Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
Miguel Cotto (left) and Antonio Margarito will meet for the second time in four years Saturday night. (AP)
WBA super welterweight champion Miguel Cotto is fighting Antonio Margarito on Saturday night at New York City's Madison Square Garden (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV, $54.99).
The fight is the long-anticipated rematch of their memorable 2008 slugfest, when Margarito won Cotto's WBA welterweight title on an 11th-round TKO. But the legitimacy of Margarito's victory was thrown into question when he was caught attempting to use loaded gloves ahead of his subsequent fight with Shane Mosley, an offense that led to a supension, universal condemnation and nearly a year-and-a-half of inactivity.
Since they last met, both Cotto and Margarito have suffered lopsided defeats to Manny Pacquiao, with Margarito needing surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone. The injury led to complications with his licensing that nearly forced Saturday's fight out of New York.
Cotto was an undefeated welterweight champion and 2-to-1 favorite when he first met Margarito in July 2008. But after outboxing the Mexican challenger early, Cotto was overwhelmed by Margarito's pressure in the later rounds. Bloodied and bruised in stomach-turning fashion, Cotto finally surrendered on knee in the 11th. Margarito was the new 147-pound champion and tabbed as boxing's newest superstar.
Then it all unraveled, quite literally, when Margarito was caught trying to enter the ring for his next fight against Shane Mosley with a plaster-like substance on his hand wraps. The fight proceeded with Margarito's hands rewrapped legally -- he suffered a shock upset loss to Mosley by ninth-round knockout -- but Margarito was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission and didn't fight for 16 months. For his part, Margarito blamed then-trainer Javier Capetillo for doctoring the wraps without his knowledge.
Though it's never been proven that Margarito used loaded gloves in the Cotto fight, the presumption is widespread given the gruesome beating absorbed by the Puerto Rican. Cotto feels cheated by Margarito and is out to avenge the malfeasance, while Margarito wants to remove whatever sense of doubt hangs over his previous win against Cotto.
Cotto has rebuilt nicely since his 2009 loss to Pacquiao, winning the WBA's 154-pound title from Yuri Foreman at Yankee Stadium last year and defending it with a 12th-round stoppage of Ricardo Mayorga in March. Meanwhile, Margarito is back in action for the first time since the Pacquiao fight, a loss that many think should have ended his career.
Already a Puerto Rican icon, Cotto has won titles at light welterweight, welterweight and super welterweight in his 11-year pro career.
The Tijuana Tornado is a former welterweight champion who is looking to redeem his tarnished image after a regrettable hand-wrap scandal.
Cotto likes to box and move, a tactic that paid dividends when he built an early points lead over Margarito in 2008, landing flurries and moving away from the Mexican's counters. Margarito's well-timed uppercuts helped turn the momentum in the middle rounds. But if Cotto enjoyed a slight speed advantage in 2008, it will be even more exaggerated Saturday night -- Margarito's decline began to show itself against Mosley and became painfully evident when he was badly mistreated by Pacquiao last year.
Margarito is more of a plodding fighter -- slowish even by super welterweight standards -- who stalks his opponent around the ring while throwing a high volume of punches. His relentless approach gave Cotto fits in the later rounds of the first fight, and there's little question Margarito will try to ramp up the pressure earlier and remind the Puerto Rican of that fateful night in Las Vegas. His porous defense is likely no better under new trainer Robert Garcia than it was under Capetillo, the disgraced trainer who took the fall for the hand-wrap scandal.
Cotto is the more versatile of the two, showing aptitude as both an aggressor and counterpuncher over the years. One potential advantage for Margarito -- his willingness to be pushed to the verge of death rather than quit in a fight -- will be negated by his surgically repaired eye, which the commission and ring doctor will no doubt be scrutinizing from the opening bell.
Oddsmaker William Hill lists Margarito as a slight 6-to-4 underdog, while Cotto is a 2-to-1 favorite.
Cotto is still the quicker, superior boxer, but a lengthy pressure fighter like Margarito will always be a tough matchup for him. Still, Cotto is fresher of the two men -- he's fought more regularly while Margarito has undergone three eye procedures -- and he'll have the support of more than 18,000 fans behind him. Look for him to withstand an early Margarito onslaught and score with movement and that formidable left hook. Once Margarito's surgically repaired eye cuts or swells, it will only be a matter of time before the referee or the commission or the ring doctor intervene -- and not much of it. Cotto by eighth-round TKO.
Margarito toys with a photographer in New York ahead of Saturday's fight. (Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI)
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• Mike Jones vs. Sebastian Lujan, 12 rounds, IBF welterweight eliminator
• Non-televised bouts: Glen Tapia vs. Mike Ruiz, 4 or 6 rounds, junior middleweights; Seanie Monaghan vs. Santos Martinez, 4 or 6 rounds, light heavyweights; Mike Lee vs. Allen Medina, 4 or 6 rounds, light heavyweights; Braulio Santos vs. Tommy Garcia, 4 or 6 rounds, featherweights; Hanzel Martinez vs. Felipe Castaneda, 4 or 6 rounds, bantamweights; Samuel Figueroa vs. Lawton Halsey, 4 or 6 rounds, welterweights
• HBO's Jim Lampley, Emanuel Steward, Max Kellerman and Harold Lederman will be ringside for the main event and undercard.
• The referee assigned to the main event is Steve Smoger, a hands-off, action-friendly official whose appointment could favor the naturally bigger Margarito. whose previous high-profile assignments include Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad, Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley I and Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor I. The judges are John Poturaj, Julie Lederman and Steve Weisfeld.
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