Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito II: As Personal as It Gets
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Dec 1, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
Cotto, Arum, Margarito
For fight fans everywhere, there is a very good reason to want to see the rematch this weekend between Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto and Mexico’s Antonio Margarito. That reason is a sense that justice was somehow skirted by Margarito following the loss of his license in California due to illegal hand wrap inserts, containing elements of Plaster of Paris his trainer, Javier Capetillo, inserted prior to Margarito’s 2009 match with Shane Mosley. The inserts were detected by Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson, prior to the bout but removed and Margarito was stopped by Mosley in the ninth round. From that moment on, Margarito has been cast in a shadow of doubt, his career suspected of being as tainted as the wraps his trainer attempted to embed within his wraps.
For most boxers, that would be the end of the story. A subsequent revocation of his and Capetillo’s licenses by the California State Athletic Commission, a year of solitude in Mexico and the scorn and doubt of fight fans everywhere made it seem as if Margarito would never fight again. But this is boxing and Margarito’s promotional company, Top Rank, is among the most well-funded and connected in the sport. An independent group decided after a year to bring him back to Mexico before sending him to the wolf known as Manny Pacquiao in a 150-pound catchweight bout in Dallas. That fight was even more disastrous for Margarito than the Mosley fight and the hand wrap scandal combined as he was battered mercilessly for 12 full rounds en route to nearly losing his sight in his right eye. While each bout was met with scorn by a segment of fight fans, both did solid ratings and PPV numbers and many came out to support Margarito.
Multiple surgeries on his right eye later and with his career nearly over, Top Rank decided to return to the match that, for a brief moment in time, had the boxing world celebrating a warrior like Margarito: a revenge match with Miguel Cotto.
While the rest of the boxing world looked at Margarito’s alleged crime against Mosley, it was Cotto who suffered a brutal and bloody loss to Margarito in 2008 who looked at their first fight with doubt. That fight seemed to turn on a dime despite Cotto being up in the fight and seemingly landing at will. But by the middle of the fight, his nose broken by an uppercut, his face becoming a puffy bloody mess, suddenly Cotto tired out under Margarito’s pressure. By the 11th, Cotto did what no fighter, much less one in an important Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry match, wanted to do: he took a knee and submitted.
In the shadow of the hand wrap controversy, Cotto began questioning everything about their fight. Was there someone in the dressing room checking the hand wraps? He now says no. Did Margarito cheat him? A picture showing what appears to be torn or cracked gauze on Margarito’s left hand in the ring after the fight appears to be evidence that it is possible.
There was a time when Cotto was very public about stating he would never give Margarito another payday fighting him. He seemed incredibly certain. If anyone had a right to be upset or take that stance, it was Cotto. However, as his career has begun to wind down, the opponents Cotto can face at 154 pounds become more dangerous for a man not very big for the weight class. Now with Margarito seemingly fallen off the cliff, physically, suddenly the fight made a lot of sense.
“Here comes the criminal! Open the doors to the criminal! I’ve been called a criminal by the man next to me [Cotto]. I don’t know why. I don’t beat up my family. He can hit my eye as much as he wants. He hits like a little girl. Super flyweights hit harder. He will never beat me,” said Margarito at the final press conference in New York where the fight takes place at Madison Square Garden before a giant Puerto Rican crowd. It is clear that the “Tijuana Tornado” has fully embraced the bad guy role here.
So while fans and writers call this rematch a travesty and say Margarito should not only be banned from boxing but in jail for attempted assault or murder, it is the man who feels he was cheated out of victory who gets the final say. This, before the justice fight fans and writers cry for, should be his right. After all, it was Margarito who took Cotto’s undefeated record from him in a classic brawl that left both men altered forever- both physically and mentally.
 “If you don’t know what a criminal means, you can look it up in the dictionary. It’s someone who uses a weapon,” Cotto said coldly.
For Margarito, it is a chance to prove that the first fight was no trick but instead, a matter of styles with Cotto’s being perfect for his.
“When he feels my first punch, he’s going to be in real problems,” said Margarito. “I know Cotto’s style and his style is perfect for me. He stands in front of me. I am a pressure-style fighter. That’s what I do best and that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday.”
For Cotto, it is a chance for revenge, redemption and cheater’s justice as he promised to “take advantage of that eye the way [Margarito] took advantage of me with the plaster.”
Sometimes, in a sport this brutal and unforgiving, justice is best left to the warriors. For the rest who sit on the sidelines without hope of ever knowing what these men and women of the ring go through, it is best to sit, watch and wonder how they do what they do. Will Cotto find his answers about that July 2008 night? Who can say? Will Margarito’s style simply prove to be a terrible match for Cotto? Perhaps. What is certain is that the demons that have haunted Miguel Cotto for years regarding this fight will be put to the test and in a way, put to rest come Saturday night.

More of Gabriel's recent work:
Victor Ortiz vs Andre Berto II - Drug testing & more update... Gabriel Montoya
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Kermit “The Killer” Cintron Goes for One Last Hit Gabriel Montoya
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You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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