Questions get answered after Cotto defeats Margarito

In the Boxer vs puncher wars, the boxer, with a good game plan should win

Two tough guys, Antonio Margarito of Tijuana, Mexico and Miguel Cotto of Caguas, Puerto Rico go toe to toe at Madison Square Garden. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

The highly anticipated rematch between Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico and Antonio Margarito of Mexico is now in the record books. Cotto got his revenge against the first fighter to defeat him and at the same time exorcised the demons many believe were with him since that fight.


Some of us had mixed feelings about whether this match should have taken place. On one side of the aisle you had Margarito claiming he had no knowledge of any loaded hand wraps. On the other side you had the officials and purists stating there was no doubt and no room in the sport for people like him. It was their contention he should have been banned from the sport. After all, there was a precedent in this matter and those wrongdoers were subsequently banned for life.

The stalwarts who believe Margarito did in fact use an illegal hand wrap prior to his bout with Shane Mosley and possibly in his fight with Cotto, will now embrace this belief as if it were written in the Bible. At one time, Margarito was one of the most exciting and avoided fighters in the sport. Why? Because of his swarming style in which he pressed forward and stayed on the attack. His crowd pleasing strategy resulted in 27 knockouts in his 38 wins.

In 2008, in Margarito’s first fight with Cotto, Cotto, the more proficient boxer was clearly winning the bout early on. He threw more accurate punches and landed the beautiful counters.

The one thing Cotto couldn’t overcome was Margarito’s stamina. He hit Margarito repeatedly and yet Margarito kept coming and applying the pressure. In the closing rounds, it appeared Margarito’s punches had more bite and Cotto’s face was proof of that. Despite landing more punches, Cotto was the one getting the beating. Cotto would throw combinations, but before finishing with those combinations, he’d retreat. Margarito would then run him down and get him to throw more punches and make him retreat again. By making Cotto fight at a faster pace, Cotto started to run out of gas. The pressure made him burn himself out, and then Margarito began exerting his physical advantage. As a result the bout was stopped in round 11.

Following Margarito’s suspension for the tampering charge prior to the Mosley fight, it did put the legitimacy of his victory over Cotto in question. The rationale for those believing Margarito’s victory was tainted stemmed from the uncommon bruises around the eyes and a photograph taken while Margarito was celebrating his victory.

After the gloves were removed, the people who recognize the telltale signs of handwrap chicanery saw something that couldn't be explained.

In that photo (shown here), there’s clearly a tear and a red spot on the hand wrap. Since the California State Athletic Commission was advised of this, it led to their scrupulous, extraordinary attentiveness in the dressing room before the Mosley fight.
The motivation for Margarito in tonight’s contest was to prove his victory over Cotto in 2008 was not a fluke. That didn’t happen.

Miguel Cotto (R) connects with a right hand to the face of Antonio Margarito during their WBA World Junior Middleweight Title fight. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Did we see a repeat of that last fight? No, only revenge for the guy some considered a snake in the grass.

Did the suspicions of Margarito’s skullduggery in the first match affect Cotto’s psyche for this rematch? Without a doubt. It gave him added motivation.

Cotto’s pre-fight promise is proof of that: “I’m going to use any kind of advantage I feel I have over him, everything I have in the ring. I’m going to fight like always with my heart and soul. I’m going to do my work. He was playing with the health of somebody else, attempting to kill. He used plaster on his wraps; he used a weapon on me. He has to be treated like a criminal.”

Miguel Cotto (L) is shown dunking under a punch thrown by Antonio Margarito during their WBA World Junior Middleweight Title fight in New York City. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

In tonight’s contest, Cotto clearly won the first two rounds by moving and punching. By round three he was in complete control. In the toe-to-toe third round, Cotto cut Margarito on his surgically repaired eye. From that point on, multiple doctors were up in the ring checking his right eye. Showing his Mexican bravado, Margarito kept pointing to his eye as if to taunt Cotto. Cotto’s response was simply to punch him in the face and often in that right eye. The eye started to look very bad by the sixth round. After the eighth, it was closed and the fight was nearly stopped. After the ninth round, there was another lengthy discussion in the corner and when the bell rang to start the 10th round, referee Steve Smoger called a timeout.
Moments later, on the advice of ringside physician, Dr. Anthony Curreri, Smoger stopped the fight. The crowd went wild celebrating.

Did Cotto detect any difference in the hardness of the punches thrown at him on Saturday night? He was asked that very question. “I’m still awake, that’s my answer,” said Cotto. “After nine, 10 rounds, I was on my feet.”

Cotto switched to a new trainer for this fight, Cuban Pedro Diaz, surprisingly parting company with Emanuel Steward. How did that work out? Apparently very well because Cotto seemed to be even more fastidious and comfortable with his new game plan.

Inactivity is always a negative for athletes. Ever since January 1, 2001, a period of 11 years, Margarito has never fought more than twice in a year.  Saturday’s match came one year and 20 days since his last bout, the loss to Manny Pacquiao. How was he supposed to stay sharp?

Since Margarito is 32 and Cotto 31, the only real difference was their height. Cotto is four inches shorter at 5’7” and Margarito stands 5’11.” In this match, Cotto was able to overcome that height and leverage advantage.

Did the beating he took from Pacquiao take a lot out of him? Most assuredly.

Once again Cotto picked Margarito apart by utilizing his superior foot work to throw punches from every conceivable angle. Unlike that first fight, he was hardly ever a stationary target. Cotto and his camp meticulously prepared for every scenario and got their revenge.

Were the boxers properly compensated?

Cotto earned $5 million plus a share of the pay-per-view profits. Margarito made $2.5 million plus a smaller share of the PPV profits.

What will we remember about Antonio Margarito’s performance on December 3? Margarito showed a tremendous amount of heart. He has a granite chin but he can’t box with the best.

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