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The right fight at the right time

In boxing, the right thing doesn't always happen. If it did, we'd be getting ready for the conclusion of a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao trilogy by now.

But the right thing happened Thursday as the promoters, Top Rank and Lou DiBella, and the fighters finalized the Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto middleweight championship fight.

It's a big one and it's the right fight at the right time for both fighters, and for the sport.

June 7 at New York's historic Madison Square Garden is going to be one very special night. The place will absolutely rock and I expect the HBO PPV to generate a very healthy mid-to-high six figures.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the electricity on that night is going to rival any of the big nights I have covered at the Garden -- including such memorable atmospheres as Felix Trinidad-William Joppy and Cotto-Zab Judah -- or any big fight I've covered in general, for that matter.

I also expect a helluva fight between two proud, probable Hall of Famers, both of whom are winding down their outstanding careers. I have no doubt both understand the historical implications of this fight and that both will be desperate to win for themselves, for their legacies and for their countries. Cotto's Puerto Rican fans will be out in force, as they always are when he plays the Garden, but Argentina will also be in the house big-time for Martinez.

Atmosphere aside, given how many exciting fights each man has participated in -- and how skillful they both are -- this one has a chance to be a great one.

After Cotto knocked out Delvin Rodriguez in spectacular fashion in his first fight under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, Cotto was immediately asked about the prospect of moving up to middleweight to face Martinez -- the real 160-pound champ, not a mere titleholder. I could tell on that October night in Orlando, Fla., that he was very intrigued by the possibility.

Cotto being Cotto, he played it cool at the news conference, but he did show a little bit of emotion when he admitted that the prospect of becoming the first Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles in four weight classes was something very attractive to him.

At that time, the big issue for Cotto was whether he would take what would likely be a bigger offer to fight Canelo Alvarez, who was coming off the lopsided junior middleweight title loss to Mayweather, or instead pursue a fight with Martinez, even though it probably meant seven figures less financially.

I'm glad Cotto opted for Martinez. He will still be paid handsomely, but he can gain far more glory and add much more to his legacy against Martinez. Cotto knows that.

That Cotto left money on the table shows you the type of competitor he is. But he also knows that getting the chance to fight in his building during Puerto Rican Day parade weekend for the real middleweight championship -- rather than on Alvarez's West Coast turf next month -- was worth something to him.

And now Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) has his chance to place himself in the history books by doing something that his great countrymen -- such as Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez, Felix Trinidad and Carlos Ortiz -- never accomplished.

Martinez may have beaten opponents such as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams, all of whom have more middleweight accomplishment than a man who has never fought in the division, but none of them has the star power and worldwide respect that Cotto has.

Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) has been out of action since last April because of a second surgery on his bum right knee, but at this point in his career there's no such thing as a tune-up fight. That meant making the biggest fight possible, as soon as possible.

That meant agreeing to face Cotto, an opponent he has distaste for after they met a couple of years ago at a television studio in Mexico. The way the story goes, Martinez was excited to meet Cotto, but Cotto blew him off and refused to even shake his hand. Since then, Martinez has wanted a piece of Cotto. So add the machismo element of bad blood and we have an even more interesting fight on our hands.

History. Legacy. Storyline. Contrasting styles. A result entirely in question. A surefire electrifying atmosphere.

This fight has everything you could possibly want in a big-time championship prizefight.

It's a shame that one of them has to lose (barring an unlikely draw, of course), but by doing the right thing and making the fight they, along with boxing fans everywhere, are winners in my book.