Miguel Cotto calls Madison Square Garden his second home. If that is the case, then the ring is like his living room. Sergio Martinez will step into Cotto’s living room and try to keep Cotto from taking away his WBC middleweight championship on Saturday night.
This is the kind of fight that fits the Garden, the fabled “Mecca of Boxing.’’ Primarily because Cotto is the resident boxer, having fought there eight times and attaining a record of 7-1 in the last nine years. The match has historical implication as Cotto is trying to become the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world championships in four different weight classes. And Martinez is trying to reclaim his status as the premier middleweight champion after having taken off a year to recover from his third knee surgery.
When he is fueled by the energy of the Garden crowd, Cotto has proven to be a blood and guts warrior. Martinez, who has been knocked down and still won his last three fights, has electrifying power. He has vowed to stop Cotto in his tracks.
“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, throwing more punches,’’ Martinez said. “Whatever Cotto will do in the ring, doesn't matter to me, I don't care. What is important is for me to be the day of the fight in the same state that I'm working right now.’’
Martinez is a southpaw and Cotto had trouble with the last southpaw that he fought at Madison Square Garden, losing a lopsided decision to Austin Trout in a junior middleweight bout two years ago. Cotto could not get inside of Trout’s jab. It was the first time that Cotto lost a bout there since he had his first match there in 2005.
Cotto will have a better brain trust in his corner this time around than he had for Trout. He joined Freddie Roach, the veteran trainer who works with Manny Pacquiao, to help him recharge his career after the loss to Trout and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. The initial results of the pairing were explosive as Cotto knocked out Delvin Rodriguez in the third round this past Oct. 5.
Roach said he isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with Cotto. He just wants him to go back to being that guy who had the devastating left hook to the body. They worked it to perfection against Rodriguez.
There is some question as to whether the 39-year-old Martinez will have good mobility considering he is coming off his third surgery on his right knee. If Martinez can’t move well, then he might be the kind of stationery target that will allow Cotto to effectively mount a body attack.
Cotto has never fought at middleweight. He asked for a catchweight of 159 pounds, which was kind of silly considering Martinez routinely weighs less than the 160 pound maximum since moving up to the division. Roach said he is not concerned about Cotto moving up in weight.
“I think he may actually be taller and he will be stronger on the inside and much more physical on the inside than Martínez is, and we are going to push him around with no problem. I think on the inside we are the bigger stronger fighter,’’ Roach said.
It could be a strategic matchup. But that is not what the fans at the Garden have come to expect from Cotto nor is it what they will be expecting on Saturday night. They will be expecting fireworks and a Cotto victory.
“The culture associated with Cotto creates an environment in that building that is a unique experience,’’ said Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank, Cotto’s promoter. “They’re passionate and vocal and it’s mayhem. It’s a party of explosiveness. They’re energized and they’re wearing their patriotic colors all over them. It makes it a unique experience. It's like going to a Man-U (Manchester United Soccer Club) game. There’s something about connecting with not only the athlete and the team, but the environment, that’s incredible. That compounds it with Cotto at the Garden.’’