They either despise each other, or they're terrific actors.
At least that's the vibe given off by Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto whenever they've appeared together in the run-up to this weekend's middleweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden.
Though Martinez is the World Boxing Council (WBC) title-holder in the weight class and is defending his belt for the second time in his second reign as champion, it's been Cotto who's staked out the promotional high ground with a claim that he's the bigger star -- and thus the A-side of the event.
His name has been listed first on all pre-fight publicity material and he'll be introduced last, contrary to long-standing boxing tradition, when the two men reach the midtown Manhattan ring on Saturday.
The fight will also be contested at a catch weight of 159 pounds, one below the middleweight limit.
Martinez labeled Cotto's status claims “absurd,” but his promoter, Lou DiBella, said the Argentine was agreeable to the myriad stipulations because he wanted to guarantee the fight got made.
“Calling the fight Cotto-Martínez instead of Martínez-Cotto and Miguel being on the left side of the poster instead of the right -- I found that annoying,” DiBella said. “I am not a big fan of catch weights, so I found that a bit annoying. But it doesn't matter because in terms of making this fight, Sergio is really the boss. Sergio's marching orders were do the best you can and make the best deal you can and make sure this fight happens. So I made sure this fight happens.”
HBO will broadcast the main event atop a four-bout pay-per-view card that goes live at 9 p.m.
A win would make Cotto the first Puerto Rican-born fighter to win world title belts in four weight classes -- he's already been a champion at 140, 147 and 154 pounds -- and he'd become the first fighter since Oscar De La Hoya to be specifically recognized in both the 140- and 160-pound classes.
Martinez is the favorite according to odds posted at VegasInsider.com, which would require a $185 wager on the champion to win $100. Cotto, as the underdog, would return $150 on a $100 bet.
Now 33, Cotto won his first title at 140 in 2004 and vacated it before moving up to add a 147-pound championship in 2006. He won and lost two titles in that weight class, then moved up again to become a 154-pound champion in 2010, a championship he held until a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2012.
He was beaten by Austin Trout while trying to regain a 154-pound belt 18 months ago and has fought just once since, stopping Delvin Rodriguez in three rounds while weighing 153 1/4 pounds last October. He has never weighed more than 154 pounds for a fight, though he is listed as the WBC's top contender.
It's also his second fight with trainer Freddie Roach, who guided Manny Pacquiao to a 12th-round TKO over Cotto in November 2009. Roach has been quite vocal in predicting success for his new charge, claiming that Martinez will be knocked out in the fourth round.
Roach faced Martinez with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012 and saw his man lose a wide 12-round decision, though he did knock Martinez down in the final round and came very close to finishing him.
Still, Martinez bristles at the notion that he wasn't impressive in beating his then 26-year-old foe.
“If winning 11 1/2 rounds out of 12 is not impressive, I don't know what I could do. What is being impressive?” he 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, 39, was the International Boxing Organization (IBO) champion at 154 pounds in 2003-04 before winning the WBC middleweight belt for the first time in 2010. He was stripped by the organization after one title defense, but regained it with the win over Chavez and has defended once.
In eight fights at middleweight since 2009, he's 7-1 with four knockouts -- though he's been inactive since April 2013 with shoulder and hand injuries.
“I'm sure that I will win the fight by knockout because I'm training in a very hard and intense way and with such motivation that everyday I'm hitting harder, throwing more punches,” Martinez said. “Whatever Cotto will do in the ring doesn't matter to me, I don't care. What is important is for me to be the day of the fight in the same state that I'm working right now.
“This fight is definitely not going the distance. It will end before the scheduled number of rounds.”
Weekend Watch List
Fox Sports 1 -- Thursday, 8 p.m.
Emanuel Gonzalez vs. Tevin Farmer -- 10 rounds, junior lightweights
Showtime -- Friday, 10 p.m.
Hugo Centeno Jr. vs. Gerardo Ibarra -- 10 rounds, middleweights
Eddie Gomez vs. Francisco Santana -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights
ESPN2 -- Friday, 10:30 p.m.
Yudel Jhonson vs. Norberto Gonzalez -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Sammy Vasquez vs. Jay Krupp -- eight rounds, welterweights
HBO PPV -- Saturday, 9 p.m.
Sergio Martinez vs. Miguel Cotto -- WBC middleweight title
Wilfredo Vazquez vs. Marvin Sonsona -- 10 rounds, featherweights
Jorge Melendez vs. Javier Maciel -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Andy Lee vs. John Jackson -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Fox Deportes -- Sunday, 6 p.m.
Daniel Ponce De Leon vs. Miguel Roman -- 10 rounds, junior lightweights