New York City renews its love affair with Miguel Cotto in yet another pivotal phase in the popular fighter’s career.
Cotto returns to a familiar and successful venue on Saturday night. The three-division world champion will fight in his 10th main event bout at Madison Square Garden when he challenges middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez.
In addition to pursuing another title and headlining again at Madison Square Garden, Cotto will attempt to become the first native Puerto Rican to win world championships in four different weight classes.
The achievement indeed could prove historic, considering Puerto Rico’s proud and deep boxing tradition that features revered champions such as Wilfredo Gomez, Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Benitez and Carlos Ortiz.
“It is a personal matter — a personal achievement that I want to win and I am working for it on [Saturday],” Cotto said in a recent conference call. “It doesn’t mean that I am going to be better than Wilfredo Gomez, better than Felix Trinidad, better than all of the great champions that Puerto Rico has produced. But for me, Miguel, it will be the greatest accomplishment of my career.”
Cotto, 33, has won titles in the junior-welterweight, welterweight and junior-middleweight divisions. Not only is Cotto a multidivision titleholder but he has developed into one of the sport’s top pay-per-view performers over the past eight years.
As a result, Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) leveraged certain terms in his first fight above the 154-pound weight class. Cotto and Martinez will fight at a catch weight of 159 pounds, one under the middleweight limit.
And, although Martinez (51-2-1, 28 KOs) is the defending champion, Cotto’s name appears first in promotional material. On fight night, Cotto will enter the ring and have his name announced to the crowd after Martinez. Champions rarely are introduced before the challenger.
Martinez, who is training for the fight at Matt Baiamonte’s Gym in Allapattah, considers the perks allowed to Cotto as a motivator. A native of Argentina, Martinez predicts he will knock out Cotto.
“If Sergio has any kind of issue with anything about this fight, he can discuss it with his [representatives],” Cotto said. “We closed the deal a long time ago, and now it is time to train, and we can’t talk about anything else.
“I train for 12 rounds of war. If he only trains for seven or eight, he is going to be in trouble after that because I am prepared to go the whole distance and to do whatever it takes to win.”
Cotto’s perfect record at Madison Square ended with his lopsided decision loss to Austin Trout in December 2012. The setback ended his eight-fight winning streak at the arena that recently showcases boxing only if Cotto is involved.
“These are two different scenarios,” Cotto said of the contrasts between Trout and Martinez. “You have Austin Trout, who is a gym fighter, who has a lot of mobility, and you have Sergio Martinez, who is not a gym guy who moves around a lot but he has a couple of issues with his knees.”
Martinez underwent knee surgery soon after his last ring appearance — a successful title defense against Martin Murray in his native Argentina 14 months ago. Despite his lengthy absence, Martinez is still considered one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
“I don’t worry about his style, I worry about getting ready for myself and for the way I fight,” Cotto said. “His concern should be how he is going to fight me.
“All my career I have never been concerned about my opponent. I am always concerned about what I need to do — what I have to do. I just have to follow the plan and everything will work out and I will have the victory.”
• Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux will make the next defense of his twin super-bantamweight titles eight time zones away from his adopted city. Rigondeaux, a native of Cuba, will face Thailand’s Sod Looknongyantoy on July 19 in Macau, China.
Rigondeaux (13-0, nine KOs) has not fought since his unanimous decision win over Joseph Agbeko in December, when the two-time Olympic gold medalist retained his World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts.