By Jake Donovan
Saturday night will mark Miguel Cotto’s first crack at the middleweight crown, but the second Freddie Roach-trained fighter to take a swing at reigning World champion Sergio Martinez heading into Saturday’s headliner at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The last time the Hall of Fame trainer manned a corner opposite the middleweight king was when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was outboxed for 11 rounds before nearly knocking out Martinez in the memorable 12th and final round of their Sept. ’12 title fight.
Cotto was not yet training under the Wild Card Gym banner, and was merely a distant observer for that fight. The former three-division champ was four months removed from a points loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., and at the time had no real aspirations of pursuing a middleweight title.
Times change, and so have Cotto’s priorities. The Puerto Rican superstar went on to suffer his second consecutive loss, a 12-round defeat at the hands of Austin Trout in Dec. ’12. Pondering retirement, Cotto instead vowed to come back stronger than ever in 2013. That promise came with the huge step towards changing his corner, joining forces with Roach as they now enter their second fight together.
Their first fight as trainer and fighter saw Cotto blast out Delvin Rodriguez in three rounds last October. The mismatch was hardly a barometer for how the 33-year old will perform against the best middleweight in the world. But it was enough to get Cotto in gear, and remind the boxing public that he is among the hardest working fighters in the world.
In other words, the exact opposite of the last Wild Card fighter to take a swing at Martinez.
“I have followed every single direction that Freddie has given me,” Cotto (38-4, 31KO) insists of his preparation Saturday’s championship challenge. “We have been working really hard to get in to this fight in our best. Everybody knows the fighter that I am and what I capable to do in the ring.
“Chavez is Chavez but Miguel Cotto is Miguel Cotto.”
Cotto has collected titles in the super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight division through his first 13 years in the pro ranks. A win on Saturday will make him the first ever in the rich boxing history of Puerto Rico to claim championships in four weight classes.
Accomplishing such a feat means overcoming the odds, both literally and figuratively. Martinez (51-2-2, 28KO) is more than a 2-1 betting favorite to successfully defend his title for the 7th time. A huge part of that perception stems from the belief that Martinez is at full strength, while Cotto is in over his head at a weight class in which he never envisioned competitng until this fight was presented.
Don’t expect this weekend’s challenger to stress too much over such commentary. Instead, he turns to another train of thought, one that has proven true oh so many times before in boxing.
“As everyone in boxing knows styles makes fights,” Cotto points out. “I believe my style and my experience will be very important in this battle with Sergio Martinez. I am coming to fight the way I know how to do it and it has nothing to do with how other boxers fight certain opponents.
In the preparation for this fight I have focus on what Freddie has ask me to do and I am prepare to go 12 hard rounds and to battle every minute of every round. I have always believed that you win fights round by round. I prepare to fight my fight and make adjustments as the fight goes along and I will be ready to go to war at any time.”
By the time Chavez Jr. was able to figure out how to get to Martinez, he was already down 11-0 on the scorecards. A single shot was enough to put Martinez down, but the lack of preparation - if not desire – served as the greatest hindrance towards his completing the upset.
Cotto will never fall into that same trap. He knows what’s at stake, and more importantly takes great pride in what this fight means to him and also to his adoring and faithful public forever along for the ride.
“All boxers are different and we all approach the fights in different ways. This fight is very important to me and I have prepared the best way that I can. I will find a way to win and take the title back to Puerto Rico.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox