June 8, 2014

Miguel Cotto mugs Sergio Maravilla Martinez in midtown Manhattan

Hall of Fame Weekend for Cotto in New York 
NEW YORK, NEW YORK --  Start spreading the news.

Sergio Martinez was violently mugged in New York City by a Puerto Rican assassin named Miguel Cotto. The culprit made off with his WBC World Middleweight Championship belt at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in the flower district, perhaps a fitting location for Cotto's pink ring attire and Martinez with his, shall we say, Maravilla-ness. Cotto put the "diva" issue to bed on his ring walk to challenge Martinez by being the first of the pair to do it, with no pre-walk introduction, and no music. Martinez then appeared and was introduced second as is boxing tradition for defending champions. Who's the diva now should be the question on the lips of critics who dismissed Cotto as a faded prima donna with too many "A-Side" demands, including top billing and a silly 159-pound catchweight.

Looks can be deceiving
The fight itself was an absolute drubbing. Martinez was maneuvered into left hooks with ease and his offense was rendered impotent by the fundamental skills of the Puerto Rican icon. Despite looking ready for victory at the weigh-in held at MSG Theater on Friday afternoon, Martinez was anything but ready when the opening bell rang in front of just over twenty one thousand decidedly pro-Cotto fans. The intense staredown at the weigh-in between the two fighters was as competitive as this middleweight match-up would ever get. At the final press conference on hump day during Fight Week, trainer Fredie Roach wished Martinez luck and told him that he'd need it. The truth is that even if he had it, luck wouldn't have helped.

Yet even more truth is the undeniable fact that Martinez is a broken fighter at 39 years of age. His late blossoming career now looks to be in serious peril, if not totally finished. The athletic cyclist-turned-pugilist finally pushed himself too hard and the crash was a gruesome spectacle, one that was hard to turn away from. Out of gloved competition for nearly a year and a half with myriad injuries, Martinez finally flipped himself over his handlebars and damn near broke every bone in his body. Not unlike my first used car, a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme with the standard stroke 350 Rocket under the hood, this little Argentine engine that could, can't. Not anymore. The whole exhaust system fell off, the brakes are grinding metal, and the transmission fluid leak—is massive.

There might not be a mechanic in the world who can put Martinez, 51-3-2, 28 KOs, back together now. 

Dressed in pink, Cotto makes off with the green belt
Trainer Pablo Sarmiento did not sound terribly optimistic at the post fight press conference when he told the media in attendance that "retirement" was something he and Sergio would have to discuss before making a decision on their future in boxing. Martinez, beaten so badly, was not in attendance to speak to his trainer, or the media, because he was on his way to the hospital, the victim of a simple assault that left Martinez with a fancy intro but no WBC (or Ring Magazine) middleweight championship belt. The only thing Cotto didn't take was Maravilla's purse. This mugger was one smooth criminal, after something else entirely, a fourth world title in as many weight divisions and he got what he came for, the "greatest achievement" of his Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile, the best and most consistent middleweight title reign since the glory days of Bernard Hopkins is over. Martinez will have to rebuild or retire.

At 33, Cotto, 39-4, 32 KOs, is apparently reborn under the training and motivational techniques of Roach. "I lost to Martinez with Chavez Jr but this time I had the right guy in Miguel. Ring generalship is a lost art in boxing. I never thought Martinez was a very good boxer," said the trainer responsible for preparing Cotto's plans.   

Quién es mas Macho Maravilla?
The first round was an unmitigated disaster for Martinez. Knocked down three times by Cotto, it looked like a highlight reel of recent Martinez stumbles and falls against the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Martin Murray, and even Matthew Macklin, who cracked Maravilla before crumbling. Things never really improved for Martinez and if I didn't know better, I'd say Sergio never laid a glove on Cotto, who uncharacteristically looked none the worse for the wear while Martinez sported a bruised knot under his left eye and a nasty slit on his right eyelid. Martinez brought bad knees to a knife fight and he got cut to pieces. The end came after nine one-sided rounds with Martinez failing to answer the bell for the tenth, and with chief second Pablo Sarmiento having seen enough, including a Cotto jab in the ninth round that buckled his fighter's knees and brought the fourth official knockdown of the fight. Replay showed the knockdown call to have been erroneous.

It hardly mattered. Cotto was busting up Martinez real bad and Sarmiento could see it clearly.   

In the end, what Martinez really needed was compassion in his own corner and he was lucky to find it there, even if he was unlucky in every other way on this late night at Madison Square Garden. That's the thing about muggings, when they're done by real professionals, they're fast and furious, leaving the target disoriented and confused. Done right, you never see it coming. After three first-round knockdowns, Martinez was, as the late great Puerto Rican trash talker Hector Camacho once said of a bewildered opponent—"on Queer Street trying to pick up a fag."

Classy promoter Lou DiBella addressed the media on behalf of his beaten ex-champion, ensuring the skeptical New York City boxing press corp that it was the knockdowns Martinez couldn't recover from, not an injury, or even an excuse.

Quiet Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wore the look of a man who knew this moment would surely come.

WBA champ GGG looks ready for the B-Side in NYC
Everybody now wants to know who's next for Cotto. The most likely candidates are either Canelo Alvarez or WBA middleweight champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin. The dangerous "Triple G" is currently making a star of himself at the Mecca of Boxing, and elsewhere around the world for that matter. On site over the weekend to promote his July 26 title defense at MSG against Australian Daniel "The Real Deal" Geale, Golovkin casts a large and ominous shadow over the middleweight division. The more likely choice for Cotto is Golden Boy superstar Canelo Alvarez.

With the promotional skids now greased up good between Arum and Oscar De La Hoya, the fight is just a peace pipe away. I can see the promotional posters now: Top Rank vs Golden Boy for the middleweight championship of the world, but which promoter plays the A-side to a T and who settles for the B?

KO Digest Credentialed Ringside Report by Jeffrey Freeman