On Saturday, December 3rd, we will see one of the most anticipated rematches in recent years. In my opinion, even more so than Pacquiao-Marquez III, Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29KOs) will seek revenge for the summer 2008 beat down he received in the hands (many say more than just hands) of Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito (38-7, 27KOs). In the years since, both have suffered devastating losses at the fists of Manny Pacquiao and not to mention the illegal handwrap debacle which transpired in the fight between Margarito and Shane Mosley in early ’09. Because of his tainted hands, Margarito was suspended for one full year before he was able to resume his career. In the meantime, Cotto captured the WBA super welterweight title which will be up for grabs on Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In their first encounter three years ago, Margarito survived a skillful display of boxing from the Boricua in the first half of the war held in Las Vegas, Nevada, to turn the tide and bring a tsunami-like attack that stopped Cotto in the eleventh round after completely destroying his face. Cotto was successful in landing effective combinations as he retreated around the ring with Margarito being the aggressor. The granite chin Tijuana fighter never gave up and kept coming forward despite catching everything Cotto was throwing with his face and in the seventh, Margarito was able to begin to slow down the fast fading Puerto Rican. By the tenth, Cotto was spent and Margarito was able to close the gap and deliver damaging blows to the body but more importantly, to the face of Cotto which ended up a bloody mess. In the eleventh, Cotto’s then trainer and uncle, Evagenlista Cotto, had seen enough and threw in the towel giving the “Tijuana Tornado” the type of win that had always eluded him, a big one.
After the bout, Margarito turned into the darling of the boxing world, praised and applauded where the “Tornado” touched ground.
All that changed after his bout with Mosley.
After the truth came out from the illegal hand wrap situation, the Margarito denials, the Capetillo sidestepping, the suspension, Margarito turned into boxing’s pariah. Where the applause and cheers came, now there was boos and jeers. Margarito kept plugging along, in hopes of the sight of him in the ring will make people forget for his past alleged transgressions.
It is said in boxing circles that once Margarito realized that no matter what he did, the fans, media an everybody involved in boxing would forget the illegal hand wraps, not even a beating at the hands of Manny Pacquaio last November in which he almost lost the retina in his right eye as well as his career.
Margarito has emerged as the text book bad guy, with his long hair and goatee. Now that I think about it, he does look like the younger brother of Danny Trejo, the character actor who played the lead in the Pocho exploitation film Machete.
In HBO’s recent 24/7 series to promote the rematch, Cotto was shown with a sympathetic light, mourning the loss of his father which came after the first Margarito-Cotto bout. Cotto, the quiet, serious, introspective boxer from the island who is looking for redemption with the support cast of his mother, his best friend and new trainer while the villain Margarito delves into the heart of Mexico, land of drug cartel murders and corruption, and the Otomi Mountains to train along Brandon Rios, the guy that made fun of Freddie Roach and his Parkinson’s disease.
Margarito has embraced the black hat even as so much that at the final press conference in New York City, his first comment at the podium was, “Make way for the criminal…”, the title Cotto had christened him with through out the 24/7 series.
As far as the match up, my money is with Margarito. Granted, the last fight he truly performed like the Margarito of old was in his first match up with Cotto. Margarito was devastatingly stopped by Mosley and after a year suspension, looked rusty versus Robert “Amenaza” Garcia. Versus Pacquiao he looked slow, defenseless and spent.
Cotto hasn’t fared much better since Margarito. Yes, he has earned some wins but over B-level opposition such as Michael Jennings who he stopped in five, a split decision over Joshua Clottey, a ninth TKO over the over matched Yuri Foreman who actually gave him a great fight for the WBA title until his knee gave out and in his last bout earlier this year, a 12th round KO over Ricardo Mayorga who didn’t look all that bad versus the former amateur star. His only loss came at the hands of the Filipino super star Pacquiao who stopped Cotto in twelve rounds after beating him to a pulp, much like Margarito did.
I think because of their styles, Margarito would beat Cotto 9 out of 10 times. One thing I noticed in the 24/7 was that Cotto seemed to be working on attacking as he back tracked, a tactic he will undoubtedly need come December 3rd. Margarito, in triumph or defeat, doesn’t know any other direction but forward. He will continue to come forward until he gets knocked out like Mosley did, Margarito’s only knock out loss, or even when he is beaten beyond recognition as Pacquiao did. It doesn’t matter, he keeps coming.
I don’t think that Cotto, now or back in 2008, is ready for that type of pressure and I feel that Margarito will once again stop the Puerto Rican. When and how, that is yet to be seen on Saturday but that day is just around the corner.