“There’s not a whole lot that has to be said about this fight,” claimed promoter Lou DiBella at a Tuesday press conference to promote the June 7th Miguel Cotto – Sergio Martinez WBC middleweight title match.
DiBella may be one of the people who has made the match an oncoming reality, but his assertion that there isn’t a lot that has to be said for the upcoming bout couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, the appeal of Cotto battling Martinez in front of thousands at Madison Square Garden speaks for itself, but the sheer weight of that appeal is perhaps being underrepresented.
For the mood in the bright Chase Square room at Madison Square Garden was positively electric on Tuesday. Puerto Rican fans cheered for Puerto Rico’s Cotto while Argentinian fans waved their nation’s blue and white flag in support of the Argentinian Martinez. Even the assembled media discussed the matchup excitedly before the press conference began.
When the event belatedly got under way, the difference between Cotto and Martinez was obvious. Cotto, with his rugged features, looked every part the tough guy. His sharp suit and quiet demeanor did nothing to hide the raw intensity which was visible on his face as well as in his eyes.
As for Martinez, well, he looked like a movie star. Simply put, the guy’s charcoal getup of a sport coat and turtleneck looked more George Clooney than it did Marvin Hagler. Still, the WBC middleweight title holder made it clear who the champion in the room was.
Martinez also made it clear that Cotto’s pre-fight demands, like insisting he enter the ring last in spite of being the challenger, had gotten under his skin. “If it wasn’t for that,” Martinez declared, “he won’t fight me.” Indeed Martinez’ goal during his short time at the microphone seemed to be to accuse Cotto
of being of poor character.
“I imagine on June 7th, he’s going to ask for rose petals,” Martinez quipped about his opponent. “Otherwise he won’t walk into the ring.”
Needless to say, the crowd ate it all up, for this was a lively, at times highly charged, affair. Fans yelled at berated from the back of the room, while the participants up on the stage took it all good naturedly. Except, perhaps, for promoter Bob Arum, who promptly told some hecklers to “shut up!” Yet the crowd ate that up, too.
It’s hard to imagine this pay per view battle not being a huge success. There’s everything at work here, from an interesting battle between two icons of the sport to national pride. It’s the sort of thing fans love to absorb. So much so that many may be surprised when the number of pay per view buys comes in after the dust has settled.
Indeed Lou DiBella didn’t hesitate in telling me what kind of success he thought the matchup would have. “Big,” he said forcefully. “Huge. I don’t care about top. I just want as many people to see it as possible because it’s going to be a great fight.”
Both Cotto and Martinez have a lot riding on this one. Cotto wants to be the fighter who brought home four belts to Puerto Rico. As for Martinez, he wants to be able to keep having a successful career as he closes in on the age of 40.
“Definitely,” Martinez’ adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, told me when I asked him if Gennady Golovkin was in Martinez’ future. “Actually, if it wasn’t for Cotto, he (Martinez) would have taken that fight.”
First, however, Martinez will have to get through Cotto this June. While it’s true Martinez looks to dominate on paper, the reality of the situation may prove to be something entirely different. Cotto is now under the tutelage of the esteemed Freddie Roach, after all. What’s more, he’ll be fighting for the entire island of Puerto Rico when he steps into the ring at the Garden.
“I’m going to be my best,” Cotto told the assembled media. Perhaps that just may be good enough.