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With Margarito Still Ailing, Top Rank Considers Miguel Cotto vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

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Antonio Margarito's eye has still not healed from a November beating by Manny Pacquiao. Margarito still isn't cleared to spar, so a September date with Miguel Cotto is off. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Antonio Margarito's eye has still not healed from a November beating by Manny Pacquiao. Margarito still isn't cleared to spar, so a September date with Miguel Cotto is off. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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BoxingScene.com's Ryan Burton reports that the planned September 17 rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is off for now, as Margarito still can't get clearance to begin sparring again. Bob Arum's new plan is -- tentatively -- to match Cotto at 160 pounds against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for that weekend, which would be a revisited fight that was supposed to take place in December 2010 before Cotto opted to take some time off following shoulder surgery.

Before we talk about Cotto-Chavez, let's take a minute for Margarito first. Margarito (38-7, 27 KO) is probably the most controversial boxer in the world today, but he's still worth money, at least short-term. That's why Arum booked Cotto-Margarito II and probably, in fact, worked his ass off to make it happen after a good, long while where Cotto said he would never rematch Margarito.

But injuries are injuries, and this one sounds bad:

Arum told BoxingScene that they have scheduled an appointment for Margarito to see an eye doctor next Wednesday.  "We have Margarito scheduled to see an eye doctor next Wednesday. We have to wait an see what the doctor says but so far the reports we have heard about Margarito's eye aren't very good."

When a fight promoter admits that an injury such as this one is bad, there's reason to worry. Fight promoters, generally speaking, want to milk a fighter as long as possible, though many don't want to do so with any major risk for long-term damage. Arum years ago decided he would no longer promote Erik Morales after Morales reporting "buzzing" in his head after fighting David Diaz, and a couple of years ago we saw Lou DiBella cut ties with Jermain Taylor after another bad knockout and a hospital stay.

Arum's tone here reads in a way that suggests that Antonio Margarito may well be at the end of his line. And I can't help but think back to November, when a thorough beating from Manny Pacquiao left Margarito with a broken orbital bone. At that time, this is what Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said:

"He's a very tough guy," Roach said of Margarito. "I was surprised how tough he was. He has the worst corner. They probably ruined his career by not stopping the fight."

It's not that I want that to be the case, it's that it looks like it might be.

As for Cotto-Chavez, that will have to wait until at least June, when Chavez (42-0-1, 30 KO) faces Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 KO) in his first-ever HBO main event. The facts about Chavez are very simple:

  1. He's not his father.
  2. He's got a huge fanbase that wants to believe he is his father.

Still, I think at this point the 25-year-old takes more abuse in fan circles than he's really earned. For his age, he wasn't fighting anyone worse than most guys do over the last few years. And now with Freddie Roach, Chavez appeared to take the first legitimate steps forward he had in years in his last two fights against John Duddy and Billy Lyell.

What most troubles me about the fight is that Miguel Cotto is not a damn middleweight. He's 5'7", was small at welterweight, and is very small at junior middleweight. That said, Chavez is not exactly the most dangerous puncher and even though I think he is, in his way, slightly underrated by hardcore fans, there will never come a day when Chavez is as good at professional boxing as even today's Miguel Cotto, and it comes down to attitude and things like that. Chavez has at times in his career appeared almost passive in the ring, and I'd say that even about his last couple of performances. But Cotto fights with fire, and over the years has really preyed on fighters who didn't have a killer instinct -- Yuri Foreman, Michael Jennings, Alfonso Gomez, Carlos Quintana, and others.

Even better fighters like Zab Judah and Joshua Clottey have come up short against Cotto for similar reasons, in my view. Hell, Clottey should have beaten Cotto, but Clottey being Clottey, he didn't let his hands go enough and all but gave the fight away. And that came in large part, I think, because when Clottey wouldn't throw, Cotto imposed himself enough. Guys with mental lapses have problems against Cotto is all I'm saying.

I can't say it's a good fight, but I also can't say it's some kind of terrible fight. For what it is (a money-maker) it's not so bad, and we've accepted things like Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton and Saul Alvarez-Jose Miguel Cotto for the other young Mexican fighter who can bring some bank, so why not, i guess?