Saturday night witnessed the end of a boxing great and the rebirth of another. In front of a packed and partisan Madison Square Garden crowd Miguel Cotto won a world title in his fourth weight class, cementing his status as a Puerto Rican legend and propelling him back into the top ten pound for pound list.
But for every victor, there is a loser.. and as hard as it is for a boxing fan to use the ‘L Word’ next to Maravilla’s name, he looked old and finished when his trainer Pablo Sarmiento pulled him out at the start of the tenth round.
Despite the obvious size and reach advantages Martinez had over the man he said had disrespected the nobility of boxing, Cotto started the bout as sharp as we have ever seen him. The first solid punch he landed in the fight buckled Martinez’ aging knees, with the legs seemingly unable to keep him planted.
Three knockdowns swiftly followed and though they weren’t heavy KD’s, they were hurtful punches from which Martinez couldn’t recover. The next five rounds followed a similar pattern, Cotto pushing the action, utilising the left hook effectively and heading for the body to break his aging opponent down.
A controversial knockdown in the ninth was contested by Martinez but it was pride and ego that was preventing him from seeing the bigger picture. His knees have finally failed the great, slick Argentinian. He can no longer rely on his speed to move out-of-the-way and we saw him with a high guard far more often in this fight than his last five combined.
Cotto is now poised for a megafight with either Canelo Alvarez at middleweight, or a rematch with the undisputed pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather at welterweight.
I may stick my neck out on the line and say that Cotto doesn’t look big enough at the weight for a sustained campaign as a middleweight. A fight against Golovkin could violently end his resurgence.
When you couple that with realisation that there is now a shortage of viable opponents for Mayweather, Cotto may well have punched his way into contention for the September date. His performance had all of the indications of a fighter well and truly back to his brutal best.
He certainly reminded the fans of the man he used to be before the controversial loss to Antonio Margarito back in July 2008.
But for all the positives of Cotto’s performance it is important to note this was not a fully fit and prime Sergio Martinez. The warning signs were there when he inched his way to a decision victory over Martin Murray last year.
His respect for the sport has always been admirable, some of the performances he has turned in over the years have been mesmerising. The one punch power vs Paul Williams.
The eleven round pasting he gave the iron chinned Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Even when he was heavily knocked down in the final round of that fight, Martinez dropped his gloves and swung it out til the final bell.
We witnessed the end of the career of a fantastic boxer in a very sad way and one too familiar to boxing fans… one where the body lets the mind down and the physical attributes that make the fighter such a terrifying prospect just seem to diminish and vanish. Rapidly.
It is a shame he never got the recognition, the pay-days or the respect he deserved as a fighter. At his best he was an unconventional machine. Fairytale endings are rare in this game.
Sergio ‘Maravilla’ Martinez had to find that out the hard way, but when we look back on his career in a few years time, the destruction of Kelly Pavlik, the way he dealt with Macklin, Barker, Dzinziruk… hopefully he will finally get the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest middleweights in the modern era.