They spent weeks dickering over details the same way Democrats and Republicans bicker about anything and everything in Congress, but Miguel Cotto and metrosexual middleweight champion Sergio Martinez finally agreed to terms yesterday and will meet on June 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Two-and-a-half months ago, Cotto rejected an offer—reportedly in the $10 million range—to face Saul Alvarez in a pay-per-view bout scheduled for March. Instead, Cotto decided to chase history (and take a pay cut in the process) by facing the two-fisted fashionista from Quilmes, Argentina. If Cotto beats Martinez, whose record is an impressive 51-2-2 (with 28 knockouts), he will become the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight divisions. Even in a chaotic sport where there are nearly as many paper champions as there are hipsters in Brooklyn riding fixed-gear bikes, this would be a significant achievement.
Although Cotto is 33 and will be moving up in weight to face Martinez, the betting lines may wind up tighter than two nickels joined together by Krazy Glue come fight night. Hampered by nagging injuries over the last two years, Martinez, who turns 39 today, looks like a fighter who is ready to be taken. In fact, it looked like rugged but rudimentary Martin Murray already punched his number last April, but “Maravilla” got the benefit of friendly judging and squeaked out a split decision in front of roughly 50,000 patrons in Buenos Aires.
Before that, in 2012, Martinez barely survived the late onslaught of the unambitious Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., whose dedication to “Louche Life” undercut his already limited talent.
For his part, Cotto resembled a one-man gang against Delvin Rodriguez five months ago, in an HBO set-up designed to subvert the reality-based community in boxing. Of course, Cotto is not nearly as destructive as he looked against Rodriguez, who was once a tough journeyman, but whose best days even at that level were long gone before Cotto bounced him around the ring in Orlando like a Spalding. Prior to annihilating Rodriguez, however, Cotto, 38-4 (31 knockouts), had lost consecutive fights to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Austin Trout, two shifty boxers with tricks to spare. Martinez is a flashy southpaw whose fast hands and smash-and-dash style ought to give Cotto fits as well. But the veteran Puerto Rican knows that “Maravilla” is not the wonder he used to be. Then again, neither is he. Still, there will be close to 20,000 screaming fans shouting him on at MSG in June, hoping that Cotto will be on one of the floats in the Puerto Rican Day Parade the following morning, holding another gaudy bauble—in this case the middleweight championship of the world—aloft for all on Fifth Avenue to set off a hullaballoo about. Now that would be something worth tipping a glass of Don Q to.
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.