Cotto and Martinez circling for Square Garden June bout
By Stephen Lynch
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez has been given until the end of January to accept Miguel Cotto’s challenge to defend his WBC and RING titles at Madison Square Garden on June 7.
Cotto has the date confirmed at the Mecca of boxing as he aims to become the first Puerto Rican to win four world titles in as many weight divisions – which could be another opponent if the continued negotiations with the Argentine southpaw fall through. The egos of both men - proud, future Hall of Fame fighters with distinguished records - are rumoured to be the sticking point for a mouth-watering battle of Southern Americans in New York City.
Cotto is understood to have rebuffed the $10m offer to fight Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand on Showtime PPV in March, in favour of leaving some money on the table to challenge for a legitimate belt on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. It is also being reported that Cotto is behaving like a “diva” in the petty demands he is making of “Maravilla” Martinez on clauses including who enters the ring, which corner they’ll fight out of and who is announced last. Clearly his is of the opinion that he has reached a Mayweather-like status in the sport and commensurate with his substantial popularity and lofty achievements – with his stacked resume containing wins over the likes of Paul Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito.
Looking at Maravilla’s record since his controversial majority draw and loss to Kermit Cintrón and Paul Williams in 2008, he has recorded a dominant, defining win against lineal middleweight king Kelly Pavlik, a blood-curdling knockout of Paul Williams followed by stoppage wins over unbeaten Sergiy Dzinziruk and Darren Barker. Then came Martinez’s TKO win over a game Matthew Macklin at the Garden before pummelling undefeated Julio César Chávez Jr. over 11 and a half one-sided rounds. This past April in a homecoming Buenos Aires voluntary defence, Martinez turned around a sluggish performance to snatch victory from an unbeaten Martin Murray – breaking his left hand and damaging his right knee in the process. The ensuing surgery would keep Martinez out of the ring for the rest of 2013. This is one of the standard-bearers of the sport, one who is often underrated and overlooked now many fans have already begun to crown Gennady Golovkin as “the man” at 160lbs.
P4P kingpin Floyd Mayweather will also have an eye on MSG for the winner of this, particularly if he is able to strike a second fight with a victorious Cotto for a shot at the Middleweight championship of the world. Their first fight was closer than the scorecards indicated and was as blockbuster and box office as any Mayweather fight in recent memory. Indeed Mayweather endearingly described Cotto as the “Last of the Mohicans” afterwards, the last of the paydays in the De La Hoya, Mosley et al era. From a legacy standpoint, this would be Henry Armstrong-esque would Mayweather to undertake such a high-risk/high-reward manoeuvre.
Stylistically, Martinez is unorthodox; a high volume southpaw who shoots from the hip and evades punches with his upper body. A commonly-held narrative is Martinez will be able to dodge Cotto’s left hook and land a straight left hand, right down Main Street. Cotto’s previous difficulty with Austin Trout’s jab and Manny Pacquiao’s slick counterpunching are also crucial factors going against the Puerto Rican.
If signed the fight simply doesn’t go the distance and boxer-puncher Martinez, a man who rises for the big occasion, will not be contained or cornered by a fading legend in Cotto.