Madison Square Garden isn’t quite the ‘Mecca’ it once was, with New York State’s punitive taxes on boxing events and illogical ban on mixed martial arts confirming Las Vegas’ status as the Fight Capital of the World. But Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito II turned back the clock to happier times for the sweet science.
This was an old school affair with the battle grounded in the type of heated rivalry that is often impersonated but rarely present in modern matchmaking. These two had fought back in 2008, with Margarito brutalizing his opponent en route to an eleventh TKO victory. The legitimacy of that victory was placed under a sizeable cloud when his very next fight it was discovered that Margarito’s hand wraps were loaded with plaster. While the eagle eye of his trainer Nazim Richardson spared Mosley, Cotto has long maintained that he was not so fortunate. The surprisingly severe facial damage that Margarito inflicted on Cotto in the first fight certainly lands credence to the theory, as does the circumstantial evidence presented by Cotto this week.
Margarito was rightly banned after the Mosley fight, although disappointingly only for a year. He returned to battle with the man who had given Cotto an even worse beating in Manny Pacquiao. In perhaps the Filipino warrior’s most spectacular performance, Margarito was battered for twelve rounds with only bloody minded machismo allowing him to hear the final bell. In many ways it was an admirable performance, and one that he suffered for, with the Mexican’s right orbital bone badly broken.
The injury would cast a cold over the immediate run-up to the fight, with Margarito’s recovery from career-saving surgery being doubted by the State Athletic Commission at the very last minute. For a time the very fight hung in the balance, with Bob Arum saying he’d move the event if Margarito was denied a license whilst Cotto threatened to withdraw if that happened. Eventually, NYSAC either buckled under the public relations nightmare it had landed itself in by raising perfectly valid concerns at an unreasonably late stage.
The resulting fight was as an event worth it. Madison Square Garden was legitimately sold out for a boxing event for the first time in years, with Cotto’s Puerto Rican fanbase in full cry as their man walked to the ring. It was a throwback to another era, when ethnic New York fighters captured the hearts of the city’s immigrant populations. The fight was almost destined to not leave up to expectations, but it at the very least saw Cotto deliver the ass-kicking to Margarito that everybody wanted to see. To the crowd and those watching on pay per view, this was a good man versus somebody who had betrayed the code that separates boxing from barbarism. For the illegal wraps, for the lies immediately afterwards, for the singular lack of remorse since this was one fight when there was little room for objectivity.
Cotto fought a disciplined fight, moving around the ring surprisingly slickly while targeting the right eye of Margarito with pin-point jabs. He comfortably outpointed Margarito, arguably winning every single round of the fight. Margarito’s eye closed up after the early rounds and by the ninth he clearly could no longer see out of his right eye. Fearing more damage the ringside doctors and the referee took the sensible decision of ending the fight and so giving Cotto his revenge.
The result also vindicated Cotto’s belief that in a fair fight he would have beaten Margarito back In 2008. Many believe that the controversial loss denied Cotto a money match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the rumor mill was soon speculating that with this win coming in the last match of his Top Rank contract he would finally get that match with the Pound for Pound King. On the evidence of this performance, Cotto may yet have enough left to give Mayweather a run for his money.
Tags: Antonio Margarito, Boxing, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley