There was no customary faceoff for the photographers where the combatants could stare into each others' eyes and souls and take a measure of the man who will be trying to separate them from their sense shortly.
No, promoter Bob Arum wouldn't risk Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto getting into a real-deal scuffle, not one of those push me-pull you things to get onto SportsCenter. He told TSS after that the bad blood between these two cats is off the Hagler-Hearns variety, and that there was “no need” for a faceoff. Of course, the cynic in me wonders if we'd have seen the faceoff if the Garden wasn't on the cusp of a sellout, 300 seats away, late Wednesday morning. My guess is yes..because Arum is an ace promoter, and just in case there were a couple fight fans or casual boxing fans who didn't know that Saturday's clash is as personal as it gets, he'd be inclined to remind them, and give them a taste of the intensity the Garden crowd will see on fight night.
Margarito played his villain role to the hilt, simultaneously exulting in it and professing dismay and surprise that Cotto has labeled him a criminal. That will happen when you're busted with plaster-cast hand wraps before a high profile bout, as Margarito was before he met Shane Mosley in January 2009.
“Here comes the criminal!” he said in Spanish when he got his turn at the noon press conference in the MSG Theatre. “Open the doors to the criminal! I’ve been called a criminal by the man next to me [Cotto]. I don’t know why? I don’t beat up my family. He can hit my eye as much as he wants. He hits like a little girl. Super flyweights hit harder. He will never beat me.”
Many watchers were a bit disgusted Margarito took that personal slap at Cotto, who got in an ugly public dustup with his Uncle Evangelista two years ago.
Many were also surprised that Cotto, who is 99% of the time even tempered before, during and after bouts, got heated when he responded.
“If you don’t know what a criminal means, you can look it up in the dictionary. It’s someone who uses a weapon. You [Margarito] are like a child. You are an embarrassment to boxing. I am going to slap you like a little girl.”
Now, I must interject that the slapping of little girls by anyone is against my personal moral code…but I think this word choice illustrates how much Margarito has gotten under Cotto's skin. We won't know until Saturday if that is a good or bad thing. A truly PO'd Cotto, out for blood, dialed in and hooking with mad ferocity, could spell bad news for the Mexican.
SPEEDBAG The Garden will host Marvis Frazier, to talk about dad Joe, and Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney, Vito Antuofermo, and Carlos Ortiz to talk about fighting in MSG at 6:30 PM Saturday, in the Theatre.
—Arum received a Knicks jersey from MSG's VP Joel Fischer with the number 80 on the back. He turns 80 on Dec. 8.
—The Garden will hold 17,945 come fight night. The gate will be over $3 million.
—I am curious to see what the Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz brings to the table for Cotto. Is the Puerto Rican open to learning new tricks at this late stage, at age 31, or is he what he is? I wanted to chat with him but he left before I could.
—Check out this video I shot of Delvin Rodriguez Sr and Delvin Jr., age 9. I asked the son what it's like watching dad fight, and his answer is powerful. This video will make you understand or remind you that families are impacted when their loved ones fight, and that the fighters are often doing it for the offspring.
—I chatted with HBO's amiable and loquacious judge Harold Lederman. A lot of us are rooting for Harold in his battle against prostate cancer. He was kind enough to give me an update on his condition. He is in the third week of a nine week run of radiation treatments. The treatments run Monday-Friday. After the run, he will be tested to see if cancer cells remain. Harold will receive the word sometime in January. My rooting interest in Harold got that much more keen when I asked him how he felt mentally during this rough time. “I have cancer, I'm scared,” he admitted. I appreciate Harold being honest about that, and will keep my fingers crossed that January brings good news to him and his family.