The Fight To Cement a Legacy: Cotto-Martinez Preview

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So many questions linger in the lead up for the HBO PPV battle between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez broadcasting live from Madison Square Garden this Saturday night.

Will Cotto’s face hold up under constant fire from accurate combination punching of Maravilla? Can Martinez make it through a whole fight without his knee flaring up? Is Sergio Martinez’s career already Hall of Fame worthy or does he need to secure a win against Miguel Cotto to help him get over that hump?

Age is more of a factor for Sergio but physically even with Martinez’s recent string of injuries, Miguel’s fighter body may be the more shopworn of the two having engaged in many brutal wars over the years.

Boxing fans will never forget that July night in 2008, when the lights went out on Miguel Cotto’s career as fighter in his prime. The blood gushed from ever pour of Cotto’s face as he bravely took knees before his corner threw in the towel.

Once the news came out about the illegal hand wraps before Margarito’s fight with Shane Mosley, it only increased my respect for Cotto to withstand as much punishment as he did without hitting the canvas from a punch.

After that brutal beating by the hands or plaster of Margarito, Cotto rebounded at the championship level with a razor close victory over Joshua Clottey.

That set the stage for an HBO PPV fight with Manny Pacquiao that winter of 2009. It was a spirited brawl through the first four rounds. Pacquiao sprinted out to a lead that he never gave back as Cotto succumbed to Manny’s pressure in the final round.

Cotto took more time off with the intentions of rebuilding his career, bouncing back with a win against Yuri Foreman in Yankee Stadium.

It took Cotto a few camps to adjust to the new weight class at junior middleweight. When he did he set his sights on the man who robbed him and countless boxing fans of his prime years.

By conquering Margarito in the rematch at the arena known as the “Mecca of Boxing” Madison Square Garden we saw a different Cotto. That night Cotto fought a smarter fight, getting off first than clinching and moving his opponent instead of staying right in front exchanging blows.

Cotto’s first fight away for Top Rank saw him face Floyd Mayweather. Miguel managed to have his share of success against the pound for pound best fighter in the world. However, after a great performance against Mayweather he stumbled against a southpaw Austin Trout, with a style that Cotto couldn’t figure out and never looked mentally or physically sharp.

Teaming with Freddie Roach has improved Miguel Cotto’s body we don’t know if it’s improved his skills or focus. Cotto was once a fearless body puncher who wore fighters down before attacking upstairs. It seems ever since the Margarito beating in the first fight, Cotto has been very hesitant when the time came to unleash his offense at the top level.

Sergio Martinez was a late bloomer having started at the age of 19 years old. A quick study Maravilla has torn through the boxing world after his defeat and lone knockout defeat against Antonio Margarito in 2000. Beyond 2000, Martinez’s last loss was 2009 to Paul Williams in a very close slugfest which he made amends for with a brilliant second round knockout the following year.

It took some time similar to Cotto, for Martinez to adjust to the middleweight division. Never truly has been a full-fledged middleweight usually giving away a lot of weight to the opposition during his lineal championship run.

Although Sergio has been dominant he has shown vulnerability being down against Macklin, Murray, Williams, and Pavlik with the jab being a key factor in 3 of those fights. Cotto has one of the best jabs in the business no doubt and will need that olid jab to fluster and ultimately track down Sergio Martinez.

The last two years Sergio’s body has failed him needing 2 surgeries on his repaired knee along with two broken hands. I do expect for Martinez to be healthier then he was against Martin Murray. In that fight he clearly was hampered by the knee and many people think he was lucky to walk away with the victory.

Another lingering question is with almost 14 months off how long will it take for Sergio to get the rust off?

Miguel Cotto will be the best opponent of Sergio Martinez career up to this point. That may not matter because of the weight advantage. Not only the weight advantage, but more importantly the sizable reach that the outside fighter, in this case Sergio, will have could turn out to be the difference in the fight.

Most boxing media and fans are picking Sergio Martinez by slaughter. The old rule of thumb in boxing goes as followed. Usually a great big will beat a great smaller weight fighter.

Fair or not at his age, this Saturday Sergio Martinez will have the opportunity to prove he is a great fighter with Cotto being a great fighter coming up in weight. We will see if his skills will be enough to beat Miguel Cotto who is offensively gifted when on his game.

Watching the Mayweather/Cotto fight it was clear that Mayweather, who tends to be a slow starter on offense, was much more active early. Using angles with combination punching the way Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout, and Manny Pacquiao did, produce’s a blueprint for Martinez to follow.

Miguel slumps over leaving himself wide open for the uppercut of Martinez. Martinez is slick and brilliantly skillful but has been known to stumble or get off balanced at times. If he loses his balance and gets punched in similar fashion as in the past resulting in a knockdown, it could haunt him even if this is an 8 to 4 type fight.

We recently had glove gate, for this matchup we have brace gate. Not being able to wear a knee brace for Martinez could affect him greatly. If he went through a whole training camp with a knee brace and this Saturday would be the first time he’ll be fighting or sparring without one, there’s a strong possibility of it hindering his mind and confidence.

Obviously the brace is there to keep the knee in place and possible settling for his mind. With his style and strategy, movement will be so important. It’s fair to wonder if he will remain confident in the knee or if the knee will stay in place for a whole fight.

Cotto will need a fast start applying pressure early before Sergio finds his groove while shaking the rust off. This fight may end in a slaughter but Cotto will give Sergio all he can handle. The inactivity and injury of Martinez will make this a much closer fight than the public or media thinks. If Mayweather had issues adjusting to Cotto’s jab I don’t see why Sergio won’t. For how long is the question.

Much has been made about Miguel Cotto fading as a fight wears on something that has been undoubtedly proven in the past. Let us not forget that Sergio tends to fade or at least takes breaks at the midway point.

The difference is Sergio Martinez has a knack to rally in the latter parts when it counts most. After a few rounds these two proud fighters will engage in a game of jabs, entertaining exchanges, with flurries from each fighter tugging the other for control.

Cotto must be patient yet persistent with his offensive attack. Not only his signature left hook to the body be needed to secure this historic win, he should also use power shoe-shine combos, a la Carl Froch.

By using the jab he will close the gap and bring this fight to the inside, a place where Sergio can’t shine as bright. Also, one punch at a time as the fight progresses won’t be enough. Cotto needs to throw in 2 and 3 punch combinations because we know his opponent will be active.

If Sergio can stay off the ropes by using a clinch to smother, it will allow him to keep his punch output up and increase the odds winning the fight and possibly punching his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Look for an even fight after 5-6 rounds maybe deeper, with Martinez’s skill and speed mixed with a smart and busy game plan resulting in control.

The turning point will come when Sergio is able to push Cotto backwards. Shane Mosley attacked Cotto very effectively but took too long to discover that weakness.

Cotto will be in this fight until his face begins to fall apart which will send him into retreat and survival mode. One thing is for sure that this scribe will be laying some loot down on Cotto with his Puerto Rican fan base ability to sway the judges making him a live underdog.

 

Prediction: Martinez By Decision