Hold on tight.
After a truly spectacular war of attrition, followed by an equally impressive war of words, Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto and Mexican wrecking ball Antonio Margarito will rematch to finally settle the score this weekend (Dec. 3, 2011) at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.
In the co-main event, WBA lightweight champion and knockout machine Brandon Rios will put his title on the line against hard-nosed Englishman John Murray. In addition, unbeaten Mike Jones faces Argentina’s Sebastian Lujan in an IBF welterweight eliminator.
Finally, hot on the heels of their boxing “Fight of the Year” candidate that took place on July 15, 2011, Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez collide once again, each hoping for something more definitive than a majority draw.
In anticipation of the "Cotto vs. Margarito 2” event this weekend, MMAmania travels back in time to breakdown their their spectacular first meeting in 2008, which is popularly known as “The Battle,” illegal hand-wrap controversy and all:
July 26, 2008. Unbeaten WBA Welterweight Champion Miguel Cotto, just three months removed from a stoppage win over Alfonso Gómez, must once again defend Puerto Rico’s honor against its historical boxing rival, Mexico.
Representing the latter is Antonio Margarito, a towering bruiser notorious for his debilitating power, endless gas tank and indestructible chin. Margarito is ranked number four at welterweight, his sole loss at the weight in 12 years at the hands of "The Most Avoided Man in the World," Paul Williams.
Both men have 26 knockouts to their name, and the boxing world is dying to see whether the speed and skill of Cotto can overcome the relentless pressure of Margarito.
During the referee’s instructions, Cotto is hopping up and down restlessly, while Margarito stands as implacable as marble. This dichotomy serves as a preview of the upcoming war that is about to unfold.
In the first round, the difference in their speed and technical ability is immediately obvious. While Margarito lumbers forward, trying to press Cotto against the ropes and commence his steady deconstruction, his nimbler foe circles away from the Mexican’s left hook and lands vicious potshots to his head. Even when Margarito does manage to get Cotto’s back against the ropes, he eats stinging counter shots.
The numbers tell the story early: In the first three minutes, Cotto outlanded his bigger foe 32-12.
Though Margarito turns up the heat in the second round, the vast gap in their boxing acumen again asserts itself. The Mexican slugger has more success keeping Cotto’s back against the ropes, but finds himself unable to land anything clean, instead suffering countless brutal left hands with every approach. He does manage to bloody Cotto’s nose and take the round on three judges’ cards with his relentless forward progress, but Cotto still landed slightly more punches ... and vicious ones at that.
The third through fifth rounds are more of the same -- rather than cutting off angles and trying to herd Cotto into the corner, Margarito continues walking forward, ponderous as a mountain. Despite throwing an absurd amount of punches every round, short, digging shots to the body and lead uppercuts to the head, Margarito is finding himself outgunned and outlanded.
But, there’s a frightening pattern forming.
Cotto’s strategy is simple: Circle away from the left hook, stay off the ropes, stays on his bicycle. While the numbers are consistently in his favor as the two return to their corners each round, he is moving less and less, while Margarito refuses to acknowledge any of his thunderous blows.
The philosophy of the pressure fighter is simple: "Never stop." Retreat is forgotten, retaliatory blows are ignored, and the fight is, as a whole, made into a living hell for the sorry bastard on the other side of the ring. The pressure fighter does not end the fight with one blow, but with hundreds, over and over and over until the opponent submits to the suffocating onslaught.
The first cracks show up in the sixth round. Cotto’s circles around the ring are slowing down and spending more time than is healthy against the ropes and in the corner. He is still landing far more and far cleaner blows, but none have any effect.
Whatever Margarito’s head is made of, we need to start making tanks out of it.
While the sixth round was very close, in the seventh, Margarito grabs the fight by the throat and refuses to let go. His nasty left uppercut begins to find a home, and a hard combination against the ropes forces the retreating Cotto to clinch in desperation.
The announcer’s comments describe the situation beautifully: "Cotto’s looking for breathing room and there is none." Margarito is drowning him in punches, not all devastating, but all thudding. Cotto fires back valiantly, but he is entirely incapable of slowing Margarito down. In all, the Mexican biffer throws an astounding 130 punches, landing 46 power shots. His face is as placid as it was in the early going, while Cotto’s is beginning to show signs of the ultimate tranquilizer:
But, he is not the type to let three bad minutes stop him. His feet are in motion from the bell, landing bruising left hands as Margarito continues trying to walk him down. Quick flurries from Cotto land in their entirety, while wide blows from Margarito are slipped and ducked against the ropes. He remains unable to hurt his Mexican foe and continues taking short blows against the ropes, but the round is nowhere near the disaster that the seventh was.
The announcers believe that Cotto wants out, but there is still fire in his eyes as they once again trade hard blows. He finds himself consistently against the ropes, but any intended flurries from Margarito are stymied by stinging combinations from the Puerto Rican champion. Margarito still outlands him slightly, but the better punches are, as usual, Cotto’s. His momentum continues to rebuild itself, and he spends the majority of the tenth rounds landing jackhammer blows.
Unfortunately, though, his comeback is short-lived
Sometimes, in a truly crazy fight, you can see the exact moment where a fighter breaks. That moment is 14 seconds before the end of the round, when Margarito brutalizes Cotto with a combination and sends him stumbling away, clinching desperately to survive the round.
Margarito has already won. The despair in Cotto has festered and grown too great for him to mount the heroic effort necessary to wrangle the fight back into his favor.
Cotto lands decently in the early going, but just under halfway through the round 11, it is finally too much. A horribly bloodied Cotto falls to his knee from a murderous combination, and while he rises to his feet, he has crumbled entirely. Backpedalling into a corner, Cotto falls again without help from a punch, prompting his father to wave the towel and save his son further punishment.
Margarito has survived everything short of getting hit by the ring post to storm back and stop the unbeaten champion, pulling out a career-defining win in the face of all modern medical knowledge concerning the chin’s connection to the brain.
Alas, his elation is not to last.
In January of the following year, just before what many consider a squash match against Shane Mosley, plaster of Paris is discovered on Margarito’s handwraps. Adding injury to insult, Mosley absolutely massacres Margarito, stopping him in nine rounds.
With evidence mounting that Margarito’s gloves were similarly loaded in the fight with Cotto, the furious Puerto Rican bruiser is dead-set on proving that he is the superior fighter, while Margarito is on the hunt for validation after one of the most dramatic falls in recent years.
Join us tomorrow for live coverage of the event’s weigh-ins, and stop by again Saturday for live coverage of "Cotto vs. Margarito II."
See you then, Maniacs.