Tomorrow night's HBO pay-per-view rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito has generated more buzz in the boxing world than any fight in the last three years that did not feature Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr, save for perhaps the Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye fight this past July.
By now, you know the story. You know the fighters. You know whether you love or hate Antonio Margarito, whether you love or hate this fight, whether you'll be tuning in tomorrow for the climax of this story.
So let's get on with the picks. After the jump, the Bad Left Hook team state their cases and make their picks for Cotto vs Margarito II.
Both fighters will be noticeably inferior to the prime versions that squared off in the first meeting, but it should be equally competitive. I can see the fight going two ways. Cotto either stands and trades and tries to take out Margarito's bad eye or he throws short combinations (in duration, not necessarily travel distance) then jumps on his bicycle like he did in the first fight. My guess is it starts with the former and quickly evolves into the latter when Miguel realizes his efforts are futile and is taking more damage than he'd like to. The increased early damage in this fight will lead to the fight ultimately being stopped earlier than the first time. What about Margarito not having "bricks" in his gloves this time you say? I'm neither convinced he cheated the first time nor do I think his knuckle pads are that effective in the first place. I watched the first fight again just Thursday night, and if Margarito had something like bricks in his gloves he would have stopped Cotto in the 2nd round. Simply put for all the better skills Cotto has, he does not fight a pressure fighter properly. He never learned how to tie a man up. He's neither too fast for Margarito via hands or feet. And his stamina is not the best. If he can't figure out how to spend less energy beating Margarito, he can't beat Margarito. Period. Antonio Margarito by TKO-9.
I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how the underdog could win and that turns into slowly convincing myself that the underdog will win. But this isn't a space for writing a thesis on how Margarito might be able to pull it off. In the end Cotto's speed and combination punching should be enough to pull this off. I can't shake the feeling that he's going to be in bad trouble at some point in the fight, but I still think if you compare 2011 versions of each guy you see a healthier, better fighter in Cotto. That'll get him a fairly comfortable decision where he sees a few scary moments. Miguel Cotto by decision. Follow Brent's coverage of Cotto vs Margarito II at MMA Nation.
The biggest challenge for Miguel Cotto on Saturday may be between his ears. He wants revenge on Antonio Margarito, he's blatantly said it. It will be important for Cotto to not be overaggressive and stay grounded. Margarito hasn't won a significant fight in an insanely long time. When he fought Manny Pacquiao a little over a year ago, he looked achingly slow. Cotto will be the faster fighter, and if he can stay off the ropes he'll have a chance to put together punches and build an early lead. That's what he did in their first fight, but I don't expect a big comeback from Margarito this time around. It will be exciting as long as it lasts, and it could definitely get a little ugly and dirty in there. Ultimately, Cotto gets his revenge. Miguel Cotto by TKO-10. Follow Chris' coverage of Cotto vs Margarito II at SB Nation New York.
It is rare to see a fight this truly hate-filled. It is also rare to see a fight that is this stomach-turning. There are all kinds of reasons, and great ones, to be morally turned off by this fight, all centered on Antonio Margarito and the shameless men who promote and defend him. But while it does feel dirty, I'm really looking forward to this one. I picked Cotto in 2008 and he didn't come away with the win. But this time, I don't see the 2008 version of Margarito even more than I don't see the 2008 version of Miguel Cotto. Margarito is slower, in worse health, and though he dinged Pacquiao a couple times, he hasn't had much punching power in his last three fights. And I question if Robert Garcia has really done much for him at all, as good a trainer as I think Garcia is. Margarito seems amused by himself and this entire situation, almost just happy to be here, making more money. I believe he wants to win, and that he'll go to great lengths to do so, but I don't think he's on Miguel Cotto's level anymore. If Cotto has dipped to a B, Margarito might honestly be a C at this point. Cotto will out-box him, bang up that bad eye, and show he's still slick enough to avoid a Margarito who can't hunt the way he used to. Miguel Cotto by decision.
I like Miguel Cotto's prospects this weekend. There's serious questions about how much either guy has left in the tank. Cotto's the better boxer, he's taken less punishment, he'll get the benefit of the doubt from the judges in close rounds, and I actually think referee Steve Smoger won't be his typical bloodthirsty self for a couple of reasons: he took massive criticsim for letting the Dennis Lebedev-Roy Jones fight go a few too many punches, and more importantly, the attention and concern there will be about Margarito's reconstructed cyborg eye. If the eye gets tagged and starts looking bad, you might see the quickest stoppage of Smoger's career. I don't see that happening though. For all the vengeance talk, I think Cotto fights smart, plays it relatively safe, and systematically outboxes a more limited, slower man. And in all honesty, I do think Margarito probably had a little something extra in his gloves that first fight. He hasn't shown any power since. I like Cotto by a comfortable unanimous decision in the area of 10 rounds to 2. Miguel Cotto by decision.
First of all, I think everyone understands that unlike most fights, this one is an actual, real fight -- two men who despise one another and who have said that they are going out essentially to end the other's career. Second, I think we also can agree that Cotto seems different psychologically for this fight. He is in seek-and-destroy mode psychologically. The question now is whether his body has enough left after the battering he's taken. I say he does. Third, I think everyone can also see that Antonio Margarito's performance on the speed bag was far from inspiring. At least wearing sunglasses, he can't see a thing, as far as I can tell. Finally, because of all of the above, I have placed a nice wager on Cotto and the under. He's going all out for the eye; he's said so himself. I'm thinking Smoger might have a quick trigger in this one given all the attention that's been focused on the jurisdiction for the fight. Miguel Cotto by TKO-8.
[ Related: Cotto vs Margarito - Weigh-In Photo Comparison ]
The genuine animosity between the fighters makes this an interesting contest, though I'm not quite looking forward to it as much as most fans seem to be. This is maybe the 9th best junior-middleweight against the 22nd best - and no, I don't think I'm underrating Margarito by putting him that low. He just doesn't bring much to the table, other than the ability to absorb punishment, and even that is in question at this stage. Cotto is a diminished fighter as well, but he has better skills to fall back on, and I have a feeling his confidence will get a boost when he gets tagged, and it doesn't hurt nearly as much as the last time. I'm going to say Cotto by 117-111 type scores, though wouldn't be surprised to see him record a stoppage. Miguel Cotto by decision.
Very few fights feature as many variables in the mix as Cotto-Margarito. How physically damaged is Margarito? Is Cotto mentally stable enough? Are Margarito's fists actually feather without plaster? Will Cotto's stamina hold up? Can Margarito's eye stay in shape? We won't have any answers until Saturday night, and all guesses are mere conjecture; however, I'm going to state that I think Cotto wins this no matter what. He either busts up Margarito's eye and forces a doctor's stoppage, or he boxes his way to a decision. Margarito can walk forward all night long if he wants, but the guy is damaged goods. He can still force himself to move in a straight line, but his stamina isn't what it once was; moreover, his chin really can't be what it once was either. Add in the fact that he's nursing a surgically-repaired eye, and I really can't see much hope for him. Cotto knows how to beat Margarito; last time, however, he didn't have the stamina or the defense. With a better trainer who should have ensured Cotto is both fitter and more able to protect himself from the Margarito uppercut, I can see Miguel using all those skills he displayed in the first fight to great effect, just over a longer distance. Where once Margarito could soldier on through the pain, his body's now been through almost irreparable damage. As such, I'm going with Miguel; stoppage, if the eye doesn't hold up and Cotto really goes for it, but decision, if boxing is the theme of the night. Miguel Cotto by decision.
Stylistically it's hard for me to see the fight being any different than the first. Margarito stalking and Cotto hitting and moving effectively. Of course both fighters are damaged goods, unlike the first time around. There is some concern that it also ends the same way. In the few years since the first meeting, Margarito has shown little in the way of power (coincidentally) and looked slow and lethargic in the Mosley and Pacquiao fights. Also a key when I rewatched the first fight a few times in the past few weeks, Cotto landed the left hook to the head often in their first fight. It was just there to be landed whenever he wanted. Obviously with Margarito's right eye in the condition it is, that could be troublesome. I feel that a motivated Cotto will show that he learned his lesson from the first fight and "prove" that Margarito's gloves were in fact wrapped in plaster of paris. I expect a war, and a more calculated Cotto pulling out a decisive victory. Miguel Cotto by decision.
[ Related: Cotto vs Margarito HBO Face Off Video ]
I picked Cotto to win this three years ago, and I am going to be dogmatic about this one. I still feel he is the better all-around boxer. What he needs to do is adjust his gameplan by staying off the ropes and tying Margarito up when he gets too close. Basically, try to replicate what Shane Mosley did to the "Tijuana Tornado". Perhaps more importantly, I feel that Cotto has more left in the tank than his opponent. Since his beat down at the hands of Manny Pacquaio he has gotten a pair of easy, get-well wins. Margarito, on the other hand, had his face broken in his last bout which was against the Pac-Man. Look for Cotto to box and hold more than usual while Margarito tries to catch his most-hated rival with shots along the ropes. In a solid-but-nothing-special kind of fight, I like Cotto to take home a decision in front of a wild crowd. Miguel Cotto by decision.
This fight will be the climax of Cotto's career -- not his opponent's. The story is good versus evil and if there ever was any doubt as to which the good guy is, Miguel's middle name is Angel. Meanwhile, Margarito is damaged goods, last seen fresh in 2008 and currently laughing all the way to the bank. There is only one question in this fight: Will Cotto redeem his loss and prove he is great or will he go down as a good fighter but not good enough? When Margarito defeated him, Cotto went through a phase where he basically trained himself, then took on a new trainer to pick up Yuri Foreman's belt, before taking this, his current trainer who has stressed stamina and conditioning. Cotto can draw courage from the belief that his opponent had to cheat to beat him. He can draw courage from the fact that he was able to outbox his opponent. However, most of all, he can draw courage from the fact that Margarito is slower than ever and his eye is broken. Miguel Cotto by TKO-8.
The fact that Margarito gets two big paydays after committing one of the biggest sins in boxing, makes me throw up in my own mouth. Also the concept of this fight is some kind of revenge fantasy for Cotto where everyone else gets to see him beat down the Mexican warrior. For moral reasons, I will be tuning into the Agbeko-Mares fight but I guess I see Cotto taking this fight. Margarito's shots will look a lot less powerful than they did in the first fight for some unknown reason. I see Cotto brutalizing the Margo's weak eye and deftly avoiding Margo's counters. Miguel Cotto by TKO-7 (ref stoppage due to eye).
I'm going to go with Cotto in this one. I'm just more sure about what he has left in the tank at this point in his career than I am Margarito. Cotto's no longer a truly elite prizefighter, but he's still good enough to beat decent opponents (Yuri Foreman, a Ricardo Mayorga who had a little more left than I think anyone expected). Margarito? Well, we know, like Cotto, that his best days are behind him. But in the wake of the savage beating he received at the hands of Pacquiao - even worse than the one Cotto took - it wouldn't surprise me if he has NOTHING left.
He already hadn't looked good in two-and-a-half years going into the Pacquiao fight, where he received what Freddie Roach called the worst beating he'd ever seen. I also think Cotto probably learned a thing or two from their first fight - namely, to stay off of the ropes and pace himself a little better- and that that will help him this time around. And, of course, the wraps: like most everybody else, I assume Tony had them loaded that night, and obviously, that would have played a big factor in the proceedings - a factor that will be absent tomorrow night.
Then again...I don't know. Maybe Margarito DOES have enough left to make it another classic. Maybe he WASN'T cheating that night. I know I don't think that he was ever a complete fraud, and he's definitely as tough as they come. Whatever the case, Cotto is the safer pick. I like him to win via a late stoppage. Miguel Cotto by stoppage.