Opinion: Sergio Martinez's inability to move meant more than Cotto's quality

Rich Schultz

Sergio Martinez had nothing on his punches and nothing in his legs. How much credit does Miguel Cotto really deserve for beating him?

Miguel Cotto's Saturday night win over Sergio Martinez was a great, big, shiny moment for the Puerto Rican superstar, as he won the middleweight championship of the world, becoming a four-weight world titleholder over his career, doubling up on his stamp to the Hall of Fame, and dominating the man who had held the 160-pound championship for four years*.

The asterisk? Oh, I just feel like we should probably be super extra clear on this: that was not the Sergio Martinez who held the middleweight title from 2010 until last Saturday. This was a 39-year-old Martinez who, without properly functioning knees, was a sitting duck for a revitalized Miguel Cotto. It was nearly a walkover.

Here's how I can understand fully your desire to insist that Martinez was in great health and that Cotto won a legit fight: You promoted the fight, and you don't want to say that one of the fighters went in there at maybe 50%. Otherwise, people might start thinking you liiiiied. And then they might start thinking, hey, they got ripped off with that $65 pay-per-view charge for a sacrifice cash-out.

Otherwise, et tu, #Boxing-Head? Look, I love Miguel Cotto. As a guy who has some level of media credibility these days (not a lot, but some), I'm not supposed to have favorites, and I realize that, but then I'm no journalist. I'm just a fella, same as you and me. Mostly same as me. I have my favorites. I have guys I do root against. In analysis, I try to put those things aside.

And that's what I'm doing here. I'd love to say that Miguel Cotto was better than ever (he wasn't) and that he scored the best win of his career (he didn't) on Saturday. But instead of going, "Wow, who else could Cotto beat?" I think there's a much more important question here: Who else would have beaten Sergio Martinez on Saturday?

Three hard-punching middleweights stick out to me: Golovkin, who many feel would have beaten Sergio any time in the last couple years, to be fair; Peter Quillin; and David Lemieux. In short, if Martinez couldn't deal with the power of Cotto in the opening round, how would he have dealt with those aggressive, stronger fighters?

You know who else I'd take over Saturday's Sergio? Felix Sturm, who was just routed by Sam Soliman. Sam Soliman himself. Martin Murray. Matthew Macklin. Curtis Stevens. Daniel Geale.

In other words, the Sergio Martinez that fought on Saturday night might not have even been a top 10 middleweight.

This isn't to take everything away from Miguel Cotto, but I'm saying leave the hype for the people who need the hype -- HBO, the promoters, Team Cotto, and so on -- and don't discount what really happened just because it means you spent $65 on what turned out to be a fight where only one man had the actual physical ability remaining to win. Miguel Cotto's win, sorry to say, was nearly by default.

Now with all that said, the body language and spring in Cotto's step looked good. I have no doubt that he's a changed, better fighter working with Freddie Roach, a perfect fit trainer for the Puerto Rican, one who knows his style, knows how to get the best of him, and has turned Cotto back into an offensive machine in their two fights together.

So was Cotto really good on Saturday night? I think so, but it does come with an asterisk. The asterisk isn't Miguel Cotto's doing, really -- sure, he signed up for the fight, but he didn't injure Sergio's knees or make him 39 -- but the asterisk is legit. The asterisk matters.

But fighters get old. Their bodies go. Especially guys with the athleticism and style of Martinez. It was going to happen -- in fact, it already had started to, last year against Martin Murray. With Martinez simply incapable of employing his legs the way he did in his late-blooming, short-lived prime, he was just there, target practice for a terrific fighter.

All of this is just a roundabout way of saying something I really want to say: Martinez was dunzo in there. Shot. Kaput. Cotto still deserves some credit, but there's just no arguing that Sergio Martinez was the fighter we will remember when the years ago by. And since that's the case, it would be wise to temper expectations somewhat going forward with Miguel Cotto. He's still a hell of a fighter, but is he the reborn elite pound-for-pound contender, better than he's ever been at age 33?

Probably not. But maybe. A wiped out knee on Sergio Martinez doesn't mean you can't dream big on Miguel Cotto.

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