Martinez-Cotto getting closer

A long-awaited bout between middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto could be on tap. Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

As a June fight between middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto gets closer and closer, one potential impediment to the deal getting done has seemingly been removed.

Marco Antonio Rubio is Martinez's mandatory challenger and the fight is due. Fighting Cotto is a much, much, much bigger fight for Martinez than facing Rubio. Everyone knows that, including the WBC, whose alphabet belt Martinez holds. The belt is important to Martinez and he surely would not want to give it up or be stripped (which he was once before). Cotto wants it too, because he wants to become the first Puerto Rican to win a world title in four weight classes. Even though Martinez is the lineal champion, fighters still like alphabet belts.

But now getting Martinez-Cotto sanctioned for the belt apparently isn't going to be an issue if you read the tea leaves.

With Martinez still recovering from knee surgery (although he is supposed to be ready for a June fight), the WBC announced it has ordered Rubio to face Italy's Domenica Spada (who is absurdly ranked No. 2 by the organization at middleweight) for the interim title. Their fight will probably take place in March in Mexico.

The WBC also said that it ordered the interim title fight because Martinez is injured and that he should defend the full title against the Rubio-Spada winner in June or July.

But we all know that is not going to happen and you can take it to the bank that the WBC, having allowed the interim title bout to take place, will almost certainly sanction a massive event such as Martinez-Cotto, which means big sanctioning fees. It will have no problem making the Rubio-Spada winner wait a little longer to fight for the full title. Besides, Rubio-Spada winner might not even be physically ready to fight in June. Even if the winner is ready to fight, negotiations, requests for a purse bid delay and all the other things that could be done to put the fight off make it extremely unlikely that it would be done by June or July if one side wants to delay it.

Martinez-Cotto probably will be announced officially in late January. With the interim title fight pending in March, it is extremely unlikely the WBC would try to hold up a June Martinez-Cotto fight. It wants in on that action, too.