RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez called Miguel Cotto "a diva," vowed to knock him out in the ninth round of their June 7 pay-per-view clash at Madison Square Garden, and dared HBO's Max Kellerman to pick a winner between the two on the network's debut of Face Off: Cotto-Martinez on Saturday.
"The fight won't go past the ninth round, and I will win by knockout," said Martinez, speaking in line with earlier assertions made to RingTV.com that Cotto would "be sleeping before the ninth" and retire after the fight. "So it will be a fight where, little by little, it will be like a building, or a wall, or cutting down a tree. Little by little, Cotto will fall. I'm sure. Sure."
A southpaw from Argentina now living in Spain, Martinez (51-2-2, 28 knockouts) has been fighting mad and miffed about the negotiations for the bout with Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), which resulted in the fight being billed "Cotto-Martinez," along with a contracted catchweight of 159 pounds.
"It bothers me because, it's playing with, it hurts the history of boxing. Not only boxing, not only me, because I'm the champion. In order to fight with Miguel Cotto, I accept. I say, yes," said Martinez, who turned 39 in February.
"He has made demands that a diva would make. The red corner coming last into the ring. Being introduced last into the ring, and a lot of other things. If these are not diva demands, then tell me what you'd call them? Having listened to his requests, it's almost absurd."
Cotto defended his treatment of Martinez by questioning the Argentine's relative marketability.
"How is it that I'm a class A?" said Cotto, 33. "Because it's whoever sells the tickets, whoever fills the stadium."
Cotto, meanwhile, 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 in May and December 2012, respectively.
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, the latter in his last appearance in there.
The loss to Mayweather ended a three-fight knockout and winning streak by Cotto, whose previous setback had come via 12th-round stoppage opposite Manny Pacquiao in November 2009. The triumph over Margarito had avenged the first loss of Cotto’s career, which was an 11th-round knockout in July 2008.
During the faceoff, Cotto argued that Martinez was being treated fairly during the promotion, similarly to he, himself, was during the buildup to his losses to Pacqiao and Mayweather .
"I was in the same position, twice, and I understood that that was my position. I understood that I was the B-side on those two occasions," said Cotto. "It is the same as then, when I was the champion. The same. It's simple. There's an equation. Side A, side B. How many times have you fought at Madison Square Garden?"
Cotto is 7-1 with four knockouts at The Garden.
"I've fought in the Garden nine times, all sellouts," said Cotto, "and I've been fighting on pay per view. How many class A's have you fought? Ah, I've fought two."
Martinez then ripped Cotto for his performances against Pacquiao and Mayweather.
"And you won both? Ah, sorry, you lost," said Martinez. "And if you've never beaten a Class A, how is it that you're a class A?"
Cotto is moving up to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a fourth title in as many different weight classes against Martinez in an HBO Pay Per View event, having fought at junior middleweight since 2010. Cotto is rising to the challenge at a time when the island nation currently has no reigning beltholders who were born there, and doing so the night before the Puerto Rican Day parade.
Martinez will have been out of the ring since April of last year, when he unanimously decisioned Martin Murray in Buenos Aires. Martinez has risen from the canvas during each of his past three fights comprised of an 11th-round stoppage of Matthew Macklin and unanimous decision victories over Murray and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Martinez is 7-0, with four knockouts since falling by majority decision to Paul Williams in December 2009, having avenged that loss by stopping Williams in the second round in November 2010.
The win over Williams was in defense of the WBC belt Martinez won by unanimous decision from Kelly Pavlik in April 2010. Martinez has also knocked out former titleholders Sergei Dzinziruk and Darren Barker in the eighth- and 11th-rounds.
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 repair.
Martinez required a second surgery after having damaged the knee injury, later determined to be a torn right meniscus, after his triumph over Murray.
"You. Who are you betting on?" said Martinez, asking Kellerman. "Out of the two, who would you bet on in this fight? If you bet with your head, not your heart, who? Who would you bet on?
Cotto even chimed in.
"No hard feelings," said Cotto. "Go ahead."
Kellerman relented, pointing to Martinez.
"I think he's correctly favored in the fight," said Kellerman. "But I think, once upon a time you [Cotto] would have been the big favorite, and you [Martinez] would have been the big favorite, and now, it's a very interesting competitive fight."
MIGUEL COTTO’S FIGHTS IN NEW YORK
Waklimi Young, UD 4, Hammerstein Ballroom, April 28, 2001
Muhammad Abdullaev, 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, November 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 9, Madison Square Garden, December 3, 2011
Austin Trout, L UD 12, Madison Square Garden, December 1, 2012