NEW YORK -- Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is a proud man, so it took a lot for him to swallow a bit of pride and be dictated to by Miguel Cotto when it came time to make a deal for their showdown on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at Madison Square Garden.
Although Martinez, like Cotto, will someday likely enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and has been a fine champion for several years, he does not have the economic muscle that Cotto has (or the drawing power).
Maybe Martinez does in Argentina, where his homecoming defense against Martin Murray last year drew nearly 50,000 to a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. But in New York? No way. This is Cotto’s town, where he has sold more tickets than anyone in recent decades, and this is also his weekend, that of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York.
Cotto has also been involved in several high-profile pay-per-view fights, while this will be Martinez’s second fight as a pay-per-view headliner. So when it came time to make a deal, Cotto’s side asked for -- and got -- basically everything it asked for.
A catch weight of 159 pounds? Yup.
Cotto’s name first in the promotion even though Martinez is the champion? Yup, that’s why the official name of the fight is Cotto-Martinez.
Cotto will also walk to the ring last and be introduced last, the slots usually reserved for the champion.
It has drawn the ire of Martinez and his team throughout the promotion.
“I don’t consider it a lack of respect, just absurd requests and absurd demands,” an annoyed Martinez said. “I have put that in the past.”
Said promoter Lou DiBella, “This was not an easy negotiation. We had to keep calling Sergio with more concessions that a champion doesn’t generally have to make, and at that time he was not pleased. And I think that came out at some of the press conferences very clearly as well as some of the interviews. If you saw the ‘Face Off with Max Kellerman’ [on HBO] you could see that he was upset about certain things, but I think he has channeled that to his benefit. Right now he is fixated on giving Cotto a beating and walking out of Madison Square Garden with [the] championship belt.
“Look, there were a lot of concessions that were made due to Cotto’s star value and concessions that he wanted that a champion doesn’t normally give, but Sergio’s attitude was that he wanted Miguel Cotto and he wanted this fight badly. He thought it was a great opportunity and he always wanted to fight in the big room at Madison Square Garden before he retired and to prove himself at the ‘Mecca of Boxing,’ and in order to get the fight we had to swallow some things we didn’t want to swallow.”
Indeed, during the kickoff news conference a couple of months ago, Martinez lashed out at Cotto, saying, “Don’t forget one thing,” Martinez said (in Spanish). “We are gonna fight because I am the champion and I’m coming into the ring first and he’s coming in second, otherwise there would be no fight. I go to the blue corner and I really don’t care, because I’m the champion, and if it wasn’t for that he won’t fight.
“I will be introduced first in the ring because if it wasn’t that way Cotto would not fight me. I can imagine on June 7th that he’s going to ask for rose petals, otherwise he won’t walk into the ring.”
Cotto’s take on Martinez’s ire was calm and cool. He knows the deal, since he entered fights with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as the titleholder but the B-side of those promotions and had to make similar concessions as Martinez has.
“If Sergio has any kind of issue with anything about this fight, he can discuss it with his guy [DiBella],” Cotto said. “We closed the deal a long time ago.”
Of Martinez taking the role as the B-side of the promotion, adviser Sampson Lewkowicz was practical.
“I prefer to be at the short end of the stick and be the B-side and win the fight.” he said.