Power punches Cotto's key vs Mayweather

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. (left) and Miguel Cotto square off for Cotto's WBA Junior Middleweight title on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. will step into the ring on Saturday for the first time since September 2011, and the last time before he begins an 87-day jail sentence for misdemeanor battery.

His opponent, Miguel Cotto, is on a three-fight win streak, and holds the WBA Junior Middleweight title. The fight is a matchup between two of ESPN.com’s Top 10 Pound-for-Pound fighters in the world (Mayweather 1st, Cotto 10th) and is for Cotto’s 154-pound title.

Mayweather will go up in weight from 147 pounds to 154 for the second time in his career. The first was five years ago, when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya by split decision. In that fight, Mayweather established the jab to set up his power punches. Mayweather landed 69 jabs against De La Hoya, and in his last three fights has landed an average of 10 per round (282 over 28 rounds).

If Mayweather can’t get the jab going, Cotto should expect to see plenty of power punches. In his last fight against Victor Ortiz, Mayweather landed 14 percent of his jabs (12 of 83), but connected on 49 percent of his power punches (61 of 125). Combined with his two prior fights, Mayweather landed 51 percent of power punches compared to 21 percent for his opponents.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Last 3 Fights

It comes down to simple science for Mayweather to get to 43-0: hit Cotto and don’t get hit -- and there’s no one more elusive than Mayweather.

But don't expect this to be a runaway victory for Mayweather, especially with Cotto's track record. Cotto will most likely throw more punches than Mayweather in this fight. In his last fight against Antonio Margarito, Cotto averaged 55 punches per round. In his last loss to Manny Pacquiao, he averaged almost 50.

There is no secret that Cotto’s go-to punch is the left hook. If he can find the mark accurately and consistently against Mayweather, this fight will be interesting. Against Margarito, Cotto landed 148 power punches of 210 total punches landed (70 percent). Against Yuri Foreman, Cotto landed 37 of 76 power punches in the final three rounds after Foreman’s knee gave out, including the final left hook.

In Mayweather’s previous fight, Ortiz bullied him into the corner with power shots, forcing Mayweather to retreat. If the bigger Cotto can do the same thing, he can finish the undefeated Mayweather with the left hook.

Saturday night may mark the biggest boxing event of the year, and it will see either Mayweather win his last fight before starting his jail sentence or Cotto provide his Puerto Rican faithful a stunning victory on Mayweather’s turf.

Information from CompuBox was used in this post.