Cotto-Martinez could be the highlight of a New York sports weekend

Rich Mancuso

A Saturday sports day and evening in New York City. The Triple Crown of horse racing will be determined. The Rangers out in Los Angeles will be looking to even the Stanley Cup series. And late night boxing at Madison Square Garden could steal the show and highlight the day into morning.

It is Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez for the middleweight championship. A fight that has been anticipated for months and has all the makings as fight of the year, but we will wait to determine if Cotto and Martinez makes this one for the annals. It is boxing and anything can happen.

So, who will win this fight at the sold-out Garden? There are a record number of media credentials that have been distributed. Cotto and Martinez has drawn interest in the boxing community and numerous media outlets of Latino media are in New York. Though unfortunate that the fight does not gather headlines that should be deserved. Again, this is boxing a sport that never gets the respect deserved, no matter the magnitude of a fight.

That is, unless some unfortunate incident or controversial decision becomes the result and boxing has seen a share of those ugly moments over the years.

After an interesting press tour to announce the fight, intense and interesting training camps for Cotto and Martinez, and a busy week of pre fight activities, the first blows between the two will take place around 11:30 pm New York time, give or take the duration of a good undercard filled with Top Rank and Cotto promoted fighters.

Not surprised that Martinez has become a favorite to win and prevent Cotto from becoming the first four-division champion to represent Puerto Rico. Martinez is a determined and viable champion who could defeat Cotto. The middleweight title for Cotto would be historic, though the question of Cotto moving into another weight class has caused the doubt about taking another title home.

Cotto has said,’ I have fought the best fighters at 140, 147 and 154 pounds and here I am facing the best at 160. To me boxing has always been about challenges and competing and this one more fight that proves that point.”

Indeed, Cotto has proved those points, why he is certain to be a cinch as an inductee the first time eligible for the Boxing Hall of Fame.  However, there is always that question about a fighter moving up in weight and can it be handled? Manny Pacquiao had no issues with moving all the way up over the years as the first eight-division champion in the sport.

Cotto, can be no different. He has always been able to shed weight, though at times preferred to fight at 147, or even 154. There was a time that coming into a fight at 140, more than once, it seemed improbable. His determination to make history as the new boxing star from Puerto Rico was never impossible.

But he soon became the proud son of Puerto Rico, even as those continued to doubt that he would surpass the great Felix Trinidad in popularity.

Cotto, through so many changes with trainers, and sometimes controversial has been a different fighter since taking on Freddie Roach as the leader in his corner. There is something that Cotto saw with Roach. They connected, and Roach has made Cotto more determined, the fighter he was prior to that devastating and controversial loss to Antonio Margarito.

And in boxing, many times the right trainer makes a difference. Roach has corrected the flaws and Cotto has become more aggressive. The speed and punching power have returned, noticeable in their first fight together back In October when he disposed Delvin Rodriguez in the third round.

“Miguel is one of the hardest punchers I have worked with," Roach said. “His punching power is great, his speed has been good and everything is right where I want it to be. Miguel is one of the hardest workers I have been with and he is the most disciplined fighter I have ever worked with. We have a great relationship and it will show in the fight.”

That, coming from Roach, is a statement. Because, Roach has also been behind the success of Manny Pacquiao, his most prized pupil.

However, there is more to this fight, and that revolves around Martinez. The pride of Argentina has been looking at this fight over the past few years. He says, Cotto avoided him, but it was a matter of logistics with the weight and of course the promoters trying to bring this mega fight to fruition.

“Sergio is over his head in this one,” Roach commented repeatedly over the past few weeks. Martinez, making his seventh title defense does not resemble a 39-year old middleweight. He is the southpaw with a tough chin, fights low, and is overcoming surgery again to his right knee that has kept him out of the ring for 14 months.

There is the question about the knee, the layoff, and of course about Cotto not having as much power with his new weight. Again, Roach has had the success and knowledge to know where and how the Cotto power will come from. They will be looking for Martinez to lay low and Cotto will come out punching.

Martinez also tends to be a late finisher, and he is aware that Cotto will be looking to end this early. There has been the war of words, more from Martinez in his low key approach.

“My trainer (Pablo Sarmiento) has come up with a great game plan,” Martinez said. He also called Cotto a disrespectful champion to boxing fans, though that can be highly disputed. It is a part of the emotions of this mega fight, and the two fighters have respected their history and what they have meant to the sport.

Martinez has been quoted as saying he will handle Cotto a loss, via knockout as Pacquiao, Floyd Maywether Jr. and Austin Trout accomplished. But that was then, this is now. Cotto is a rejuvenated fighter and determined to make boxing history. Sergio Martinez looks to prevent the title from going to Puerto Rico.

One other advantage to Cotto, he always seems to prevail at Madison Square Garden. The eve of the Puerto Rican National Parade in New York City and the fans become his extra incentive to throw the right punch.

PREDICTION:  It will be a slugfest and both fighters will use their strategy. In the end Cotto will win the 12-round decision but hopefully not one of controversy.
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PREDICTIONS FROM THE BOXING AND BASEBALL WORLD:

Mauricio Herrera, welterweight contender: “It’s a hard pick. But I will go with Martinez great jab. He’s bigger, stronger, and has a great chin. Both have skills.”

Hector Camacho Jr: “Sergio Martinez. Too big, speed and power as a middleweight. On top of all that he s a southpaw.

Hammerin Hank Lundy:  “Martinez, Unanimous decision. The speed foot work and hell of a boxer.”

Carlos Beltran, NY Yankees: “Cotto of course. Yes, we are friends but Miguel has the ability to do it and bring the title home to Puerto Rico. I know how focused and determined he is and he will get the knockout late.”

Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants: “I saw how Cotto fought my favorite Manny Pacquiao. I am a fan, Puerto Rico pride  I am being objective here. Cotto will handle the weight. He has the power and will find a way to knock out Sergio and end the fight early.”

Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies: “May the best fighter win. I am all about Floyd Mayweather and If, I had to pick it goes, to Sergio by knockout.

 Ruben Tejada, NY Mets: “Cotto. Decision. It will be a good fight. Interesting and we will be watching. Hope our game end early to see it.”

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