Cotto-Margarito II: Repeat or Revenge?December 1, 2011
The highly anticipated rematch between WBA Jr. Middleweight world champion Miguel Cotto and former three-time Welterweight world champion Antonio Margarito frankly seemed at times that the only place the fight would take place would be in a video game. This was primarily due to the stigma of Antonio Margarito’s 2009 suspension for attempting to wear illegal hand wraps in his bout with Shane Mosley.
Many people have mixed feelings as to whether Antonio Margarito should be allowed to compete. Margarito did serve a one year suspension issued by the California State Athletic Commission for the offense. Despite his continued stance that he had no knowledge of loaded hand wraps some contend that he should have been banned from the sport of Boxing for life. After all, there have been fighters who have been banned for similar actions.
The suspension has put a question mark on Margarito’s career in the eyes of some. Margarito, once one of the most exciting and avoided fighters in the sport is known for a swarming style in which he presses forward and throws punches constantly. This has resulted in Margarito scoring twenty-seven knockouts of his thirty-eight wins. The possibility of Margarito potentially using illegal hand wraps whether those suspicions have basis or not has put many if not all of Margarito’s wins in question.
One of those wins was in his first fight with Miguel Cotto in 2008 when both were competing in the Welterweight division. In an action filled fight, Cotto hit Margarito with everything but the kitchen sink but could not withstand Margarito’s pressure and by the late rounds of the contest Cotto had suffered a severe beating as he was stopped in the eleventh round.
It was the biggest win of Margarito’s career after being avoided by many of the marquee stars of the Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight divisions for years. Following the suspension however, it did put the legitimacy of Margarito’s victory in question.
The basis of those who believe Margarito’s victory over Cotto to be tainted stems from a photograph taken while Margarito was celebrating his victory in which there was a red spot on one of his hand wraps. Margarito has vehemently denied any wrong doing in that fight however, a photograph of the hand wraps that were confiscated by the California State Athletic Commission prior to Margarito’s fight with Shane Mosley has been shown by Cotto in the build up to this rematch. The photograph showed a similar red spot on the hand wraps. Whether this is a legitimate accusation or simply pre-fight hype, it does seem like a valid question.
An argument can be made that although Miguel Cotto rebounded from the loss to Margarito to win two world titles, he has not really been the same fighter he was prior to the first fight. As Cotto prepares to defend his title it will be interesting to see if the suspicion of Margarito’s victory in the first fight affects his approach in the rematch.
By the same token, much as there are questions for Cotto to answer in this fight there are also questions that face Antonio Margarito. The clear motivation for Margarito in this fight is to attempt to prove that his victory over Cotto was not a fluke and should he be successful it may perhaps serve as a way of redemption for him in the eyes of fans who believe his victory in the first fight was tainted.
There is also the element of surprise that the fight is actually taking place following trials and tribulations in Margarito’s attempt to get a Boxing license in the state of New York. It remains to be seen if the situation regarding his licensing was a distraction for Margarito toward the end of his training. This led to a threat from Cotto that he would not fight if the bout did not take place in New York if those involved in the promotion of the fight had planned on moving the bout elsewhere.
The New York State Athletic Commission did grant Margarito a license after his eyes were examined last week. The basis of the commission’s concern regarding Margarito’s eyes stems from a brutal beating he suffered at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in his last fight.
Margarito suffered a broken orbital bone and severe damage to his right eye. Although some were initially very critical of the NYSAC for waiting until nearly a week before the fight to make decisions regarding Margarito’s licensing I do not share the opinion that the commission was wrong in how they went about things. Having seen both commission hearings regarding Margarito first hand it cannot go unnoticed that the commission requested medical information from Margarito back in September and for what ever reason those requests were ignored until recently. Whether it be Margarito himself, his handlers, or his promoter Bob Arum who neglected to respond to the commission’s request in a timely manner, I do not believe you can point the finger of blame at the commission for following their procedures.
A more appropriate question may be why was a commission’s request ignored pretty much until the last minute yet, the venue for the fight Madison Square Garden, promotion and TV/Pay-Per-View rights were set up and tickets for the fight card were sold without any guarantee that licensing would not be a problem and that Margarito would be cleared to fight? Without passing judgment on those involved in the promotion of the fight, it seems that it was more or less assumed that Margarito would not have a problem with securing a license to box. In the eyes of this observer it seems surprising that such a respected promoter like Bob Arum and his company Top Rank would not get the licensing of a boxer secured prior to the fight’s announcement. It is clear that the ball was dropped here no matter who is at fault however the New York State Athletic Commission is not at fault.
Now with Margarito cleared to fight, the bout will go off as scheduled. What are the keys to victory for each fighter? For Cotto he must not repeat how he approached Margarito in the first fight. Cotto did throw everything he had at Margarito but he squared up with Margarito often and allowed himself to be pressured and constantly backed up. Perhaps Cotto could learn from Margarito’s fights with Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao.
Mosley was able to break Margarito down by mixing punches to the body and head. Cotto did not focus his attack on Margarito’s body in the first fight. Margarito has always been known for having a granite chin and to his credit he withstood shots from Cotto that would have ended the night for many fighters. Cotto must mix up his attack in the rematch.
Manny Pacquiao was able to pick Margarito apart by utilizing tremendous foot work to throw punches at Margarito from every conceivable angle and was able to avoid being a stationary target for him as he came forward. Cotto must avoid squaring up with Margarito and being a stationary target. He must box in this fight and use tactics over aggression.
Margarito meanwhile must find a way to pressure Cotto from the outset and back him up. Although Margarito’s trademark has always been his ability to throw hundreds of punches per round, he must keep defense in mind. There is no doubt that Cotto will target Margarito’s right eye in this fight. It remains to be seen how much real damage Margarito has in his right eye and what affects if any the beating at the hands of Pacquiao have had on the eye.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Margarito a normally straight forward offensive minded fighter can implement defense into his strategy. Margarito will also have to deal with what will likely be a very hostile crowd in Madison Square Garden where Cotto has been a top draw for several years. By the same token, it will be equally interesting if crowd support influences Cotto to be more aggressive in a fight where he must be tactical.
The thing of course that everyone is hoping for is a good fight in what has been a highly hyped rematch. Miguel Cotto is seeking revenge against the first fighter to defeat him. Should Cotto successfully defend his Jr. Middleweight world championship Saturday night he will have redeemed himself and will have exorcised the demons that many believe have been with him since that fight three years ago.
Antonio Margarito is seeking redemption. Whether or not he will ever regain the stature he once had prior to serving his suspension will in large part be determined on what happens in this fight.
So who will come out on top? We’ll find out Saturday December 3rd.