On Saturday night in Madison Square Garden — the old mecca of boxing —two giants of the boxing world will collide in a fight for pride, history and the almighty dollar. A fight many thought would never happen is finally here. In a few days, Miguel Cotto will face off against Sergio "La Maravilla" Martinez for the WBC and lineal middleweight championship. Here are the top five reasons you shouldn't miss this fight.
If you're like our fearless leader here at The Sports Fan Journal, Ed The Sports Fan, then your social life right now revolves around the NBA playoff schedule. You still party hard, but you make sure you're near a big screen where you can see who's getting dunked on.
Well, this Saturday the NBA is taking a break. The NHL has a game on, but it’s two hours before fight time. So if you want action, if you want feats of athleticism that have you cheering on Saturday night and encouraging you to hit the gym hard on Monday morning, then there's no better place than on HBO PPV boxing for Cotto vs. Martinez.
It's an odd time for the pugilism-loving island of Puerto Rico. Not a single man from the tiny isle owns a boxing world title right now. And God only knows when the last time that happened.
Despite its size, the country's passion and dedication to the sport of boxing have always meant that at least one boricua has sat on a boxing throne. For a brief time, it looked like Felix Verdejo would be the next Puerto Rican to earn a belt, but in a surprising but welcomed decision, Miguel Cotto has stepped up a weight class to challenge Martinez for the middleweight crown.
If he’s successful, not only will he put an end to Puerto Rico’s championship drought, but he'll also become the first man from his country to ever hold four titles in as many divisions. Given how many great Puerto Rican champions there have been throughout the island's history, it's a miracle that what Cotto's trying to achieve is still an accolade available for the taking.
An undoubtedly prideful man in tune with his heritage, there's no question that Cotto feels and is embracing the weight of history going into Saturday night. Watch and join in on what could be a momentous night for boricuas the world over.
No, Cotto and Martinez aren’t in the running for T.B.E. or G.O.A.T. of boxing. But "La Maravilla" Martinez is inching his way closer to that title among other Argentinian boxers.
Right now, the greatest boxer to ever come out of Argentina is Carlos Monzon, a middleweight champion with a fantastic record of 87-3-9, with 59 knockouts. That record is even more impressive when you realize that all three of Monzon’s losses came in his first 19 fights. In other words, after going 16-3, he went undefeated for his next 80 fights (albeit with some draws in the mix)!
His success in the ring was only surpassed by the insane press he received outside of it. From getting shot at by his wife to killing his estranged lover by throwing her over a two-story balcony, Monzon had a dark and harrowing private life. Despite the ghosts that haunted Monzon, he was a living legend in the ring.
Martinez has now been middleweight king for four years, defended his title six times and done it all past the advanced boxing age of 35, while only first lacing up his gloves at the age of 20.
Then there's the fact that Martinez has only really lost once in his career. Yes, he has two official losses, but one came against Paul Williams and was so close it should have been a draw, if not a victory for Martinez. Of his two draws, one came early in Martinez’s career — the other, against Kermit Cintron, is unquestionably a farce that should have ended in a KO victory for the Argentine.
If he can defeat Cotto, or better yet knock him out as he’s promised, Martinez won’t outright win the top spot among Argentinean boxers, but it will cement his position as number 2 and may start a legitimate conversation comparing him to the late, great Monzon.
***Side note: In case you're wondering, no, the same can't be said of Cotto. He’s almost assuredly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he can't hold a candle to Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez or even Tito Trinidad. So while a victory for Cotto would make Puerto Rican history, he’s still got a ways to go before breaking into the top two spots of the boxing annals of Puerto Rico. Now if he beats Martinez and then GGG and maybe Canelo, well, that would be another matter altogether.***
Sergio Martinez is furious. From the time negotiations for this fight started, Martinez felt disrespected by Cotto. From having his name first on the promotional billing to entering the ring last (both are positions usually given to a champion and not the challenger), Cotto has made it clear to Martinez, and the world, who the A-side of the fight is. Coupled with Cotto’s less than sunny demeanor, you can see why Martinez has added motivation going into the fight. Martinez hasn’t felt this slighted by an opponent, or been as vocal of his disdain, since the Julio Cesar Chavez fight. And remember how badly Martinez beat him up? If his hand is mended and legs still nimble, Martinez is going to press the action and wow the crowd.
In a perfect world where injuries don’t plague fighters, this fight probably wouldn’t be as interesting because Martinez would be the standout favorite. But we don’t live in that world, and the winner for Saturday remains a giant question mark.
If a healthy Martinez shows up, then he’ll be moving in, out and around all night, peppering Cotto with lefts and rights that usually deliver a highlight-reel ending.
If Cotto really has been redirected into his older, more assertive self, with that thunderous left hook to the body that terrorized the junior welterweight division, then he’s going to be a serious force on fight night.
Whose best is better? Almost certainly Martinez, especially because of his natural weight and reach advantages. But will Martinez’s best be on display this weekend? Therein lies the intriguing mystery for this match-up.
Does Martinez’s best still resemble the guy who knocked Paul Williams into another dimension or dissected Kelly Pavlik? Or have his twice reconstructed knee, recently fractured hand and messed up shoulder permanently erased that fighter? Even if they have, does Martinez’s reach and power present enough problems to win against a Cotto, who's trying to rebuild his offense and mesh with new trainer Freddie Roach? No one really knows. It’s all too close to call.
Who wants a bigger and better place in the history books? Whose heart is willing to pay the price for his pride? The uncertainty is thrilling. The answers will be even more entertaining.
Tune in to HBO PPV on Saturday at 6 p.m. PDT.
Maaaaaan I ain't tryin' to pay 40 bucks to see Martinez tap-dance on Cotto's face!
Hey Ed, where's that photo of you and Cotto post fight where his face looks like a mound of salami?
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