By Ben Jacobs
For a man who has had as much success as Sergio Martínez over the past few years, one would think he has nothing to prove following a stellar reign as middleweight champion. The Argentine is unbeaten since he lost a close decision to Paul Williams in December, 2009. Nevertheless, following his last bout back in his homeland in April 2013, a fight some consider he lost, Martínez may feel extra motivation for his June 7 meeting with three division world champion, Miguel Cotto.
“It’s been very important to get over my injuries, 100%, and I have a lot of motivation so I should feel better physically than I did against Chávez,” Sergio told BoxingScene.
“At this level of sport there is a propensity to get injured, not just myself but any type of athlete.”
‘Maravilla’ has trained in Argentina, Spain and California for previous camps, but has elected to prepare in Florida for his encounter at Madison Square Garden. This time there will be less adjustment due to Miami and New York City being located within the same time zone.
“We chose Miami to train this time because it’s the best place that I can be taking into account all the time changes,” he explained.
“When I’m in Oxnard, I’m very far away when it comes to travelling one week before the fight. Also it’s good to be in the US and count on the good sparring you get here, so there are various factors involved.”
The Sergio Martínez- Miguel Cotto rivalry is not born out of simple competitive will, the tension between the two men has been well documented. A chance meeting a couple of years back at the ESPN Deportes offices was reported to be frosty with Cotto apparently showing a lack of interest in talking to Martínez. As such, the Puerto Rican’s personality is not seen in positive light by his opponent.
“Cotto has his particular personality, his character, and he’s known in the world of boxing for it. What I have to see is his professional side, not just his personal side, but once we’re in the ring we’ll both work as professionals. But I can say there’s something that Cotto doesn’t have a lot of and that is likeability. The problem is that Cotto thinks he’s Mayweather, and he’s not Mayweather. He’s a good champion. Not even Mayweather has Cotto’s character, but everyone is how they are.
“I think for sure that Cotto accepted this fight now because my performance against Martin Murray was not up to my usual standards.”
Facing a southpaw is something that has troubled Cotto on previous occasions, Austin Trout and Manny Pacquiao being the obvious names that stand out. He was also hurt by DeMarcus Corley back in 2005 before rallying for a stoppage win. Martínez, however, does not see his left handed stance as being the obvious path to a victory.
“I think my advantage isn’t being a southpaw more so the plan and strategy that we have. The problem that Cotto has is that he’s fighting me, not because I’m a southpaw. It’s great that we have Gabriel Sarmiento back in the camp, it makes us more united as a team, and the more united we are, the better we’ll work. What I need is competent people and Gabriel is a key piece who knows how to react in these circumstances.
“I’m feeling better physically than I did before the Chávez fight. I’m stronger, throwing punches with more intensity and I have a lot of experience.”
Following his destruction of Delvin Rodríguez, some boxing observers declared it the best Cotto performance in years, particularly given how he reverted back to his trademark body punches which he had neglected in previous fights. This can certainly be attributed to the addition of Freddie Roach as his trainer. Roach has previous experience against Martínez when he trained Julio César Chávez Jr who lost a wide decision to the Argentine. Nevertheless, he is once again predicting a knockout victory for his charge.
“With all due respect to Delvin Rodríguez, he’s not at the level to face someone like Cotto, that was clear when they fought. Cotto did his job as he had to.
“Nobody likes to lose, Freddie Roach is a trainer used to winning. But he’s the best trainer in the world because when the best fighter in the world comes to your gym to train, that’s what happens, and that was the case with Manny Pacquiao in his prime. The way he says ‘we’re going to knock Martínez out’, it sounds credible, because he speaks in plural! So maybe if they both come in the ring they’ll knock me out! But even having all these good trainers can’t help Miguel Cotto against me. Roach knows how to sell fights, that’s good.
“There is no possibility at all that Cotto will go the distance with me, I’m totally convinced that I will win this fight by knockout before the ninth round. I’m punching very strong and fast and before the ninth Cotto will go to sleep, I’m sure of it.”
Should Martínez emerge victorious on June 7, the clamour for him to face the division’s perceived current number one will be enormous. After being out of the ring for a year, Sergio offers his take on the current standings at 160lbs.
“The division is like always, there are some changes but there’s always a big figure and at the moment that’s Gennady Golovkin. For now let’s say the division isn’t as different as it was a year ago. The most important thing in my mind is the Miguel Cotto fight, I can’t say what will come after. But there will be names like Floyd Mayweather, ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, [Erislandy] Lara or Golovkin, and they are all possible, but I can’t put to one side the Cotto fight.”
Talk of a Mayweather bout has often been mentioned as a possibility given the fact that Floyd has fought for the 154lbs title on three occasions. Unlike some fans, Martínez sees no erosion in the skills of the consensus best boxer in the world following his tough bout with fellow Argentine, Marcos Maidana.
“I saw no decline in Mayweather, we saw a tremendous performance. Maidana showed a lot of passion, but Floyd’s experience allowed him to deal with such a difficult fight as Maidana presented. There could be danger in a rematch as well, maybe Maidana will change a few things, but also Mayweather will adjust. It would be a great rematch if it happens.
“The fight with Mayweather, well, maybe he might wait until I hurt another knee or my hand to perhaps propose a fight with me. Right now I feel strong but we don’t know how I’ll be yet. If my performance against Cotto is below that of my performance against Murray then I could be a possible rival for him because I wouldn’t be as much of a danger, for him. But just as he has plans, so do I and he’s not at the top of the list.”