There’s a certain level of respect that the number three pound-for-pound boxer in the world should receive that Sergio Martinez is not getting heading into his June 7 fight with Miguel Cotto. Not only does he have to face Cotto in the Puerto Rican’s backyard of Madison Square Garden in New York City, he also had to concede that Cotto would be announced last and receive top billing in the pay-per-view fight. That’s not how The Ring and WBC middleweight champion that who holds a record of 51-2-2 should be treated.
But this is how Sergio Martinez’s career has gone. He’s the guy that die-hard boxing fans know as one of the best but the casual fan still views with their head curiously cocked to the side. Still somewhat of an unknown, the Argentinean is well aware that beating Miguel Cotto is more about enhancing his profile than the challenge. Cotto has fought the bigger names (Mayweather and Pacquiao) and has the higher profile despite not being ranked on boxing’s fictional pound for pound lists and going 1-2 in his last three fights. It’s been evident from the beginning of his career that Miguel Cotto was groomed for stardom; Sergio Martinez was the guy became known for ruining those ambitious dreams. Ask Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. what happened when they faced Martinez.
Miguel Cotto is just another fighter Martinez looks to throw in dumpster on June 7th. So he had to agree to whatever Cotto wanted, whether he agreed to the demands or not. “If I disagreed with Cotto’s demands, the fight wouldn’t have happened,” and exasperated Martinez says over the phone when asking if he felt the need to give up those concessions in order for the fight to happen. “But it really doesn’t matter whose name is first and who is the more popular fighter. The way I see it, I’ll concentrate on winning the fight first and all that nonsense can come afterwards.”
He calls the popularity contest “nonsense” but the 39-year-old knows that popularity is the name of the game. When he faced Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012, Martinez took the son of the legendary Mexican fighter to the woodshed and schooled him for 11.5 rounds before Chavez landed a desperation punch that nearly ended Maravilla’s night. The added drama only enhanced his profile as he cruised to a unanimous decision victory in his first pay per view fight.
Facing Cotto finds him in familiar territory, as he is again the lesser-known fighter. But at the age of 39, Martinez doesn’t have time to waste on grooming himself for bigger fights. A late bloomer who didn’t begin training until the age of 20, Martinez’ ascent has been a relatively quiet one. Despite the 51 wins, Martinez didn’t make his push until 2009. A controversial majority decision loss to Paul Williams put fight fans on notice. But a thorough beating of Kelly Pavlik to claim The Ring, Lineal, WBC, & WBO Middleweight titles followed by revenge via highlight reel knockout of Paul Williams proved that Martinez was here to stay.
When looking at Cotto, Martinez only sees overcoming his popularity being a challenge. The fight itself? Not so much. “He’s going to be a difficult opponent but not the most difficult opponent I’ve ever faced,” Martinez says dismissively. This will be Cotto’s first fight at middleweight, where Martinez will be damned if an outsider comes in to take his title. Furthermore, Martinez points at the savage beating that Cotto took from a much smaller Manny Pacquiao as the reason why he doesn’t see Cotto standing much of a chance.
“Cotto has a lot of experience facing Mayweather, Margarito and Pacquiao and that’s what impresses me about him,” he says. “He may have gained a lot of experience but took a hard beating against Pacquiao so that’s going to play a factor heading into this fight.” Martinez went as far as to say that Cotto won’t make it past round nine on June 7th. Which would imply that the fans at Madison Square Garden will be sent home disappointed that their fighter will be left in a heap on the canvas. “I’m working hard to give him a beating worse than Pacquiao did,” Martinez says with an air of confidence.
But Maravilla will be heading into this fight with his own set of question marks hanging over his head. The 39-year-old is coming off of knee surgery and a litany of injuries that have put him on the shelf for the past year. He was a shell of his former self Martin Murray last April and had to pull himself off of the canvas to take a hotly contested decision victory. But Martinez acknowledges the disappointing performance and promises that he’s at 100% for this fight. In some strange way, Martinez feels that he wouldn’t have been able to land the Cotto fight if it weren’t for his discouraging performance.
“Cotto only wanted to fight me after he saw the Murray fight,” Martinez explains. But he’d be remiss to say that this didn’t work out to his benefit. If it weren’t for the injuries, Martinez would have entered this fight a heavy favorite. “But I have had such good doctors that I don’t feel pain anymore and am able to train hard for this fight.” Martinez’ unique style is problematic for any opponent. His superior athleticism allows him to throw punches from angles that appear to be absurd. His severely underrated punching power only adds to the damage he inflicts when he lands. His boxing IQ is what keeps the almost 40-year-old out of harm’s way. If there were anybody that could give Floyd Mayweather a run for his money, most would put their hard earned cash down on Martinez. The Argentinean’s name has been tossed around as a possible opponent for Mayweather, but Martinez won’t fully entertain those questions until he finishes off Cotto.
“I’m not looking past Miguel Cotto but I would definitely give Floyd Mayweather the hardest fight of his career,” Martinez says. “But first I will fulfill my obligation and get rid of Cotto.”