Reminder: WE WILL BE HERE tonight with live, round-by-round coverage of the PPV main event between Cotto and Margarito and the undercard. Everything kicks off at 9pm ET officially, but we'll know at 8:30 if Comcast decides to screw around, as is always a worry on PPV night.
In today's boxing world, what we want isn't so often what we get.
Yes, 2007 was a shining year for the sport, but how has 2008 been? Really. Kind of spotty, and that might be being generous. We have been treated to two truly sensational contests, but both were rematches (Vazquez-Marquez III and Marquez-Pacquiao II). We've seen Kelly Pavlik beat Jermain Taylor (another rematch) and a joke mandatory.
We've seen Miguel Cotto steamroll an unqualified Alfonso Gomez. Oscar de la Hoya treated us to a dirt-dull 12-round decision over Steve Forbes, an infomercial for a fight that now isn't even going to happen.
Tito Trinidad returned and was wiped out by an old Roy Jones. Joe Calzaghe finally came to the States, and did so with his biggest win ever, yes, but the fight itself? Bernard'd!
Ricky Hatton came back from his first career loss by beating Juan Lazcano in Manchester. The hyped Abraham-Miranda rematch was a demolition job. Floyd Mayweather retired. Chris Byrd and Stevie Johnston should.
And then you have those darned heavyweights, the biggest fight of their year being the embarrassing Klitschko-Ibragimov affair.
Only rarely have we been treated to the unexpectedly memorable (Casamayor-Katsidis, Diaz-Campbell, the Vera upset of Andy Lee).
I'm a fan of boxing. But I am not a cheerleader. Like Coolio said, it's time for sumpin' new.
Tonight, we will see something new. The welterweight crown is vacant, and it won't be truly decided tonight. But the No. 1 man in the division, Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto, is ready to get back in there with one of the best, as he lines up to face Mexican banger Antonio Margarito.
The Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry in all sports (and elsewhere) is very old, has a strong tradition, and is maybe best showcased inside of the squared circle, where men are men and it's one-on-one.
The passion in the building tonight in Vegas will be electric, of that I have no doubt. But how about the action?
Cotto has given us many memorable fights in his young, undefeated career. He's gone toe-to-toe and beaten the likes of Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, Ricardo Torres, DeMarcus Corley and Paulie Malignaggi, superb fights all of them. He's blown away legitimate, tough fighters like Carlos Quintana and Alfonso Gomez.
But has he ever faced the will and pressure of a fighter like Margarito before? Torres might come close, but Ricardo's chin probably doesn't stack up to that of the Tijuana Tornado. Margarito never comes to do anything less than fight -- brawl, even. He fully embodies the stereotype of the Mexican warrior that will go out on his shield if he has to, a fighter that will attempt to win at all costs, taking every risk he needs to in order to ensure victory.
He has proven that many times in his career. If it weren't for a slow start against Paul Williams last July, I fully believe he would have won that fight and we'd have already seen Cotto-Margarito come and go. In that case, we might just be gearing up for a rematch.
Cotto is the favorite. At 32-0 with 26 knockouts on his record, he might seem like a one-punch type of cat for the uninitiated. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. He does not at all have one-punch power, but he is such a relentless and seemingly tireless worker that knockouts tend to come naturally. He beat Zab Judah into near-submission last year; it was probably the worst beating that Judah has ever taken. And if Shane Mosley was any less of a man, the same likely would have happened to "Sugar" in November.
Watching him make Alfonso Gomez look like a helpless child this past April was fairly amazing. It was the sort of fight where you felt bad for the guy being beaten on, but also in genuine awe and appreciation of the hammering being doled out. Cotto treated Gomez like a sparring partner -- a bad one that had insulted him prior to the headgear being put on.
On the Cotto-Mosley undercard, we saw a rebirth of Antonio Margarito. With his record, and the level of danger that comes with fighting him, he could have been pushed aside.
Saying he'd never start as slowly again as he did against Williams, Margarito took on tough veteran Golden Johnson and obliterated him in under one full round. It was a beatdown the likes of which made any observer really just say, "Well, damn." At Margarito's age, a lot of guys lose hunger. Tony found hunger and then some after losing to Williams.
He shared a card again this April with Cotto, squaring off against a revenge-minded Kermit Cintron, a Puerto Rican titleholder he'd laid waste to years prior when Cintron was unbeaten.
It happened again. Cintron, a monster puncher, threw everything he had at Margarito, who simply and calmly walked through shot after shot to get inside on Cintron and beat the crap out of him. A body shot ended it. Margarito seemed to want to do even more damage, almost begging Cintron to continue on. Like he wished he hadn't just beaten the will to fight out of a good fighter.
And so we arrive at this. The battle. The fight that will hopefully kickstart a grand second half of 2008 for boxing. A hope that might be futile, with such lackluster (in terms of action) matchups as Calzaghe-Jones and Pavlik-Hopkins on the slate, plus whatever grand show Oscar puts on in December. And don't think for a second that after he watches tonight's fight, Oscar will really want to put his face on the line against the winner of this one.
Cotto sits as a -275 favorite entering the fight, Margarito as a +215 underdog. It seems that the entire world is picking Cotto to win a grueling contest. But there is also no one in the world that can't foresee Margarito being the man to take the "0" away from the toast of Puerto Rico.
There aren't a whole lot of fights that come down the pipe that promise to be as good as this one should be. The last time I felt this way about a matchup, it was prior to the first meeting of Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez. The style clash is premade for fireworks, drama, blood and heavy doses of pain on both sides of the equation.
No more time to wait. No more time to think about the fight. It's here. It's time for Cotto-Margarito.