LOS ANGELES – Both Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto seemed ready to the press tour behind them and begin training at Wednesday’s final press conference to promote their June 7 middleweight championship.
The theme of the bout, which takes place at Madison Square Garden and will be televised by HBO pay-per-view, appears to be about respect.
Martinez feels disrespected that he’s being billed second and had to make a number of concessions at the negotiation table when he’s the middleweight champion (the lineal champ recognized by THE RING magazine, not just a beltholder). Cotto feels as though he earned that position at the table having taken his lumps as the B-side to both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
In a brief roundtable discussion with Cotto following the press conference, the Puerto Rican star was asked if the situation was similar to his fight with Pacquiao back in November of 2009. Though Cotto was the reigning WBO welterweight titleholder, he had to concede two pounds on the scale and was billed second.
“That was the best example to compare this fight to,” Cotto said. “It was the same conditions, different boxers. Against Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto has to be the side A of the equation and Martinez has to be the side B, and that is all.”
Though Martinez has reigned as champion since dethroning Kelly Pavlik in April of 2010, it wasn’t until last year’s hugely successful Las Vegas showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. that you could really consider the Argentine a real draw.
In a raucous atmosphere inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Martinez’s Argentine contingency showed up in heavier support than most connected to the promotion expected. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum expects them to be there in solid numbers at Madison Square Garden, but explained to RingTV.com the difference between Las Vegas and New York.
“You have to understand, Vegas is a destination,” Arum said following the press conference. “So a lot of fans came from Argentina to Vegas because Vegas offers a lot of great entertainment.
“However, there are absolutely more Argentinians on the East Coast in the New York area than there are out west. So I think that 20-25 percent of the fans will be Argentinian and supporters of Martinez, which is a big number.”
For Arum, it is a matter of business when it comes to determining who should receive top billing.
“I really believe that just the way Timothy Bradley didn’t complain that we are calling this fight ‘Pacquiao-Bradley 2,’ the idea is to sell tickets. The most recognizable name should go first in my opinion.”
It has to be a bit of a shot to Martinez’s pride that despite being a veteran of 55 professional bouts and featured on major American television since 2008, in any major fight he gets, he is the B-side. Whether Martinez were to rematch Chavez Jr., fight Saul Alvarez, or somehow earn a shot at Mayweather, he has to know that he would be on the short end of the negotiations each time.
While Cotto is vying for history in attempting to become the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four different weight divisions, Martinez is in the predicament of having to defend his title in what is somewhat of a lose-lose scenario. Win or lose, there’s lots of money for Martinez. However, should he lose to Cotto, his credibility as a middleweight champion takes a serious hit considering that most have him the clear favorite.
It’s that same pride that may have played a part in Martinez being dropped by Chavez Jr. in the 12th round of a fight he was winning going away. Martinez didn’t need to engage at all in that round, but because of the disrespect in the buildup to that fight, he felt the need to go for the gusto. Should that mentality manifest itself against Cotto, Martinez could have some problems, as Cotto is a much sharper-witted fighter than Chavez Jr. and has the experience necessary to take advantage of Martinez.
What do all of these storylines add up to? Maybe one of the best fights fans get – in terms of action and atmosphere – in 2014.
Video / Alan Massengale and Daniel Morales