What's in a name? If it were left to the boxing public, linear middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, the fighter of the year in 2010, would be fighting WBA light middleweight champion Miguel Cotto on March 12 in a match of two talented fighters with name recognition.
But Cotto's promoter, Bob Arum, apparently saw no upside for himself or his fighter in such a difficult bout. He matched Cotto against Ricardo Mayorga on that date in Las Vegas in a pay-per-view promotion on Showtime that he owns entirely.
In the absence of a "name" opponent, Martinez was left to square off on March 12 on regular HBO against undefeated WBO champion Sergei Dzinziruk, a name few in America recognize, can spell or pronounce. Lou DiBella, who promotes Martinez, tried to make a fight with Cotto but was rebuffed by Arum, who wasn't interested in doing a co-promotion. "I wasn't interested in selling out my fighter's rights and not being involved in the promotion," DiBella said. "It was one thing if he's offering me Manny Pacquiao . Then, I would consider that.
"I honestly believe that Miguel Cotto, as great as he is, would have zero chance to beat Sergio Martinez. And Bob knew that. I don't think he ever really wanted to make it. Every fight of significance that Bob's making right now is against his own fighters."
So DiBella and HBO went to work Wednesday at a news conference in Manhattan hyping Dzinziruk (37-0, 23 KOs) as the next test for Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) in a middleweight title fight at Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut. Based on his record, a strong jab and the fact he's a 6-foot southpaw, Dzinziruk probably is a tougher foe than the 5-7 Cotto. But the Ukrainian fighter has just one fight in the past 29 months.
Explaining the selection of Dzinziruk, HBO Sports senior vice president Keri Davis said, "It would have been terrific for boxing to have Cotto-Martinez, and I don't know that you can rule that fight out for the future. But once that fight couldn't be made, our job was to do the next-best fight there. Dzinziruk was the most talented fighter available, so we thought that was the best way to go."
DiBella called the counter-programming by HBO and Showtime on March 12 unfortunate, but said, "I certainly believe anyone who buys the pay-per-view is going to channel surf into this show."