December 3 sees the return bout of the sensational yet ultimately controversial July 26, 2008 war that concluded with the now 33-year-old Antonio Margarito (38-7) handing the now 30-year-old Miguel Cotto (36-2) the first loss of his professional fighting career with an 11th-round corner stoppage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The bout was said to have taken place in Las Vegas (and not New York, where Cotto had established a huge following) in order to both promote Cotto to a new demographic and position the promotion to attract Antonio Margarito’s Mexican American west coast following.
Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto entered the contest that night as Ring Magazine’s #1 welterweight & 6th on their pound-for-pound list. At the time the same magazine ranked Margarito at #4 in the welterweight division. The contest was promoted with press conferences in both fighters’ home countries as well as in New York & LA. The fight saw Cotto return to action in Las Vegas for the first time in nearly 4 years. The promotion earned 450,000 buys on Pay-Per-View.
Having previously defended the WBO junior welterweight title 6 times, Cotto moved up to welterweight & won the WBA welterweight title by defeating Carlos Quintana on December 2, 2006.
Cotto then defended his WBA strap against Oktay Urkal on March 3, 2007 whilst fighting in his home nation of Puerto Rico. Cotto was then matched up against former champion Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 2007. 20,658 saw Cotto beat Judah via TKO in the 11th round.
Next up – a third defense of his title was scheduled for a November 10, 2007 showdown with future Hall of Famer “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Mosley had previously been overlooked by Floyd Mayweather Jr. – then holder of the WBC belt at 147lbs – who instead decided to move forward with a lucrative showdown with Manchester’s then undefeated Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. Many figured that the boxing world might be treated to an eventual matchup between the winner of Cotto-Mosley & the winner of Mayweather-Hatton; though that proved not to be the case.
Cotto beat Mosley by unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. With limited options in terms of elite opponents Cotto signed on to fight The Contender Season 1 alumni Alfonso Gomez on April 12, 2008 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Cotto secured his 4th title defense after the referee stopped the fight after the 5th round of a one-sided contest.
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After Floyd Mayweather’s victory over Zab Judah on April 8, 2006, he turned down an offer of $8 million to fight Margarito, stating his injured hand would prevent his participation in the matchup. This further enhanced the Mexican’s growing reputation within boxing circles as something of a feared or to be avoided fighter.
On December 2, 2006, Margarito defended the WBO welterweight title for the seventh time with a unanimous decision victory over Joshua Clottey in a highly competitive matchup.
On July 14, 2007, Margarito fought Paul Williams in an 8th defense of his WBO belt at the Home Depot Center. A victory would have set up a probable showdown with Cotto. Williams though took Margarito’s title via unanimous decision victory.
Margarito returned to action with a knock out win over Golden Johnson in the first round of their bout at Madison Square Garden. On April 12, 2008, Margarito again fought Kermit Cintron, who at that time held the IBF welterweight title. The fight was on the undercard of Cotto-Gomez and with a 6th round knock out victory over Cintron came the IBF title & the much anticipated showdown with Miguel Cotto.
Age 27 30
Record 32-0 36-5
Weight 147lbs 147lbs
Height 5’7” 5’11”
Reach 67” 73”
Nickname Junito The Tijuana Tornado
Pre-Fight Excitement & Expectations
HBO’s Jim Lampley said that “I’m asking for one of my top 10 fights in my 22 years of calling fights on television”.
Dave Larzelere wrote that the matchup had “the potential to be one of those epic Irresistible Force vs. Immoveable Object kind of battles that we talk about forever afterwards, à la Hagler/Hearns or Corrales/Castillo”
& Rumble They Did
Cotto, as expected, come out the livelier of the two and according to Compubox out landed Margarito in every one of the first six rounds of the contest. Cotto was able to cumulatively land 174 times on Margarito during these first six rounds against only 121 shots landing shots from the Tijuana Tornado. Then came the incredible 7th round – a 3 minute stanza during which Margarito was able to throw a jaw dropping 130 punches and land with 48 of them – including an astonishing 46 power shots to a suddenly fragile looking Cotto.
To Cotto’s supreme credit he responded with the heart & courage of a true champion – though after giving everything he had left in a last salvo of a 9th round that saw him manage to outland the Mexican fighter 30 to 26 one increasingly reached the conclusion that this brutal, epic ode to violence was reaching its conclusion sooner rather than later. The 10th round was still competitive; with both fighters throwing and landing meaningful punches; though toward the end of the round a flurry of solid power shots from Margarito had Cotto in very serious trouble and it was clear that whilst still busy his once considered and deliberate output was being forced into survival gear in the face of another onslaught from Margarito.
The 11th and ultimately final round was; outside of the pivotal 7th round; the only truly uncompetitive round of the fight with less and less offense coming back from Cotto; until his corner had seen enough and threw the towel in to bring the contest to a halt at 2:05 of the 11th round of a fight for the ages.
Reaction to Cotto-Margarito I
Dan Rafael, “riveting slugfest with a dramatic ending that left the throbbing crowd of 10,477 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in ecstasy”.
The third man in the ring Kenny Bayless called it simply “the best fight I’ve ever done”.
Andreas Hale and Victor Perea called it “an instant classic that gave boxing fans all over the world all they could handle…and then some”.
Dave Larzelere “it was unquestionably the fight of the year”.
Jake Donovan wrote that “It was brutal, and lived up to everyone’s exceedingly high expectations”.
Margarito jumped to become The Ring magazine’s #1 welterweight, and took over from Cotto as the #6 Pound-for-Pound fighter on the planet.
The Ring dropped Cotto to #3 in their welterweight rankings and down to #10 in their pound-for-pound list.
Aftermath (to be continued)
Matt Hamilton, Reeeporting!