As Antonio Margarito walked up to the microphone on Saturday night after Miguel Cotto's 12th round stoppage of Ricardo Mayorga at the MGM Grand- at the insistence of promoter Bob Arum- you could feel the tension and testiness between he and the Puerto Rican star as they quickly shook hands, never really making eye contact with each other. As Margarito said a few words to the assembled media, Cotto seemed to look away. It wasn't so much that Cotto had been defeated by Margarito; it's the lingering suspicion that Margarito may have used loaded hand-wraps in doing what some believe was irreparable damage to Cotto.
Since that loss to the “Tijuana Tornado” in July of 2008, Cotto has rebuilt his stature among the sport’s elite (after another stoppage loss at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in November of 2009). However, there's a train of thought that Cotto has never really been quite the same guy that went undefeated throughout his first 32 bouts.
While that might be true, he is still more than good enough to outclass the likes of Yuri Foreman and now Mayorga.
"It was a good fight; I thought he gave me a good test but I was in control of the fight," said Cotto, who is so low-key he is downright subterranean. On the other hand, Cotto was as correct in his assessment as he was concise. While the Nicaraguan flailed away with his customary wild punches, Cotto was the harder, sharper, more accurate boxer of the two by a country mile. Mayorga was passionate; Cotto was precise, which is one of the reasons why he was never really shook by any of Mayorga’s oncoming fire. "He hit me with hard punches but I always stay on my feet," Cotto said.
To Mayorga's credit, he did make things a bit more interesting down the stretch as Cotto began to fade a bit, luring the Puerto Rican into some fiery exchanges. Every time Mayorga attempted to goad Cotto with his various taunts, the man who can make statues look animated by comparison merely went about his work and with his technical superiority, gradually chipped away at Mayorga with a series of left hooks to the body and right hands upstairs. "That's the plan," said Cotto. "That's what we were working on in Miami in training camp, to use the right hand and ultimately, it was there all night and we used it. I feel great with it."
However, it was his trademark left hook that ultimately sent Mayorga crashing to the canvas in the final frame. During this exchange, Mayorga somehow dislocated his right thumb. It wasn't long after that Mayorga would bow out of the fight, unable to deal with the pain. It was a bizarre ending to what was a pretty good scrap.
"I thought it was a tough fight; he was coming on. We know he's a guy who's going to take a lot of punches; he's always been durable and I guess he couldn't continue," said Cotto, who improves his mark to 36-2 and scored his 29th knockout.
His trainer, the esteemed Emanuel Steward, was pleased with the performance, knowing that Mayorga's awkwardness would factor into the fight. He stated, "It's very difficult to get away from [Cotto’s] punches because they come from so many different angles. Miguel operated behind the jab, never did get into the mind games and basically was winning the fight with the jab. Last round, I told him to go forward; don't back up because he was giving him problems when he was backing up. So go forward; try to get him to throw a punch, beat him to the punch because Mayorga was tired and we know his punches were going to be sharper. And that's what happened; he caught him with a left hook.
"But I was very satisfied with the performance."
Under Steward's tutelage, Cotto has reworked his balance where much more of his weight is now on his back foot. Before, he seemed almost hunched over on his left foot as he started to rely more and more on his thudding left hook. But over time, Cotto’s stance became very square and his right hand started to become almost non-existent. Cotto now seems to be more upright in stature. It's still a process but one that looks to be heading in the right direction.
Cotto says of this union, "It's getting better every day; Emanuel is an awesome trainer. He came to my group, not to just teach Miguel Cotto [but] every member of my team. We are very happy to have him."
Now he looks ahead to a July 16th grudge rematch with Margarito and Steward will be hammering home a familiar message.
"The first fight, I was doing the broadcast; I thought Margarito made Cotto fight too fast and run away too fast when he threw his punches," Steward explained. "So he never did get the full maximum power on his punches because Margarito would always finish the combination as he was running away. So he never really did follow through. Margarito will always be a tough fight, I think, style-wise for Miguel."
Cotto didn't have much to say about the looming rematch, which shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that has ever been around him. If you could understand body language, his greeting toward Margarito spoke volumes.
It's perhaps as loud a statement as Cotto's ever made.
I was told that this past show in Las Vegas was basically a test run for Top Rank and Showtime to tie up all the loose ends as they head into their May 7th card featuring Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley in the same venue. I have to say, they really did a nice job of presenting this card, from their custom-made JumboTron to the platforms the fighters entered through, the video montages that preceded the fighters entrances and the lighting. In other words, they UFC'd their show or basically followed the template of what is done in Europe and in Montreal. Guess what? It's something that should've been done on a regular basis a long time ago. The bottom line is that oftentimes the in-arena experience for fans, who spend hundreds- if not thousands- of dollars on tickets, is stale and uninteresting.
Boxing is entertainment. Promoters (especially in the United States) have completely forgotten about that aspect. I know the traditionalists may cringe at all the bells-and-whistles but guess what? One of the big problems facing this business is that it hasn't done nearly the job it should in attempting to lure a younger demographic. Sorry, but the days of boxers just coming out of the tunnel with their favorite music might have been cutting edge and new in the ‘80s (as Larry Holmes came out to McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now”) but now, it's simply the bare minimum.
Of course, it will take promoters who are willing to spend money on such productions (the cost alone of the big circular video screen is well into the six figures), who understand that this is an investment on their product, and make this a regular occurrence.
When I got home from Las Vegas on Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to watch the show that took place across the country at the Foxwoods where a quartet of southpaws did battle. Watching Andy Lee and Craig McEwan duke it out in an entertaining scrap was like watching two Triple-A fighters but that's not a knock on them. Give me guys like this, who will lay it on the line and make for a fun fight, as opposed to supremely gifted individuals like Adrien Broner who don't take any risks inside the ring.
However, Sergio Martinez is a bona fide, five-tool All-Star. He is a magnificent blend of athleticism and creative intuition inside that ring. Martinez can not only box well from the outside but he is showing legitimate knockout power as a middleweight, as Sergiy Dzinziruk found out. Even at age 36, he seems to be a pugilist that is at the apex of his skills. The one thing I really enjoy about “Maravilla” is the way he can change speeds on his jab (from a fast, piston-like flicker to a hard, shotgun variety) and then uses a variety of feints that make him difficult to time.
Building up an early lead, he could've coasted to a decision victory but unlike so many other contemporary boxers, he closed the show in dramatic fashion. Martinez was effective, yet also entertaining. Yes, that balance can be achieved, which is lost on so many of today's prizefighters.
Now, there is all the usual mental masturbation (yes, I just used that term) over where he ranks on the pound-for-pound list and if he's superior to the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. All that is irrelevant in my view; what's really paramount here is whether promoter Lou DiBella gets him out there again as soon as possible, while the iron is still hot. Guys like Martinez need to be fighting more, not just every half-year. It would be a crying shame if all that resulted was Martinez getting a slot for the next available date on HBO with nothing in between. You can keep a high profile fighting twice a year if you're the “Pac-Man” (and in Mayweather's case, every two years or so) but not if you're Martinez.
There's a reason for all his skills, accomplishments and matinee idol appearance. His fight drew about half the people of the Cotto-Mayorga show (which is interesting for a fight many said was more significant). I think the pressure is on DiBella to make sure that Martinez, in addition to the promoter’s two dates on HBO, has other opportunities to showcase his talent and build up a more significant following.
Till then, he'll be that guy who is constantly avoided by the marquee names instead of being one. Pound-for-pound talk is just opinion and speculation, nothing more, nothing less. However, economic viability is what lands you big fights. Unfortunately, Martinez has the former distinction, not the latter.
Bob Arum told me last week in Las Vegas that he will be meeting with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday in hopes of making a deal to put the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sebastian Zbik fight at Dodger Stadium on June 4th (a week before Junior’s legendary father is inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame). Arum says that this fight will end up in Los Angeles, either at this venue, the Staples Center or the Home Depot Center.
I recall back in the fall of 2008 after Margarito's win over Cotto, that Arum had preliminary talks of having Margarito face Joshua Clottey in a rematch at Chavez Ravine but I'm told that the deal just was not economically feasible for Top Rank. I wonder if things have changed enough for them to actually strike an agreement. I'd love to see it. I love covering fights in exotic locales.
And no, that doesn't mean the Chumash Casino or the Silverdome.
Here's a different take on the ratings of Saul Alvarez on HBO last week from John Chavez: http://www.theboxingtruth.com/article.php?id=1959 ...How 'bout that Pawel Wolak? He just smothered and mauled Yuri Foreman. I would love to see him in against either Chavez Jr. (They were already scheduled to fight once before) or “Canelo” (who unfortunately, is with Golden Boy Promotions)...More than one media member groused that at the Foxwoods, every media outlet was limited to one credential (What is this, the year 2000?) and I'm told there was no real press room and the post-fight presser had no microphone...Can the Lakers just feed Andrew Bynum in the post just a little bit more, please?...I was actually a bit surprised that the Cotto-Mayorga fight had an attendance over 7,200. Las Vegas is a very depressed market right now, according to those who live in the city. I just don't think any fight, unless it involves Pacquiao or Mayweather, can really do big numbers in “Sin City” but you gotta give credit to Top Rank and Don King. They promoted the hell out of that show....