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In one of the most anticipated super fights of 2014, Miguel Cotto will take on Sergio Martinez for the WBC Middleweight title with the fighters arguably having more on the line than at any other point in their Hall of Fame careers.
When the fighters square off on June 7 at Madison Square Garden, not only will they be facing each other, but they will also be facing a lot of questions.
Both fighters enter the bout with a bit of uncertainty in what most would consider the twilight of their careers.
Cotto, 33, comes into the matchup having lost two of his last three fights, including unanimous decision defeats to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout.
Cotto ultimately decided to hire Freddie Roach after back-t0-back losses to get him back on track, and it has worked according to plan so far. In the pair’s first fight together, Cotto rebounded with a third-round TKO over Delvin Rodriguez last October.
The Puerto Rican looked strong in the fight, bringing back his legendary left hook to down an overmatched Rodriguez in Cotto’s first victory since late 2011 when he TKO’d Antonio Margarito.
As for Martinez, he may not be coming into the fight with a recent string of losses, but the 39-year-old’s health is certainly cause for question. Despite winning his last seven bouts, Martinez’s body has seemed to have failed him recently.
Martinez injured his knee and was forced to have surgery after his unanimous decision win over Julio Chavez Jr. in September of 2012.
His shoulder and knee were again roughed up in his win against Martin Murray, a fight in which he was knocked down badly. After the bout, Martinez opted to rest and rehabilitate his body, taking over a year off from boxing.
This will be Martinez’s first fight in 14 months, so there is no telling how fresh or how healthy his body will be, especially at the age of 39.
Undoubtedly, both fighters have something to prove in this fight.
The Case for Cotto
Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) is undoubtedly the underdog in this fight and for good reason.
Cotto can make history in this fight if he wins by becoming the first Puerto Rican-born fighter to hold world title belts in four weight classes.
However, to accomplish that, he has to move up in weight to the middleweight division to fight a much bigger and physically imposing Martinez.
While Cotto doesn’t possess the elite speed that would give him the clear edge in this fight, he is hoping to regain his fierce offensive attack and vicious left hook to the body that made him so dangerous in his heyday. He has gotten away from that in recent years, but under Roach’s tutelage, that appears to have returned, and Cotto will look to make it his primary weapon against Martinez.
If Cotto can keep Martinez in front of him and stay at a close distance, he can punish him with left hooks to the body. Given that Cotto is at a clear disadvantage in the size department, Cotto needs to apply constant pressure and not allow Martinez to counter.
Cotto also has the advantage of being six years younger, so his endurance and ability to take hits will be paramount in this fight.
The former three-division champ faces a big challenge, but if he can start fast and apply a lot of pressure in the early rounds, he could outlast Martinez, who has stopped just one opponent before Round 7 in the past six years.
Finally, Cotto is fighting in his home away from home at the Garden, where he has fought nine times in his career, including 11 total times in the Big Apple.
Cotto wants to prove he is still on the top of his game after a recent string of failure, while also showing that he can upend an elite fighter. Cotto has been knocked for never really beating a top-notch fighter, besides Sugar Shane Mosley, who was way past his prime in their fight.
Not only will he want to get that monkey off his back, a win against Martinez can make him a potential Floyd Mayweather candidate early next year.
Regardless, the advantage of a familiar building and setting and the opportunity to make Puerto Rican history should be more than enough motivation for Cotto.
The Case for Martinez
Sergio Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) has a lot to prove after taking a year off to heal.
The Argentinean has looked shaky in recent bouts as Grandfather Time appears to be catching up to him.
However, he claims he is 100 percent for this fight and in prime shape to defeat Cotto.
The advantages are clear for Martinez, who is superior in every physical aspect. Martinez stands three inches taller than Cotto at 5-foot-10 and has a 73 inch reach compared to Cotto’s 67 inch reach.
Martinez is a veteran at the middleweight class and will look to impose his size and strength on a much smaller Cotto. They will fight at a catch weight of 159 pounds, but Martinez’s height advantage is very noticeable.
The key for Martinez will be his lateral movement and his ability to keep distance from Cotto. Martinez will look to utilize is deadly counter attacks at any chance he gets.
If the champ works from distance and can get Cotto to misstep, he can throw his signature counter blow, a strong, quick and devastating punch to the chin when Cotto is off-balance.
Martinez certainly has the power to end this fight early, but his speed and overall ability to move around the ring is in question.
Regardless, Martinez wants to prove he’s still got it, and he will obviously want to retain his middleweight title, which he has already defended once after winning it back from Chavez.
A loss here could mean retirement for Martinez, and would likely seriously harm his chance of another major money fight in 2014.
So, the Argentinean star has a lot on the line when he fights Saturday night.
Given Martinez’s absence from the ring over the last year and his age, I can’t see him outlasting Cotto in a 12-round bout. Unless he can catch Cotto and end the fight early, I think the underdog Cotto captures the middleweight title.
Cotto’s nasty left hook is back and he has the smarts, the training and just enough to overcome his size disadvantage. Not only that, he has the health and durability that Martinez seems to be missing as of late. I have Cotto winning a UD.
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