The question is still being hotly debated online. How much credit does Miguel Cotto deserve for doing away with Sergio Martinez last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden?
The answer seems to depend on who you supported coming into the fight.
Backers of Martinez place a heavy asterisk on Cotto’s feat, pointing to Martinez’s age, bad knees, etc…
And as is usually the case in these types of debates, there’s some degree of truth in both viewpoints. However, the only true, verifiable, and accurate reality, is what actually happened in the bout.
Almost exactly one minute into the fight, Miguel Cotto landed a crisp left hook over a lazy, pawing Martinez southpaw right jab and caught the Argentine cold. Banged right on the sweet spot around his temple and caught off guard, Martinez’s legs buckled as he lost his equilibrium.
The end result of that one shot would be a three-knockdown first round and a second round spent mostly recuperating from a handful of subsequent left hooks from Cotto.
By the third round, Martinez was already in a deep hole, likely five points down and now facing a Cotto content on boxing and playing a bit of prevent defense. With Cotto boxing tightly and careful not to make any exploitable mistakes, Martinez was done– and it didn’t matter one bit which version of Sergio Martinez was there that night. Prime, shot, or somewhere in between, Martinez would not have been able to catch, hurt, and beat a Cotto with such a head start. This much, really, shouldn’t be up for debate. Martinez is, simply, not that type of fighter.
So, this leaves us with the itching temptation to blame the Martinez loss on age, gimpy knees, a bad hand, etc., but, there’s nothing concrete on which to actually hang those excuses.
Was Martinez so hobbled and age-withered that he allowed himself to get caught cold by that left hook? It was only a minute into the fight, so who, really, could tell?
It seems just as likely that Martinez, known to be someone who starts slow and cautious, probing with the right hand to find his distance, was simply countered at the right time and to maximum effect.
That specific left hook over the pawing right certainly seemed to be on the mind of Cotto, who attempted it a few times in the first minute before actually landing. There is little doubt that Cotto had worked on this specific sequence in the gym and came to understand that Martinez’s pawing jab was a pre-existing liability.
For what it’s worth, Martinez’s people have all publicly stated that his knees were not a factor in the outcome of the fight. That won’t hold any water, though, to true believers who assume that Martinez and his people are just being good sports and/or careful not to give paying fans the impression that Martinez was already damaged goods prior to the bout.
The truth in all of this– truth being defined as something that can actually be proven– is that Cotto beat Martinez fairly, with a strategy he and trainer Freddie Roach had put together prior to the bout, likely aimed at a tip-top Martinez at 100% capacity.
How much of the plan’s success was due to Martinez’s advanced age or knee problems? Given that the fight-changing moment came one minute into the bout, any answer would just be a guess.
It’s very possible that Martinez’s knees are gone and that he’s over the hill at 39, but that’s not why Sergio lost to Miguel last Saturday. It could be argued that a Martinez in better health and nearer his prime could’ve fought back more urgently and maybe pushed matters over the long haul. But does even a prime Martinez catch and kill a Cotto with such a lead and in a prevent defense mindset?
Nope. Not at all likely.
Prime Martinez, maybe, survives to see the final bell. That’s about it.
Cotto plowing through Martinez was just one of those things most of us didn’t see coming and didn’t think possible. Our instinct as human beings is to create grandiose explanations as to why the unthinkable happens and, in this specific case, Martinez’s knees and age were easy scapegoats.
But, to repeat, this fight was over one minute into the bout. Sometimes fighters just get caught cold. It happens.