June 3, 2014

KO Digest Previews Sergio Martinez vs Miguel Cotto at MSG in NYC

Can Cotto and Martinez see the Boxing Hall of Fame from up there?
By Jeffrey Freeman — The first time I ever laid eyes (and ears) on World Middleweight Champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez up close and personal, it was June 2012 at the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in upstate Canastota, New York during a star studded Induction Weekend that featured announcer Michael Buffer, Hitman Thomas Hearns, and trainer Freddie Roach. Let's get ready to rumble can be a costly catchphrase if you're not careful.

At the busy Banquet of Champions dinner, the colorfully dressed Martinez spoke with relish of his desire to one day be enshrined in the honor of such a place, seemingly in sync, if not under the influence of another Marvelous Middleweight Champion's presence at "boxing heaven" — Marvin Hagler.

Despite being from Brockton, Massachusetts via Newark, New Jersey but now residing in Milan, Italy with his Italian wife Kay, Hagler, a 1993 IBHOF inductee, repeatedly told those lucky enough to be in attendance, including Martinez, that he considers the hall of fame to be his "home" in a way that clears up where he's really from in his true heart of hearts. 

Martinez keeps his eyes on the prize
In the company of boxing greatness and from a South American land that produces it, Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) draws inspiration from his literal and metaphorical lineage; from countryman Carlos Monzon to  the Marvelous One, to the one they call Maravilla, Sergio is indeed en Fuego. On June 7, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Martinez will continue his fight for respect and his march from Argentina to immortality on the B-side of a WBC middleweight championship title defense against Miguel Cotto in which he is being treated by the boxing establishment like the challenger (again) when he is in fact the undisputed world champion.

What we have then in midtown at the Mecca of Boxing is a Superfight between two super fighters, but it's also a continuation of the degradation that started when the late WBC President Jose Sulaiman's Godson, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., posed with Sergio's "green belt" for a while before relinquishing it in the ring to its rightful owner. In the days leading up to his seventh defense of the legitimate world middleweight championship against Cotto, Martinez, 39, now appears physically fit and mentally at ease after a year long layoff to heal from multiple injuries that were very serious ordeals for the Argentine athlete to recover from.

Martinez insists, however, that there is nothing to be worried about, and that he is as they say, 100%.  

"It is going to be the same Sergio Martinez you have always seen with a strong desire and the will to win. The only thing that will be different will be the strategy I will use. I don’t always use the same strategy on different opponents. I'm sure that I will win the fight by knockout because I'm training in a very hard and intense way and with such motivation that everyday I'm hitting harder and throwing more punches. Whatever Cotto will do in the ring, it doesn't matter to me, I don't care," said a confident sounding Martinez on an international media conference call hosted to promote the fight.

B-Side boxing politics
Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) is an unranked challenger but a boxing star and a respected competitor. A quick demolition of Delvin Rodriguez last year punched his ticket to an unexpected title shot because back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout at junior middleweight certainly didn't. His 8 appearances at Madison Square Garden (7-1) during his career do speak to his credibility in the big room, if not necessarily in the ring at 159 pounds. Under the guidance of Hall of Trainer Roach, Cotto, 33, is now determined to make Puerto Rican boxing history by winning what he calls "four world titles in four different weight classes" on the same weekend that one of the island's most beloved fighters, Felix Trinidad, is inducted into the IBHOF alongside Tito's 1999 rival Oscar De La Hoya, just a few hundred miles northwest in Canastota on the 25th anniversary of the hall's inception.

"It is a personal matter. A personal achievement that I want to win. It doesn’t mean I am going to be better than Wilfredo Gomez, better than Trinidad, better than all of the great champions that Puerto Rico has produced, but for me, Miguel, it will be the greatest accomplishment of my career. I don’t want to name myself as one of the elite boxers of Puerto Rico – that’s for the fans and for the people that know about boxing," said Cotto in occasional third person.

Certainly, a Cotto win would give the island of Puerto Rico a historic boxing weekend they would not soon forget.

Trainer Roach even predicted a 4th-round knockout win for Cotto that Martinez dismissed with a laugh.

"Freddie Roach is excellent at telling jokes and this is one of the best jokes he has ever told. There is no possible way that Cotto will make it out of the ninth round," warned the defending middleweight champion during Fight Week in N.Y. 

Maravilla's punchline is a prediction—a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

White towel win for Maravilla at Madison Square Garden?
KO's Martinez vs Cotto Prediction:  

There's no reason to believe that Miguel Cotto won't put up one hell of an effort against defending middleweight champion Sergio Martinez but there is also no reason to believe he'll win the fight. And regardless of what trainer Freddie Roach would have you believe, Martinez possess nearly every advantage imaginable including an upwardly mobile southpaw attack pattern that the naturally smaller Cotto will be beaten to a pulp by.

If Martinez can stay healthy and uninjured during this Superfight, his seventh defense of the world middleweight crown, "Maravilla" will prove to be very bad for Cotto's health. Expect Martinez to pick Cotto apart like he did to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr but the difference will be Cotto on the canvas late in the fight rather than Martinez. With all the speed necessary to put his punching power on a poorly defended target, Martinez improves on what Austin Trout did to Cotto and adds an Antonio Margarito ending with Cotto down on a knee and out of the fight before ten rounds are complete. 

It's high time that boxing starts treating Maravilla Martinez like the A-Side World Champion he is.

Also appearing on RingTV Experts

KO Digest will be live at Madison Square Garden in New York City June 6-7 to provide quality credentialed coverage of this important middleweight title fight.

Written By: Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest Editor-in-Chief
Photos: Top Rank/DiBella Entertainment/Ed Mulholland