On June 7th the Boxing world turned its attention to New York’s Madison Square Garden for one of the most anticipated fights of 2014. A battle for the WBC world Middleweight championship between two-division world champion, and two-time holder of the WBC Middleweight championship Sergio Martinez and former three-division world champion Miguel Cotto.
Cotto, who was fighting for the first time at the 160lb. Middleweight limit was attempting to make Boxing history by becoming the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes. Although Cotto has certainly earned his status as a first ballot future Hall of Famer, it was understandable for some to consider him an underdog prior to the fight. Cotto was after all moving up in weight and was going against a naturally bigger and highly skilled fighter. The basis of those who considered Cotto an underdog was likely based on his losing two out of his last three fights to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout.
Cotto however, was able to rebound by scoring an impressive third round knockout over Jr. Middleweight contender Delvin Rodriguez in October of last year. In the eyes of this observer it was the strength of Cotto’s performance against Rodriguez that secured his title shot against Sergio Martinez, in addition to the obvious name recognition value that he brings to the table for anyone he fights.
Martinez meanwhile, had not lost a fight in nearly five years since losing a controversial decision in his first fight against former Welterweight world champion Paul Williams in 2009. Although undefeated since the loss to Williams, Martinez had been stripped of two world titles that he won against Kelly Pavlik in 2010. Despite being stripped of those titles, many considered Martinez to be the champion of the division.
Martinez regained the WBC title with a dominating twelve round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September 2012. Despite holding status as the number one fighter in the Middleweight division, Martinez had dealt with injuries in his previous two fights prior to facing Cotto, specifically to his right knee. Martinez, had also been knocked down in his previous three outings against Matthew Macklin, Chavez Jr., and Martin Murray. This may have prompted some to ask what the thirty-nine year old Martinez had left to give as a fighter.
Even though Martinez had suffered some injuries in recent years, he was still a highly skilled and extremely athletic fighter with the ability to knock opponents out with perfectly timed precision counter punches. If Martinez were fully recovered from his injuries and were able to make full use of his lateral movement, I felt that it could have been a difficult task for Cotto to overcome. This however, would simply not be the case.
Cotto badly staggered Martinez with a left hook in the first round that eventually led to Martinez being knocked down three times in the round. Quite frankly, I was surprised that the fight was allowed to continue after the third knockdown. It reminded me of the first fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004 where Pacquiao dropped Marquez three times in the first round and the fight was allowed to continue. Following those knockdowns, Marquez was able to make a comeback and by the end of the fight there were some who felt he had won the fight in a contest that was officially scored a draw.
Unlike Marquez however, it was clear once Martinez got hit with the first left hook by Cotto, which set off a barrage that led to the first knockdown that Martinez did not have his legs and it surprised me on that basis that the fight was allowed to continue. Although I was surprised, I give Martinez all the credit in the world for showing his mettle and fighting on through adversity.
This fight can be best described as a champion suffering a beating, but who was always “Game” and tried to find something to turn the fight around in his favor. Simply put, for nine rounds Miguel Cotto consistently pushed the champion back and punished Sergio Martinez with a systematic attack. Following Cotto being credited with another knockdown in round nine, Martinez’ trainer Pablo Sarmiento stopped the fight at the start of round ten to prevent his fighter from taking further punishment.
A dominant and career defining performance for Miguel Cotto as he wins a world title in a fourth weight class. Following the fight I commented on Twitter that I applaud Sergio Martinez for the heart and courage he displayed in this fight. Some fighters perhaps justifiably would have resigned to defeat after suffering the knockdowns Martinez suffered in the first round even though the fight was allowed to continue. When a fighter faces a significant deficit in terms of points due to knockdowns as Martinez did early in this fight, it is an extremely difficult task to come back from. Despite being out boxed and on this night outgunned by Cotto, Martinez gamely fought on and deserves all the credit he receives for the valiant effort he gave in defeat.
After a dominant performance, some interesting possibilities could be in store for the new champion Miguel Cotto. Some readers may recall in February I brought up the possibility of the winner of Martinez-Cotto potentially facing the hottest rising star of the Middleweight division in the undefeated WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin.
There is no doubt in my mind seeing as Golovkin and Martinez seemed to have been on a collision course for a potential fight in the near future that the most logical option for Cotto, the man who defeated Martinez should be to face the man that many consider the future of the division. Golovkin however, must first defend his unified world title against former two-time Middleweight world champion Daniel Geale next month at Madison Square Garden.
Depending on the outcome of that fight and assuming that Golovkin is victorious in what would be his eleventh consecutive title defense, it would clear the way for a fight with Cotto that would not only be a significant marquee pay-per-view draw, but also a potential fight of the year candidate. Geale however, is not someone to underestimate and in his own right could be a potential opponent for Cotto at some point.
If a fight between Cotto and the winner of the upcoming Golovkin-Geale fight is not in the immediate future there are other options for Cotto. One option might be top contender Andy Lee, who scored a sudden come from behind fifth round knockout over Jr. Middleweight prospect John Jackson on the undercard of Martinez-Cotto. Even though that fight took place at the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight limit, I believe that Lee would welcome another opportunity at a world championship after previously coming up short against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012. The recently crowned IBF Middleweight world champion Sam Soliman could also be considered as a potential option for Cotto after defeating former champion Felix Sturm in their rematch.
There could also be the possibility of Cotto facing the winner of the upcoming Jr. Middleweight bout between former Jr. Middleweight champion Saul Alvarez and Erislandy Lara. If the current landscape of the business aspect of the sport allows Cotto to face the winner of that fight, without contracts between rival promoters and television networks playing a role, I can certainly see it as a viable option for Cotto. I do however, believe that it is unlikely that Cotto will relinquish his Middleweight title in order for that fight to take place. If there is a possibility for Cotto to face the Alvarez-Lara winner, I believe that the winner of the fight will move up to challenge Cotto at the 160lb. Middleweight limit, or the fight could take place at a possible catch weight where the WBC Middleweight world title would be at stake.
No matter what Miguel Cotto decides to do next, he certainly has plenty of options to consider. Even though there may be some who may say that Cotto defeated a fighter in Sergio Martinez who may have been on the decline, I disagree.
In my opinion Cotto’s performance against Sergio Martinez was a demonstration of why Cotto has been one of the sport’s central figures for much of the last decade. Whether or not Martinez’ previous injuries were any factor at all in the fight, you simply cannot discredit what Cotto was able to accomplish.
As for Sergio Martinez, he appeared as though he may have been nearing retirement after his victories over Chavez and Murray. Whether or not the defeat to Cotto will signal the end for Sergio Martinez as a boxer, I would like to again applaud Martinez for his courage. If this is the end for him as a fighter we all should salute him on a fine career and what he has brought to Boxing.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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