If Miguel Cotto wants a shot at pulling off this upset over Floyd Mayweather Jr., the start will be everything.
Mayweather (42-0) is just like any other fighter who needs to develop a rhythm and start to figure out what Cotto (37-2) is doing. Cotto must do the same, but he faces the additional challenge of making sure Mayweather doesn't start strong and start racking up rounds on his way to a shutout.
That's why the early rounds are everything for Cotto. The Puerto Rican champ needs to dominate and at the very least try to escape with two of the first four rounds. Get that, and he not only can dictate the pace, but he'll also be in control and be able to apply more pressure with each ensuing round.
The early rounds won't be time to go for the knockout. It's about keeping Mayweather guessing.
Mayweather is extremely sharp, and can pick up on most fighters' tendencies pretty quick. The whole challenge here for Money May is making sure Cotto limits his output and the punches he lands. Cotto will also need to use his defense and deflect any of Mayweather's shots and counters.
You can go ahead and bet Mayweather will try to confuse Cotto as well, use the entire ring, and fight with angles.
If I'm Cotto, it's essential to stay focused, use the jab and pound away at Mayweather's body whenever the openings present. They'll be limited, but Cotto has to pounce.
Cotto has the ability to stick with Mayweather, but he needs to fight a smart, technical fight and not get caught up with changing and doing something special just because of his opponent and magnitude of this bout. This will come down to staying disciplined, landing effective shots, and being able to dictate the pace.
If Cotto can dominate early, the entire complexion of the fight will change dramatically.