by David P. Greisman, photos by Chris Farina
Sergio Martinez made it in just under the 159-pound catchweight for his fight with Miguel Cotto on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, coming in at 158.75 pounds for a bout being contested for Martinez’s middleweight championship.
Cotto, meanwhile, came in at 155 pounds, just above the junior-middleweight limit of 154 pounds, and a weight presumably intended to allow him to retain speed on a frame that has been competing at smaller weight classes, rather than slowing himself down by bulking up further.
This is Martinez’s first bout in more than 13 months. He last fought in April 2013, outpointing Martin Murray in front of tens of thousands at a stadium in Argentina.
The bout was close, perhaps in part because Martinez had returned too quickly from the hand and knee injuries he had suffered in his September 2012 win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He gave in to the allure of fighting in his home country for the first time in 11 years, re-aggravated his injuries and subsequently took the remainder of the year off.
This will be the seventh defense of the lineal middleweight championship Martinez won from Kelly Pavlik four years ago. He also holds the World Boxing Council’s world title. The 39-year-old is 51-2-2 with 28 knockouts, with the only losses coming to Antonio Margarito way back in 2000 and in a competitive decision loss to Paul Williams in 2009, a defeat Martinez subsequently avenged via knockout.
Cotto, meanwhile, is making his middleweight debut after a career that saw him winning world titles at 140, 147 and 154. He last fought in October 2013, making quick work of Delvin Rodriguez and breaking a two-fight losing streak that included decision losses in 2012 to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout.
He is once again headlining at Madison Square Garden in his ninth main event there, and fighting in New York City as the same weekend as the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the fifth time.
His last appearance at the Big Apple’s famed boxing venue was the Trout loss, and his last win there was his revenge over Margarito in their December 2011 rematch. Cotto is 38-4 with 31 KOs, with the other loss coming to Manny Pacquiao in November 2009.
On the televised undercard:
- Marvin Sonsona came in at 125.8 pounds, while Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. came in at 125.8 for a rematch of their February 2010 fight.
Sonsona, 23, of General Santos City, Philippines, is 18-1-1 with 15 KOs. He briefly held a world title at 115 pounds before coming in overweight for his first title defense and having that bout end in a draw. The loss to Vazquez came next via fourth-round knockout, and Sonsona didn’t return to the ring for nearly 20 months. He’s scored four wins in a row since then, including a big one-punch uppercut knockout of former 122-pound titleholder Akifumi Shimoda this past February.
Vazquez, 29, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, is 23-3-1 with 19 KOs. The former 122-pound titleholder has lost three of his last six fights, getting stopped in the final round by Jorge Arce in May 2011, dropping a decision to Nonito Donaire in February 2012, and losing a decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto in April 2013. His last appearance was in September, a win over Guillermo Avila.
- Andy Lee came in at 154 pounds, while John Jackson came in at 152.
Lee, an Irish 29-year-old, is 32-2 with 22 KOs and has won four straight since getting stopped by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June 2012. This is his first fight at junior middleweight. Jackson, 25, the son of Julian Jackson from Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is 18-1 with 15 KOs and has won five in a row since his September 2012 decision loss to Willie Nelson.
- Jorge Melendez came in at 153 pounds, while Javier Maciel came in at 154.
Melendez, 25, of Manati, Puerto Rico, is 28-3-1 with 26 KOs. He has won two in a row since dropping a decision a year ago to Nick Brinson. Maciel, 29, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is 28-3 with 20 KOs. He lost a controversial split decision to Brian Rose last October, then returned in April with a decision win over a designated opponent.
And in the preliminary bouts:
- Undefeated lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo came in at 134.5 pounds, while Engelberto Valenzuela came in at 134.5.
Verdejo, 21, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is 12-0 with 9 KOs. He last fought in April. Valenzuela, 30, of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, is 8-1 with 3 KOs. His only loss, a first-round knockout in August 2013, came the only time he faced someone with a winning record. Valenzuela returned in November with a knockout over an opponent listed at 0-25.
- Undefeated junior-featherweight prospect Jose Lopez came in at 121.2 pounds, while Raul Hidalgo came in at 122.2.
Lopez, 20, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is 13-0 with 11 KOs. He last fought in March. Hidalgo, 25, of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, is 21-10 with 16 KOs. Many of his defeats have come against up-and-coming fighters, including Jessie Magdaleno, Ivan Morales and Daiki Kameda. He last fought in March.
- Undefeated junior-lightweight prospect Jose Pedraza came in at 132.4 pounds, while Arturo Uruzquieta came in at 131.6.
Pedraza, 25, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is 16-0 with 10 KOs. He last fought in March. Uruzquieta, of Mexico, is 15-5 with 6 KOs. He last fought in September.
- Willie Nelson came in at 157 pounds, while Darryl Cunningham came in at 156.4.
Nelson, 27, of Cleveland, Ohio, is 21-1-1 with 12 KOs and has won five in a row since his 2011 decision loss to Vincent Arroyo down at welterweight. His last appearance was a June 2013 decision win over Luciano Cuello. Cunningham, 39, of Detroit, Michigan, is 29-6 with 11 KOs. Those defeats include quick knockout losses to Andre Dirrell in late 2011 and to Andy Lee last year. His last appearance was a fourth-round stoppage loss in October against a 4-13 foe named Cameron Allen.
- Debuting fighter Jantony Ortiz came in at 113.5 pounds, while Elio David Ruiz came in at 112.2.
Ortiz is a 19-year-old from Humacao, Puerto Rico. Ruiz, 21, of Plainview, Texas, is 1-4 with no knockouts.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Sergio Martinez , Miguel Cotto , Andy Lee , Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. , photos , Marvin Sonsona , John Jackson , Felix Verdejo , Javier Maciel , Jorge Melendez , Cotto-Martinez , Cotto vs. Martinez