By Jake Donovan
In addition to his role as reigning middleweight king, Sergio Martinez also garners near-universal recognition as one of the genuinely good guys of the sport. His laid-back demeanor and charitable efforts and contributions are responsible for such accolades, although his giving nature has been exploited at the negotiating table more than once.
There wasn’t anything easy about finalizing the terms for Martinez’ upcoming World middleweight title defense versus former three-division champ Miguel Cotto. The blockbuster event takes place on June 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, with HBO PPV to distribute to home viewers.
“We are going to have a great fight fight. As my opponent Miguel Cotto said, the fans are going to be the winner in the end,” Martinez said during Tuesday’s press conference in New York City, the second stop of a three-day, three-city press tour.
Martinez (51-2-2, 28KO) makes the seventh defense of the middleweight crown he acquired four years ago, rising from the canvas to dethrone Kelly Pavlik in April ’10. The showdown with Cotto marks just his second time fighting in any part of Madison Square Garden, and his first appearance in the main room.
His lone previous trip to the Mecca of boxing came in March ’12, surviving a knockdown and a major scare to stop Matthew Macklin in 11 rounds. The bout took place on St. Patrick’s Day, against a fighter with Irish roots, but the crowd wasn’t as big of a factor as will potentially be the case on June 7.
Martinez will face Cotto – making his 9th appearance at Madison Square Garden – on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade, creating the perception of a hostile environment for one of boxing’s longest reigning current World champions. Fighting in Cotto’s home away from home wasn’t the only concession made by Martinez in order to make this fight a done deal, however.
“I am coming into the ring first. He is coming in second; otherwise there would be no fight,” Martinez commented, though hardly stopping there. “I am the champion, but I will be introduced first, because if it wasn’t that way, there would be no fight.”
Similar concessions were made by Martinez heading into his Nov. ’10 rematch with Paul Williams. The two had fought 11 months prior, with Williams going on to win an unpopular split decision in a fight that saw both fighters hit the deck. Martinez took that fight on short notice, filling in for an injured Pavlik, four months prior to facing the champ himself to start his current title reign.
The rematch with Williams was Martinez’ first title defense. Despite his role as champion, it was insisted that Williams be given the star treatment. Martinez had the last laugh, knocking Williams out cold in two rounds in a feat that earned 2010 Knockout of the Year honors, as well as capping a year in which he was universally recognized as 2010’s top fighter.
Despite his once again having to give in to a challenger, Martinez continues to take tremendous pride in being a champion and a pillar of the boxing community.
That doesn’t always mean he has to play nice with his opponent. Shortly after revealing the demands made by Cotto prior to the fight being signed, Martinez wonders if there is still more to come.
“I can imagine that on June 7 he will ask for rose petals to be thrown at his feet, otherwise he won’t walk into the ring,” Martinez quipped to conclude the press conference.
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