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Miguel Cotto Beats Rivals Mayweather, Pacquiao To Middleweight

Despite not being as successful as his weight class jumping contemporaries Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto has beaten them to the punch by gaining a world title shot at 160 pounds.

The 33 year old Puerto Rican star challenges WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez on June 7 at New York's legendary Madison Square Garden, where Cotto has fought on eight previous occasions.

Former light welter and welterweight world champion Cotto, 38-4 (31), moved up to light middle following the loss of his WBO crown to Pacquiao in 2009, stopping Yuri Foreman a year later for the WBA strap, making two defenses before losing that belt to Mayweather in 2012.

After failing to unseat Austin Trout for the WBA trophy later that year in a surprise loss, Cotto got back in the win column with a third round stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez last October.

The win against Rodriguez was a promising return to form but taking on Martinez as a maiden voyage in a higher weight class will be a massive step up for the Caguas resident

Team Cotto is banking on the idea that the 39 year old Martinez, 51-2-2 (28), is no longer the fighter who came out of obscurity in 2009 to lose a controversial decision to Paul Williams, shockingly dominate and dethrone WBC/WBO middeweight champion Kelly Pavlik in 2010 and KO Williams with one punch during a rematch later that year.

And they could be correct in that assumption as Argentine born Martinez has experienced a roller coaster ride since 2011.

After impressively halting former WBO light middle titlist Serhiy Dzinziruk, Martinez had his hands full with his next two opponents, ex-European champions Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin, stopping both in round 11 but having much difficulty in the bouts.

"Maravilla" looked his old, dazzling self in 2012, outboxing WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr for 11 rounds until tiring and came very close to being knocked out in the 12th.

The streak of less than stellar performances continued last April as Martinez, fighting in Argentina for the first time in over a decade, could only manage a controversial unanimous decision in a title defense against Martin Murray.

Once an elusive southpaw who baffled opponents with a fast, awkward, switch-hitting style, Martinez has become suddenly hittable, having to climb off the canvas in each of his previous three contests, against opponents who possess lesser boxing skills than Cotto.

Could we be seeing the WBC middleweight title change hands on June 7?

Obviously, it's possible and Team Cotto can't be blamed for going after an obviously sliding Martinez, but this isn't an easy fight for Miguel by any stretch of the imagination.

Cotto himself isn't the fighter he used to be, at 33 years of age and a veteran of 42 bouts, having experienced a lot of punishment in losses against Antonio Margarito, Mayweather and Pacquiao.

Also, Cotto has definitely shown he has problems with good boxers during losses to Mayweather and Trout, an issue that will be compounded against Martinez, who is taller than either and will be difficult to pin down.

And pin down Martinez is exactly what Cotto will have to do if he is to have a chance at winning a world title in a fourth weight class.

But does Cotto have the stamina and punch to trouble Martinez in the later rounds when the champion will probably tire from maintaining distance and boxing from the outside?

Barker, Macklin, Martinez and Murray are all much bigger fighters than Cotto and it's an open question as to whether or not the rather small challenger for 160 pounds will be able to take the punch of Martinez once exchanges start to occur.

All these variables make for an endlessly intriguing matchup but one thing is certain, Miguel Cotto deserves a lot of credit for being the first of his contemporaries to head up to middleweight and take on a reigning champion of proven quality.

Perhaps this will spur either Mayweather or Pacquiao to step up to the plate and face WBA middleweight king Gennady Golovkin in the autumn?

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