By Keith Idec
Now that Miguel Cotto has made it public knowledge that he’ll challenge Sergio Martinez on June 7, Cotto’s handlers can start seriously exploring where to put what will be one of the biggest fights of 2014.
Madison Square Garden is an obvious front-runner because Puerto Rico’s Cotto has regularly drawn large crowds to his home away from home since 2005. Promoter Bob Arum also would “love” to stage the Cotto-Martinez match at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the site of Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 and home of the Giants and Jets.
Arum, a lifelong Giants and longtime season-ticket holder, has wanted to promote a fight there since the stadium opened in 2009. He needed an event as big as Cotto-Martinez to seriously consider it, though.
“I think it could do a huge number in MetLife Stadium,” Arum said. “We’d set it up for 40,000 or 50,000.”
Martinez’s last fight drew a crowd of over 40,000 to a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. The Argentine star also lured thousands of fans from his homeland and elsewhere to his fight against Julio Cesar Chavez 15 months ago at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“Martinez has said that if we did it in the MetLife Stadium,” Arum said, “he would buy for the Argentine fans both here in Florida and from Argentina, who would come to the fight, $1 million worth of tickets. That’s what he has told us. That’s what he has proposed through [adviser] Sampson [Lewkowicz].”
The 82-year-old Arum has made a habit in recent years of promoting fights at high-profile locations away from Las Vegas.
Cotto’s win against Yuri Foreman in June 2010 drew a crowd of nearly 21,000 to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Also in 2010, crowds in excess of 40,000 attended back-to-back Manny Pacquiao fights at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Most recently, Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios on Nov. 24 before a packed arena in Macau, China. The Hall-of-Fame promoter wants to add MetLife Stadium to the list.
“It would be a great achievement because as you know by now,” Arum said, “and maybe it’s a product of my age or the years I’ve been in the business, I want to do new, innovative things. When you look at the professional sports leagues, the ones that are run well, football and basketball, they’re always looking to expand, do innovative things. You do those things because in order to continue to prosper, you’ve got to expand what you’re doing. If you stay in place, all you can do is lose momentum and lose share.”
Argentina’s Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) has not fought since struggling during a unanimous-decision victory over England’s Martin Murray (26-1-1, 11 KOs) on April 27 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium in Buenos Aires. Murray knocked down Martinez in the eighth round of their 12-round fight for Martinez’s WBC middleweight title, but Martinez won the fight 115-112 on all three scorecards.
The 38-year-old Martinez suffered hand and knee injuries during his fight against Murray and has spent the rest of this year recovering.
The 33-year-old Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) most recently stopped Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-3, 16 KOs) in the third round Oct. 5 in Orlando, Fla. His easy victory over Rodriguez marked Cotto’s return from a unanimous-decision loss to Austin Trout (26-2, 14 KOs) last Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.