As Sergio Martinez addressed the 2,000 fans who packed the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, the RING middleweight champion's words were sometimes drowned out by their chants of "Cotto!"
But when their countryman, Miguel Cotto, stepped up to the podium, his voice could be heard loud and clear. Cotto is rising to the challenge of his first middleweight bout at a time when Puerto Rico currently has no reigning beltholders who were born there.
"I am looking forward to this fight because a win will be historic in Puerto Rican boxing history as I become a four-time world champion in four different divisions," said Cotto, wearing a gray suit, white button down shirt and a red tie. "I will prepare myself to be the best that I can be inside the ring like I always do."
Cotto and Martinez were in attendance for the first stop in a four-city tour in advance of their June 7 fight on HBO Pay Per View at New York's Madison Square Garden, which will be followed by a visit to New York on Tuesday and to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"I am very excited to be fighting in Madison Square Garden were many greats have fought in the past," said Martinez. "I know Cotto is a great fighter, but I will be ready to defend this championship at all costs."
A 39-year-old southpaw, Martinez (51-2-2, 28 knockouts) has risen from the canvas during each of his past three fights: an 11th-round stoppage of Matthew Macklin and unanimous decisions over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Martin Murray.
Martinez will have been out of the ring since last April, when he fought Murray in Buenos Aires.
After the Chavez fight, Martinez received eight stitches to repair a cut over his left eye, two staples in his head, and suffered from both a broken left hand and torn ligaments in his right knee, the latter of which required surgery to repaair.
Martinez required a second surgery after having damaged the knee injury, later determined to be a torn right meniscus, during the Murray fight.
"I hope that Sergio is 100 percent and his knee is fine, because I want no excuses after I defeat him," said Cotto. "The Garden holds a very special place in my career, and I know that my fans will there to support me in this quest."
Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) is coming off a third-round knockout of Delvin Rodriguez in October that helped him to bounce back from consecutive unanimous-decision losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout.
Cotto's loss to Trout represented his eighth appearance at The Garden, and his 10th in New York.
Having fought at junior middleweight since 2010, Cotto will be moving up to the 160-pound division for the first time in an attempt to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a fourth title in as many different weight classes.
At The Garden, Cotto has decisioned former world titleholders Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Paulie Malignaggi, knocked out Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito, and lost to Trout. Cotto is 9-1 with five stoppage wins in New York overall, including 7-1 with four knockouts at The Garden.
Cotto's fight with Rodriguez was his first under trainer Freddie Roach, who was in the opposite corner when Cotto lost by 12th-round TKO to Manny Pacquiao in 2009. Roach replaced Pedro Diaz, Cotto's trainer for three bouts.
But if Martinez has his way, Roach's presence won't make a difference.
"Puerto Rico has a rich boxing history and I am looking forward to fighting and beating one of their best," said Martinez. "I will prepare to give the fans a great night of boxing and because of our styles this will be a great fight."
MIGUEL COTTO’S FIGHTS IN NEW YORK:
Waklimi Young, UD 4, Hammerstein Ballroom, April 28, 2001
Muhammad Abdulaev, TKO 9, Madison Square Garden, June 11, 2005
Paulie Malignaggi, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 10, 2006
Zab Judah, TKO 11, Madison Square Garden, June 9, 2007
Shane Mosley, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, Nov. 10, 2007
Michael Jennings, TKO 5, Madison Square Garden, February 21, 2009
Joshua Clottey, SD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 13, 2009
Yuri Foreman, TKO 9, Yankee Stadium, June 5, 2010
Antonio Margarito, TKO 10, Madison Square Garden, Dec. 3, 2011
Austin Trout UD 12 Miguel Cotto, Madison Square Garden, Dec. 12, 2012