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Miguel Cotto – Antonio Margarito II: Not so Great Expectations

By Geno McGahee

Last Saturday, the WBA Light Middleweight Champion of the world, Miguel Cotto, 36-2, 29 KO’s, ended the career of the wild-swinging, big-mouthed brawler, Ricardo Mayorga with a devastating left hook in the final round. It was a much tougher fight for Cotto than many anticipated and when you look at the facts going in, you would have assumed a much shorter fight in favor of the champion.

Ricardo Mayorga only fought once in 2 years, defeating journeyman Michael Walker by 9th round stoppage. In his eight fights leading into the title encounter, he was 4-4, knocked cold by Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, and Shane Mosley. At 37 years old, inactive, and well past his prime, you would assume that Cotto would have little trouble dismantling and stopping him, but he did. The psyche of Cotto was forever damaged in 2008, when he was stopped for the first time in his career by Antonio Margarito.

July 26th, 2008 – Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito

The term “most avoided man in boxing” has been thrown around a lot lately, but one man in 2008 seemed to have earned that distinction more than others. That man was Antonio Margarito, a hard worker with tenacity that wanted desperately to face Floyd Mayweather, JR., and was quickly declined. He fought in obscurity, picking up good wins along the way, and when Miguel Cotto stood up and accepted a fight with him, boxing seemed to be moving in the right direction. A great fight between two gutsy powerhouses.

To the surprise of many, Cotto could not handle Margarito, succumbing to the pressure after eleven rounds. He looked like he went through the windshield of a car wreck, bloody and battered and just a beaten man. The working man’s type of fighter had defeated the pound for pound star by stoppage. It was a good day in boxing. Margarito seemed like a throwback to those fighters of the 1950s that used will more than skill to compensate and overcome the far more talented fighter in front of them. It was boxing at its core. It was all heart… or so it seemed.

January 24th, 2009 – Antonio Margarito vs. Shane Mosley

This fight was a no-brainer. The older Mosley would not be able to deal with the aggression of Margarito and either struggle to the distance and lose by a decision or be stopped late, but then we were in for a surprise. Margarito was caught loading his hand wraps with plaster of Paris. The wraps were immediately sent out for analysis and came back positive. He was cheating and had, most likely, been doing it for a long, long time.

Without the plaster, Margarito proved to be a mediocrity, and lost without as much of a peep from him, hammered to the floor in the 9th round. After the fight, Margarito was banned from boxing, as he should have been, but it should have covered life. Panama Lewis and Luis Resto both were banned for life when they were caught removing padding from gloves, and this is no different. The only difference is that Margarito was a top star and Resto was far from it. Margarito’s bad deeds make him more of an attraction and this got him into his biggest money-making opportunity…

November 13th, 2009 – Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito

I was amazed that this fight took place to begin with, but it did, and to nobody’s surprise, a Margarito without hidden bricks in his gloves couldn’t dent Pacquiao and took a vicious beating over 12 rounds. Bob Arum is a businessman and knows how to sell and this fight was a good sell and had a good buy rate on pay per view. No matter how sleazy it seemed or how wrong it was for Margarito to be given another chance considering the damage he could have done and has done to other fighters, you can’t dismiss the business genius of the Pacquiao-Margarito PPV. It was near zero risk and a big reward for Manny. Margarito’s only shot in the fight (without plaster) was for Manny to pass out from exhaustion or break his hands on his chin and give up.

The road back for Miguel Cotto has been a bumpy one since his TKO defeat to Margarito. He won the WBO Welterweight Title with an easy TKO over the terribly mismatched Michael Jennings, and then defended against Joshua Clottey. We began to see the damaged psyche at work in this fight.

Cotto struggled with Clottey, barely eking out a split decision in a fight that could have gone either way. The once very confident Cotto that would come on late in fights, faded, and had visible doubt, eager to make it to the finish line rather than going for a stoppage win. The victory secured him a shot at the biggest name in boxing, Manny Pacquiao, and another beating was on the way.

November 14th, 2009 – Manny Pacquiao Vs Miguel Cotto

The term “damaged goods” was heard often going into this fight in reference to Cotto. The only question going into this fight was how was Manny going to deal with somebody as strong and as big as Cotto. Cotto’s lack of confidence since the Margarito defeat would be an obstacle impossible to overcome with the lightning quick Manny Pacquiao constantly in his face. To the credit of Cotto, he had the right idea and tried to implement it, boxing Manny and using his jab to win the first round, but his lack of focus and the ability of Manny to adjust were a combo that made the fight a one way road after the initial round.

You could almost see what Cotto was thinking. He was in survival mode early. He was still suffering from the Margarito fight, and Pacquiao was not the sort of guy to regain confidence against. After the second round, it was easy to see how this fight was going to go, and it went in Manny’s favor via TKO in 12.

June 5th, 2010 – Miguel Cotto vs. Yuri Foreman

There is still a big name value with Cotto and he can still be maneuvered into big paydays, but he must be matched carefully and the feather-fisted Yuri Foreman was the ideal foe. He had a belt, the WBA Light Middleweight Title and was rather mediocre by champion standards. There was no way he was going to worry Cotto and he wasn’t elusive enough to get away from his punches, so there was really no way that he could beat him. Cotto was an easy winner after 9 rounds.

The Ricardo Mayorga bout, although more dangerous than the Foreman fight, was another strategic move by Arum. Mayorga had that “puncher’s chance” but anyone that bets on that knows it is a sucker’s bet and you often lose and Cotto, if he could keep his chin down, would most likely win without much concern. The fact that Cotto didn’t dominate completely should raise some eyebrows and plaster or not, Margarito’s psychological edge is so vast in this fight that he may just win due to that, and land yet another big and undeserved payday.

I won’t protest this rematch and won’t ask anyone not to rent it on pay per view, when it arrives, but it isn’t any less sickening to see a guy like Margarito put the lives of so many people on the line for financial gain, make a bundle and come out smelling like a rose every time. It is a dangerous example to set. If you are linked to the right promoter and have the appropriate draw, you will be welcomed back.

Miguel Cotto – Antonio Margarito II is a pick’em fight and I would lean toward Margarito to win via stoppage again. The memories of the first one should be enough to convince Cotto to crumble.

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