NEW YORK CITY, NY — Miguel Cotto is the middleweight champion of the world. Let that sink in for a just a moment. All the talk of being too small to compete at this weight went out the window in the span of a minute courtesy of a few right hands and a smashing left hook that the disposed champion, Sergio Martinez, later admitted he never recovered from. Three trips to the canvas later, Martinez was essentially on borrowed time for the next eight rounds before his corner wisely ended the carnage and cemented Cotto’s name in the lore of Puerto Rican boxing history.
A WOUNDED CHAMPION GETS MAULED: It’s no secret that Martinez was not going into this fight 100%. From his own words about training in constant pain, to the news that he spent the majority of camp not sparring for fear of further injury, the big drama surrounding this fight was if Maravilla had slipped enough for Cotto to compete. Martinez’s stiff movement and lack of balance with his right knee was apparent early on. However, just as important was his dulled reflexes, no doubt exacerbated by age and the year-long layoff.
This is what allowed Cotto to blitz him early with counter rights and then those smashing left hooks over Martinez’s low right hand. Martinez’s defense is predicated on his legs and reflexes. Without them , he only had his toughness to keep him conscious after nearly being stopped in the first.
There was little hope for Martinez to turn it around due to the fact he didn’t have the balance to land a decent counter shot. His few moments of success came at the end of the fifth and seventh, where he landed a few digging lefts to the body and made Cotto temporarily retreat. Outside of that, Cotto consistently knocked him back with lead right hands, stiff left jabs, and crushing hooks to the body. Cotto’s combination punching was so fluid in contrast to Martinez’s flailing, sloppy offense that the fight had the appearance of a seasoned pro smacking around a novice.
A BOXING LESSON MIXED IN: Last night’s annihilation wasn’t just Cotto walking down Martinez like the latter was an oversized version of Carlos Quintana. Cotto also took away Martinez’s ability to gain confidence through his slick boxing. The times Martinez did come forward, he found himself hurt several times by Cotto right crosses and counter left hooks. This would put Sergio back in retreat and inevitably to a corner where Cotto abused him with power shots.
The humiliation for this proud champion most pronounced in the ninth, when a vicious left uppercut later followed by counter jab buckled Martinez for a fourth knockdown (Writer’s Note: On replay, the knockdown call was incorrect as Martinez’s knee didn’t touch the canvas).
THE RIGHT CALL: After the ninth, Martinez’s trainer Pablo Sarmiento pleaded with his man to let him stop the fight. First, he tried reason, telling Martinez the shape of his right knee prevented him from having any hope of a comeback. Soon, Sarmiento’s pleading turned to a demand, taking Martinez’s choice out of it. In the end, the stoppage was the right call. Any further punishment was unnecessary and Martinez being able to leave the ring conscious was a small victory considering his physical condition and the damage Cotto inflicted.
FATHER TIME REMAINS UNDEFEATED, BUT SO DOES CLASS: Last night was for all intents and purposes the last time we’ll see Sergio Martinez in a boxing ring. If a year layoff can’t fix his injuries, then he’s as good as finished. Once again, boxing proves it’s the cruelest sport — Martinez spends his entire career chasing a Hall of Famer/Superstar, gets one at the end of his career, and isn’t at the physical best to truly capitalize on it.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also got to see why boxing is also the most beautiful sport. With the clear injuries he had, Martinez had every reason to have excuses for this loss. HBO commentator Max Kellerman set him up perfectly with his questions, but Martinez was all class in refusing to dampen Cotto’s victory. He gave Miguel full credit for the win and acknowledged he faced a better man tonight.
A CALCULATED RISK REAPS MANY OPPORTUNITIES: Once again, Miguel Cotto is the hottest free agent in boxing. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum mentioned Timothy Bradley as a potential opponent. On the Golden Boy side there’s Canelo, who faces Erislandy Lara next month. If Canelo wins, a fight with Cotto for the middleweight title would do huge pay-per-view numbers. Also, lets not forget Mayweather, who avoided Martinez but would jump at the chance for a Cotto rematch and the chance to add the lineal middleweight title to his collection. And considering Cotto’s track record for taking dangerous fights, let’s not discount Cotto facing the middleweight heir apparent in Gennady Golovkin.