Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez has been recovering from knee and arm injuries over the past 13 months but vows to be ready to fight Miguel Cotto on June 7 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs), the lineal champion, has wanted to fight Cotto for the last four years but is coming off a lackluster performance in his native Argentina against Martin Murray in April 2013.
In September 2012, Martinez dominated Julio Cesar Chavez for 11 rounds, but in the 12th Chavez dropped Martinez. While the champ was able to survive and get the victory by unanimous decision, he suffered a severe knee injury. He fought Murray without being fully healed, so after the win, Martinez decided to take some time off.
In his own words, the 39-year-old Martinez discusses his desire to fight Cotto and to show he is an elite fighter.
Great Argentine fighters like Carlos Monzon and Oscar Bonavena fought at Madison Square Garden. You have fought at the Theater at MSG, but how important is for you to continue that tradition of great Argentine fighters performing at the mecca of boxing?
"It has been a major dream of mine to fight at Madison Square Garden in the big room. I never would have imagined that I would be headlining a main event over there if you asked me that 10 years ago.
"To fight at Madison Square Garden where great Argentinean boxers fought like Oscar Bonavena and Carlos Monzon is the grandest honor that any Argentinean boxer could possibly have. The Argentinean community in New York has always been very supportive of me, and I expect an incredible atmosphere similar to a world cup soccer match.
"Miguel Cotto says Madison Square Garden is his home, but come June 7th he will be evicted and I will prove that I am one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world."
After your loss to Antonio Margarito in 2000, did you ever imagine that your career would be like this? Titles, celebrity status, etc.
"My loss to Margarito was probably the best thing that happened to me. It humbled me and made me realize that this is a serious sport and I needed to mature as a fighter and as a person. It also made me realize that I needed to change. I had to cut out the negative people that surrounded me at that time and find people that would be positive for my career.
"I knew that I would return to Vegas and be a champion after that loss because I had the desire to be a champion and was willing to put the time and effort to get to that level.
"I never would’ve imagined reaching this level of notoriety. That has to be attributed to my current team of Sampson Lewkowicz, Miguel Angel Depablos and Nathan Lewkowicz, who have worked very hard in furthering my career. Without having a solid team behind you then it would be difficult to get to this level and sustain it."
Fighting with injuries (knee, elbow, wrist), how hard is it to prepare when your body hurts for any fight?
"It is not easy to prepare for a fight when you have some of the ailments that I have when preparing for a World Championship fight. I struggle with joint pains, knee pain and shoulder pain. Without my physical therapist, Dr. Raquel Bordons, I would not be able to train today and probably would’ve had to retire due to my injuries.
"Because I train six days a week for an average of eight hours a day, I am always in constant pain. There are some days when I am so sore that I cannot even walk, but I push myself because I know that I have to push myself to be the best fighter in the world. I know that I have to put in more hours than your average fighter because I didn’t grow up a boxer. I started very late in this sport, so that is why I have to train so many hours and put in a lot of work in order to perform at the level that is expected of me and for me to come out victorious."
You have been waiting to face Cotto for almost four years. Why do you think he wants to fight you now?
"Miguel Cotto believes that I am ripe for the picking and that my age has finally caught up with me. What he doesn’t realize is that for the Martin Murray fight, I had many injuries going into the fight.
"I did not want to postpone the event because it was always a dream of mine to defend my title in Argentina, so we as a team decided to go forward with the fight with Martin Murray. I still came out victorious in that fight, but Miguel Cotto thinks I’m on the decline, which is the only reason I believe he chose to face me now.
"What Miguel Cotto doesn’t realize is that I am extremely motivated for this fight. Not just because I don’t necessarily care for Miguel Cotto, but I want to prove him wrong in thinking that I’m not an elite fighter.
"Cotto is a good fighter and a future Hall of Famer, but he will not become the world middleweight champion by defeating me.
"The only way I see this fight ending is with Miguel Cotto being knocked out. I cannot see the fight going past nine rounds."