Among the three most high-profile bouts set for the next few months, the Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto scrap set for June 7 at Madison Square Garden is perhaps getting the most amount of respect from fight fans.
On April 26, Manny Pacquiao will show the world if Timothy Bradley has supplanted him on the pound-for-pound list, and then, on May 3, Floyd Mayweather will quite likely put on another master class of pugilism to make Marcos Maidana look more like a crude practitioner than the fella who pulled off the upset of the year in 2013, against Adrien Broner. But it is the June square-off between WBC middleweight champion Martinez (51-2-2 with 28 KOs), the model-handsome but injury-dogged stylist, and Puerto Rican legend Cotto (38-4 with 31 KOs), making a challenging leap to a weight class 20 pounds north of where he did most of his best work, that seems to get many fight-watchers extra jazzed.
The setting, which all expect to be a celebration of electricity at an expected sold-out MSG, contributes to the anticipation. But the clash -- which pits the athletic/balletic manner of Martinez, the 39-year-old Argentine who enjoys uniform support from those inside and outside the business as a solid citizen who respects the sport and all souls, against the always-ready-to-rumble Cotto -- is making mouths water.
The hitters gathered at MSG on Tuesday to hype the promotion, which is being staged by Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, and will be screened on HBO pay-per-view.
In the battle before the battle, Martinez came away with his hand raised, as he lightly mocked Cotto for a diva attitude that netted Cotto the "catchweight" of 159 pounds, which he believes will aid him, and superior placement on fight posters.
"Cotto will ask for rose petals or he won't walk into the ring," Martinez cracked, drawing healthy chuckles from the media and a couple hundred fans who got tickets to see the preshow.
Martinez, who last gloved up in April 2013 (a 12-round unanimous decision over Martin Murray), will enter the ring with question marks hanging over his head. His right knee has been opened up three times in the past few years, and he hasn't even been cleared to do road work. Promoter DiBella told ESPN New York that he cannot guarantee Sergio's body won't have the odd ache or two on fight night, but he declared that the Argentine has a superior pain tolerance and won't allow his knee to be his downfall.
Cotto is no ace as a trash-talker. He promised that the fans will be the big winners and claims he couldn't recall an incident Martinez said fuels him. Around three or four years ago, the two crossed paths at an event, and Cotto blew him off, Martinez said. Cotto shrugged off the "incident."
"If that's motivation, good for him," said the 33-year-old, who is coming off a third-round TKO win over Delvin Rodriguez in October.
If you wanted combat, you had to appreciate the 82-year-old Arum, who strode to the mic, and whereupon he heard some fans booing him, yelled "Shaddup!" and waved a dismissive hand. They piped down, having been handled by a master at both heckling and heckler deflation.
Fight fans, talk to us. Will Sergio be too big for Cotto? Will his left-handed stance prove to be too tricky, coupled with his slick movement, for the more plodding Puerto Rican? Or will Cotto be able to build on his new relationship with trainer Freddie Roach, and land some of those rib-smashing left hooks, which he's gotten away from in recent years? Could Sergio's legs and knee betray him, allowing Cotto to get in his face and grind him down? Weigh in!