By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Not much regarding the pre-fight regulation of the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch pleased Bob Arum.
Nevertheless, the Hall-of-Fame promoter has no issue with the selection of Steve Smoger as the referee for this HBO Pay-Per-View main event Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Smoger, based near Atlantic City, typically give fighters every opportunity to fight out of trouble, thus there’s little chance of a premature stoppage when Puerto Rico’s Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) and Mexico’s Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs, 1 NC) meet in a 12-round fight for Cotto’s WBA super welterweight title.
Smoger usually allows even the most brutal brawls to continue. That tendency could become important during what will certainly be a grueling encounter for how many ever rough rounds it lasts.
“The thing I like [about Smoger being the referee] is people want to see a fight,” Arum said. “People want to see a fight go as long as possible and Smoger’s credentials are that he refereed the first [Pawel] Wolak-[Delvin] Rodriguez fight. And with Wolak’s eye really swollen, he let the fight continue to the end. So Smoger is a gutty [guy]. He has balls. He’s a ballsy referee. I think that’s what the people want to see.”
Smoger permitted Wolak to box until the final bell against Rodriguez on July 15 in New York, despite that Wolak fought the final few rounds with surreal swelling surrounding his completely closed right eye. That highly entertaining slugfest resulted in a 10-round majority draw, which necessitated a rematch Saturday night on the Cotto-Margarito undercard.
Margarito knows Smoger’s reputation. “The Tijuana Tornado” just hopes neither Smoger nor the New York State Athletic Commission’s ringside physicians become overly protective of his surgically repaired right eye, especially in light of his recent licensing saga.
“I’m not worried about it,” Margarito said. “My eye is 100 percent. I’m just hoping that if they see my eye being inflamed, they don’t jump in and stop the fight. It’s part of boxing. But at the same time, I’m not going to let that happen. I’m prepared to fight. I’ve worked on different things, and one of them is to slip punches.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.