By Sean Crose
The difference in personalities between middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and superstar challenger Miguel Cotto was obvious from footage of the two men entering Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Cotto looked to be pure intensity – Martinez, nonchalance personified. Regardless of appearances, however, it was time for these two hostile warriors to settle things definitively. In short, it was time for both men to do battle in the ring.
To the surprise of many, Cotto entered the ring first and was announced first. Still, the enormous New York crowd was largely in his favor. Yet Martinez, ever the optimist, appeared unfazed. Cotto came out swinging and tagged Martinez almost immediately. Less than a minute into the round he had his man hurt – seriously hurt.
At one minute, forty seconds into the first, Martinez was down. He was up quickly enough, but Cotto was boxing’s version of General Patton. With less than a minute left, Martinez was down again. With forty seconds left he was down a third time. What’s more, his knee looked out of whack.
Somehow, the Argentinian managed to survive the round.
Cotto continued his trail of destruction at the start of the second. Martinez tried to avoid Freddie Roach’s newest destroyer, but Cotto looked like a prime Mike Tyson, as he savaged Martinez’ body. A slip brought Martinez down with just over a minute left in the round. He got up and continued to try avoiding his foe, but Cotto had simply never looked so good.
By the third it was clear that Cotto was not only out punching his man, he was proving to be more skilled as well. Martinez tried to make something happen around the halfway point, but Cotto, yes Cotto, appeared to be too strong. By the end of the third, however, Martinez seemed to be somehow getting into his groove, floating about the ring and tagging his opponent effectively.
Martinez entered the fourth flicking his right jab. Still, it was Cotto who was still controlling the fight. By the midpoint of the round, Martinez was hurt yet again. The fourth ended somewhat quietly, to be sure, but it was Cotto who remained in charge.
By the fifth it was pretty clear that Martinez would need a knockout to win. Cotto was just too hard hitting, too aggressive, too relentless. Martinez had some flashes, to be sure. But his knee was giving him trouble and his solid moments were too few and far between.
He may have shown some sign of life in a close sixth round, but Martinez was nowhere even close to making up lost rounds. While there’s no doubt the man showed the heart of legitimate warrior, the defending champion had gotten too far behind on points and momentum to slick his way to a victory.
What else could he do, though? Cotto was genuinely far more ferocious than even his most ardent of fans could possibly has expected him to be. The tutelage of Freddie Roach had truly worked wonders for Cotto. Not only was the fight turning into Cottos greatest performance, it was becoming Roach’s greatest performance as a trainer, as well.
As the bout wore on, one had to take note of the fact that Cotto just wasn’t tiring. On the other hand, Martinez’ face betrayed utter defeat as the aging lion sat on his stool between the eight and ninth rounds. It was all over. It was simply a matter of when and how. In fact, by the ninth round, the fight ceased to be entertaining. Martinez’ face was a mess. It was time for his corner to stop it.
And after he was dropped yet again in the ninth, Martinez’ trainer, Pablo Sarmiento, did the right thing. It was a moving, tragic moment, but those who loved the Argentinian legend most truly had no other choice. The fight was stopped and Cotto was champ.