The island of Puerto Rico had produced many great champions and boxing Hall of Famers. Among the greatest are Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad, each of whom won world titles in three weight classes and became legends.
And then there is Miguel Cotto, also a three-division titleholder — junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight — and a likely a Hall of Famer. But he can leave no doubt by doing something none of his countrymen have ever done. That is to win a title in a fourth weight division.
That is Cotto’s motivation and one of the historical ramifications of his showdown with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez when they meet Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) — the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade — at Madison Square Garden, where a record boxing crowd of more than 21,000 is expected.
“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. “For me, boxing has always been about challenges and competing and this one more fight that proves that point.”
Cotto’s shot at the middleweight crown is not something he has always strived for. In fact, after he dropped back-to-back decisions in junior middleweight title fights to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout in 2012, his future was cloudy.
But then he sought out Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and, in their first fight together, Cotto looked as good as he had in years as he destroyed typically durable Delvin Rodriguez in the third round in October.
At that point the possibility of challenging Martinez was raised. But Cotto also had an eight-figure offer to face former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez in a nontitle fight.
“Never did it cross my mind that I would be able to go up to 160 pounds,” Cotto said. “After the fight in October, that was the best scenario. Sergio agreed with us and we moved on to this fight.”
In the end, the tug of making Puerto Rican history against Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) — for a fight that was agreed to at a maximum weight of 159 pounds — was too great to pass up.
“Some of our best fighters are not only Puerto Rican greats but all-time greats of the sport,” Cotto said. “Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez and Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad, and many others, have made Puerto Rican boxing what it is today and I am only an extension of their greatness. So to have an opportunity to become the first four-time world champion in different divisions is very special to me.”
Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) will take great pride if he can pull it off.