By Chris Robinson
The anticipation couldn’t be much higher for tonight’s rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. Earlier today the two men both weighed in under the catch-weight limit of 153 pounds for their junior middleweight bout, Cotto coming in at 152.25 pounds and Margarito a shade higher at 152.5.
Margarito handed Cotto his first loss nearly three and a half years ago when he overcame an early deficit on his way towards carving out an 11th round TKO at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. One fight later Margarito was found to have plaster-coated inserts in his hand wraps in the dressing room prior to his bout with Shane Mosley and was subsequently suspended by the California State Athletic Commission, with his reputation in the sport also taking a severe hit.
It’s unknown whether Margarito had the same illegal inserts in his wraps on the night the fought Cotto but the Tijuana fighter has pledged his innocence in the face of any accusations.
During a recent visit the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, I asked outspoken trainer Roger Mayweather for his take on tomorrow night’s rematch, starting off with whether or not he felt that Margarito cheated in the first contest.
“If he had them illegal hand wraps, then hell yeah he cheated,” Roger stated. “Why wouldn’t he? Anytime somebody has illegal hand wraps and punches you with illegal hand wraps, that means they cheated.”
Cotto took a tremendous amount of punishment from Margarito in their first encounter and hasn’t seemed to be the same fighter since, despite moving up and capturing the WBA junior middleweight strap that he still holds with his defeat of Yuri Foreman and following it up with a 12th round knockout over Ricardo Mayorga this past March.
Roger gave his opinion on just how much he felt the first battle with Margarito took from Cotto.
“I don’t think it made him so much a finished fighter, but it gave him a better chance,” Mayweather continued. “I think it’s going to be a little different. I don’t know how bad the beating took something from [Cotto], I don’t know.”
Roger was asked for his take on whether he saw any improvement in Cotto during his two-fight tenure with respected trainer Emanuel Steward, who wasn’t a part of Miguel’s camp this time around as the Puerto Rican champion elected to bring in the serves of Cuban trainer Pedro Luis Diaz.
Often short on praise for anyone outside of his nephew Floyd Jr., Roger has never been taken back by Cotto’s skills.
“I think he was basic then and he’s basic now. He hasn’t impressed me. Not really. He’s just basic to me,” Roger said bluntly.
Cotto started strong against Margarito in the first fight as he easily out boxed him and caught him with sharp punches from a variety of angles. But Margarito brushed off any hard shots and turned up the pressure over the second half of the fight, breaking Cotto down systematically.
In the rematch, Uncle Roger says Miguel needs to dig down harder in the early going.
“Obviously he’s going to have to be aggressive,” said Roger. “He’s going to have to be aggressive because he’s shorter than Margarito. He’s going to have to be aggressive and he’s going to have to put more pressure on Margarito in order to beat him.”
Another interesting subplot is the surgically-repaired right eye of Margarito. The 33-year old former champion took a lot of punishment in his last fight, a November 2010 loss to Manny Pacquiao, that he was left with a busted up eye and a broken orbital bone in his face.
And while Margarito was medically cleared to fight, Roger says that Cotto going for the eye is fair game.
“Oh yeah, definitely, definitely,” Roger stated. “If he keeps touching him and breaking him down, that’s going to be a good thing for him. But it’s still going to be a hard, close fight regardless of what he case is.”
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]