Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez will lock horns at a historical temple on June 7.
Madison Square Garden, New York…Often referred to as the “Mecca of Boxing,” isn't quite the major host venue of the sport it once was in decades gone by – the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's.
Back in the early 70's, promoters Bob Arum and Don King began to catapult their nomadic businesses westward to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas. During the 80's and 90's, the Garden firmly took a back seat as the outdoor venue, Caesars Palace, along with other Vegas hotel & casinos, became the new magnetic ground for the sport's promoters to ply their trade. Great boxers like Holmes, Leonard, Hagler, Holyfield and De La Hoya, among many other names of hefty status, had the finest moments of their careers upon a temporarily constructed venue within the confinement of a car park at the rear of Caesars Palace.
With that said, the Garden never went truly out the window during the 80's and 90's. Middleweight king Marvin Hagler had one of the best and most convincing wins of his career inside the arena the night he rematched Mustafa Hamsho (Oct 19, 1984). He dominated contender Hamsho – stopping him inside the third of a scheduled 15 rounds. Hagler, the undisputed champion at 160 pounds, didn't leave those tornadic fists behind at the Garden that particular night, though, as six months later (Apr 15, 1985) he would carry them into the ring again when he evaporated Thomas Hearns – within the same amounted rounds he crushed Hamsho – at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Of more recent times, Bernard Hopkins had arguably the greatest moment of his long and illustrious career at the Garden, toppling the undefeated Felix Trinidad (Sep 29, 2001) in the 12th and last round. Hopkins, regularly cited among knowledgeable observers as the greatest middleweight since Hagler, moved through the gears as the fight progressed with a mixture of subtle punch-picking from the outside and tremendous infighting. Trinidad, a Puerto Rican, used to going through his opponents like a snow plow, was reduced to a heap on the canvas as Hopkins sunk to his knees to celebrate during that fateful final round.
Sergio Martinez (55-2-2, 28 KO's), the WBC middleweight champion from Argentina, with his dazzling matinee idol looks, and Miguel Cotto (38-4, 31 KO's) of Puerto Rico, with an earned reputation as a take-on-all-comers sort, will both be seeking to solidify themselves into the highest spot possible with a win against each other when it comes to the “pound for pound” reckoning, behind Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward.
Weigh-in: Cotto 155 lbs; Martintez 158. 8 lbs.
Here are some predictions from fight game experts:
Jeff Mayweather, Proboxinginsider.com and Boxing/MMA trainer: I think it should be a very interesting fight. No one really knows what Martinez will show up. Cotto is a very tough customer but I think will be out gunned in this one.
Robbi Paterson, TSS : I think Martinez will win. But how he wins is another matter altogether. If he struggles with movement due to his recently operated knee, he'll probably sneak out of the Garden with a close decision. It's extremely crucial Cotto adjusts his height as he's advancing, and he must do so behind his jab, too. He can't solely rely on dropping into mid-range or inside without throwing his jab first. He can shrink the gap by stepping in with long strides behind the jab, then bring in his hooks and body punches thereafter. However, I think Martinez has enough tools to beat his smaller foe. It will be entertaining for as long as it lasts.
Matt Hamilton, ESNewsreporting.com: I feel that Sergio Martinez has more left in the tank. Having said that there are questions for Maravilla to answer. He’s been inactive and has lost – in impartial eyes – the majority for his last 13 rounds in a professional ring. A catchweight of 159 lbs, whilst an affront to purists still favors the Argentine, as Cotto has never scaled more than 154lbs. Additionally, Cotto is 6-4 in his last ten – 27-0 at 140lbs or below but 4-2 at 154lbs – so I’m very bullish on his prospects at, effectively, middleweight. Personally and frankly both guys are well past their best – Cotto is simply further down that downward spiral for me.
James Smith, Inthiscornertv.com: Unless Sergio has completely come undone due to age and all the injuries, he is simply too big, fast, powerful and athletic for Cotto and stops him late.
Rudy Hernandez, Los Angeles based trainer: I think it's a very interesting fight. Most believe that Martinez will be too big and strong for Cotto. I didn't think that Martinez was that big. I like Cotto to win this fight by decision – and be the first Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in four different divisions. I think Martinez is a broken and won't be the fighter he was when he fought Chavez.
James Ali Bashir, trainer: I think it's a terrible match up for Cotto. If Martinez's injuries and inactivity haven't set him back too far he'll beat Miguel up – probably by decision or late stoppage. I just don't see Miguel adjusting to Sergio's awkwarndess – and he'll be eating some vicious shots. No doubt, Martinez.
Sean Crose, Boxinginsider.com: We're hearing a lot of talk about knockouts leading up to this fight. Thing is, I don't think we're going to see one. That doesn't mean this fight won't be a war, though. I expect Cotto to really surprise Martinez early and take it to him – sort of the way Maidana took it Floyd early on. In the end, however, I see Martinez' athleticism and will power carrying the night. Martinez by split decision in a seasaw battle.
Ben Doughty, TipTV.co.uk: I'm going with Martinez on points. Neither are the fighter they once were. But I think Maravilla still has enough smarts to repel the challenge of a smaller Cotto, who was also bested by another slick southpaw in Austin Trout.
Bernard Fernandez, TSS, award-winning journalist: It remains to be seen whether Sergio Martinez, who was very nearly a medical invalid for at least a half-year after last year's gimpy points victory over Martin Murray, has fully restored his body at age 38. But maybe 90 percent is good enough for “Maravilla” against a very capable challenger in Miguel Cotto, who will be making his first appearance at middleweight. I think Martinez feels he has something to prove to all the doubters and wins by late stoppage.
Rick Folstad, TSS, ex pro fighter: Martinez by decision. Martinez is naturally bigger than Cotto and I think he wanted this fight more than Cotto did.
Blake Hochberger, TSS, social media guru: I got Martinez by TKO10. I think it's a close fight as Cotto is able to hurt Sergio in spurts, but Sergio's movement/angles and use of distance will keep Cotto at the end of his punches and ultimately wear down the smaller man. Stoppage either by Freddie or doctor due to cuts.
Frank Lotierzo, TSS, best damn analyst in the universe: If Cotto were a legitimate middleweight, I think he has the style to bother Martinez – but he's not. If Austin Trout can hold off and out-box Cotto, I have to believe that Martinez can do it. Sergio's legs will have to hold up in order for him to move and pot-shot Cotto. I'm betting that his body has at least one more good fight left. Martinez's legacy is riding on winning this fight. This is the signature bout of his career and I can't pick against him fighting the smaller and slower Cotto. I like Martinez by decision or late round stoppage.
Aaron Lowinger, TSS, new guy on TSS block, rising star: This has all the looks of a perfect fight. If Cotto makes it into the eighth round with all of his faculties he could easily wear down the bigger man and test Sergio's legs. But Cotto himself needs to be near perfect. I see Martinez stopping Cotto before the eighth. Just too much power and too many weapons.
Raymond Markarian, TSS,Round By Round wiz, doing Round by Round TONIGHT: I wish I could tell you who will win this fight after the first round. That's when we will know if Miguel Cotto can get closer enough to get inside of Sergio Martinez, and work the body. But since we can't fast forward, my money is on Martinez to win a decision.
Kelsey McCarson, TSS, tough Texan: Sergio Martinez is all kinds of wrong for Miguel Cotto. He's bigger, faster and more powerful. He's a southpaw. He's a better athlete. He's just an all around better fighter. The only way Cotto has a chance against Martinez is if the 39-year-old is too old and/or too injured to be effective. I'm guessing that won't be the case, and Martinez will dominate Cotto and stop him before Round 9.
John Nguyen, TSS, analyst extraordinaire: I'm not sure I completely buy into this Cotto rebirth. It's hard for me to get excited about Cotto's splattering of Delvin Rodriguez since, really, Cotto did what he was supposed to: wipe out a seriously overmatched opponent. Who knows? Maybe it was just what the doctor ordered to boost Cotto's confidence. I , however, think that many are reading a little too much into Cotto's last fight, as Martinez is a completely different animal, even if he's seen better days. I really don't think Cotto will be able to dent Martinez' chin, which has proven sturdy against the likes of Williams, Pavlik, and Chavez, all much bigger and stronger than Cotto. When Martinez has been dropped, it's been due to bad balance, not bad whiskers. A healthy/semi-healthy Sergio is too big, strong, and fast for Cotto. Barring the very possible event of Martinez' body unraveling, this looks like a methodical beatdown with Cotto on the wrong end of it. Martinez by mid to late round stoppage, possibly at the behest of Freddie Roach.
Aaron Tallent, TSS, wordsmith: Cotto definitely has more power than Martinez and if he is able to get inside, it could possibly be a short night. However, Martinez has shown of late that he is a master at using his size and reach to dictate the fight. Cotto will experience more of the same. Martinez by decision.
Chris Wheat, TSS, gritty vet: In a way this is a tossup, perhaps. If Sergio's knee is 100% his speed, movement, and size should be enough to give him the win. If his knee is not strong and his movement suffers, Cotto's body attack should give Cotto an edge and a way to win.
Michael Woods, TSS, bald, because he didn't eat enough fruits and veggies growing up: Cotto just can't bang up here, in the 160 hood, enough to hurt Sergio…unless Sergio blows out a knee in round three, or breaks a hand in round five. Then it could get dicy. I do truly believe that the presence of Freddie Roach is meaningful, that the semi-old dog Cotto can learn some new tricks, can be smarter in how he moves about the ring…so I see this as a closer fight than many folks do.
Lee Wylie, TSS, master of video analysis: For technical input, please refer to this short video:
Ultimately, though, provided Martinez is fit and healthy, he takes Cotto out inside the distance.
Robbi Paterson is a feature writer/analyst who has contributed to various boxing websites, including TheSweetScience.com.