By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto embraced Bob Arum on The Theater at Madison Square Garden stage late Friday afternoon following the weigh-in for his rematch against Antonio Margarito.
It looked like everything was fine between them. It isn’t.
Arum acknowledges that his support of Margarito has placed a strain on his relationship with Cotto, whom Arum’s Top Rank Inc. has represented since Cotto turned pro in February 2001. The 79-year-old promoter has tried to explain his position to Cotto, but Cotto hasn’t been receptive to Arum’s explanation.
“He doesn’t want to hear it,” said Arum, who has agreed to disagree with Cotto, who’s convinced Margarito used illegal hand wraps during their July 2008 brawl in Las Vegas.
“The suspicions [from Cotto] didn’t come until after the Mosley fight,” Arum said. “If he had said something was wrong right after the fight, it’s a little different.”
Arum also isn’t about to apologize for defending Margarito. He believes Margarito didn’t know that former trainer Javier Capetillo inserted illegal hard pads into his hand wraps prior to Margarito’s ninth-round technical knockout loss to Shane Mosley nearly three years ago in Los Angeles.
“I really feel that [Margarito] has gotten a bad shake from the system, a real bad shake,” Arum said. “Look, when he lost to Mosley … I’ve got [plenty of] fighters. The easiest thing would’ve been, ‘OK, Antonio. Too bad. You’re on your own.’ Instead, because I knew he needed the funds, we hired his lawyers. It’s cost me a million dollars, this thing. I didn’t have to spend that. But I really believe that an injustice was done.”
Arum spent a lot of money convincing Cotto to fight Margarito again, too.
“It took me quite an effort to convince Cotto and his people to do the fight,” Arum said. “Because he has this hate for Margarito and he didn’t want Margarito to make a penny in the ring with him. That’s what he said. And I convinced them, I gave them a great deal and he’s going to make a lot of money. And ultimately, like boxing and everything else, money talks. But I couldn’t have made this fight under normal terms.”
Regardless, this might mark the end of Cotto’s professional relationship with Top Rank. His rematch against Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs, 1 NC) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden is the last fight on his contract and the prevailing feeling within the industry, even among some Top Rank employees, is that after this fight Cotto will part ways with the Las Vegas-based promotional company.
“We’ll talk about that,” Arum said, “at the press conference after the fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.