On January 24, 2009 Antonio Margarito was set to square off against Shane Mosley, just sixth months after winning the biggest fight of his career against Miguel Cotto. Before he stepped into the ring, controversy erupted in his locker room. Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson spotted something peculiar while watching Margarito get his hands wrapped. Underneath Margarito’s hand wraps were wet pads that were later determined to be a substance similar to plaster of Paris. Margarito’s hands were to be cast-like.
The pads were taken out of Margarito’s hand wraps and his hands were rewrapped before he entered the ring. Mosley put a beating on Margarito that night, knocking him out in the 9th round. Thanks to Richardson’s keen eyes, something possibly catastrophic was avoided. However, most boxing pundits thought about Margarito’s prior fight with Cotto. Miguel Cotto started out great in that fight, but Margarito chopped him down late, stopping him in the 11th round. Looking back, people wondered if Margarito’s hands were loaded for the fight against Cotto, which would’ve explained why Cotto faltered so badly in the end. Maybe he wasn’t chopped down by normal fists?
After the mid-2008 fight with Margarito, Cotto had two fights before facing Manny Pacquiao; an easy knockout over Michael Jennings and a tough split decision victory over Joshua Clottey. The Pacquiao fight would be by far, the biggest of his career. It’s hard to say whether Cotto lost anything from the beating he took from Margarito, but psychologically, he seemed damaged. Cotto took another beating in the Pacquiao fight. Could Cotto have given Pacquiao a better fight if the Margarito loss (possibly unfair loss) didn’t happen? I would argue yes. Boxing is a very psychological sport. Mind games and warfare happen because the sport is all about self-confidence. The entire sport is about psyching yourself up into believing that you can beat someone up and that they won’t do the same to you. If that confidence is shaken, a fighter can be beaten before even entering the ring.
Last night, Miguel Cotto faced Antonio Margarito in their grudge rematch. The build-up was epic. Antonio Margarito would have nothing of Cotto’s claims that he loaded his gloves for their fight. Margarito called Cotto’s claims excuses. Cotto wouldn’t back down. You could see the seething hate each man had for each other in the HBO Boxing video hosted by Max Kellerman. You could see Cotto’s disgust for what he believes is a cheater sitting before him. Margarito dismisses him as a cry baby.
If there was ever a true blood feud in boxing, this was it. One man was caught red-handed in doing one of the most illegal things you can do in sports. The other man saw his career take the wrong turn possibly because of it. It’s what’s fair versus what’s unfair. It’s good versus bad. Right versus wrong.
For fans of revenge stories, you had yours last night. Cotto dominated Margarito. Cotto re-injured Margarito’s right eye, which was damaged in Margarito’s fight with Manny Pacquiao.
(This is another reason to be upset with Margarito. After cheating, getting caught, and then getting knocked out by Mosley, Margarito was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission. Margarito’s way around the suspension was to fight in Mexico since the commission wasn’t going to abide by California’s rule. He was then gifted a fight with Manny Pacquiao and the fight happened in Texas, which is one of the more laughable athletic commissions in the United States. They didn’t care what California ruled either. They just wanted the money to come into the state from all the travelers attending the fight.
The New York State Athletic Commission nearly caused the cancellation of this fight. They were close to not clearing Margarito for the fight, not because of his prior offense, but because of his eye injury from the Pacquiao fight. Cotto said he wouldn’t fight if Margarito wasn’t cleared in New York. For Cotto and his fellow Puerto Rican fans, Madison Square Garden is home. Margarito was eventually cleared.)
Cotto pitched a shutout through nine rounds on my scorecard. His hands were much too quick for Margarito, as was his footwork. Margarito relied on his longer reach and tried to get inside by first landing from the outside. But as he would step in closer to Cotto, his head would be rocketed with a three-punch combination and by the time he was ready to throw another punch, Cotto was already moving away. Even when Margarito was able to get inside and throw, Cotto would parry his blows and then land his own.
With two good eyes, Margarito couldn’t track down the much quicker Cotto. With one, it was even worse. Cotto opened the eye up in the 3rd and it was in bad shape by the 6th. By the 8th round, it looked like the fight was going to be stopped. But the doctor and referee allowed the fight to continue, giving Margarito a chance to show something, anything. But he didn’t. Cotto, like Pacquiao before him, used Margarito’s puffy and now closed eye as a target, peppering it whenever he had the chance. By the end of the 9th round, the doctor had seen enough, but he called the fight off just as the 10th round started, so Cotto was credited with a 10th round TKO.
After the fight, Margarito was still dismissive toward Cotto saying that he landed the harder punches and Cotto’s face looked worse than his. He might’ve been right about the latter, if not for that right eye that looked like a mountainous mosquito bite. Cotto’s face was more swollen then you’d expect. But that’s not what you’ll remember. You’ll remember how swift Cotto was at his craft, how crisp his combinations were, and how whenever he had the opportunity, he treated Margarito’s bad eye like a bullseye for his revenge.
The narrative of the fight was that sometimes, good guys do win and bad guys get their comeuppance. The monkey is now off Cotto’s back. He can sleep well knowing that he avenged the first loss of his career against a person he believes is a despicable human being. Maybe Margarito will be able to sleep well too, though he’ll only have to close one eye to do so. The other is already closed.
I am the editor of Fight Game Blog.