Fight week in Las Vegas and a great fight it should be as Puerto Rican Superstar Miguel Cotto puts his unbeaten record and pound for pound status on the line against hard punching, tough, sturdy-chinned, Mexican Antonio Margarito Saturday night at the MGM Grand. Wow, I can’t wait!
If you have seen these two fight, then this one really needs no breakdown, or maybe it’s just the opposite, because this fight is so even on paper, maybe it really does need to be dissected to really appreciate what I expect we will really appreciate Saturday night.
Let’s start out with Margarito, who is no doubt the underdog going into Saturday’s fistic contest. Although many still don’t know much about this warrior, I have followed him for quite some time and have even called one of his fights on TV. That was nearly a decade ago and he has improved significantly since then even though I was impressed with his pugilistic fortitude even then. Margarito has been a pro for since 1994, that’s fourteen years, which can be a concern. Despite being around so long, he has not gotten the recognition because he has been so avoided by some of the top names like Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley and, I believe, Oscar De La Hoya wanted no part of this big Welterweight.
Because he has been so avoided by the top dogs we really don’t know what to expect from Margarito in a mega-fight like this one against Cotto. What we do know is this, Margarito comes to fight, and he won’t stop fighting until the fat lady sings. He has very good size for a Welterweight at just shy of six feet tall. His size will be something new for Cotto to deal with as he has never faced an opponent this big and strong. Margarito can also punch a bit. He is not a one punch guy, but he is a non-stop hitter and he really bangs well to the body. Margarito has had a problem in the past not getting off to a fast start. He made a point of changing that in his last fight with Kermit Cintron and he was successful. He will need to get busy from the get go on Saturday night against Cotto.
For Margarito to win this fight, he will need to be able exert his strength factor over Cotto. He’s going to have to use his height and reach advantage effectively; Margarito at 5’11 has 4 inches on the 5’7 Cotto and will have at least a 6 inch reach advantage. Margarito needs to bully Cotto, something that has never happened to him thus far in his career. Margarito is not as good a technician in the ring as Cotto, but he will not win this fight on skill. He could however win on big time will with skill. He will have to go above and most likely beyond the call of duty to hand Cotto the first blemish on his record. Margarito may have the mental makeup to do just that, we’ll soon find out won’t we?
As for unbeaten Miguel Cotto, he will simply have to just keep doing what we have seen from him of late and that is box and punch equally with great consistency and aggression. Cotto has improved tremendously over the last few years. Is it the fact that he feels so much more comfortable with the addition of the weight going from an emaciated 140 to a much more fitting 147 pounds given his body make up? Or is it just the fact that his skill level and technique is just now that good. Certainly, without having to spend all of training camp working on making weight, Cotto can now devote much more time to proper conditioning and mapping out a proper fight plan.
I think it is a bit of all of that and I must also compliment Cotto’s promoters and matchmakers namely Top Rank’s Bruce Trampler as they have done an exquisite job of bringing him along, putting him in against better and better opposition all the time and most importantly at the right time. When he took on Zab Judah, it was the right time for him to completely break down the skillful but outgunned Judah winning via TKO in round 11. And when he fought ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley later, it was the perfect time as Shane has slowed just enough for Cotto to be able to deal with the future Hall of Famer’s hand speed, footwork and skill and was even be able to out box Sugar Shane at times during that 12 round decision win.
Cotto has been down and hurt in his career, but he hinted to me that part of that might have been the weakening and effects of totally dehydrating himself to make weight. His chin has appeared much sturdier now at welterweight, but it still will be a question throughout this fight with Margarito. Cotto has now become one of the best pure boxer/punchers, or maybe puncher/ boxers in the sport. He has a bit of a bunch of past Puerto Rican greats like Wifredo Gomez and Edwin Rosario. He has a vicious body attack and really works well of his jab with nice fluid hard combinations and he is a finisher. I don’t know if he can finish Margarito, who has only been stopped once and it was due to a cut from a headbutt.
This one is a tough call, but you know me I am not given to vacillation, ambiguity, or ambivalence, so I will make my call. I believe that once again this one boils down to Cotto catching Margarito at the right time. Two years ago, maybe even year and a half ago I would have picked Margarito to stop Cotto, but Miguel is now at the perhaps the top of his game, and he has a very quiet confidence. Having beaten Judah and Mosley in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden with mostly his fellow Puerto Ricans, Cotto feels comfortable on the big time boxing stage. This will be new territory for Margarito. I like Cotto to weather some serious storms and when the storm clouds settle, come out with a decision victory or maybe a late stoppage. A nice bet based on the odds might be to take Margarito in a TKO upset, but my pick is Cotto to win.
We’ll do some recapping and rapping on other boxing next week. Hands up, Chin down, we’ll talk next week boxing fans.