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Think Cotto's Been Thinking Margarito..Or Jennings?

BY Rick Folstad ON February 15, 2009
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If I was Michael Jennings, I wouldn’t know whether to quietly cheer in a corner or stand up and demand more air time. I mean, Jennings is the first guy to fight two-division world champ Miguel Cotto since Cotto’s loss to Antonio Margarito seven months ago, and nobody knows his name.

Maybe Jennings (34-1, 16 KOs) has been kind of forgotten because of those “funny” hand wraps that Margarito has been accused of trying to use in his fight against Shane Mosley last month.

They’re funny hand wraps in the same way Joe Pesci uses “funny” in Goodfellas.

Funny in the way you might describe a strange noise outside your front door at 2 in the morning. Scary funny.

So if I’m Jennings, I’m feeling lucky because I’m thinking maybe Cotto (32-1, 26 KOs) isn’t quite as focused on me as he should be, or claims to be. His mind is somewhere else, and that‘s good. Maybe the hand wrap fiasco surrounding the Mosley - Margarito fight has taken up some of Cotto’s serious concentration time, messed around with his head a little.

If that‘s the case and I‘m Jennings, I‘m thinking I can quietly slip into Madison Square Garden on Saturday night when I fight Cotto for the vacant WBO welterweight title on pay-per-view. (Along with the Cotto-Jennings fight, the telecast will include the middleweight title fight in Youngstown, Ohio between champion Kelly Pavlik and contender Marco Antonio Rubio ).

If he isn’t ready for me, maybe I’ll catch Cotto out of his game, catch him thinking more about Margarito and what could have been instead of me, the guy he’s fighting. Did Margarito have loaded hands that night he beat Cotto? Did he cheat? Cotto’s has to be thinking about it.

This is a funny game.

Then there‘s that other angle, the one that says that if I’m Jennings, maybe I’m thinking I deserve a little more respect than I’ve been getting. After all, my name was hardly mentioned in the Cotto conference call last week. It was Margarito this, Margarito that. Will Cotto fight Manny Pacquiao some day? Will he get another shot at Margarito? Where does Shane Mosley fit in?

Too bad for Jennings, but those funny hand wraps that had to be changed before they let Margarito out of the locker room to get his butt kicked by Mosley are a bigger story than anything Jennings might be bringing with him across the ocean from Chorley, England.

You make a trainer change his fighter’s hand wraps shortly before one of the biggest fights of his career, there’s going to be something about it in the local paper.

Because Margarito’s original hand wraps were found to be tainted, his boxing license in the state of California was revoked for a year. And Margarito’s trainer, who admitted he made a biiiigggg mistake by using old, suspicious hand wraps, also had his license put on hold for a year.

Not that we all like to follow California’s lead, but being a close-knit nation, that “revocation” will be honored by every state in the country north of Tijuana.

Which means Cotto’s possible redemption match with Margarito is at least 15 months away. Unless they fight somewhere south of the border.

But Cotto won’t be politicking for Margarito‘s career opportunities. He said if a fighter is banned from fighting in the U.S., it’s not right that he can go somewhere else and fight.

“He shouldn’t be able to fight anywhere else,” Cotto said.

He’s got a point.

When the “tainted” hand wraps from the Mosley fight were brought up on the conference call, Cotto took the high road, which is rarely traveled in the fight game. He just said it was all in the past and none of his business.

“You know what? (Margarito and his team) are the only ones who can answer that,“ Cotto said when asked if he thought Margarito used illegal hand wraps in their fight in  July. “Margarito had a great night and I’ll leave it at that.“

But no one else would leave it “at that.“

“All I can tell you is that he had a good night and that’s all I’m saying about it,“ Cotto said.

Asked if he thought Margarito knew his hand wraps were illegal in the Mosley fight, Cotto again handled it like a guy putting away dynamite.

“All I know is that anyone who gets their hands wrapped, he know what’s in them. Every boxer knows if there is something different in their hand wraps.”

Maybe promoter Bob Arum should listen to Cotto, one of his fighters.

Arum, who promotes both Margarito and Cotto,  keeps claiming that Margarito is innocent of any wrongdoing, that he didn’t know his hand wraps were “tainted.“ Therefore, the California Athletic Commission had no right to take away his right to make a living.

I guess  Margarito-gate just won’t go away.

“You go in the ring thinking you’re playing at the same level as the other fighter, that you are all doing the same thing,” Cotto said. “This is a sport, not a slaughterhouse.“

Sometimes the two can be confused. See Panama Lewis, nightmare.

But what about Jennings? What does he bring to the fight? Isn’t that why they scheduled the conference call? Wasn’t that why we were on the phone? This much we know about the guy. He hasn’t beaten any big names;  he’s a top contender; he has a long plane ride ahead of him; and he probably likes fish and chips.

And someone from the Cotto camp will be watching very closely when they wrap his hands Saturday night.

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