Fight Day in Gotham City
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Dec 6, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photos © Steve Kim)
New York City
Well, I'm back home after a great five-day sojourn in New York covering last weekend’s rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito at the famed Madison Square Garden. It was the grudge match of the year and the year’s most highly anticipated boxing event in the United States. It was also a promotion that was nearly booted out of the Big Apple as there were licensing issues surrounding the surgically-repaired right eye of Margarito. But after all was said and done, this fight card took place exactly where it belonged. 
It was a memorable night. The type that let you know that on certain nights, boxing, for all its supposed ills and impending demise, when done correctly by top promoters, is still very much a major league sport.
I had a great time in New York. Unlike fights taking place in Las Vegas (where I usually stay on the host hotel grounds), I did a fair share of walking around and enjoying the surroundings. Yes, I made my usual jaunt to Jimmy's Corner (three times, in fact), saw MetLife Stadium (where I saw the powerhouse that is Don Bosco Prep win another New Jersey state football title) and finally had slices of pizza (at Ray's Pizza, a short walk from the Sheraton Hotel) that lived up to New York's rep for having the best pie in the land. Get this: I even took the subway! (I got an MTA Metro Card to prove it.)
You guys asked for one of my timeline/diary pieces; well, here it is: fight day in New York...
Jimmy's Corner
11:01 AM: Yeah, I got in late last night from Jimmy's Corner, where I met some fans and a group that came in from Dallas to root for Margarito (yeah, they were Mexican). We had a great time. I even broke into a “Running Man” and “Cabbage Patch”- uh, yeah, I had some Goose and sodas in me by that time- but everyone was impressed with my moves- even an African-American couple in the back (which, to me, is the ultimate approval). Folks, if you want a slice of the true boxing experience in this city, go to this small place. It's great and absolutely one of the customs I adhere to every few years I'm here. And the owner, Jimmy Glenn, is a gem. He's a great guy who has been around the fight game for years as a trainer and cutman and has some great stories. The walls of this place are lined with boxing-related photos and posters and it's a regular destination for members of the boxing fraternity.
Anyway, I wake up and my feet are killing me from all the walking I've done. As I gingerly walk to the restroom, Ernest Gabion of Everlast asks me, “What's wrong?” As I tell him about my ailment, he says, “Ha, you're getting old.”
11:55 AM: Despite my foot pain, I decide to get in a workout on the treadmill at the downstairs fitness area. My Nikes I work out with always seem to ease my feet back into normalcy. I think it's the arch support. My old black dress shoes sometimes leave my dogs sore as can be but I go 40 minutes on the Life Fitness elliptical. These newer models have small TV screens, so I turn it to the Houston-Southern Mississippi game. The Cougars have a BCS bid on the line and they start off by blowing some chances early to take the lead. I think to myself, “It's OK; they'll get started and win this game.” They end up getting blown out.
2:24 PM: By this time, I'm downstairs and I'm supposed to meet Brandon Rios' manager, Cameron Dunkin, for lunch but he gets a few calls and is delayed. I end up at the front area of the Sheraton which is a coffee shop/internet cafe where boxing folks congregated for most of the week. I end up in a discussion with my cohorts Lem Satterfield of and Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. Later on, trainer Robert Garcia joins the fray and we start discussing, of course, Margarito's hand-wrap scandal and whether he still hits hard. Garcia said to us, “Yeah, I mean, he's a big, strong guy. It's not one-punch power but when he hits me with the body pad on, you can still feel it.”
Finally, Dunkin comes down and we grab a sandwich. Cameron is still mortified by what took place with Rios, who did not make the 135-pound weight limit the day before and was stripped of his WBA lightweight belt. I saw Rios on Wednesday night as we got in and he was with a group that went to the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting. During that stretch, Margarito's manager, Sergio Diaz, asked me, “What do you think of fighters who don't drink water for a week before the fight?” I answered that it's the worst thing you can do to your body and incredibly dumb. “That's what Brandon's been doing,” Diaz replied. Rios was about 15 feet from me and I hadn't noticed anything before since we hadn't really spoken but when I asked him a question, I couldn't believe how badly he was slurring his words. I go back over to Sergio and say, “Oh, geez, he sounds awful." Sergio just grimaced and shook his head.
I still don't know if Rios should've fought.
Fast-forward to Friday, as it became clear that Rios wasn't going to make weight and admitted to Dunkin he was taking just a few drops of water throughout the day, Dunkin immediately ordered Rios upstairs to lay down. I've never seen Cameron so worried and flustered before. It was at that point he called one Victor Conte for help, who prescribed Celtic Sea Salt (to take with water), Epsom Salt (to bathe in) and bananas (for the potassium) with strict instructions on how and when to execute each procedure. Rios' team then went on a quick hunt with their shopping list before the weigh-in.
It was at that time rumors spread that Rios would be pulling out of the fight. Somehow, someway, he fought on but only after losing his title, paying a $20,000 fine, agreeing to not weigh over 146 pounds at 9 AM on Saturday. Dunkin promised that changes would be made and that Rios would no longer be fighting at 135 pounds. Honestly, this was a systemic breakdown. Everyone involved shoulders some of the blame. How was this allowed to happen? Much of this falls on Garcia, who is the one person to have day-to-day contact with the fighter. And this isn't the first time this has occurred with “Bam Bam.”
Sorry, but the days of chewing gum and spitting all day to make weight are long gone (or should be).
4:02 PM: The first shuttle to MSG takes off and as we hit Times Square and I see the mass of humanity, I am amazed by the amount of people milling about and how crowded it is. I'm a suburban guy- and proud of it- and I couldn't do this city on a regular basis. I mean, it makes Los Angeles look like Topeka, Kansas. During the Christmas season, the crowds swell.
4:24 PM: We get to the arena and I pick up my credential for the fight. It's a typically chilly night in New York but honestly, after being in frigid Pontiac earlier this year, this is relatively warm. Wearing my Under Armour thermal leggings and my suit keeps me pretty warm all night.
4:40 PM: I'm not at Brother Jimmy's BBQ, which is right next to the Garden on 8th Street. It's funny but it has an ACC theme to it, so paraphernalia of Miami, Duke, FSU, Clemson, UNC and the like is all over the place. I go there with a James Rochford, who has emailed me for several years and wanted to meet up. He's there with Austin, a friend of his. They both came in from the Boston area that day via train and still haven't decided if they are going to buy scalped tickets to the fight or just watch it at a bar. I've always found Rochford to be among the most intelligent readers that I correspond with. He was dying to know what my day with Emanuel Steward was like in Detroit. I'm more than glad to tell him as I love doing my Steward impersonation.
We sit down to watch LSU play Georgia in the SEC title game. Soon, “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” from one-hit wonder Cory Hart comes on and I sing right along as I sip my Goose and soda (Yeah, I love that song; so what?!) UGA actually breaks out to a 10-0 lead but when Tyrann Mathieu- aka “The Honey Badger”- houses a punt to make it 10-7, we all sense that the Tiger avalanche was soon forthcoming.
I order the brisket and soon, I see Brian Swider, the younger brother of Matt Swider, who's been mentioned more than once in my articles. They have both come in for this fight card like many other fans from across the country and foreign lands. This place is packed and they don't get seated for a looooong while and end up at the bar. At our corner table, we are later joined by photographer David Drebin and a friend. Drebin is a renowned photographer who recently completed a full photo book on Manny Pacquiao. He is relatively new to boxing but he is immediately hooked on this sport, finding this whole spectacle fascinating. Alec Kohut of Maxboxing soon joins us and despite the din of the establishment, his voice could be heard throughout. Kohut speaks loudly and carries a laptop.
6:07 PM: We later go downstairs to the bar area and watch the third quarter of the LSU game and by this time, they are rolling. They remind me of a vintage Julio Cesar Chavez. Yeah, you might win the first couple of heats but by the championship rounds, he is punishing you into submission. As I see this place get filled to the brim, it's clear this fight is good for business everywhere.
MSG in New York
7:06 PM: By now, I'm ringside (Row 5, Seat 09). I look around and say to myself, “What a night this is going to be.” I've said it before and I'll say it again; I think at least once a year, a big card should take place at Madison Square Garden- just for the branding of the sport in the world's largest media market. But renting out this arena is not cheap and dealing with the union makes that difficult. It's events like this, not ill-conceived cards in Pontiac, Michigan in decrepit barns like the Silverdome, that are “important” for boxing. This was a very good card put together by Top Rank but it fit like a glove in New York for so many reasons. It just wouldn't have been the same in Denver or Mississippi.
8:45 PM: As the untelevised stuff goes on, I take a stroll around the newly renovated Garden with Ray Alcorta, who works in the fight game and helps out Margarito's team. I have to say, the facelift given to “The World's Most Famous Arena” around the concourse is impressive. It looks like a new building and you can see new eateries that will open up later this month as well as other spruced-up amenities. This renovation is actually a three-tier process and so far, I like what I see. Based on the success of this event (where every ticket was sold), I hope that there are many more boxing cards here in the future. For decades, MSG and boxing were synonymous. There is a famous story of the Pope being told about MSG and him shaking his head in kind and saying, “Boxing.”
By this time, a large percentage of folks are in their seats, ready to watch the pay-per-view portion of the show. It’s very much unlike a casino venue, where most of the spectators don't show up till about 15 minutes before the main event.
9:15 PM: The bout between Mike Jones and Sebastian Lujan is underway. The winner faces Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF belt in 2012. A few minutes later, a chorus of boos come raining down as Margarito is shown arriving at the arena. Yeah, this is definitely a road game for him. Less than ten minutes later, Cotto is shown going to his dressing quarters. Now, I never knew this before but these are not live shots as I saw this taking place much earlier while taking a run to the restroom. 
9:39 PM: On my Twitter timeline, I see that Naazim Richardson was brought in by Cotto to check the Margarito’s hand wraps, in what is another head game played in a promotion full of them. I find this pretty funny. I can't lie; I like this stuff as a writer. But honestly, Richardson makes himself look like a bit of a clown for even participating in all this. Seriously, could you imagine Eddie Futch doing something of this ilk? It's bad enough Richardson's never developed his own fighter and uses pool noodles while working with boxers but to be used as a prop by another boxer isn't a good look.
9:54 PM: Jones wins an easy 12-round decision against Lujan but honestly, he fails to impress. He seems to have all the tools but something is missing there. Soon, I hit the restroom again and referee Steve Smoger is hitting the pisser. I say hello to him and he asks me, “You getting used to this East Coast time?” I respond that it's easy to do so when you don't have to wake up early (which I really haven't all week here). Soon, the rematch between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak is set to begin.
10:43 PM: For much of this contest, the crowd is rather subdued, as they are for most of this undercard. My theory is that the Puerto Rican partisans, who make up the overwhelming majority of this audience, are so invested in the main event, they can't focus on anything else. However, they erupt in the 10th and final round as Rodriguez emphatically stamps his victory by opening up on Wolak, nearly stopping him. Unlike their initial meeting, Rodriguez easily controlled the action and won by the scores of 98-91, 98-92 and 100-90.
10:48 PM: With the first two cards going the distance, Rios and his opponent, John Murray, are rushed into the ring. That's the thing about these East Coast fights; you really do go late into the evening and it does change the way you do things. Early on, Rios is bothered by a few shots downstairs by Murray and it looks like he could be in some trouble but by the mid-rounds, Rios has taken physical control of the fight and with effective use of left hooks to the body and uppercuts from both hands, he stuns Murray more than once, steadily grinding him down.
I tweet in the late rounds that perhaps it was time for Murray’s corner to pull him outta there. Even from my ringside seat, I noticed the visible bruising and swelling underneath both eyes. If you saw photos of him afterwards, it would look a bit like the famous shot of Billy Collins after his bout with Luis Resto. That said, Murray is never saved from himself, perhaps because his team took a gamble that the emaciated Rios would fade down the stretch. Unfortunately, that never happened.
11:36 PM: Rios halts Murray in the 11th. It's an incredibly brave performance by the Briton and you can't do anything but applaud him for his valor and courage. But geez, did he really need those last few rounds? Rios exults in the ring and, for the most part, is jeered. Yeah, I guess he's the victim of guilt by association. Honestly, I think Rios dodged a bullet here.
Now it's time for what we all came for and the tension, electricity and atmosphere is all too palpable. A tribute to Joe Frazier (who passed away last month) begins with Michael Buffer shushing the crowd. Yeah, I had never seen that before but hey, it's “Smokin’ Joe.” Let’s all pay attention. Then the national anthems of Mexico (booed loudly by the Ricans- again, guilt by association), Puerto Rico and the US of A are belted out. Even for guys like me who have been lucky to do this for awhile, this is exciting. Moments like this are why we love our gigs. As the Harbaughs are fond of saying, “Who's got it better than us? Noooooo-body!”
You can just feel the hatred as Margarito, who has played the role of heel in a manner Roddy Piper would be envious of, enters the ring. Soon, the roof nearly comes off as Miguel Cotto follows. No, he will never engender the unconditional love and passion of Felix “Tito” Trinidad but his quest to gain revenge on a man thought to have cheated him has galvanized his people.
This is great stuff. No other way to put it.
12:06 AM: In the early minutes of December 4, Cotto and Margarito meet in the center of the ring. And away we go...
12:44 AM: The fight is halted seconds after the tenth kicked off after what seemed a long deliberation over Margarito's right eye (which had, by that point, swelled considerably). Honestly, this didn't surprise me. You just knew this could come up. In the impending controversy over his eye leading up to the fight, the NYSAC simply wasn't going to be held liable for anything that could hinder Margarito’s eyesight over the long haul. 
I was in the minority but I actually thought Margarito, while losing, was fighting fairly well. In comparing his state to Murray’s earlier and his willingness to fight on, I didn't completely agree with the edict to stop the fight. Honestly, I felt Margarito was pressuring well for most of the fight and was able to affect Cotto more than once with his body attack and he needed those late rounds. I didn't see Margarito stopping Cotto late in the fight like their first meeting but in my mind, he should've been given the same leeway any other fighter was entitled. Perhaps that's unrealistic, given how political this promotion became. The reality is that Margarito knew what he was getting into and he was more than a willing participant in this savagery we are so entertained by.
(I had Cotto up 87-84, which angered some folks on Twitter for some reason. And honestly, if you can't be adult enough to not overreact over my opinion, well, you need to be blocked (which I was doing like Mutombo for a few minutes). Hey, it's why I don't follow all that many people. The lesson here is: be an adult and remember, there's a reason why I don't follow you. Besides, I find “blocking” fun, actually. I wish it was that convenient in real life. If I was ever affected by someone else's opinion like some are on Twitter, I think I'd jump off a roof.
Cotto gained his revenge. The narrative was now complete; Cotto got his pound of flesh from the man who used illicit means to defeat him the first time. As for Margarito, many are now convinced that his whole career was a charade and a mirage. It is what it is. 
1:15 AM: The post-fight press conference takes place at the Theater, where the weigh-in was staged on Friday. It seems to drag on forever as both Cotto and Margarito took awhile to arrive. Both boxers said what was expected of them and after this whole ordeal of just getting this show to stay in New York and the whole build-up, everyone just seemed a bit fatigued. Of course, it being well past midnight locally probably had a lot to do with that. The question that bugged me was, “How am I getting back to the hotel?”
2:24 AM: I decide to go to the local Affinia Hotel, a short walk from the Garden with young boxing scribe Mike Coppinger. I had gotten a text from my guy, Bakari Lee, that he was over at their bar, as were other boxing folks like Lou DiBella. Honestly, at this point, I could use a meal before a drink. I'm starving like Rios on Thursday. As we get to the Affinia, I see Jolene Mizzone of Main Events on the sidewalk taking a cigarette break. She is stunned to see me- and in a suit and tie. She says, “Hey, your girl’s in there.” I respond, “Huh?” She says, “Kathy,” meaning Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. I go in there, finally finding Duva at the far end of the bar. She is there with some friends and her daughter- who judging by her keen interest in the sport, might be joining the family business- and we talk for a good 45 minutes about her new deal with NBC Sports and other boxing related business. She is always a fountain of information and one of the classiest individuals in this sport. During our chat, native New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi drops by. Kathy had wanted to make a fight involving him for one of those dates but it turns out he might be fighting welterweight beltholder Vyacheslav Senchenko, perhaps in Russia.
I really hope Duva's deal works out, not only for Main Events but for the whole sport of boxing. I firmly believe that the business of boxing would not be the same without Main Events’ involvement. In an era overrun with TV packagers, there are still bona fide promoters around- and they are needed now more than ever.
Bakari and I decide to get a bite to eat and take a cab back to the Sheraton. During our cab ride there, we talk of his distaste for one Adrien Broner. Yeah, brother Bakari isn't a fan of “The Problem,” ever since his theatrics on the undercard of Shane Mosley-Margarito, which he flew all the way from Newark to attend. I'm actually amused by this guy. Honestly, I think he's harmless in the big picture. Usually, Mr. Lee and I debate the merits of Corey Booker. I can't lie; I'm a fan of the mayor of Brick City but Bakari’s disgust of Broner makes me chuckle.
Real new York Pizza
3:25 AM: As we get to the Sheraton, I'm met by Ray Alcorta's daughter, a sophomore at Penn State, who attended the fights with a few of her classmates. And I bust a few very tasteless Jerry Sandusky jokes (yeah, I know…a grown man doing that. I should know better but I can't help it. I'm still bitter over the ‘87 Fiesta Bowl. Jaz can't believe I'm in a suit either. C'mon, you guys think all I do is wear shorts and sandals?! Well, if you think about it...). Her friends were on the lookout for beer and I tell them they better hurry because at four, that window will slam shut (even in New York). The family and friends of Diaz are all near the internet cafe and they have a spare piece of pizza from Ray's, which I gobbled up. Bakari and his friend have sworn off the swine and this piece has sausage and pepperoni. We end up making plans for tomorrow to meet up with another reader I've met a few times, Guy, who is soon relocating to Bangkok. We plan to have brunch somewhere in the city where we can watch the NFL
Soon, the Nittany Lions are on their way (to study, of course) and I start talking to Sergio, who's on the computer making some last-minute travel arrangements for Margarito and his crew. Turns out Antonio will stay in the city for a few days. Diaz has a way of telling stories that are very humorous and he tells me of what was going on in the corner in that last round and the rather harsh treatment he received from one commissioner prior in the dressing room prior to the fight and the situation with Richardson, as he tried to watch them wrap. Diaz is not devastated in the least. He just wishes his guy was given the last three rounds to change their fate but he knew the lay of the land. 
I ask him, “Serge, this should be it, right? You guys had a good run, made money. This should be it.” He answered, “Yeah, I mean, why let him be used up?” They will talk later this week about their future. I would hope for Margarito’s sake, this is it for him. No matter what anyone thinks of him, he got a lot out of his limited ability and has more than enough money to live comfortably in Mexico- but this is boxing. You know how most of these stories end.
I can't lie; I've had fun covering this guy’s career and interacting with Diaz throughout the years. If you are really covering the sport of boxing, you develop relationships in the business. In truth, it's what makes it fun. I know I'm in the minority but I still like Antonio and I find the venom shown toward him by certain members of the media (who seem more outraged than Cotto himself) rather amusing. To them, I suppose, Margarito's biggest crime was not giving them the contrition they deemed appropriate. I respect that he stuck to his guns; I really do, although not necessarily agreeing with everything he stated. I do find it interesting that members of the morale brigade, for some reason, don't treat those who use illegal performance-enhancing drugs with the same intense hatred when the intent is exactly the same. And yeah, I really do believe that Margarito had no knowledge of what was going into his wraps. That might upset some people but hey, that's just my two cents.
4:06 AM: Back up in the room, Ernie is already laid out. Our flight doesn't take off till nine in the evening but we're both ready to get back to Los Angeles. It's been a fun trip and the night of fights delivered. My year covering this sport began in depressing fashion in Pontiac, Michigan and will be bookended by a glorious night in New York. It was the worst and best of what the modern boxing business has to offer. I've maintained for a long while, you gotta be out on the scene and present, whether it's in the gyms or at the fights themselves to really cover the sport thoroughly.
For me, it's the greatest gig in the world.

More of Steve Kim's recent work is linked below his contact information.

I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at
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