By James ‘Smitty’ Smith: I pride myself in saying that I am not given to vacillation, ambiguity or ambivalence, but I must be honest and admit that I fell prey to some if not all of those a week before this past weekend’s fight between Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto.
When the fight was first announced, and in the months and weeks leading up to the fight, I was telling everybody that Margarito was going to be too big and too strong and apply too much pressure for Cotto to be able to deal with over the course of 12 grueling rounds. I also pointed to the fact that we had seen Cotto down and hurt seriously in the past by little guys, so how is he going to hold up against the big Tijuana Tornado?
Something happened in my way of thinking about eight days before the fight. Maybe I got a hold of some bad Pinot Noir or something, but I started thinking that maybe Cotto could handle the pressure, and that he was catching Margarito at the right time as he did Shane Mosley. He has improved so much and looked so good against Zab Judah and Mosley, and maybe with the addition of the weight going up from 140 to 147 lbs that he would not be as vulnerable in terms of being hurt with head shots. I thought maybe struggling to get down to Junior Welterweight may have depleted him and dehydrated him and made him much more susceptible to being hurt. “ Whatever “ as my 16 year old daughter Meagan likes to say. I usually will and do stick to my picks to the bitter end, but not this time.
In the early stages of this fight, it looks as though my vacillating might work out as Cotto was really giving Margarito a boxing lesson, doing an excellent job working off his left jab, combination punching, in and out, side to side, parrying, blocking all of Antonio’s wide shots and really avoided being caught on the ropes for an substantial time. Cotto was winning all the categories of how you score a fight, which are clean punching, effective aggression, ring generalship and defense. Margarito was being the aggressor, but for the first 6 rounds, it was not being effective in my opinion, but maybe it actually it was.
It would not surprise me that after I view the fight again this time on TV, I may feel differently about some of the things I watched from about eight to ten rows back on the floor at the MGM Grand. I will tell you something, the best and really only way to score a fight is to be ringside as the judges are or to watch it on TV being broadcast by a network that really knows how to shoot boxing like HBO, Showtime or ESPN, with the sound turned down to not be given to the bias of the announcers whomever they may be. Otherwise you cannot really get a great account of what damage is or is not being done.
I have called hundreds and hundreds of fights in my time as a color commentator and I have pretty much always been very satisfied with my scoring. But sometimes when I have scored a fight from a seat other than right at the ring or in the first 5 rows, I have actually gone back and changed several rounds which actually would have changed who I had winning the fight.
That was the case in the first Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales fight. I had Morales winning that night from the arena where I was sitting more than 10 rows back and off to the side and chatting with fans. However when I went home and watched the fight two times, I would change my pick to Barrera. For the record, Morales won a split decision in that first of their three epic battles, the only one he would win.
Scoring a fight, as I have said so many times, is very subjective, however figuring out who is really winning a close fight in the truest sense can be an art form. It is an art form I feel I have mastered, but no doubt I have not nor will I ever conquer it. That is really the beauty of this great sport known as the sweet science.
The bottom line is even I have learned a lesson from this Margarito vs. Cotto fight. Well I should say I have been reminded of a lesson. I guess I needed a refresher course in stick-to-it-tiveness. In other words, sticking to your gut feelings. My gut told me all along that Antonio Margarito, a natural 147 pounder, with great stamina and a tremendous pressure fighter would be too much for Cotto over the long haul and that’s what it turned out to be. So you know what this proves? That even when Smitty is wrong, I’m still right. Right? Can’t wait to comment next week after I see the replay on what may lie ahead for Margarito and Cotto.
By the way, after the replay this weekend on HBO After Dark, we will have a good but no doubt somewhat watered down version of a Welterweight Title as Zab Judah 36-5 (25), who was stopped in 11 rounds by Cotto, takes on tough African Joshua Clottey 34-2 (20) who lost a decision to Margarito in 2006, for the vacant IBF Welterweight Championship. The fight will take place here in Vegas at the Palms Casino. It should be a very competitive fight and, if I had to go out on a limb, I would pick Clottey to win a decision. I have called a few of his fights on TV and he is very strong, although not as flashy as Zab. He is stronger and does apply the pressure throughout, and we know what pressure can do following last Saturday night don’t we?
Remember to keep your hands up and chin down. We’ll talk next week, but briefly as I’m going on vacation to finish writing my movie.