RING/WBC middleweight champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez surprised most in attendance by speaking English at Wednesday's final press at Madison Square Garden, site of Saturday's HBO Pay Per View-televised defense against three-division titlewinner Miguel Cotto.
"I am honored. Thank you to everyone for coming," said Martinez, who turned 39 in Feburary. "I want to say thank you to the WBC, their Presidents Mauricio and [his father, the late] Jose Sulaiman. I want to thank HBO and HBO Pay Per View and Madison Square Garden."
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 knockouts) will be hoping for an impressive performance against Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), having promised to stop the Puerto Rican star who has been prone to cuts.
"I'm hoping that you haven't been bored by what everyone else is saying, but we have a great team, the Cotto team and Maravilla teams, and we will bring you the best of us and a great show," said Martinez, through translation by his advisor, Sampson Lewkowicz.
"I come prepared. I come to fight, I come to box, and I come to bring you a war. I've come prepared to win, like I do all of the time. We have finished all of the talking, and on Saturday, we will see the reality."
Martinez spoke after having been introduced by his promoter, Lou DiBella, who mentioned the southpaw from Argentina in the same breath as former undisputed middleweight champions Sugar Ray Robonsion and Marvelous Marvin Hagler as well as five-division champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
"'Maravilla in Spanish means, 'Marvelous,'" said DiBella, during his turn at the podium. "And in the same way that it took a Sugar Ray Leonard to carry that nickname 'Sugar' that was held by Sugar Ray Robinson, it takes Maravilla Martinez to carry that monicker, 'Marvelous,' that was held by Marvin Hagler."
For his part, the 33-year-old Cotto also predicted war in a matchup that is happening the night before the Puerto Rican Day parade.
"It's a pleasure for me to be here," said Cotto, who is 9-1 with five knockouts in New York, and 7-1 with four stoppages at the Garden. "I'm looking for war, too, in our fight next Saturday."
Having fought at junior middleweight since 2010, Cotto is moving up to a middleweight catchweight of 159 pounds 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 against Martinez.
"This has been a tremendous camp with Freddie Roach in charge," said Cotto. "I'm prepared for a war. It's good for us to hear Sergio is ready for a war too, because that's what people want to see. A real war next Saturday. I'm really happy and just waiting for the fight."
FREDDIE ROACH IS 'THE RIGHT MATCH' FOR COTTO
Cotto is coming off a third-round stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez in October that represented his first bout under six-time Trainer of The Year Freddie Roach, and helped him bounce back from consecutive decision losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and left-hander Austin Trout in May and December 2012, respectively.
Roach was in the opposite corner of Cotto in November of 2009 as the trainer for Manny Pacquiao during the latter's 12th-round knockout victory that dethroned Cotto as WBO welterweight beltholder.
"Miguel talked about his desires to train with Freddie Roach, and people have desires to do things, but he looked at me and he said, 'I think that Freddie's going to be the right match for me. Being with Miguel since 2000 right after the Olympics, he basically fought through his instincts. He taught himself," said Top Rank CEO Todd duBoef of Cotto, whose loss to Trout represented his eighth appearance at the Garden and his 10th in New York.
"He had wonderful instincts as an amateur, coming up, but he wasn't getting the dialogue and wasn't getting that expertise that he needed in the corner. No one else but Freddie could get that out of him. When I saw Miguel last week, we sat down at the workout session as everyone was leaving, and he came over and I said, 'How you doing?' And he said, 'Incredible.' Now, that's special. Makes you feel good. The only one who could get that out of him was Freddie Roach."
Roach called Cotto among "the most disciplined fighters that I've ever trained."
"I would like to wish Martinez good luck," said Roach. "Because you're going to need it, and we'll see you all on Saturday."
TRAINER PABLO SARMIENTO LOOKS TO GO 2-0 VS. ROACH
Martinez is 7-0, with four knockouts since falling by majority decision to Williams in December 2009, having avenged that loss by stopping Williams in the second round in November 2010.
Prior to his last fight, a unanimous decision during which he rose from an eighth-round knockdown against Martin Murray in April, Martinez was floored in the 12th round of a unanimous decision over the Roach-coached Julio Cesar Chavez in September 2012.
"With all of the training camp, we worked very hard, and Sergio responded perfectly. I want to tell Freddie Roach that it's very good to be in front of him, one more time," said Martinez's trainer, Pablo Sarmiento. "This will be the second time. I'm sorry, Freddie, but after beating you for the second time in a row, I will be 2-0."
MARTINEZ-COTTO WINNER GETS SPECIAL WBC BELT
WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said that the winner of Martinez-Cotto will receive a special belt adorned with the visages of Hagler and former undisputed Argentine 160-pound champion Carlos Monzon in additon to the victor having his face placed on the strap as well.
MARTINEZ, COTTO RECEIVE NEW YORK RANGERS JERSEYS
Martinez and Cotto received New York Rangers' jerseys from former Rangers' great Ron Duguay, who also works as an in-studio analyst during The MSG Network's coverage of the Rangers.
TOP RANK'S BOB ARUM ON TREMENDOUS MEMORIES' AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN'
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum promoted his first fight at the Garden in Dec. 7, 1970, when Muhammad Ali knocked out Argentina's Oscar Bonavena in the 15th round.
"I quickly caught on to the sport of boxing, and I've had wonderful experiences promoting fights at Madison Square Garden. The first that Top Rank promoted here was in December, 1970 was here in the Garden, where the great Muhammad Ali knocked out Oscar Bonavena in the 15th round," said Arum, who is 82.
"So this building holds tremendous memories for me and for our company and it's been a particular privilege to do fights on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade. We started that a number of years ago with Miguel Cotto rising up in the ranks, and it became a tradition in New York to do a big Cotto fight on the eve of the parade."
At the Garden, Cotto decisioned former world titleholders Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Paulie Malignaggi, stopped Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito and lost to Trout. The loss to Trout was Cotto's last fight in New York.
"This fight is probably, without any question, the biggest Cotto fight in his history in this building, because he challenges for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world against one of the great, great fighters of our time from Argentina, Sergio Martinez," said Arum. "I remember the wonderful middleweight, maybe one of the greatest in history, Carlos Monzon. Sergio comes from that Argentine tradition. So this fight, on Saturay night, is going to be a great, great fight, and it's wonderful that we can do it here at Madison Square Garden."
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