A former champion in three weight classes, Miguel Cotto will duel with Sergio Martinez for the Ring and WBC middleweight crowns Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Coming off a redemptive technical knockout of Delvin Rodriguez last year, the 33-year-old Cotto looks to be the first Puerto Rican to claim victory in a fourth weight division. He’s following in the footsteps of such greats as Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad, but hopes surpass his compatriots.
"I fought some of the best fighters at 140, 147 and 154 pounds and now here I am facing the best at 160," Cotto said to ESPN. "For me, boxing has always been about challenges and competing and this one more fight that proves that point."
The victory over Rodrigez was Cotto’s first after dropping two straight unanimous decisions to American Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., losing the WBA super light middleweight and light middleweight belts in the process.
Cotto’s quest for greatness could be quickly halted by the southpaw Martinez, who’s won seven consecutive bouts with his last loss coming four years ago. Four of those seven fights ended by knockout, but in his last two matches Martinez went the full 12 rounds with Great Britain’s Martin Murray and Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
While the 39-year-old Argentine is heavily favored, major injuries in his bout against Murray and Chavez Jr. could derail his winning streak. Martinez broke his hand and tore ligaments in his knee in both fights, and underwent surgery. Martinez also sustained a shoulder injury during his recovery, and was on crutches for nine months while letting his knee heal up.
"It was very hard for me to come back from this, but I have an excellent team behind me," Martinez said to USA Today, "and more than that I have my ego and that is what drove me to get back to where I was before the injuries occurred."
Injuries aside, Martinez will also be fighting a Madison Square Garden crowd expected to root for Cotto. Cotto has fought eight times in the world’s most famous arena and maintains a 7-1 record.
Martinez has stared down New York’s fans with a title on the line before. In 2012 he earned an 11th round TKO over Ireland’s Matthew Macklin to retain the Ring and WBC middleweight crowns.
Start Time: Saturday, roughly after 11 p.m. EST
Betting Odds: Martinez is a -225 moneyline favorite, and Cotto is a +175 underdog
TV Channel: HBO
Pay Per View: Fans can order a subscription to HBO through their cable providers here.