Amid pomp and circumstance, they met today at high noon in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico on the first leg of what will be a multi-city press tour - and what is clear from the outset is that Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez are gentlemen challengers in the ilk of the great Alexis Arguello and Ray Mancini.
There will be no trash talking here.
Hopefully Cotto and Martinez will engage in the same type of classic bout that Arguello and Mancini did back in 1981. Cotto, the Puerto Rican destroyer and winner of championships in three weight divisions hopes to win one in a fourth on June 7 at Madison Square Garden when he faces off against middleweight champion Martinez.
Before a large and festive crowd at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in Hato Rey, a suburb of San Juan, both men rose up from trap doors on the stage, faced one another and then smiled before taking their seats. Cotto even patted Martinez on the back.
Todd DuBoef, President of Bob Arum’s Top Rank boxing said that June 7 in Madison Square Garden will be “incredible” and “electric” and he is expecting a sold out arena. Cotto has sold out the Garden several times and the fight against Argentina’s Martinez will be his ninth appearance in that hallowed fight hall.
The 39-year-old Martinez addressed the crowd first and brought up the names of the great Puerto Rican fighters of the past - Wilfred Benitez and Felix Trinidad - and he thanked the Puerto Rican fans for hosting him on this 85 degree day. Dressed casually in jeans, a black sports jacket and a black T-shirt emblazoned with “Brooklyn” he was relaxed and animated.
Away from the ring since April 2013 because of injuries, Martinez will bring a record of 51-2-2 (28)KO into the June bout. He has been middleweight champ since he unseated Kelly Pavlik back in 2010. A slick southpaw with excellent movement, the 5’10’ tall Martinez has the edge in experience, height and reach over Cotto and this will be the seventh defense of his championship. However, “Maravilla” as he is known, has shown weakness recently as he has been knocked down once in each of his last three bouts.
Cotto appeared determined and business-like while dressed in a grey, three-piece suit with a white shirt and red tie. His motivation is to become the first boxer in the long and storied history of Puerto Rican prizefighting to win a title in a fourth weight division. Now trained by Freddie Roach, the 33-year-old Cotto has a record of 38-4 (31)KO and this will be his first fight as a 160-pound middleweight after having won titles at 140, 147 and 154 pounds.
Cotto never minces words and today was no different. His comments were short and to the point and he promised to deliver a good fight to his Puerto Rican fans and bring home the world middleweight championship to this tiny island that has produced a plethora of legendary fighters.
Both fighters appeared relatively fit, but Martinez is the noticeably larger man. How that will translate when they eventually meet is anyone’s guess. In pairing with Roach, Cotto seems to have rediscovered his offensive firepower, but it remains to be seen if he can catch up with a tricky southpaw who is a ring tactician.
At the conclusion of the event, Cotto and Martinez once again engaged in a mock stare down while holding the title belt they will contest. There were cordial smiles and mutual respect. But as both men stood there before large video screens, scantily clad models and torches that shot fire into the air - both now seemed to realize that in less than three months they will be staring down one another for real.
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