Cotto-Margarito In The Heat Of 'La Batalla': 2 Nations, 2 Men, 1 Champ In The End
By Vivek Wallace, photo by Chris Farina / TopRank: The fight that the whole world of boxing had asked for and once thought would never happen is finally upon us. In an era where fighters are known for out of the ring antics and bravado, finally, fight fans can watch two men of few words who produce a helluva lot more action. Two great ambassadors of the sport, two different nations, and in the end, there can only be one hand held high. Heroics of the past have made it literally impossible to pick a winner, but when it all boils down, we don't have to, because the true winner tonight is the fans. And besides, choosing a winner in the ring won't come down to us fans to choose, because if the past is any indication, these two warriors are more than ready to settle that score. So, as we live out the last few moments of anticipation, we quickly take a glimpse into the technicalities that will ultimately shape the finality......
Article posted on 25.07.2008
KEYS TO VICTORY
Miguel Cotto: Few fighters have the discipline to weather an opponents storm and stay true to who they are or what the gameplan calls for.. If Cotto cannot whether Margarito's storm and stay disciplined enough to box, it could prove fatal because Margarito will spend most of the night trying to coax him into a brawl - and we know who's game that is. Cotto's proverbial 'lifeline' will be his ability to land a stiff jab all night and utilize lateral movement to avoid giving up the wrong angles. He will need to find success with his jab early. Low connect rate with the jab will mean he basically forfeits the fight tempo to Margarito, and we know what that could spell. Miguel is also gonna have to figure out a way to get inside on Margarito so that his minimal reach can connect to the body. Some smaller fighters use head movement with their aggression when trying to get in close on a larger fighter but Cotto's tendency to lower his head altogether when advancing forward makes this a very risky proposition, as Margarito is always looking for the opportune time to land that patented left uppercut. Finally, Cotto will have to stick to optimal fluidity and refrain from being a stationary target.
Antonio Margarito: For Antonio Magarito, he will need to set the tone early. He will also need to maintain his typical aggression and smother the smaller fighter with unrelenting pressure. A major weapon for Antonio Margarito is to effectively reverse the dynamics of who Cotto is. We all know that Cotto likes to come forward, but none of us have ever seen anyone get in the ring with enough 'pop' to make him continuously go backwards. If Margarito can keep Cotto going backwards, it'll be nearly impossible for the smaller man to work his combinations or technically mount any offense off of his back foot. Last but not least, Margarito will need to make sure that he doesn't take any rounds off or start slow. The house money is on Cotto, the fan fave is with Cotto, and truth be known, the media consensus has been strong in favor as well. Despite the fact that Las Vegas isn't a strong Puerto Rican firewall, if it's a close call, he's the bigger name, and the politics of the sport are what they are, so Cotto will get the nod. Margarito has to take the fight out of the judges hands and not only win, but do it decisively.
'4 TO EXPLORE': MAJOR TRENDS TO WATCH
Miguel Cotto: Has never faced a fighter with such major height (4 inches) and reach (6 inches) advantages who also employs a pressure style. By his own admission, Mosley and Judah were his toughest opponents, but neither man comparably walked through the fire to bring his own heat. How Miguel Cotto handles such a major disadvantage will be pivotal.
Antonio Margarito: Despite being a career long welterweight with 14 years in the sport, this will be the first time that he finds himself in the midst of a fight that garners this much attention. It's one thing to know that a few extra fellow Mexicans will be in the audience, but how is he impacted when he notices that they're sitting besides the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, and some of the best that Hollywood has to offer? Considering that this was only a taste of the celebs rumored to be on hand, guess we'll find out first hand if the 'pressure-man' can indeed handle pressure.
Miguel Cotto: Has been rocked and badly hurt within the first 3 rounds of more than 5 fights. It's hard to gauge exactly why this is. Whether it's nerves, or simply not warming up properly before he enters the ring, he can ill-afford to come into the ring cold tonight. When asked about this recently, his camp seemed a bit unfazed, but in case they haven't heard, Margarito made a very ominous prediction, and I quote: "I don't like to predict knockouts, but if I get him hurt early, I will not let him get off the hook". Could such a huge build-up end in a bigger letdown?
Antonio Margarito: Has suffered every lost in his career to southpaw fighters. Granted, Miguel Cotto isn't a southpaw fighter, but he's very adequate when adapting to that style. Perhaps his team may want to throw this wrinkle into the plans despite the fact that we're in the eleventh hour. Any advantage is a good advantage, and in the end, when you consider the reach and height differential, employing the southpaw stance could very well end up being the only advantage he carries into the fight.
'RANDOM TANDEM': 10 INDUSTRY PREDICTIONS
Sean George/Light Heavyweight: I think Cotto will need to box a little more, pick his spots, stay off the ropes, and go with what got him here, (i.e. body shots, etc.). Cotto will also need to hold his ground. For Margarito, I think the word of the day is pressure, pressure, and more pressure. He'll also need to get Cotto out of his comfort zone and keep it that way. If he does that he can win. As far as an official prediction goes, Margarito has the better chin, but who knows how he will handle Cotto's body attack. Cotto can box, but can he handle Margarito pressure? I've bet against Cotto against Judah and Mosley, and look happened. So, I guess I will be picking Cotto this time around.
Nate Campbell/WBO-WBA-IBF Lighteweight Champion: Miguel Cotto will need to box, while Antonio Margarito will need to make it a fight.
Andre Berto/WBC Welterweight Champion: I think Miguel Cotto will show that 'other' side of himself and box, showing everyone that he does have real skills. I think Margarito will be the same ole Margarito and try to bang his way to a victory. I think it could go either way.
Teddy Atlas/Famed Trainer - TV Analyst: This is a very dangerous fight for the smaller Migel Cotto, but his ability to switch up against Shane Mosley, and Antonio Margarito's inability to switch up against Paul Williams showed me everything that I needed to know. Cotto's chin isn't as powerful a Margarito's, but the key is that he hasn't learned how to lose. In the Williams fight, Williams didn't beat Margarito, Margarito didn't use his experience and technically found a way to lose. That stays with me. I'm not gonna pick against Cotto until he gives me a reason to.
Erik Morales/Mexican Ring Legend: I see the fight going for Margarito in the first few rounds, and if he lands a good punch, his chance of winning will be good early. If Cotto is too fast for him and is able to weather the 'Tornado', he should be able to win the fight by decision.
Bert Sugar/Boxing Historian - Famed Writer: Miguel Cotto has a habit of coming in with his head down which leaves him open to Margarito's best punch which is his left uppercut. Margarito is a mean punching machine and every shot comes with bad intentions. He threw a record 1,675 punches in his fight against Joshua Clottey. I couldn't take 1,675 breaths in 12 rounds. Who ever wants to know what Margarito has to do to win, well, do what he's always does.
Andrew Wake (Secondsout.com): What we have here is two guys who are just going to step forward and go at each other with brutal intent. I feel that if Margarito is to prevail, he needs to be a little smarter than he has been in his previous fights and use his height and reach. Cotto, on the other hand, just has to be Cotto - a fighter who looks to get his shots off at any opportunity. Neither man has ever been stopped, although Cotto has been rocked and Margarito outboxed. Based on that, I see a 12 rounds of bloody warfare with Cotto edging the close decision in the end.
Ryan Songalia: I think the two things that we can be certain of are that Margarito needs to come forward to win, and Cotto has to avoid leaning in on the inside where he can be susceptible to uppercuts. Cotto should box some, but he can't run. The way to fight Margarito is to counter inside of his long, looping punches and keep him from getting set. Cotto's ability to adapt should be the difference, but with Margarito's punching power and durability you can never be sure of anything. A lot of questions will be answered by both guys, and I think the fans' anticipation for the fight will prove to be justifiable.
Sean Malone (Most Valuable Network/Fighthype.com): 2 Warriors willing to risk life and a limb for glory. Margarito would be wise to use his advantage in height and reach to keep Cotto at bey. Cotto would be wise to slip punches and unleash hooks to the tall frame of Margarito. It's a bold pick but I don't think Cotto can crack Margarito's jaw. In contrast, I do think that Margarito will test Cotto's chin. Call me crazy but I think Margarito gets it done in the end.
My Prediction/Vivek Wallace - (Eastsideboxing.com): The more I pondered this prediction, the more it all took me back to a comment that Alfonso Gomez made before he faced Miguel Cotto last April. He stated: "Many fighters have been able to hurt Cotto, but the difference is gonna come with the one who can close". As it relates to Miguel Cotto, this episode has played out a million times. As a lightweight against the heavy handed Colombian Ricardo Torres, with 1:01 left in the 1st round Miguel was totally wobbled, yet he had the ability to recover and survive. Four other times in this fight Cotto took a quick trip down 'shaky-knees-trail', yet he recovered each time and eventually found a way to KO his opponent. To take it a step further, as a welterweight against Zab Judah, this happened twice - one coming in the very 1st round, and Cotto somehow found the survival instincts required to recover. Same thing against Mosley where Cotto ate a bomb right hand with 1:49 left in the 3rd round and in the end, it did nothing to change the results.
I purposely included the time remaining in each round because it should be noted that none of these men, despite being modern day greats, had the ability to pull the curtains with more than a minute to play with each time. Somewhere out there someone is asking, "what does Margarito have that those guys didn't"? And I'm glad they did, because now I'm compelled to answer. A relentless approach, power in both hands, the willingness to walk through an opponents fire to land his own heat, and the one intangible that takes us back to Gomez' statement. Those other guys have the ability to close, but Margarito is A NATURAL CLOSER! Big, big difference, and one that I think makes all the difference in the end. I see this being a great fight because both warriors have heart and soul, but the true fight will commence somewhere after the 3rd round when both men are in their 'zones'. As I see it, I envision Cotto ripping off one of those vintage combinations that typically makes a fighter retreat, but rather than retreating, Margarito quickly returns that typical wink, followed by that smile that embodies those horrifying 5 words: "IS THAT ALL YOU GOT"? At this point the true fight begins. If Cotto stays disciplined and continues to simply box, I have no question that he has enough power to keep Margarito at bey, enough speed to outpoint him, and enough heart to employ that strategy for 12 rounds. If he falls into that trap and tries to return fire for 12 rounds, he will undoubtedly suffer his first pro loss, potentially by way of a painful KO. I've never been accurate when predicting against Miguel Cotto, but for his fans, maybe that's a good thing because this time around, it just feels like the right thing to do.
(MARGARITO/BETWEEN 3 TO 9 RDS)
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