On Saturday night, Miguel Cotto will square off against Sergio Martinez in an attempt to make history. If Cotto is able to best Martinez, he will take the RING and WBC Middleweight Championships and hold four titles in four different weight classes. He would become the first Puerto Rican to accomplish that, which would arguably place him among his great boxing compatriots Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad.
Cotto’s adversary is a cagey and elusive veteran who deliberately drops his defence throughout rounds, inviting opponents to take offensive risks. He hasn’t been all that convincing of late though—allowing Martin Murray to go the distance in his last fight and enduring a brutal round of punishment in his unanimous decision over Julio Cesar Chavez before that.
For his part, Cotto is more fighter than boxer and will look to get inside and bully Martinez with power and aggression—which may prove difficult given that Martinez is naturally the heavier of the two. Cotto has moved up nearly two weight classes to a catch weight of 159 pounds for this one.
Due to his popularity, Cotto seems to have gotten the better of the more subtle clauses during contract negotiation, and reportedly Martinez is none too happy about it. That could serve to spice things up if Martinez is out for some sort of petty revenge.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the match takes place in boxing’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden. The Garden of course has been host to a long list of sporting spectacles. The New York Knicks won the 1970 NBA Championship in the building. The Rangers won the 1994 Stanley Cup there. It hosted the inaugural Wrestlemania in 1985. Every major recording artist in the last 60+ years has performed in Mad SG. On fight night in particular though, the Garden is electric.
Over the years, it’s been the venue for many of the great ones—Sugar Ray over Jake LaMotta in ’42, a 37-year-old Joe Louis coming out of retirement and falling to Marciano in ’51, and Frazier outlasting Ali in “The Fight” in ’71 were all-timers.
I’ve purchased tickets from scalpers for concert and sporting events all over the joint (the Glasgow Appollo, Stade de Gerland, the Houston Astrodome, etc.), but Madison Square Garden is the only place I’ve been sold a counterfeit ticket. I wasn’t impressed being turned away at the gate with that $100 St. John’s Red Storm dud, but it’s become a souvenir with sentimental value.
Now directly below the Garden is Pennsylvannia Station, which is in a weight class of its own. Pimps troll it for young runaways, who arrive by bus from all over North America looking for a “fresh” start in The Big Apple. When I lived on Long Island, I slept in Penn a number of times, with my good eye half open, having arrived at the station too late to catch the last train out.
Alright, back to the fight for some closing analysis: Cotto’s trainer Freddie “The Choir Boy” Roach is a tactician. He’ll have Cotto mentally ready for just about everything Martinez can do, so it could simply come down to Cotto’s ability to execute and adjust over the course of the fight. Being a natural middleweight, Martinez is the larger of the two and has the longer reach. The size difference and how each camp can strategize for it will undoubtedly be the focus of their preparation.
(photos credited to the New York Department of City Planning and str8hate.com)