As Sergio Martinez stared, face-to-face, into the eyes of Miguel Cotto on Monday at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, he saw a smaller, yet fearless man. Even so, he predicted that Cotto "will be sleeping before the ninth round" when they meet on June 7 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"Seeing him like this for the first time, there was no fear in his eyes. He's a great champion and he has a lot of experience. He didn't show any emotion," said Martinez of Cotto, a Puerto Rican boxer who was being cheered on by some 2,000 boisterous partisan fans.
"If he was afraid, it wasn't demonstrated. But this will be the first challenge that I will have against someone who is smaller than me for many years. But Miguel Cotto will be sleeping before the ninth round. The fight will be a knockout before the ninth."
A 39-year-old southpaw, Martinez was in attendance with Cotto at the first stop in a four-city tour in advance of their fight on HBO Pay Per View, a jaunt that will continue with a visit to New York on Tuesday and to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"That was a spectacular crowd. Puerto Rico has some of the best fans that you can see, worldwide. They're well-educated in boxing," said Martinez, through translation by advisor Sampson Lewkowicz.
"But they will see that finally Cotto has decided to fight and stop talking about fighting me and requesting this fight. Now, it's time for him to prove himself in the ring."
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 knockouts) is looking to add to a resume that includes decisions over Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as well as knockouts of Paul Williams, Matthew Macklin, Darren Barker and Sergei Dzinziruk.
A resident of Spain, Martinez last fought in April 2013 when he defeated Martin Murray in his native Argentina.
Having fought at junior middleweight since 2010, the 33-year-old Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) will move up to middleweight 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.
"This will be the third-most spectacular memory in my life," said Martinez, who will face Cotto at a contracted catchweight of 159 pounds.
"The first was Chavez, the second was fighting Murray in Argentina, and now fighting Cotto in Madison Square Garden. Those are the three most spectacular achievements in my career."