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Martinez to defend middleweight title against Cotto

NEW YORK -- Miguel Cotto will try to become the first four-division world champion from Puerto Rico by taking a middleweight crown from Argentina southpaw Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden.

Martinez, the World Boxing Council champion in the weight class, has won seven fights in a row in improving to 51-2-2 with 28 knockouts.

The 39-year-old South American won the title from Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in September of 2012 at Las Vegas by unanimous decision and defended it last year in Argentina with a unanimous decision over England's Martin Murray.

Cotto, 38-4 with 31 knockouts, comes off a third-round stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez last October after having dropped his two prior fights, to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout in 2012.

Cotto, 33, has been a world champion at light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight. His welterweight reign was ended when Filipino star Manny Pacquiao stopped him in the 12th round in 2009.

“It is not only Austin Trout that made it a difficult fight for Cotto, but Mayweather and Pacquiao as well,” said Martinez.

“We've looked at all of those fights, and picked up on different things that have worked against Cotto. Whatever Cotto will do in the ring doesn't matter to me. I don't care. This fight is definitely not going the distance.”

It will be the second fight for Cotto undaer trainer Freddie Roach, who guided Pacquiao over Cotto in 2009 but has inspired the challenger with his advice and predicts an early Cotto knockout.

“A lot of people say Michael Jordan wouldn't be Michael Jordan without Scottie Pippen — Freddie Roach is my Scottie Pippen,” Cotto said, invoking two stars from the Chicago Bulls' run of six NBA titles in the 1990s. “Our chemistry together has been great.”

Hand and shoulder injuries have kept Martinez out of the ring for 14 months, a sign the champion's time is done according to Roach.

“The wear and tear of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr fight ruined Martinez,” Roach said. “He has nothing left. Miguel is the fresher fighter.”

Martinez, who was knocked down in the 12th round and later hit the canvas again on what was ruled a slip, says he has plenty in the tank yet.

“If winning 11 1/2 rounds out of 12 is not impressive, I don't know what I could do,” Martinez said. “If the fight would have lasted another two or three rounds, Chavez would have run out of gas and I would have stopped him.”

Martinez suffered his only loss since 2000 in a majority decision to Paul Williams in 2009 at Atlantic City.

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