HBO will replay the memorable fight, along with the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Shane Mosley undercard fight, on May 12 (10:15 p.m. ET/PT).