Boxing


Pugilistik: Margarito Destroys Cotto

Antonio Margarito30.07.08 - by Nefarious Nick Fremont: It's a few days after the big fight in the desert and every superlative that can be said about the contest has been said already.

Now, in the aftermath of that brutal war, what's going to happen to its participants?

TO THE VICTOR GOES THE SPOILS

Antonio Margarito is in an unfamiliar and enviable position now. He was champion before, but Mayweather and then Cotto were always The Man at 147. Now Margo is that man. He won't have to chase big paydays anymore.

There is talk that Margo's next fight will be against the winner of the Clottey-Judah fight on Aug. 2 that will determine the holder of the IBF 147 lb. belt Margo vacated to fight Cotto (Clottey being the mandatory). Margo and Clottey already went the full distance in late 2006 on the undercard of a Cotto main event (against Carlos Quintana, who subsequently gained and lost the WBO 147 lb. belt from the last man to beat Margo, Paul Williams). Clottey, a powerful and tough welterweight from Accra, Ghana (the same hometown of 130 lb. legend Azumah Nelson), held an early advantage over Margo (much like Cotto and Williams did in their fight against the Mexican) but faded once he suffered hand injuries in the fourth round. Clottey will be a much tougher opponent for Margo to break down, and a rematch would be a fascinating high-risk low-reward encounter for the new champion.

Another tough fight for Margo would be a rematch against his lone conqueror in recent years, Paul Williams, who himself is coming off a stunningly impressive victory, a first-round KO of Quintana. Williams possesses physical and stylistic advantages over Margo and it is very possible that a second encounter between the two would play out much like the first, with Williams outpointing Margo early and Margo dominating late. There is talk, however, that Williams will vacate his belt and leave the division for super welterweight or even middleweight.

Then there's Oscar De La Hoya, who has been saying for a while now that he's going to fight one more time in December before hanging up the gloves. That fight was supposed to be against Cotto, but now the Golden Boy is talking about fighting Pacquiao at 147 lbs. Not surprisingly, he has not even mentioned Margo's name as a possibility, citing the fact that he does not want to fight a Mexican in his last fight and possibly engender the same negativity that was fostered by his bouts with Julio Cesar Chavez. The fact of the matter is, even though Oscar would have a great chance of beating Margo, he would have to sustain a beating to do it and a beating is not necessarily the thing you're looking for in a farewell fight.

Another high-profile possibility would be the winner of the Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga fight scheduled in the fall. However, Mosley, who is expected to win handily, turned down a lucrative offer to fight the Mexican two years ago, and it is unclear whether he would want to step into the ring now when he is nearing the end of his storied career.

The other champ at 147 lbs. is Andre Berto, and there's no way he's ready for someone like Margo.

Whoever Margo ends up fighting next, though, you can expect Arum to get him paid. No fighter deserves it more.

TO THE LOSER GOES THE TOIL

You have to wonder what effect the fight will have on Miguel Cotto, both physically and psychologically. The list of fighters who were never the same after a savage loss is a long one filled with memorable names. Just look at recent examples like Jeff Lacy, Fernando Vargas, even Meldrick Taylor.

With a victory, Cotto would have had a very good case for being considered the best fighter pound-for-pound in the world (his only other rival for that title being Pacquiao). After this fight, though, one in which he not only lost but was physically destroyed in much the same way that he destroyed Zab Judah, there is a strong sense that Cotto needs to take a step or two back and start over again.

Even in his prior fight, against outmatched but brave Alfonso Gomez, Cotto started to show signs that I didn't like. It was the first fight in which Cotto seemed overconfident -- even brazenly arrogant -- in his own boxing ability and punching power. Another warning sign was the sense I was getting that Cotto didn't really want the Margo fight, but that his hand was forced by his (and Margo's) promoter Bob Arum. On the undercard of Cotto-Gomez, Margo did a complete demo job on Kermit Cintron to win the IBF title, a fight that would've made anyone avoid the Mexican. Afterwards, Cotto was not exactly calling out Margo, saying words to the effect that Margo had had his chance to fight him (Margo in 2007 had pulled out of a fight with Cotto, choosing instead to defend his WBO belt against his mandatory Williams).

There are some lesser welterweight names being bandied about as possible future fights for Cotto if he so chooses (people like Luis Collazo), and there is no question he needs a tune-up fight to get his bearings back. But there is a distinct possibility, as was stated earlier, that he will never get his bearings back, that he will never be the fighter we thought he was before this past Saturday. Cotto has already stated that he's not finished, that he wants to fight again before the end of the year, but the fight on Saturday was the kind of fight that changes both men forever, and not necessarily for the better.

AT THE END OF THE DAY

I think Margo will prove to be an "old-school" champion in the sense that he wants to take on all comers in his division and prove that he is The Man. Other fighters in this mold have been the true legends of the game, people like Marvin Hagler, Michael Carbajal, Joe Frazier, etc. I don't know if Margo is actually as "good" as any of these guys (I'm thinking he's not), but he has a huge heart and an indomitable will and, his greatest asset, the best chin this side of Roberto Duran.

As for Cotto, I sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of him. I don't mean the last of Cotto in a ring, because I'm sure we'll see him fight again. But I want to see the real Miguel Cotto, the guy who annihilated Zab Judah and then outboxed Shane Mosley, not a shell of a champion like the current version of Jeff Lacy and last year's version of El Feroz. Given the fact that he has always shown a Warrior Mentality, I expect to see him rebound from this frightening loss and be his old self at some point in the next couple years.

But I could be wrong.

Article posted on 30.07.2008



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