Sharkie’s Machine: Miguel Cotto vs Antonio Margarito Preview
By Frank Gonzalez Jr. (July 21, 2008) (Photo © German Villasenor)  
The current WBA Welterweight champion, Miguel Cotto (32-0, 26 KO’s) of Caguas, Puerto Rico has been skillfully managed, and not only built up his record and confidence, but actually gave him the incremental, slow cooked experience to become the very well rounded ‘fighter’ he is today. There are many schools of thought on how fighters in boxing should be brought up and Cotto’s is a story of great success in that everyone involved has made money, Cotto’s undefeated and at the pinnacle of his abilities as he prepares for his July 26 match up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against IBF Welterweight champ, Antonio Margarito, who is the very definition of the word, fighter.

The official Judges will include, Dave Moretti, Jerry Roth and Glen Hamada. I sure hope the fight doesn’t come down to these guys deciding who won but it’s very likely it will. Let’s just hope they call it realistically.

Cotto is not the biggest puncher but he punches hard. He’s a boxer mostly and uses footwork and timing to move in and out of his opponents range and work his offense in rhythmic spurts. He’s a serious tough guy and has demonstrated the ability to over come adversity, particularly in the controversial De Marcus Corley fight back in 2005, when Cotto was still campaigning at Jr. Welter. Cotto’s chin got tested big time in that one, in spite of Cotto having a 17 pound edge in weight, entering the ring at 157 (Jr. Middleweight!), while Corley came in at contracted weight of 140. It was a foul infested fight that saw Corley downed by a Cotto left hook in the first round and Cotto getting rocked by Corley in the third after Corley landed a winding right hook to Cotto’s left temple that wobbled him.

On rubbery legs, Cotto held on to stay up. The referee separated them. Cotto was still staggered. Corley tried to finish Cotto, who showed great will was able to weather the storm. There was some controversy on account of the biased referee, who waved Corley out when Corley took a strategic knee for an eight count. Cotto got a win he might’ve gotten anyway without the controversy. Cotto showed his mettle and continued to win every fight he’s had as a pro. But being undefeated is way over rated. It’s WHO you fight that matters, not how many W’s you have on your record.

In his last legitimate fight against Shane Mosley, Cotto won the most rounds but didn’t show any killer instinct in the championship rounds. That fight was more of a boxing match than a battle and Cotto showed that his boxing skills are top notch against Mosley, who is arguably past his best days but did well to keep up with Cotto and some felt Mosley even won the fight by a round or two. Cotto vs. Alphonso Gomez was a huge mismatch that saw Gomez retired in the fifth. It was the first time I saw traditionally stoic Cotto show his ego. That fight only showed that Cotto can destroy B level fighters and did nothing to prepare him for his next very tough opponent.

Antonio Margarito (36-5, 26 KO’s) hails from Tijuana Mexico and at five feet eleven inches tall, he’s pretty big for a welterweight. He’s a brawler with sneaky power in both hands and has a damn good chin. Margarito is pure warrior—a “fighter.” Margarito likes attacking the body and keeping up the kind of pressure that takes opponents out of their game plan and into his favorite fashion of fisticuffs; the brawl. Considering the way he is trained, with a high focus on endurance, Margarito’s main asset is his stamina.

If you like “sluggers” Margarito is your kind of fighter. He doesn’t talk nonsense and he doesn’t care about trying to speak English, he speaks his language in the ring. He’s not gonna slap you five after a good round, he’s there to kick your ass, gain the glory and get paid.

Margarito is not the most polished boxer, but his boxing skills are good. He is a natural slow starter, who often boxes for the first few rounds to figure you out. That is the place where he is vulnerable. Margarito is tough and has never been knocked out, even though he’s lost five fights since turning pro in circa 1994. Three of his losses were within his first ten fights. He has tremendous stamina and gets stronger as the fight grows longer. He doesn’t have the best defense, but if you believe a good offense is the best defense, Margarito has plenty of defenses as he smothers opponents with constant waves of aggression in the late rounds of fights.

Margarito looked out of sync for the first half of the tall Paul Williams fight. He only started making it a fight when it was too late and consequently lost. Williams is no walk in the park for anyone. At over six feet, two inches tall, I can’t see Williams staying at 147 for long. His frame suggests he will morph into a light heavyweight in a few days, never mind years. Margarito has learned that it’s better not to start slow, particularly after the result of the Williams fight.

In his recent rematch against the very brave Kermit Cintron, Margarito started fast, dominated the action and subdued Cintron within six rounds. Cintron is a good banger but a bit robotic at times when under pressure. Margarito is all about pressure. It’s likely he will pressure Cotto into the corner ropes and try to force a brawl. Can Cotto take the pressure of Margarito? I wouldn’t put anything past Cotto at this point since he’s never shown anything less than a champion’s heart in the ring. Same for Margarito.

I have been asked and have argued with myself the question of who I think will win. The best thing about this fight is that I have no idea who will win. I like both fighters and either way, I win just getting to see this potentially historic fight go down. If I had to pick a winner, I’d have to go with Cotto by decision. Margarito is susceptible to sharp boxing skills. But Cotto’s never been harassed the way Margarito will harass him. Cotto has never fought anyone like Margarito. He has fought the complete opposite in Paulie Malignaggi, the great talking sprinter with the fly swatter hands and is the only guy I ever saw get a haircut between rounds of a fight.

Cotto can be dangerous as a counter puncher and Margarito likes to come in and bang so depending on who’s beating who to the punch—could easily decide this one. Styles make fights and this will be a classic brawler vs. boxer battle you won’t want to miss.

Margarito is going to be taller than Cotto and that’s going to make attacks to the body a big part of Cotto’s fight plan. Margarito will probably try to rough Cotto up and impose his will but if Cotto stays relaxed and does his job, he could win this fight by decision. I seriously doubt there’ll be a knock out in this one. But who knows? The one great thing about boxing is that you never really know what could happen in the ring. The ultimate winner of this fight will be us fight fans, who will get to see the best against the best, both in their prime. That’s boxing the way it ought to be.

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