Home Columns The foolishness of denying Miguel Cotto’s great win over Sergio Martinez

The foolishness of denying Miguel Cotto’s great win over Sergio Martinez

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Miguel Cotto Deserves Full Credit & Glory for His Middleweight Championship Victory:

Amidst the afterglow of Miguel Cotto’s triumphant win over Sergio Martinez are signs that some are looking to attach an asterisk to the Puerto Rican legend’s achievement. Some want to go about as if the result came down to what was wrong with Martinez, rather than what Cotto did right.

It reminds me of how some tried to deny Sugar Ray Leonard his just desserts after he beat Marvin Hagler. Sure, it’s difficult to compare Cotto with Leonard, in terms of personality, style, and with how each won their respective fights. But if you remember, Leonard was an underdog and the bigger star. Like Martinez, the champion Hagler had to make concessions to get the fight. And like Leonard, Cotto was perceived as the “diva,” a term Martinez himself used in the buildup to the fight.

The fact that Leonard and Cotto were both underdogs is a key. Everyone wants to now look at the fact that Martinez was old, his body was falling apart, and that he was coming off some demanding fights where he didn’t look as good as he once did. But what about before the fight? He was still a better than 2-1 favorite. If it was all so clear, why didn’t the naysayers bet the house on it?

Coming along after the fight to say Martinez was finished simply doesn’t count. You have to say it before the fight. And for those now saying it, how many of them picked Cotto? Not a ton. And another thing–didn’t Cotto have something to do with bringing out those deficiencies? Maybe against a lesser talent, Martinez would have been able to better camouflage those weaknesses. Bot to mention a lot of people thought Cotto was past his best, making it even more incredible that he produced a career-best performance.

Just like Hagler, Martinez was still good enough to enter the ring that night as the Middleweight Champion of the World. Hagler had been battered in bouts against Thomas Hearns and John Mugabi, but wasn’t too spent because he was still able to pull off rousing wins. If Martinez was so spent, he wouldn’t have still been champion, but he was. End of story.

When fighters look bad, it’s easy to say it’s because they are over-the-hill or it has something to do with what they’re doing wrong. While no one will argue that Martinez was nowhere near peak form, that had a lot to do with Cotto, his left hook, and his unshakeable self-belief. Did a 1987 Hagler make Leonard look better than he would have looked if the fight were in 1983? Definitely, but that doesn’t render the win something less than great. It may shave a little glory off it, but to characterize it as simply a good win is a major misstep.

That’s what it seems people are trying to do with Cotto’s win over Martinez. As if 2010 Sergio Martinez would have breezed through a fight with this version of Cotto. What’s really the bigger story, Martinez slipping or Cotto’s late-career resurgence? When watching the fight, it was certainly jarring to see how bad Martinez looked. Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear that how good Cotto looked was a big part of that.

There is no denying that Cotto seems reborn, which is truly remarkable, considering he looked to be nearing the end on two separate occasions. After the Antonio Margarito shellacking and the TKO loss to Manny Pacquiao, his career was in peril, but he rebounded nicely. He fought well in a loss to Floyd Mayweather, but a second straight loss to Austin Trout again put Cotto on the precipice. He hooked up with Freddie Roach and is now somehow looking better than ever.

To say the opponents had nothing to do with Cotto being able to bounce back so nicely may be naive. He has benefited from fighting Delvin Rodriguez and a version of Martinez that had waned in terms of formidability. There is something to be said for that. But to portray Cotto’s recent success as a mirage is going way too far.

For a win to be great, must the opponent look great? There are endless examples of fighters who scored career-defining wins when the opponent looked something less-than-great. The bottom-line is that Martinez was the champion. He had reigned for over 4 years and distinguished himself as a great fighter. The fact that Martinez won the middleweight title at 35 and grew old quickly isn’t Cotto’s fault. He did what he had to do.

For the Monday morning quarterbacks trying to throw a bad light on Cotto’s win, it’s an argument that’s doomed to fail. It wouldn’t have made any sense if before the fight, someone told the better than 2-1 underdog Cotto that even if he put forth a masterful performance and stopped the favored champion, he wouldn’t be given full credit. That person would have been laughed out of the room. So why is it acceptable to say it now?