The saying “he (or she) had a bad night” is used a lot in sports. I think they should update the dictionary entry for the modern usage by adding a picture of Sergio Martinez. As much of a fan of Cotto as I am, nothing he did or could do would have caused the catatonic state Martinez adopted from the opening bell. Whatever held Martinez back was more even than the shock of a solid knockdown blow like the one Cotto landed coming right out of the gate. He went on to score three additional knockdowns in those first three minutes of the fight.
Also on Saturday, the hopeful Thoroughbred, California Chrome, fought his heart out at the Triple Crown after beating the odds at the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby, only to come in at an unexpected fourth overall, significantly behind the lead horse for most of the race. Martinez had a fight like that on Saturday too in a way, because he wasn’t fighting closely with his opponent through the entire contest as fans expected him to, he was underperforming from the beginning. I’m convinced the passing remarks from the corner about injuries to his knees were meant as a way to avoid “making excuses,” as Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach was so ready to condemn. Never, in his weakest state in any previous fight, has Martinez looked so unequipped to continue as he did from the opening bell of this fight. As sloppy as he is, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has a formidable offense, and had a shot at a badly winded and then dazed Martinez in their fight, yet Martinez never stopped moving his head and feet at his most drained.
I would never think to trivialize Cotto’s accomplishments, but a legitimate blowout win over an aging legend in Martinez, with an almost 60% connect rate, is not one of them. Misinterpretation of this result has led to analysts projecting a fight for Cotto with the best in the sport, from the winner of the Erislandy Lara-Saul Alvarez fight, to Pacquiao and Mayweather. Unfortunately for the fans, any of these fights except maybe with Lara, would be disastrous and ill-advised for Cotto, who deserves his place among the elite, but perceived miracle worker Freddie Roach has not changed that place. No matter how much his heart seems like it must be Secretariat-sized, Cotto’s really always been more of a California Chrome. Saying farewell to the sport by losing to the best in the business is no embarrassment, but I’d rather Cotto avoid the punishment and go out on top, like we all know he should.