Miguel Cotto is chasing more than a title against Sergio Martinez
By Fernie Ruano Jr.
For Miguel Cotto (38-4) Saturday night’s catch-weight fight at 159 pounds – at Madison Square Garden in New York – against WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (51-2-2) is more than just another chance to climb into the ring, in front of his most loyal supporters on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
It’s an opportunity to silence his many critics; most of them certain Cotto is well past his prime, especially after decisive losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout in 2012 before a victory against limited Delvin Rodriguez in October.
It’s an opportunity to reclaim his status as one of boxing’s top draws – a status Cotto has insisted over the last several months he still has, and one Martinez conceded to during negotiations by agreeing to let Cotto walk to the ring first, fight out of the red corner, be introduced second and receive top billing on the marquee leading into the fight.
It’s also an opportunity for the 3-time world champion – junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight – and likely Hall of Famer to make history as the first Puerto Rican boxer ever to win a title in a fourth weight division.
That’s right: a victory against Martinez and Cotto, not Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez or Felix Trinidad, all Puerto Rican-born 3-time world champions, will align his name as perhaps the greatest fighter ever out of Puerto Rico.
As if resurrecting his career in front of a pro-Cotto crowd isn’t motivation enough, the 33-year-old is well aware of the significance of the fight in historical terms.
“I fought the best (fighters) at 140, 147 and 154 pounds and (now) here I am (facing the best) at 160,” said Cotto, during a conference call earlier this week. “Boxing has always been about challenges and competing and this one more fight proves (that) point.”
Setting his sights on Cotto, a pay-per-view darling with a huge following in and out of Puerto Rico who could potentially help generate over 500,000 PPV buys and $25 in revenue, was ideal for Martinez, making the seventh defense of his middleweight title and staring at another huge payday despite a14-month layoff and lingering setbacks with his right knee, which has required multiple surgeries in recent years. A loss would likely send the 39-year-old into retirement.
But a victory over Cotto would open the door to a rematch against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a fight against Gennady Golovkin, or perhaps Andre Ward.
Martinez has guaranteed he will put a serious hurting on Cotto, a fighter with a history of fighting off the ropes and abandoning any idea of cutting off angles in the ring – a recipe for disaster against the hard-hitting Argentine.
Even with Martinez bending over backwards to accommodate Cotto throughout the negotiations for the fight, there was a time – not too long ago – that Cotto’s shot at the middleweight title, or any title, looked foggy.
But Cotto hired Hall of Famer trainer Freddie Roach last year after defeats to Mayweather Jr. and Trout, respectively, in which he appeared to be nothing but a shot fighter.
Eight months ago, Cotto, with Roach in his corner, made short work of Rodriguez and opened talks with Martinez, while leaving an 8-figure offer to fight Canelo Alvarez on the table.
It just wasn’t the same – because a win Saturday night and Miguel Cotto will not only be able to choose his own parade route, but etch his name in the annals of Puerto Rican boxing history.
“Some of our best fights are only Puerto Rican greats but all-time greats,” Cotto said. “Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez and Felix “Tito” Trinidad and many others have made Puerto Rican boxing what is it today and I am only an extension of their greatness.”