Even if Miguel Cotto successfully dethrones RING and WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez to become Puerto Rico's first fighter to earn a fourth title in as many weight divisions on June 7 at New York's Madison Square Garden, the 33-year-old said that milestone won't necessarily surpass the achievements of countrymen such as Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad.
"It's a personal achievement and a personal matter that I want to win on June 7, so I'm working toward that. It doesn't mean that I'm going to be better than Gomez or better than Trinidad or better than the great champions that Puerto Rico has had before," said Cotto, who will be fighting at a middleweight for the first time, albeit at a catchweight of 159 pounds.
"But for myself, for Miguel, this will be the biggest accomplishment of my career. I'm just working out and trying to do my best and to take advantage of every opportunity that I have. I don't want to [necessarily] be named by myself as the most elite boxer of Puerto Rico but that's the work of the fans and the people who know about boxing. I just want to do my job and I want to do my best at that for the rest of my career."
Cotto (38-4, 31 knockouts) spoke during a Thursday conference call in advance of his clash with Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs), 39, who has been inactive since rising from an eighth-round knockdown to unanimously decision Martin Murray in April 2013.
Cotto, meanwhile, was last in the ring in October, when he knocked out Delvin Rodriguez in the third round to bounce back from a unanimous decision to Austin Trout in December 2012 at Madison Square Garden.
"Last time I was at the Garden, I didn't come out the winner," said Cotto, who is 9-1 with five knockouts in New York and 7-1 with four stoppages at the Garden. "But you go in there and you win some and you lose some. I always want to go in there and show the fans that I can do the best for them."
It was after defeating Rodriguez when Cotto first considered rising to face Martinez.
"That never crossed my mind. I didn't consider the possibility to go up to 160 pounds until after the last fight in October. We just decided that this was the best scenario and that [was agreeable] to us. So we decided to move on to Sergio Martinez," said Cotto, who has fought at junior middleweight since 2010.
"I don't see this weight as an issue at all. It's not on my mind. I feel that at this weight, not having to lose the weight, it's not about coming down. My body will be able to recuperate better during training camp…when you are a guy who has power, no matter what weight you're at, you're going to carry your power with you."
Trout is a left-hander like Martinez, with whom Trout served as a sparring partner in preparation for Martinez's eighth-round stoppage of Sergei Dzinziruk in March 2011. Martinez scored five knockdowns against Dzinziruk.
In assessing Martinez-Cotto, the nearly 5-foot-10 Trout said Cotto was troubled by his size while Martinez, 5-foot-10, was hindered in sparring by Trout's jab.
"This is a different scenario with Martinez than with Austin Trout. With Austin Trout, you have a young fighter who had a lot of mobility with his style," said Cotto, who then referred to Martinez's two surgeries on his right knee.
"Then you have Martinez, who is not such a young guy, and he has had a couple of of issues with his knees. We're going to do our best. We've put the Austin Trout fight in the past of my career and I have a big opportunity against Sergio and we're going to win this fight."
Trout also noted that although Martinez has been known to ravage and bloody his rivals' faces, he has also had to rise from the canvas during each of his past three victories, received eight stitches to repair a cut over his left eye, two staples in his head and suffered from both a broken left hand and torn ligaments in his right knee.
"There's no question that Martinez is the bigger man. If I was Martinez, I would work the jab and make Cotto work to get in, mixing it up when he wanted to," said Trout. "I think that maybe [Martinez has] got to box and move. He can take it to [Cotto] and maybe try to impose his size on him. I those might be a couple of things that he might try, being the bigger guy."
Trainer Freddie Roach is working with Cotto for the first time against Martinez and said Cotto's increased strength and power is being overlooked.
"I think that Miguel controls the ring a lot more and we've really worked on cutting the ring off more as far as his ring generalship. I wasn't part of the Trout fight but I did see the fight. I know that Miguel can do a lot better. He's been showing that in training with the bigger, stronger sparring partners. We're just more scientific about our approach to this fight and as far as controlling the ring a lot better. I think that he's really come a long way in our second fight now, together. I see no problems cutting the ring off and setting traps for our opponent," said Roach.
"We've brought his weight up a little bit and we've put on a little more muscle and I think that although Martinez is taller, I think that we're going to be much stronger on the inside and much [more] physical on the inside than he is and we're going to push him around with no problem. I think that we're going to be the bigger, stronger person. We're going into the fight having prepared for the best Sergio Martinez that he can be and that's what he should be. It sounds like he's already making excuses. The thing is that we expect him at his best and that we're going to beat him at his best."
Roach dismissed the notion that Martinez's injuries could be a factor in this fight.
"I think that if he's not mobile, then we'll catch him a lot earlier than later and it's going to be just a matter of time," said Roach. "But the thing is, I'm tired of these excuses, so we'll take him at his best and we'll beat him at his best. I don't want to hear after the fight that 'My knee hurts,'" said Roach.
"So he's going into the fight having signed for the fight and he knows what he's up against. He might be bigger but he's not better. I think that I have the more experienced fighter, the more talented fighter and the smarter fighter. That's what I'm counting on and we're 100 percent ready to go. Everything's right on track."
Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank