The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 2

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of June 2

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    We’re staring down the barrel of a major fight week in New York City that is sure to dominate all the boxing headlines in the week ahead. On Saturday night, Puerto Rican icon and surefire future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto will attempt to make history, challenging Sergio Martinez for the middleweight championship at Madison Square Garden.

    Can Cotto become the first Puerto Rican-born fighter to capture world titles in four weight divisions? Can Martinez return from a year-ending injury for the second straight year and turn back a determined foe? Will the catchweight of 159 pounds come into play at all?

    We'll take a look at that fight and also assess the past weekend’s action.

    What the heck happened in Macau? And did Nonito Donaire do anything to prove he’s still operating near the top level of boxing? Additionally, what will the fallout be from Carl Froch’s big revenge knockout of George Groves?

    We take a stab at answering all these questions in this week’s edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.

Can Miguel Cotto Make History?

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    By now, you all know the book on Cotto.

    The 33-year-old Puerto Rican is one of boxing’s ultimate warriors. He’s won world championships from junior welterweight to junior middleweight, and when he eventually calls it a career, he won’t have to wait long before a plaque with his name adorns the walls of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

    On Saturday night, he’ll attempt to make history, challenging Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez, the recognized middleweight champion of the world, in an attempt to become the first Puerto Rican-born four-division world champion.

    When you think of all the great fighters and world champions produced by Puerto Rico over the years—Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez, Hector Camacho, Felix Trinidad and Cotto himself—it’s truly amazing that Cotto could be the first to achieve this particular piece of history.

    And Cotto will have a partisan crowd at his back when he takes a shot at the middleweight crown. The bout, which will be televised on HBO pay-per-view, was intentionally scheduled to coincide with New York City’s famed Puerto Rican Day parade, which will be held the day after the fight.

    Cotto has long enjoyed a tremendous home-court advantage inside the Garden—posting a 7-1 career record with four knockouts—and he’ll need to use every bit of that energy to topple the highly dangerous and agitated Maravilla.

    Martinez has made no secret about feeling disrespected during every part of the negotiation and promotion for this fight, going as far as to call Cotto a diva on HBO's Face Off: Cotto-Martinez (h/t RingTV), and he’s not going to cede his title without a fight.

    So that leaves fans with two elite, hard-charging fighters with something to prove. 

    What could go wrong?

How Much Does Sergio Martinez Have Left?

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    Martinez is likely near the end of his remarkable late-career run regardless of the result Saturday night. The Argentine recently turned 39 years old, and he’ll step through the ropes Saturday night having not fought in over a year, the result of a second consecutive year-ending injury to his right knee.

    All these circumstances—the repeat injuries, his age and inactivity—are the reason that some observers have pause about anointing Martinez the clear favorite in this upcoming contest. It’s a lot for a fighter to overcome, especially given that Maravilla is being asked to overcome it for a second time.

    And unlike the first time, he won’t be facing the relatively unknown Martin Murray—who knocked him down and gave him fits—in front of a hugely partisan crowd in his native Argentina.


    Cotto will have virtually every single person inside a packed Madison Square Garden cheering his every move—the fight was intentionally scheduled on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day parade for just that reason—and that’s going to be one hell of a hostile environment.

    Still, if there’s anyone in boxing who can overcome all this adversity, it’s the man from Buenos Aires.

    Martinez is a pro’s pro. He’s one of the hardest workers in the business, came to notoriety late in his boxing career and he’s highly motivated by the perceived lack of respect from the Cotto camp.

    Maravilla has a lot to overcome, yes, but he’s looking to make a statement.

Will the Catchweight Matter?

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    To the average person, the concept of a catchweight doesn’t seem like much to worry about. What’s the real difference between coming in at 160 pounds versus 159 pounds? It’s only a pound, right?

    Usually, it’s a big deal, but in this case, not so much.

    Cotto vs. Martinez for the middleweight championship Saturday night will be contested at a maximum contracted weight of 159 pounds, which is one pound short of the full middleweight limit. There has been some contention and disagreement between both camps over who originally came up with that idea, but rehashing all that isn’t the point here.

    The questions is: Who does this one pound help, and who does it hurt?

    The answer may be somewhat surprising.

    This should have absolutely zero impact on the proceedings on Saturday night.

    Martinez, the champion, has always been a smallish middleweight. He’s never in his career come into a fight at the 160-pound limit. In his last fight, he tipped the scales at 159.5 pounds, and in the fight before that he was in right at 159 even. So he should have no problem making weight.

    As for Cotto, the odds are that he will come in somewhere below 159 pounds as well. This will be his first foray into the middleweight division, and he’ll be facing a quick, slick boxer. He’s going to want to come in at a weight that maximizes his mobility and speed. That likely means somewhere between 155 and 158 pounds.

    And that’s why this issue, while contentious, is largely ado about nothing.

What the Heck Happened in Macau?

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    When we say that every single thing about Nonito Donaire’s highly controversial four-round technical decision win over Simpiwe Vetyeka—a win that netted him the WBA featherweight championship—was botched, it’s meant to be taken literally.

    Absolutely 100 percent literally.

    The whole thing, from Robin Leach’s awful ring introductions to the horribly shady way in which the fight ended and the verdict was reached, stinks to the heavens. For those of you who missed the fight, we'll break down the salient points for you.

    The first round was fairly nondescript until the closing seconds, when referee Luis Pabon, one of boxing’s absolute worst officials who almost always finds his way into some controversy or another, somehow managed to miss a head-butt that opened a cut over Donaire’s left eye and punches that landed after the bell.

    It didn’t appear from ringside or on the telecast that Pabon ever ruled the cut the result of a foul, and that left the remainder of the fight in an odd state of limbo.

    Donaire, sensing some urgency from the blood, was forced into a more aggressive posture, and he stunned Vetyeka in the third round. In one sequence, the now-former champion seemed to reach out and grasp the ropes to avoid going down, which Pabon somehow missed and didn’t award as a knockdown.

    The Filipino finally got his man in Round 4, felling Vetyeka with a huge left hook. But the South African champion regained his bearings and was fighting on level ground before getting buzzed again near the end of the frame.

    And here’s where it went from a weird, badly officiated fight to something shady and difficult to understand.

    After hurting Vetyeka for the second time, Donaire pulled back, pawing at his eye and essentially calling a timeout. Pabon indulged him immediately, summoning the ring doctor to look at the cut, which he ruled OK to continue.

    Shortly after the bell ending Round 4, Pabon engaged in a long discussion with a WBA supervisor at ringside, ringing the bell for Round 5 and then immediately stopping the contest, ruling it would go to the scorecards for a technical decision.

    That’s all well and good, but Pabon never ruled the foul was the result of a butt. At least he didn’t appear to with any of the customary signals that boxing fans have become used to seeing.

    So if no foul was ruled, Vetyeka should've been the winner by TKO.

    The scorecards were read, and Donaire was awarded a unanimous decision and a new world championship belt.

    To his credit, Donaire, whose eye was swollen shut by that point, maintained his dissatisfaction with the ending and promised a rematch.

    But don’t hold your breath.

    The whole situation stinks.

Did Froch Resurrect His Career?

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    It's unusual to have a rematch in which the winner of the first fight faces a must-win situation. But that's exactly where Carl Froch found himself Saturday night, facing George Groves for a second time in a bout he had no choice but to win.

    A loss would have signaled the end for Froch and the ascendance of Groves to the throne lording over British boxing. 

    But one laser-guided missile of a right hand from Froch ended all that talk, and it might just have saved his career. 

    Froch was the big loser, regardless of what the official records may say, of the first contest between the British-born fighters. Most observers felt he was well on the way to a defeat, having been dropped in Round 1 and beguiled by Groves' speed and power the rest of the way, before referee Howard Foster stopped the contest prematurely. 

    But the Cobra left zero doubt this time around, and with his win Saturday night, he solidified himself as the best 168-pound fighter in the world not named Andre Ward.

    And with Ward spending all of his time fighting in court and none of it in the ring, you could even make the case that Froch is the best active fighter in the division. 

    Expect to see him in the ring in the United States before the year is out. 

    Maybe even before you see Ward.