Antonio Margarito’s 11th round TKO over Miguel Cotto was a triumph of patience and persistence. For years the new WBA welterweight champion toiled in obscurity, hungering for the chance to meet – and then beat – a fighter considered to be among the elite. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley rejected Margarito’s challenge (which took the form of $8 million purses), but Cotto accepted it – not just once, but twice.
Like Mosley in his first fight against Oscar de la Hoya and Winky Wright in his initial scrap against Mosley, Margarito embraced the spotlight instead of letting it consume him. And because of that, he ended up consuming Cotto whole.
Like many of boxing’s greatest encounters, Margarito-Cotto was a tale of two fights. The first round saw Cotto skillfully blend boxing and slugging while neutralizing Margarito’s vaunted volume punching. In that session Cotto landed 32 of 70 punches overall, including 14 of 34 jabs (41 percent) and 18 of 36 power shots (50 percent) while the "Tijuana Tornado" was just 12 of 57 and held to single-digit connects in jabs (five) and power shots (seven). Though Margarito managed to throw 96 punches in round two (connecting on 33), Cotto was still the more effective as he landed 35 of 80 (44 percent). In all, Cotto out connected Margarito 113-77 overall in the first four rounds, 38-12 in jabs and 77-65 in power shots.
Though Cotto continued to out-land Margarito, round five signaled a subtle change of momentum. Margarito topped the 100-punch mark for the first time (105) and that in turn kept Cotto on the defensive as his punch output dropped to 59 after averaging 71 blows over the first four rounds. While Cotto out-landed Margarito 29-21, Margarito boasted a 16-14 edge in power connects.
The transition period continued in round six as Cotto out-landed Margarito 32-23 while being more than twice as accurate (48 percent of his 66 punches to Margarito’s 21 percent of 107 blows). But Margarito closed the distance and unloaded 75 power shots (a high to that point) to Cotto’s 44, out-connecting him 22-20 in the process. The seventh round was the true turning point as Margarito was an incredible 48 of 130 overall (37 percent) and 46 of 104 (44 percent) in power punches. Meanwhile, Cotto slumped to a fight low 52 attempted punches, but still landed 44 percent of his overall punches and power shots. There was no mistaking, however, that the fistic environment had changed.
Though Cotto continued to be accurate, the tone of the fight had irreversibly shifted toward Margarito as the pair traded violently at close range. In rounds one through five Margarito averaged 16 of 46 power shots but in rounds six through ten that average soared to 27 of 75. Cotto was 18 of 40 in power punches over the first five and 17 of 37 in the last five, but the real slip-off was in jabs as Cotto averaged 11 of 28 in the first six but eroded to 9 of 21 in the seventh through tenth. That was because Margarito was dictating the distance, and the results of his buzzsaw attack were made painfully evident in the 11th as Margarito out-landed Cotto 24-6 overall and 21-5 in power shots.
The pressure proved too much for Cotto as he took two kneel-downs, after which uncle/trainer Evangelisto Cotto waved the towel in surrender. It is ironic that the man known for his late-round strength was the one who wilted in the championship rounds. Give Margarito credit, however, because he provided plenty of persuasion.
The final tally showed Cotto landed 280 of 655 punches overall for 43 percent accuracy while Margarito was 267 of 987 (27 percent), meaning Margarito averaged nearly 90 punches per round and Cotto almost 60. Each man was busy with the jab but Cotto was far more effective as his 101 of 260 total translated to 39 percent while Margarito, never a strong jabber, was just 30 of 340 (9 percent). The power totals were the most revealing as Margarito was 237 of 647 (37 percent) to Cotto’s 179 of 395 (45 percent), including a 43-10 bulge in connects in the final two rounds.
Margarito-Cotto was billed as "The Battle" and it certainly lived up to the name as they proved why they are among the best boxing has to offer. But in the end the "Tijuana Tornado" swept over Cotto and left the proud and valiant Puerto Rican star in ruins.