Photo by AP / Frank Franklin II
Following Sergio Martinez’s devastating loss against Miguel Cotto, the next step in his career should be retirement, though not for the obvious reasons of age and ability.
The outcome of the fight was largely determined by the fighter’s style that prevailed the most, which was that of Cotto. Martinez’s loss was not necessarily a matter of being over the hill.
His performance pointed out a deficiency in fighters of all ages, which is the inability to make the right adjustments.
Cotto was sharp and delivered crisp, well-placed punches. More than anything Cotto was able to work his way to the inside—a situation to which Martinez did not adjust well to.
Had Martinez been more comfortable working on the inside, he probably would not have been so rattled by Cotto. He could have worked on the outside—his bread and butter—ad chosen his inside exchanges with Cotto carefully.
Based on Cotto’s own adjustments to Martinez’s jabs, crosses, and counter-punches, this bout was impossible to fight entirely on the outside.
This is not to say Martinez did not make any adjustments at all. Glimpses of his hand speed and sharpness were definitely there.
Despite being knocked down three times in the first round, Martinez appeared to gain a second wind later on in the fight and somewhat adapted to Cotto’s power.
But even this adjustment came too little, too late.
The ability to make adjustments quickly and adapt to unforeseen circumstances in the ring makes a fighter above average.
The right adjustments can be a source of power, by forcing the other guy to constantly rethink what he is doing.
If styles make fights, so do adjustments. Adjusting does not always mean a fighter has to compromise his style, it means that he must be willing to tailor his abilities to the situation at hand.
This is made possible by capitalizing off his strengths and improving his weaknesses.
This is not to say age and ability are completely irrelevant factors. Besides adapting to situations in the ring, fighters should be making stylistic adjustments over the course of their careers, taking their age and ability into consideration.
Martinez’s style, in conjunction with his capabilities at 40 years of age, could not make the fight. He simply cannot fight the exact same way he did five, ten years ago—nor should he.
Photo by AP / Frank Franklin II
If Martinez had made the right stylistic adjustments throughout his career, such as not relying on his legs so much and developing the right inside game, he would have had a better chance of beating Cotto on Saturday night.
Success in boxing over age 40 is not impossible, as Bernard Hopkins proved earlier this year by winning a world title at 49. Unlike Martinez, Hopkins made the right stylistic adjustments over time so that his body could work with his brain in the most efficient way possible.
Unfortunately, making the right short-term and long-term adjustments is not something most trainers focus on developing in their fighters.
Adjusting is a key component of one’s boxing IQ that must be nurtured and practiced early on. After a certain point, it can become much more difficult to do.
This should be a lesson for fighters looking to grow and last in the sport: you must be willing to evolve, and you must learn to adjust.