By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Miguel Cotto hopes to benefit from the "Roach factor" when he tries to become Puerto Rico's first four-division champion against world middleweight champ Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
After a bitter 2012 in which he lost championship decisions to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout, Cotto joined forces with renowned trainer Freddie Roach and believes he is poised to take the WBC middleweight crown from Argentina's Martinez.
"This is the best training camp I ever had," Cotto, 33, said about his partnership with Roach. "Our chemistry together has been great."
The hard-hitting Cotto said fighting for the 160-pound crown should not be a problem for him.
"I am a puncher," said Cotto, who has a record of 38-4 with 31 knockouts but has never fought above 154 pounds. "I carry my punch to 160. I’ll carry my punch no matter where my weight is."
One of Cotto's defeats came in 2009 when he was stopped in the 12th round by Manny Pacquiao, who is trained by Roach.
Roach said that experience had helped him prepare Cotto.
"Working with Manny against Cotto taught me what his weaknesses were. We were able to shore up those ills," said Roach, who said he worked on the fighter's ring generalship and predicted Cotto would knock Martinez out in four rounds.
"Regardless of what Freddie Roach says, Cotto will get beat up on Saturday night," vowed southpaw Martinez, who said he would end the Puerto Rican's night by the ninth round.
Martinez has had physical ills to contend with, showing the effects of shoulder and knee operations in holding off rugged Briton Martin Murray in a brawling battle last April in Buenos Aires despite being knocked down in the eighth.
The late blooming Martinez, a 39-year-old former cyclist who has held the championship since 2010, insists he is fit although he will wear a supportive sleeve over his (left) knee after Cotto's camp objected to his wearing a brace.
Martinez, who boasts a 51-2-2 Record, said that if Cotto underestimates him, he is in for a surprise.
"To fight at Madison Square Garden where great Argentinian boxers fought like Oscar Bonavena and Carlos Monzon is the greatest honor that any Argentinian boxer could possibly have," Martinez said.
"Miguel Cotto says Madison Square Garden is his home, but come June 7 he will be evicted."
Cotto, making his ninth appearance at the Garden with a 7-1 record there, hopes to play his part in a New York celebration for Puerto Ricans.
"It is going to be a great weekend for Puerto Rico," said Cotto who began his collection of crowns with the junior welterweight title in 2004 and added the welterweight belt before moving to the top of the super welterweight class.
"We have the Puerto Rican Day parade (in New York City), we have my fight and we have Felix Trinidad getting inducted into the Hall of Fame (in Canastota, N.Y.) the next day.
"Trinidad was the man when I started my career. It makes me feel happy and proud."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)