Boxing


A Night At The Cotto Fight

By Scoop Malinowski: Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito proved on Saturday night in Atlantic City that the 147-pound division is on the verge of exploding into a rebirth of the Golden Age of the Welterweights. Like the 1980's legendary group of Leonard, Duran, Hearns and Hagler attracted and fascinated so many boxing fans with their fearlessness, fighting skills and spectacular unforgettable events, our new warriors Cotto, Margarito, Mayweather, Williams, Quintana, Clottey and Berto appear ready to revitalize the sport of boxing.. If only the powers that be and HBO would do the right thing and begin to organize a welterweight unification tournament rather than planning on an encore of Mayweather-De La Hoya, which Glen Johnson, for one, called "garbage." Mayweather vs. Hatton II is another waste of time fight which would further clog up and perhaps even ruin welterweight unification from ever happening. HBO televises Cotto, Margarito, Mayweather, Berto and Quintana and Clottey and Williams are not bound to Showtime, so HBO can make it happen.

The performers are ready. Cotto and Margarito are superstars in waiting, they just have to have the opportunity to exhibit their excellence on the big stage for the high stakes. Margarito was absolutely devasting in destroying Kermit Cintron by KO 6 in their anticipated rematch. Cintron was jacked up, literally jumping and almost flying as he entered the arena from the dressing room area. Credit to Cintron for taking this fight when he didn't have to, The Killer was as ready as he could be, he just ran into a superior fighter. Randy Neuman, who would ref Cotto-Gomez later, sat in press row and was impressed by Margarito. "He keeps coming forward. He doesn't stop punching." Neuman noted that Margarito staying active is beneficial to his form and performance as it was for his own boxing career. As a top ten ranked heavyweight, Neuman cited the time when he had 9 fights over a 12 month period.

Cintron was game and battled to the end but his big right hands just had no effect on the mighty Mexican. Margarito applies constant relentless pressure and his punches come in combinations from all kinds of different creative angles and target all points above the beltline. And Margarito's handspeed is most certainly not slow, as some critics have wrongly claim. Tony's fists were flying with astounding velocity and accuracy last night. Said one Mayweather fan named Jaice Nesby, "Margarito is so methodical, so accurate." Would this Floyd fan like to see Floyd take on Margarito? I wouldn't want to see it," he replied with a smile. "I like Mayweather too much."

Margarito is clearly in his prime right now, and he may still not have reached his pinnacle yet. Earlier in the week I asked the new IBF king who he thought would win Cotto or Mayweather? "Right now, I don't care," answered Margarito. "Anybody, Mayweather, Cotto, Give me Mayweather, give me Cotto. Anyone. Anyone. Whatever one you want, give it to me. I take it. Right now I'm ready for anybody. Mayweather for a long time I tried to follow him. But he never gave me the chance to talk with him. One time, Mayweather lost $10,000,000. But he don't want to fight me."

Unlike Mayweather, Margarito is a supremely confident, fearless warrior who is ready, willing and able to fight the best to prove he is the best. No excuses, no reasons, no alibis, just give Margarito the best and he will fight them.

As the crowd waited for Miguel Cotto to enter the ring, I spotted a beautiful professional-looking banner stating the simple sentiments felt by boxing fans all over the world: "Cotto #1 Boricua, We Want Mayweather." I went up to talk with the two men proudly holding it and learned they are "two Puerto Ricans, we live in Tennessee." They drove all the way to Atlantic City to see Cotto. Do you really think Cotto would beat Mayweather? "Yes because Cotto has more heart," answered Hector. "It's kind of different, we Puerto Ricans, we're into the boxing. Cotto has a lot of things in his favor. Cotto is more dedicated to training, he hits more hard." The man's friend Andro added," Mayweather is in it for the money. Cotto boxes FROM THE HEART! Not for money. COTTO NUMBER ONE!"

Boardwalk Hall wasn't sold out for Cotto-Gomez but there was no lack of energy or atmosphere. And anyone who thinks Cotto has to build up his name and fanbase ought to slap himself twice. Cotto is a superstar right now and his domination of Gomez showed brilliant new modifications to the Caguas man's unique fighting style. He is a boxer/slugger who can control a bigger man with his footwork and jab and can also step in and unleash vicious combinations to the body and head. Cotto's handspeed and ring generalship are also excellent as is the way he mixes up the power on his punches. This is a grandmaster of the ring, evolving and improving for every fight. And he's going to get even better still in the future. It's really becoming clear that Mayweather knows exactly what he's doing by ducking and dodging Miguel Cotto.

After Cotto's 5th round TKO win, Bob Arum was asked by a reporter what he thought Mayweather might think about the Puerto Rican powerhouse now. His response drew laughter at the post-fight press conference. "Mayweather sat at home and watched the HBO doubleheader of the knockouts by Cotto and Margarito. And then he probably signed on to a flight to Mars."

Arum didn't stop there. He even had some veiled but critical words about HBO. "If he considers himself the best pound fighter in the world he should fight the best out there. No question about that. Enough people have raised that - What about Cotto? What about Margarito? Well he ain't having any of that. You know who he's gonna fight? He's gonna fight a nonsense fight again with De La Hoya which they're gonna try to sell based on his father working De La Hoya's corner. And then cursing each other out and making spectacles of themselves. And HBO will empower them by doing a 24/7 and a whole nine yards. And then he's gonna fight Ricky Hatton. Imagine that! Ricky Hatton!"

I asked Bob - Isn't it your job to sell Cotto vs. Mayweather to HBO, to make that fight happen? His response fingered Floyd as the sole obstacle. "HBO can't do it. HBO would love to do it. But they can't do it. Mayweather IS A COWARD. A PSYCHOLOGICAL COWARD. He's AFRAID TO LOSE. As long as some writers are gonna vote for him as Fighter of the Year, because he beat a 400-pound guy, didn't he? Then it's gonna empower him. You gotta understand, he's a psychological coward. He's afraid to lose."

Then one of Mayweather's most devout defenders in the media chimed in from the peanut gallery, Two years ago you said Floyd Mayweather was one of the best fighters ever, with Muhammad Ali. "He sure as hell was," replied Arum without hesitation. "Floyd Mayweather was a major talent. Are you kidding? You saw him fight. He's afraid to LOSE!" Arum's forthright retort silenced the Mayweather sychophant from asking any other questions.

Cotto and Margarito both, almost happily, agreed to fight on July 26, and spoke kind words about each other. They posed for photos and embraced. Pure class, sportsmanship, both are the essence and eminence of what this beautiful sport is about. By comparison, they make Mayweather and his immature persona (though not his boxing talent) look ridiculous. It seems inevitable though that the destruction of the self-styled bad guy Mayweather will happen. It will come in one of two ways - at the hands of Cotto or Margarito. Or by putting himself down in shame as an indipustable coward who refused to man up from ducking and dodging Miguel ("punching bag") Cotto or Antonio ("D level opponent, easy work") Margarito. "If Mayweather doesn't fight Cotto by next summer I think he's afraid of him," admitted New York Newsday's Marcus Henry.

Sammy Sosa, the former Major League Baseball slugger was in attendance to watch Cotto. I asked Sosa what he thought about Cotto's performance. "Cotto is incredible," said Sosa. "He invited me to this fight and we went here and supported him and he did a great fight tonight."

Can Cotto beat Mayweather, Sammy? "I think so. I mean, the way, in the shape that he's in, I don't think Mayweather could beat him right now." How did you meet Cotto? "In Santo Domingo, I invited him to my birthday party last year, December 1st."

So here we are, at a crossroads point in the evolution of boxing. A new era of superstar welterweights is on the verge of commencing, like the year 1980 when Duran vs. Leonard in Montreal ignited the sport's popularity. Will the boxing powers get the job done and make the welterweight title fights people are demanding? Or will they continue to segregate and protect Mayweather from having to fight the best? Will Mayweather ever commit to fighting Cotto or Margarito to determine who is the best? Will Mayweather add some excitement to the sport by saying something like Cotto and Margarito are great but I will whoop them both after I take care of Oscar? Or will Floyd continue insist he's the best while making excuses and reasons to duck and dodge the most intriguing fights the boxing fans want to see most?

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Article posted on 15.04.2008



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