By Rudy Mondragon
I just finished watching HBO’s 24/7 of Martinez versus Cotto or as Miguel the “A-Side” prefers it, Cotto versus Martinez. HBO 24/7 started off as a great show that gave fans an in depth look at two fighters leading up to their fight. Now, it’s turned into simply another promotional tool. What can we learn from the first of two episodes of Martinez vs Cotto HBO 24/7? Well, it’s the battle of the “What If’s.”
I had a good conversation with my good friend, Edgar Villeda. The man know’s his boxing, we’ve been watching it since our early high school days and continue to debate. His thoughts on this fight lean towards the Puerto Rican fighter. My thoughts and bias, are with Sergio Martinez. In our conversation, Edgar commented on my assessment and said, “bro, you got a lot of what if’s man!” He is right and this first episode of HBO 24/7 confirmed it.
For Martinez, the ‘What if’s’ revolve around his health and age. Will Martinez benefit from his year off? Has he healed from his fractured left hand injury suffered in his fight against Martin Murray? Has his shoulder and left knee healed after his year away from the ring? If Martinez is healthy and has benefited from that year off, it will allow for this athletic boxer to do what he does: Move like a general in the ring, out speed Cotto, and as a south paw, force Cotto to adjust and avoid his massive left hooks.
At the age of 39, Martinez could get old in his next fight. With a whole year off, in his late 30s, ring rust takes on a whole new definition. We also see older fighters doing big things however: Juan Manuel Marquez and Bernard Hopkins are two great examples of this. Having started his boxing career late and not seeing many wars in his boxing days, Martinez does not run a huge risk in getting old in this fight. But nonetheless, it is possible. If Martinez comes fresh and healthy into this fight, he will give Cotto hell.
Cotto is known for changing trainers like he changes his underwear. He has had one fight with Freddie Roach and that was a simple tune up fight. Biggest thing taken away from that fight was that the honeymoon between Roach and Cotto was great and that Cotto’s confidence was built after beating an under par boxer in Delvin Rodriguez. Changing trainers this late into one’s career is also not a panacea. Just as Robert Garcia once told me, when training Antonio Margarito, he wasn’t out to change Antonio’s style, but to work with what he had and best prepare him for his next fight. Same applies with Roach. Roach cannot change Cotto, but he can provide him with a great game plan. If that game plan is a superior one and Sergio comes into the ring under 100 percent, than Cotto has an opportunity to make history.
As the perceived A-Side, Miguel Cotto moves with a mentality of having the power to pick his opponents. When one picks their next opponent as the A-Side, one looks for fighters they can exploit and have the edge over. As Sergio Martinez said, if Cotto picked this fight based on Sergio’s performance against Martin Murray, then Cotto is in trouble. However, if Cotto picked this fight for that reason and Sergio performs at that same level, then Cotto’s career as a matchmaker has great promise!
Boxing is a sport with many dynamics. There are many things that can influence the outcome of a fight. Many of those happen before the first bell, during training camp, the physical and psychological health of a fighter, chemistry in each teams training camp, etc. Different set of factors come the night of the fight: how well each fighter recovers from the weight in from the day before, judges, referees, psychological warfare, and home court advantage. This fight is no different and because of the many “what if’s,” it makes this match up the best 2014 has seen.