Miami and South Florida no longer may be popular sites for title fights, but world champions continue to visit the area to prepare for important bouts.
Sergio Martinez is the latest titleholder making a local stop. The native of Argentina and Spain resident recently began training camp at Matt Baiamonte’s Boxing Club in Wynwood for the defense of his middleweight title against Miguel Cotto on June 7 in New York.
“We considered Miami the perfect site because of its location between Madrid and New York,” Martinez said after a two-hour workout late Saturday afternoon. “We are also in the same time zone and that allows us to become adjusted to it sooner.”
Martinez, 39, also is adapting to a long ring absence caused by a knee injury. He has not fought since a successful defense against Martin Murray 13 months ago in Argentina.
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“My conditioning has been phenomenal since we began training on Jan. 21,” Martinez said. “When you have 19 years of experience in this sport, the ring becomes like your second home. Although you might be sidelined for an extended time, you never stop being a boxer.”
And before his knee injury, Martinez’s boxing skills had elevated him among the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters. Now he is eager to resume his World Boxing Council title reign in a fight that he feels slighted even though he is the defending champion.
The pay-per-view fight will be in Madison Square Garden — one of Cotto’s familiar and favorable surroundings. Cotto, a native of Puerto Rico, draws capacity crowds at Madison Square Garden and is 7-1 in the historic arena. Martinez’s only previous appearance at Madison Square Garden was his 11th-round TKO win over Matthew Macklin two years ago.
Moreover, Cotto has the lead in the prefight promotional literature and on fight night, Cotto will walk into ring and have his name announced after Martinez, honors usually bestowed to the defending champion.
“That motivates me tremendously, but then again I have always enjoyed the role of visitor,” Martinez said. “Boos and the likelihood I will have few people supporting me give me extra adrenaline. It is impossible for me not to find motivation in this fight. All the factors are very obvious.”
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) also had to agree to a catch weight of 159 pounds — one under the middleweight limit — to face Cotto. A three-division world champion, Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) is fighting as a middleweight for the first time in his career.
“I expect him to cut the ring and go to the body,” Martinez said. “But he is not going to be able to withstand my pressure and busy pace. I will obligate him to fight him at my pace, and it will become uncomfortable for him.
“He will end up being knocked out. I don’t see this fight going the distance.”
Given his lengthy absence and age, Martinez will not consider future plans until his next two fights.
“I have two bouts remaining with HBO, and after that, as we say in Argentina and football, we will stop the ball from rolling and analyze the entire field,” Martinez said.
“Will we continue or walk away? But for my family’s sake, I am not going to allow a younger opponent [to] put me against ropes and land shots that would have never happened earlier in my career.”
Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Cuba’s Erislandy Lara participated in a four-city last week to hype their pay-per-view super-welterweight bout July 12 in Las Vegas.
The fighters’ appearances began with stops in Los Angeles and San Antonio, where the Mexico native Alvarez is hugely popular. The tour continued in New York and ended Friday in Puerto Rico.
Oddly, Alvarez and Lara did not appear in Miami, city to the largest Cuban exile community in the United States. Although he now lives in Houston, Lara maintains a strong loyal following in Miami.
Why New York and Puerto Rico and not Miami?
Golden Boy Promotions, which will promote the bout, also wants to showcase one of the undercard fighters scheduled to appear on the telecast, according to a company spokesman. Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez, a three-division world champion, will fight Francisco Vargas.
“The reason nothing was done in Miami was because we would need more days for the media tour and we believed that with New York and Puerto Rico, where Lopez is from and where there is a large Cuban community, it was sufficient to target the Caribbean area instead of Miami,” Ramiro Gonzalez said.
“There were also requests to visit Chicago, Houston, El Paso and San Francisco but we did not have enough days to make those trips.”
Bermane Stiverne became the first native of Haiti to win a heavyweight title after his sixth-round TKO victory over Chris Arreola on Saturday night in Los Angeles. Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) floored Arreola (36-4) twice early in the sixth and then finished him with a flurry of unanswered combinations that resulted in the fight’s stoppage at 2:02 of the round. The win earned Stiverne the vacant World Boxing Council belt.