They should call it March Madness: Mayorga vs. Cotto

Self control was never one of Ricardo Mayorga's strong suits. Here we see him interrupting Miguel Cotto who is at the podium to speak about their upcoming fight on March 12. Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

After more than five years, two of the biggest wheeler-dealers in the business, Bob Arum and Don King, got back together to present a boxing show. That alone is an indicator of trouble ahead. Then came their announcement, that the first major world championship pay-per-view event of the season will feature (drum roll please) the volatile former two-division world champ Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga challenging the pride of Puerto Rico, Miguel Cotto for his WBA super welterweight crown. In all


likelihood, the good guy should have no problem outdueling the bad guy and it’s all set for Saturday, March 12, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Surprise, surprise!! At Wednesday’s press conference in New York to announce their fight, the 37 year-old Mayorga was at his trash talking best. “The old Mayorga is back and I’ve got a new attitude and outlook that makes me even stronger. I’m going to use Cotto as my red carpet to open the door to even bigger fights. Cotto was quoted in Puerto Rico saying it was the ‘lie of the year’ when I said I would fight him. It looks like he had bad information as the so-called lie has become reality.

“I will prove to everyone on March 12 that I’m the man, and you’re the woman. That belt you’re holding – polish it up, because I will be taking it on March 12. Your hands are like a woman’s. Look at my hands – they’re man’s hands.

“You came to Nicaragua and talked smack and told everyone I was a nobody. On March 12, all the Puerto Ricans are going to be wearing black for your wake. You will pay for what you said. This is the first time I will fight someone that is as small as a kid. I think my pants are taller than you. I see fear in your eyes. We have never crossed paths, but I have to tell you, I have never liked you as a fighter.”

Cotto’s calm response reminded Mayorga that they had a common opponent in the 39-year-old Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs), whom Cotto dethroned as WBA welterweight champion by unanimous decision in November of 2007.

“With those little pants, I beat Shane Mosley. Do you remember him? Shane Mosley? I’m a professional boxer and I know what my job is. My job is to fight in the ring and make good fights, because nobody wins a fight with their mouth.

“Yesterday I was with him (Mayorga), and he was playful and serene. But today, I guess he gets excited with all the lights and cameras on. When we get to the fight, there will be lots of cameras on there as well, but you will have to fight to back up your words.”

Miguel Cotto (35-2-0 with 28 KOs)

The 30 year old Miguel Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs), from Caguas, Puerto Rico, has held a world title every year since 2004 and has won 15 of the 17 world championship bouts he’s fought. He held the WBO junior welterweight crown from 2004 through 2006; successfully defended it six times before vacating it to capture the WBA welterweight title at the close of 2006. After losing the WBA title in July 2008 to Antonio Margarito, arguably the fight of the year, he won his second welterweight title in February, 2009, knocking out Michael Jennings in the fifth round to become the WBO welterweight champ. He lost the title in his second defense, November 2009, to Manny Pacquiao. Notable notches on Cotto’s belt include world champions, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, Joshua Clottey, Yuri Foreman, Paulie Malignaggi and Demarcus Corley.

Ricardo Mayorga is a master when it comes to showing the incredulous look, "Rabbit punch? Low blow? Not me!"

Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KOs) from Managua, Nicaragua is known for his reckless style – a style that’s produced 23 knockouts in his 29 victories and legions of fans. He became a national hero after knocking out Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis to capture the WBA welterweight title in 2002. The following year his stock skyrocketed when he unified the title by stopping undefeated WBC welterweight champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter Vernon Forrest in the third round of their January 2003 fight. Mayorga successfully defended his titles in the immediate rematch with Forrest, winning a majority decision in July 2003, before losing the titles to the IBF welterweight champion Cory Spinks in December 2003 by a close majority decision.

He made a comeback in 2005 and won a 12-round unanimous decision over former IBF welterweight champ Michele Piccirillo to capture the vacant WBC super welterweight title. He enters this fight having won two of his last three fights, which includes a 12-round majority decision over former world super welterweight champ Fernando Vargas.

Mayorga’s resume includes exciting battles with Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley plus the well documented shortcomings that could fill a dozen police blotters. Guys like Mayorga need boxing. He needs to keep himself busy because once he’s performing inside the ropes boxing fans are more simpatico, more supportive. In just one night they can forget all of his nonsense.

Posing for photos at the New York press conference are (left to right) Yuri Foreman, Christy Martin and Pawel Wolak. Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime

The show will also feature the return of former WBA super welterweight champ Yuri Foreman taking on Pawel Wolak in a 10-round super welterweight bout, WBC female super welterweight champ Christy Martin going after her fiftieth professional victory and IBF lightweight champ Miguel Vazquez defending his title against mandatory challenger Leonardo Zappavigna.

Yuri Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs), a 30-year-old from Brooklyn, NY, became the first orthodox Jew to win a world championship in nearly 70 years. Born in Gomel, Belarus and raised in Israel, Foreman immigrated to Brooklyn to expand his professional boxing horizons. The 2001 New York Golden Gloves Champ turned pro in 2002 and began studying to become a rabbi four years ago. He knocked down defending WBA super welterweight champ Daniel Santos in the final round of their November 2009 fight en route to an unanimous decision victory and Israel’s first world title. He suffered his first career loss in his first title defense to Miguel Cotto at Yankee Stadium last June when his knee gave out and the referee called a halt to the fight when it was clear he could not continue. His gutsy performance that night was a profile in courage which will be remembered for a long time. This will be his first fight back since that loss and the reconstructive knee surgery.

Pawel Wolak (28-1, 18 KOs), from Mount Arlington, NJ, enters this fight riding a two-year, seven-bout winning streak, with four of those victories coming by knockout. The combined record of the last four opponents he defeated – James Moore, Ishmail Arvin, Carlos Nascimento and Jose Pinzon – was 74-6-5, which translates into an impressive 87% winning percentage. His last fight, a seventh-round KO victory of Pinzon was fought at the Honda Center on the undercard of the Humberto Soto-Urbano Antillon WBC lightweight championship on December 4.  A former New York State middleweight champ, Wolak, 29, is known as an aggressive, high-pressure style fighter.  Trained by Tommy Brooks, Wolak, an East Coast fixture will be making his Las Vegas debut. He’s currently ranked No. 7 by the WBA.

During the '90s, Christy Martin was the champ, a big time celebrity.

Christy Martin (49-5-3, 32 KOs), from Orlando, Fla., had been the face of women’s professional boxing for 15 years, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and appearing in both Time and People magazine, as well as being a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Today, and CNN Extra! Breaking as many barriers as jaws in the ring, Martin made history in February, 1996 when she became the first female boxer to fight live on national TV. Five weeks later, she made her Showtime PPV debut, fighting on the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno undercard in Las Vegas.

Known for her aggressive style, the fan-pleasing Martin returns to the ring as the WBC Female super welterweight champion, a title she won in her last fight in September 2009 by way

September 2, 2009, Christy “the Coal Miner’s Daughter” Martin (left) keeps her right hand in an ice bucket while the ref raises her left hand to signal she is the WBC female junior middleweight champion after defeating Dakota Stone (right).

of a 10-round majority decision over Dakota Stone, despite breaking her hand during the fight.

Martin was in the news recently after it was reported her 66 year-old husband shot and stabbed her in the torso and left leg. Hubby Jim Martin, himself a former light-heavyweight boxer and Christy’s trainer, came after Christy but she was able to flee her home, then flag down a passing motorist who helped her escape.

Now that she has recovered, she’s hoping to make some dough by giving Stone (9-8-5) a rematch. Both fighters are just about the same age (42) and neither has fought since that 2009 bout. In Stone’s last five bouts, she has one win and four losses.

IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez (27-3-2, 12 KOs)

Rounding out the card will be IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez (27-3-2, 12 KOs), of Guadalajara, México, defending his title against Leonardo “Lightning Lenny” Zappavigna (25-0, 17 KOs), of Sydney, Australia.

Vazquez’s three losses were to Timothy Bradley and then twice to Saul Alvarez. His most notable victories (all decisions) came over Ricardo Dominguez, Breidis Prescott and Ji Hoon Kim of South Korea.

In Zappavigna’s last fight, October, 2010 at Olympic Park Sports Centre,

Leonardo “Lightning Lenny” Zappavigna (25-0, 17 KOs), a real brawler from Sydney, Australia has a good shot at pulling off the upset.

Homebush, New South Wales, Australia, he faced Ji-Hoon Kim. The fight was an official IBF Lightweight World title eliminator, with the winner scheduled to face Vazquez. Zappavigna won by knockout in the first round.

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