This past Saturday night WBA junior middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto 37-2 (30) did more than extract revenge over former welterweight title holder Antonio Margarito 38-8 (27), he added another year to his career and kept himself alive as a viable marquee opponent for some of the younger up and coming junior middleweights. Cotto is no longer the fighter he once was physically, but he has evolved as a fighter and showed that he is very versatile and takes what his opponent gives him.
When he fought Margarito back in 2008, without knowing that quite probably Margarito had the advantage of loaded hand wraps, he literally tried to blast his way through him. And much to his dismay he found that Antonio is a savage in the ring with a cast-iron chin. A lot of fighters with the toughness, heart and mindset of Miguel Cotto would’ve more than likely repeated the mistakes of the first fight during the rematch. Granted, Cotto boxed well during the first five rounds of their first fight, but even at that he stayed inside too long and tried to land that one big finishing shot on Margarito hoping to get him out of there, thus he left himself open for Antonio’s return. And once Margarito started to close the distance and could stay on top of him, Miguel slowly but surely succumbed to Antonio’s pressure and probable hardened hand wraps around his fists.
Well apparently, Miguel really studied the tapes of their first fight and knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish, or at least try to during their rematch. It seems as though his first priority was to never let his back touch the ring ropes. By not going to the ropes he would keep Margarito from getting set to punch with any authority. And if we know anything about Antonio, it’s that he must have his feet set and in position in order to get any leverage and power on his hooks and uppercuts. In order for Cotto to pull this off, he had to use his feet and keep Miguel turning, especially in the corners. Cotto did this beautifully and even on occasion gave Margarito a different look and circled to his right, further leaving Margarito in quicksand and forcing him to reset and start pursuing aimlessly again.
The footwork exhibited by Cotto was a sight to see and obvious to all watching the fight. This time Margarito, partly because he’s lost a step or two, wasn’t walking Cotto down. And when Margarito did land a good punch or two, Cotto smartly tied him up and halted whatever momentum Antonio was trying to build. Add to that Cotto’s punching accuracy and insistence on throwing very fast straight one-twos, Margarito was becoming befuddled as the fight progressed.
Cotto also adjusted by not running, instead he clinched and smothered Margarito and fired off quick shots to blunt his pressure and aggression. He also spun Margarito off of him beautifully the few times Antonio did penetrate his one-twos, and that not only preserved him, it frustrated Margarito. Another brilliant thing that Cotto did against Margarito during their rematch was that hasn’t been mentioned is, he seldom went to the body, something that took a lot of discipline for him being that he’s a terrific body puncher and Margarito is open to the body. By Cotto not going to the body, he was better able to protect himself because his hands were always up. Had Miguel gone to the body more, he would’ve been vulnerable up top, which Margarito would’ve fed off of had he been presented with the opportunity.
All in all Miguel Cotto fought the most complete and smartest fight of his career since his bout with Shane Mosley in 2007. Against Mosley, Cotto wisely ceded that Shane was stronger than him and would welcome punching it out with him. Therefore Cotto moved back and took advantage of Mosley trying to push the fight and walk him down by laying back and countering him, which is what he did to Margarito this time, only he got off more and took the lead frequently against the slower and more physically damaged Margarito. And this was paramount because Margarito is better fighting as the attacker than Mosley.
This past weekend Miguel Cotto showed again why he’s a real fighter. He approached the return bout with his most bitter rival so purposefully and blocked all the personal trappings out of his mind. He knew what he had to do once Margarito was in front of him in the ring and he did it to perfection. Sure, Margarito may not be the fighter he was and has no doubt slowed some, but Cotto took what he knew would be there and dominated the fight and won every round with the exception of the fourth. Now he’s avenged one of his two defeats and will no doubt participate in another marquee boxing event.
Good for him. There’s a lot of fighters around today who talk a great game and then fold like a two dollar suit in a hurricane under the bright lights. Not Miguel Cotto, he always gives his best effort win or lose. He’s a certain Hall of Famer and has been worth every penny for every fan who has purchased a ticket to his fights or bought them on PPV.