If this was the Sergio Martinez of a few year ago, selecting him to go over Miguel Cotto, even in one his prime, would have been a forgone conclusion. His very unorthodox style, super quickness and agility, pinpoint accuracy from all angles, and pop would have been a poor contrast in styles for the more traditional, heart-before-health, future HOFer. Alas, this is not great Argentine of old--at least, we may not fully know that, yet.
Martinez has not fought since last April, where he did not look especially impressive in front of his home crowd against a non-complacent Martin Murray.Since that fight, and even before then, he has been in a longer bout with Father Time, and his 39 year-old body has been giving him fits. Most recently, it has been his knees (little surprise for the former cyclist) and his legs have played a pivotal role in his style of fighting. He has claimed to be fresh and ready, but it is a question as to what extent. Less of a question (to its own extent) is Miguel Cotto, who himself has not fought since last October--coming off of back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Austin Trout in 2012--but stopped Delvin Rodriguez in four under the new tutelage of Freddie Roach, who coached Manny Pacquaio to stopping him back in 2009.
A four-round rout is hardly enough to judge a fighter's progress on, though he did look very good. However, Martinez-Cotto is more about what Martinez might not be able to do than what Cotto is able to. A deficient or older Martinez will likely get flummoxed and potentially even stopped by Cotto, but if Martinez still has that elusiveness and accuracy, he could still best Cotto. His body is the great unknown here, and at this point, I am unsure how much is left in the tank on the rugged cusp of 40.
Prediction: Cotto, UD. Martinez has a good chin, so a decision victory would probably be more likely. I would have picked the champion easy, but there are too many significant questions to him. I believe even a Martinez operating at 80% could best Cotto and could take a slim, but convincing UD, but that would have to be solid one given he's in Madison Square Garden on Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend…
Outcome: Cotto, TKO10 (RTD). Sergio Martinez--39 years of age, bad knee, 14 month-long layoff, lesser-toned body, and dry--going against a ready and refreshed-looking Miguel Cotto was a nightmare scenario waiting to happen for the soon-to-be-former middleweight champion--and that was before the three knockdowns incurred in the first round alone! Now, add on a more orthodox and defense-minded (and less-characteristic) fighting stance, unsteadiness from the first KD (and the lead-up punch before that), slower timing and movement, and a lack of pop onto Martinez and the writing was on the wall as early as Rd. 3/4. Despite a relatively-good 5th and 6th, Cotto was still in charge and increasingly-brutal Rds. 8 and particularly 9 finally led to the Argentinian's corner to stop the contest.
As noted, the ending was already in place very early, and it was helped as much by Martinez being a shell of his former self as it was Miguel Cotto being revamped and rejuvenated. He looked like a young, hungry prospect fighting for his first championship than someone with a storied, but also tumultuous, career. For the first time, he has looked like a complete fighter, employing great shades of defense with his shifting away from shots and guarding, a display of fighting wisdom with his punch and combo output, and patience with steadily picking Martinez apart, not over-pressuring him nor being too cautious. I have not been a fan of Cotto's due to the glaring deficiencies I saw in him as a fighter, but now he has finally begun to look like a praiseworthy one under the refining eye of Freddie Roach, who had done similar wonders for a once-raw Manny Pacquiao.
His future has brightened considerably, even after all that he has done and fought, but for Martinez, this should--and hopefully will be--the end of the road from him. He certainly tried to fight and show flashes of his former brillance and has earned himself a Hall-of-Fame spot, but having gotten into the fight game late, and peaking later in the process, that June evening was perhaps a moment in the making from the very beginning.
[UPDATED (06/25/14): "Outcome" now included.]