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28 NOVEMBER 2014

 

Miguel Cotto – Antonio Margarito II: Winners and Losers


Cotto gained revenge over Margarito
Cotto gained revenge over Margarito

By Jason Pribila: On Saturday Night the eyes of the boxing world were once again focused on Madison Square Garden in New York City where 21,239 mostly Puerto Rican fans filled the building to capacity to cheer on their own Miguel Cotto’ as he attempted to enact revenge on the first man to defeat him. Cotto would have to overcome the cloud of suspicion, controversy, and personal loss in order to focus on the task at hand, which was to leave the ring with his hand raised in victory.

This was the first “winners and losers” article I’ve penned on a bout that I did not witness from ringside, or from the comfort of my own home. On this night, I wanted to witness the best fight card of the year among my peers, the fans. I, like them, had been caught up with the drama that brought these men together into the only place that their differences could be resolved, the squared circle. Please enjoy my take from high above the action in section #412, as we take a look back at Cotto-Margarito 2.

Losers:

5. Brandon Rios: “Bam Bam” delivered on Saturday night in the fashion that has made him one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the sport. He finished a perfect 2011 by knocking out the three opponents put in front of him. His three opponents entered the ring with a combined record of (87-6-2) and enjoyed early success, but each would eventually succumb to the pressure of the Oxnard, CA native.

Rios finds himself on this list because despite his KO 11 over the game John Murray, he left the ring without his lightweight title. A depleted Rios failed to lose the final 1.6 lbs. he needed to qualify as a lightweight. He also lost the opportunity to defend that title against Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa, who is rumored to be moving up to this division in a fight that had fans and media salivating. There will be plenty of fights waiting for Rios at junior welterweight, but his exit from the division was bittersweet.

4. Post-Midnight Start Time: This was the second straight PPV main event that started after midnight on the East Coast. The fact that the adult beverages were flowing like mud after 11pm, took a little buzz out of the arena during the Rios fight. Unlike baseball, there is no designated 7th inning stretch to alert fans of their last call for alcohol.

More importantly, it is nearly impossible to expect young fans to be awake when start times begin on Sunday morning. Those who gather to watch fights also often need to rely on paying for baby sitters in order to get out late on a Saturday Night. The three fights prior to the main event were evenly matched, and none expected to result in early knockouts. While I hope that the recent trend of investing in solid undercards continues, it may be time to take into consideration an 8pm start time.

3. Fans in the 400 Level – I have sat in the $50 seats for two previous Cotto bouts. Both the Zab Judah and Shane Mosley fights prompted officials to open up additional seating at the mecca of boxing. Only this was the first time that those same seats came with an obstructed view. When I got to my seat, which was high above Press Row, I was disappointed that I was unable to view the beautiful big screen that was located high above the ring. Top Rank Inc. does an excellent job to enhance the viewing experience of those who enter the arena; however, this set up robbed those who needed access to the big screen the most; those who were furthest away from the ring.

2. Pawel Wolak – Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez took part in an instant classic when the fighters first met on Friday Night Fights in July of this year. That bout is a finalist for the BWAA fight of the year, and it warranted a rematch that deserved to be seen on the biggest stage possible. On Saturday night, however, only one fighter was able to make adjustments from their first encounter. Rodriguez used his feet and length to land the crisper punches en route to a dominant unanimous decision.

Wolak is a ticket seller and has the backing of the Polish boxing fans that will continue to support him as he tries to regroup and get himself back into the title picture. However, he has been dominated over his last 15 rounds in the ring against Rodriguez. His take two to throw one approach is crowd friendly, but rarely translates to a long career at a high level. Let’s hope Wolak could regroup and be an exception.

1. Antonio Margarito: No one has embraced playing the role of villain any better than Margarito since his name has been attached to the hand wrapping scandal that was discovered prior to his loss to Shane Mosley. Margarito showed heart during a one-sided beat down at the hands of Manny Pacquiao and was able to secure a boxing license despite growing concern over damage sustained to his medically repaired right eye.

Entering the ring against Cotto he looked to prove that he beat Cotto in their first bout without the aid of anything other than tape and gauze under his gloved hands. He also wanted to prove that he was healthy enough to extend his career. He failed to do either. I give Margarito credit for fighting bravely, and continuing to apply pressure up until he was told he was no longer fit to do so. However, his career at the top level may be a thing of the past. He’ll forever have an asterisk next to the most notable wins of his career that once led him to becoming the most avoided man in the sport. Now, he may find that the sport is now ready to turn its back on him for good.


Winners:
5. HBO Face-off and 24/7: The Network of Champions did their typically superb job of drumming up interest for one of their PPV fights. The story behind Cotto-Margarito was compelling television, and it did a great job of putting a spotlight on the hatred that fueled each fighter as they approached their rematch. While this series has been rightfully criticized at time for being more infomercial than documentary, this time they allowed their subjects to tell the story. Not every fight is worthy of the 24/7 treatment, but the abbreviated two episodes prior to this fight was perfectly paced. Let’s hope HBO realizes that future fights could be better set up with one or even two episodes and that quality is much more effective than quantity.

4. Madison Square Garden: The fans in attendance once again showed that putting fights in major cities that have regional draws is still the best atmosphere to place a prize fight. Many of the 20,000 plus were in their seats early and gave the entire fight card a boost of adrenaline. Boxing will have a new arena to call home in Brooklyn in 2012 that will join New Jersey’s Prudential Center as three great venues for real fight fans to purchase tickets. Hopefully the competition will lead to more world class fight cards to migrate to NY/NJ and away from stale casinos.

3. Delvin Rodriguez – Following his great performance in July, Rodriguez found that without a powerhouse promoter or rabid fan base that his options began and ended with a rematch against Wolak. Rodriguez got the fight he and his career needed, and he took full advantage of his opportunity. He continued where he left off in their first fight, and out-boxed Wolak throughout their rematch. Rodriguez’s name will now be linked to an attractive list of junior middleweights like James Kirkland, or title holders like “K9” Bundrage.

2. Mike Jones: While some still want to see more out of Jones, I felt that he put together his most complete performance as a professional. Jones was the first blue-chip prospect that I had the honor of covering from ringside. He is finally getting the opportunity to display his skills in front of broader audiences and show what fight fans in Philly have been buzzing about.
Jones will enjoy a height advantage against just about everyone he faces in the welterweight division, and on Saturday night he finally fought tall. When he had Lujan in trouble he fought at a controlled and measured pace, qualities he did not show last year when he faced Jesus Soto-Karass at Cowboys Stadium. With the victory, Jones is now set to take on veteran Randall Bailey for the IBF title that Andre Berto vacated. Jones should be favored in a fight that was once offered to headline ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. He now has the experience, exposure, and much more at stake when he faces Bailey. Jones and his team remained patient through the years, and now seem poised for that patience to pay off in what looks like a promising 2012.

1. Miguel Cotto: Cotto got revenge en route to the most satisfying win of his career by shutting the medically repaired eye of his nemesis Antonio Margarito on Saturday Night in front of the Puerto Rican fan base that have made him the biggest draw in Madison Square Garden over the last decade. Cotto again got off to a quick start by out-boxing his heavy footed opponent. This time, he was able to avoid getting caught up into a brawl and remained off the ropes, rarely giving Margarito a stationary target to tee off on. Cotto boxed beautifully landed sharp punches on the eye he targeted and found a home for his potent body attack. Cotto is now again at the sport’s forefront and would make attractive, meaningful bouts against anyone not named Pacquiao.

When an undefeated Cotto rose up the welterweight and pound for pound ranks, he was at times considered to be too stoic for fans to truly embrace. Despite selling tickets, he would remain in the shadow of Felix Trinidad. However, after being given the opportunity to revisit Cotto on 24/7, he is now more beloved than ever. It is rare for a prize fighter to ever allow himself to look vulnerable, but when he spoke of the loss of his father one couldn’t help but to feel and root for Cotto. No matter what the future holds for Cotto he is now on the short list of the best fighters of his generation, and is in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a career that may end in Canastota.

Jason Pribila is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and could be reached for questions or comments at pribs2000@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter @PribsBoxing.


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