By Gina L. Caliboso
On December 3, 2011, Puerto Rico’s Miguel Angel Cotto, 36-2, 29 KO’s will get a rematch against Antonio Margarito, 38-7, 27 KO’s. It is a rematch that has been long overdue. Fighting at a catch weight of 153 lbs, both fighters will meet at Madison Square Garden for the WBA Super World Light Middleweight and World Boxing Board Light Middleweight titles. While we all still wince when we recall the beating Cotto took at the hands of Margarito in their first bout, the same cloud will linger as this rematch plays out. For both Cotto and Margarito, this rematch represents both revenge and redemption.
I’ll take the higher road first – redemption. Let’s consider that Cotto did not really need to take this fight to neither prove anything nor redeem his recent successes in the ring as the WBA Light Middleweight titleholder. Since his last loss against Pacquiao in 2009 where he suffered a 12th round TKO against the Filipino fighter, Cotto has convincingly defeated his last two opponents. In June 2010, he came up against the strong and the tough Yuri Foreman, 28-2, 8 KO’s and defeated him with a 9th round TKO. I loved how Cotto looked in this match. Cotto fought inside and stood toe to toe with Foreman. He looked confident, fought strong, and had the intangible of a champion. He also learned to cultivate his jab a bit more and his lead hand combos connected.
Earlier this year in March, Cotto last fought against Ricardo Mayorga, 29-8, 23 KO’s and earned a 12 round TKO with Mayorga getting knocked down. I didn’t particularly like this fight because you can always expect Mayorga to swing so wildly and freely that he could possibly connect and knock the rocks out of any fighter. But you saw again the distinction in Cotto’s level of confidence in his technical skill. He was winning only occasionally mixing it up against Mayorga should he decide to trade. When a fighter such as Cotto decides to trade, he can be thrown out of his element a bit. When he sticks to his own offense, Cotto has excellent ring generalship and strategy.
So, for Cotto, is it the case of redemption? I’d argue to a degree yes. He’s finishing his career strongly despite the one sided loss to Pacquiao. However, let’s now consider the ‘low’ road of revenge. Is it revenge? Absolutely, positively, Cotto must be seeking revenge tempered with his own passion to settle a fight with the bully from his past. It’s the shadow of doubt that Cotto needs to put to rest and if inspired by revenge, Margarito may be in for a brutal beating. Revenge is such a strong word – but it does serve as motivation.
Now, as for Margarito. Due to his handwrap incident, it cast a shadow of doubt on the legitimacy of his wins, but with the brutal cost of boxers getting beat up. In the case of Cotto, it was bloody, it was a beating. Sadly, even as Margarito got beat up by Pacquiao, some stated it was a ‘revenge’ or ‘karmic’ beating. But if you recall, Pacquiao tried to back off and even looked to the ref to ask why they should even continue. The fight wasn’t called for a TKO and ended with a decision.
In the case of Margarito, “once a cheater, always a cheater” not only mars his career, but also the careers of his opponents. For a boxer, there gets to be a point where the fighter needs to reconcile his own past. I’m not exactly sure where Margarito will end his career and he may never live down his cheating, but all he can do is fight really and put the one incident behind him.
For Margarito, every bout he fights from now on will always be a bout of redemption. His cheating has not been forgotten, but as long as he gets brutalized, it seems justified. It’s true to an extent, but like in all things, forgiveness is key. Margarito needs to be at peace with his past as much as Cotto needs to let go of his loss. The December rematch marks closure for both fighters. Cotto has emerged as a better fight since the Pacquiao loss. Similarly, after the beating he suffered at the hands of Pacquiao, Margarito is still moving forward and cannot afford to look back.
In expectation for this fight, Margarito will have to trade with Cotto. Cotto will have to dig in and work his combos with his footwork. As the smaller fighter, Cotto’s best offense will be to be in and out as he delivers combination punches. He also cannot allow Margarito to fight taller and let him control the range of the fight. Margarito never set anything up against Pacquiao, but Cotto isn’t exactly Pacquiao either. Cotto needs to establish pace from the get go.
When the fight was first announced, I immediately thought it would be a good thing for Cotto. I feel for the fighter that in order to really get rid of any doubts about his loss, he needed to fight Margarito again. More importantly, it can finally put to rest, at least in his own mind, that he can actually beat Margarito without suffering a beating like he did before. By contrast, I don’t doubt Margarito will get some boos when he makes his way to the ring. Cotto will be favored to win because he’s definitely earned it. Let’s just hope that within his heart and out of his mind, he can emerge the better fighter and cast aside any doubts and look only to his victory.