It's that time of year when homecourt advantage in the NBA playoffs or home ice in the NHL playoffs often proves significant. The same could be said for Miguel Cotto's home ring advantage Saturday night at Madison Square Garden when he challenges WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
The Argentine champion (51-2-2, 28 KOs) conceded as much in negotiations that gave Cotto (38-4, 21 KOs) top billing, the right to enter the ring last as the champion ordinarily does and a 159-pound catchweight, one pound below the middleweight limit.
There's no denying the drawing power of Cotto, who has sold some 135,000 seats in eight previous Garden appearances. Another flag-waving sellout crowd is expected on the eve of New York's annual Puerto Rican Day parade as Cotto seeks to become the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four weight classes, surpassing the likes of Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez and Felix Trinidad, who coincidentally will be inducted to the Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday.
"I grew up hearing about Gomez and Benitez, and when I started boxing, Trinidad was our main boxer," Cotto said. "To be in the conversation with them makes me feel happy and comfortable, but I never feel that I am more than them.
"Puerto Rico will have a new champion, and on Sunday, Tito Trinidad will go into the Hall of Fame. So, Puerto Rico is going to enjoy a great weekend."
Cotto always has been buoyed by the Garden crowd, winning eight straight before losing his last MSG appearance on Dec. 1, 2012, when Austin Trout won a decision.
"They have always been here to support me," Cotto said. "I know they will be here for me. But at the end of the day, the guy who did the work and trusts in it is going to win, and that's going to be me, Miguel Cotto."
Martinez, who is fighting for the first time in nearly 14 months after his second right knee surgery and second left hand surgery, disagrees. Noting Cotto's losses to Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Trout in three of his past seven fights, Martinez said, "We have looked at all of those fights and picked up on different things that have worked against Cotto. My trainer, Pablo Sarmiento, has come up with a great game plan, and you will see me execute it perfectly."
Consider that Martinez's spoiler alert to Cotto's legions. Their counter is that Martinez has been down in each of his past three bouts and might be slowed by injuries at the age of 39, six years older than Cotto.
"It is not how you get knocked down," Martinez said. "It is how you get up, and I always get up. That's what makes me the champion that I am."