Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto talks off
A week after talks opened to match middleweight champion Sergio Martinez with junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto, they came to an abrupt end Tuesday night.
Lou DiBella, Martinez's promoter, told ESPN.com that Top Rank's Bob Arum, Cotto's promoter, insisted on buying out the Martinez side instead of splitting the revenue on a percentage basis from what would have been a pay-per-view fight in March. DiBella did not say what percentage split he had in mind, but said it would have heavily favored Cotto, the proven PPV performer.
"The Martinez-Cotto discussions are dead because Bob doesn't want to do any kind of co-promotion no matter what the split," DiBella said.
DiBella said Arum offered him $2.5 million against an upside of the potential pay-per-view profits. DiBella declined and said he countered by offering to buy out Arum for $5 million against an upside of pay-per-view profits.
"Bob said no, so pretty much that's the end of the discussion. There's nothing more to discuss," DiBella said.
Arum, who turns 79 on Wednesday, would not go in the details of their discussions but told ESPN.com, "We couldn't come to terms. I talked to the Cotto people. They wanted particular terms and Lou wasn't agreeable. Lou wanted to do a percentage deal and Cotto didn't want to do a percentage deal. Cotto wanted to do a big number for Martinez plus an upside of the pay-per-view. I do whatever my fighters want. If Cotto wanted to fight Martinez on any particular grounds, as long as I could make some dough, of course, I would do it, not even a question.
"But I'm not going to tell you what did happen because those things are supposed to be confidential. Lou called and we couldn't make a deal. Period."
DiBella thought a Martinez-Cotto fight would be a hit. Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) is a bankable attraction and Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) is red hot and the likely fighter of the year. He is coming off a highlight-reel one-punch knockout of Paul Williams in the second round of their Nov. 20 rematch, which was the second-highest rated fight on HBO this year, trailing only Cotto's junior middleweight title victory against Yuri Foreman in June. Because of Martinez's stature, DiBella said he felt like a percentage deal was appropriate.
"I am not a paid booking agent. I am a promoter," DiBella said. "Sergio Martinez is not an opponent. He's a champion and right now one of the hottest fighters in boxing. Bob is entitled to take whatever kind of business positions he wants and I am entitled to say no. I went back to [Martinez adviser] Sampson [Lewkowicz] and the fighter and they not only supported my position but insisted on it."
With no Cotto fight, DiBella said there are two likely options for Martinez, who will probably fight in March. Martinez could fight Sebastian Zbik, who is unknown in the United States but is an interim titleholder and Martinez's mandatory challenger, or rising contender Andy Lee, who fights Saturday and would have to win.
Arum said with no Martinez fight in Cotto's future, he would attempt to make a rematch between Cotto and Antonio Margarito. In 2008, Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round of an all-action welterweight title fight, but the victory was later clouded because of suspicions that Margarito fought with loaded hand wraps, as he tried to do -- and was caught -- in his next fight against Shane Mosley.
"He'll fight Margarito," Arum said of Cotto. "Margarito is going to get a physical to determine when he can fight. The earlier we can do it, the better."
Margarito is still recovering from a one-sided thrashing he took at the hands of pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 13.
"Cotto-Margarito, at the end of the day, that's the fight that everybody wants because that fight would do the most money," Arum said. "The first fight did about 500,000 homes [on pay-per-view] and there's no reason why [a rematch] shouldn't do the same."
Arum said it could be in May or June. If it is in June, Arum said he hopes to stage it as the first fight at the New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the NFL's New York Giants and Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.
Cotto has previously said he did not want to fight Margarito again because of his feelings that he cheated in their first fight. However, Arum said Cotto would do the fight.
"I know so that he is willing to fight Margarito again," Arum said.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.