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Danger Zone: The Margarito and Cotto mandatories

After last week's wins by welterweight champions Antonio Margarito (WBO) and Miguel Cotto (WBA), the question was immediately posed: With the Pretty Boy preparing for his big date with the Golden Boy, why not just put these two in the ring with each other?

And we quickly got an answer: Sure, OK. How about June 9, at Madison Square Garden?

Count me in. Count you in. Hell, just count everyone in.

In the great words of the great Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend.

Cotto and Margarito, both being champions, have mandatory defenses to make before June rolls around. On March 3, Cotto will take on Germany's Oktay Urkal (who was scheduled to fight Ricky Hatton before Hatton decided, "Eh, I'd rather not"). Margarito will have to take on undefeated American Paul "The Punisher" Williams, whom I recognize as the world's lankiest welterweight.

Could Cotto/Margarito be derailed? You bet it could.

Cotto will be the overwhelming favorite against Urkal, who twice lost to Vivian Harris in 2004 and has yet to post a quality win since then, including his last two pathetic matchups against Andrei Reimer (2-4-1 coming in) and Robert Cristea (1-8). Honestly, the best I can sum up how I feel about this matchup is I'm certain that Cotto will score a dominant knockout victory.

As for Margarito, well...

Count me in as one of those who thinks the Margarito hype has gotten bigger than the Margarito skills. Arum has done a wonderful job of painting Margarito as the people's champion, the guy Floyd ducked several times, and the man who just doesn't get his due. But Joshua Clottey showed that Margarito is not anywhere near unbeatable, at least in the opinions of myself and pretty much everyone I've talked to about the fight.

Paul Williams can -- and very well may -- beat Antonio Margarito. He's a tall, rangy southpaw with real power who hasn't gone to the cards in his last five fights. He's 25 years old. If Williams is going to make a mark, the time is obviously right for it. Being the man that prevents the Cotto/Margarito fight from happening (I'm trying, but I can't envision Urkal beating Cotto on anything less than Cotto spontaneously combusting) would put Paul Williams' name on the map for good. His last two fights (Sharmba Mitchell and Santos Pakau) have been demolition jobs.

You can't get past the mandatory defenses, which is exactly why the world is going to have to pretend to give a shit about Wlad Klitschko against Ray Austin in March. And since you can't, you run the realistic risk of a big fight being absolutely blown up before it can even happen.

All I'm saying is that I hope Margarito, Cotto and Top Rank haven't counted their chickens, because those things aren't hatching just yet.

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