By Chris Robinson
Tonight’s rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is unquestionably one of the most-anticipated events of the year but the general consensus in the industry is that we will be witnessing at least partially-faded versions of each fighter. Margarito defeated Cotto by way of an 11th round TKO nearly three and a half years ago and each man has endured a rollercoaster of their own since that encounter.
Both Cotto (36-2, 29 knockouts), the reigning WBA junior middleweight champion, and Margarito (38-7, 27 knockouts) have taken a serious amount of punishment during their respective careers and it just so happens that superstar Manny Pacquiao is responsible for handing each fighter their most recent defeat.
Pacquiao bludgeoned Cotto inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada in November of 2009, dropping the Puerto Rican in rounds three and four and dominating the action afterwards as he netted a 12th round TKO victory.
One year later Pacquiao thoroughly punished Margarito at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, winning a wide decision and busting up the Tijuana fighter’s right eye, as it was later revealed that Margarito had a broken orbital bone in his face.
Cotto has gone 2-0 since his loss to Pacquiao and Margarito has been inactive, with tonight’s rematch marking his return to the ring.
I recently asked respected trainer and cut man Miguel Diaz for his take on tonight’s fight and he feels that whoever is able to show that they are fresher after their loss to Pacquiao will be the victor.
“My opinion is the one who comes out better out of the Pacquiao fight healthier, to me, that’s the winner of the fight,” Diaz said recently in the final segment of a three-part interview he conducted.
Cotto still has the appearance of a primed specimen and having just turned 31 years old recently, one would be forgiven for thinking there are some good years ahead for the proud champion.
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Not so fast, says Diaz, who had the pleasure of working Cotto’s corner for several years.
“No, he lost a lot,” Diaz stated. “He got a very tough campaign; he fought a lot of good fighters. All his fights were very hard fights. Even the [Zab] Judah fight. I don’t want to forget that [Joshua] Clottey was a tough fight. Pacquiao, I don’t even want to mention how tough the fight was. There’s no way a fighter is going to be the same after.”
One of the lingering subplots heading into tonight’s main event is the fact that one fight after his victory over Cotto, Margarito was caught with plaster-coated inserts in his hand wraps in the dressing room prior to his assignment against Shane Mosley. Margarito was suspended shortly after his loss that night and people began wondering if he used those same inserts or something similar in his wraps to boost his performance against Cotto.
There are varying reports as to whether a member from Cotto’s corner was in the dressing room when Margarito’s hands were wrapped before their bout. Diaz reveals that Cotto’s then-trainer and Uncle Evangelista Cotto had an opportunity to witness the process himself but elected not to.
“No, it looked like, from what I heard, that Margarito’s people called to Evangelista and said ‘We’re not going to check your wraps. You are welcome to come and check’ but Evangelista chose not to do it. I think nobody came from Margarito and nobody came from Cotto to check the wraps. I was not there and probably one of the reasons I got laid off by Cotto, by his father,” said Diaz, who was let go inexplicably by Cotto's team shortly before Miguel's June 2009 fight with Clottey.
Diaz points out that he gladly would have gone into Margarito’s dressing room to check firsthand himself, but his hands were tied at that exact moment.
“One of the reasons I was not available to go and check the hands of Margarito, the wrapping of Margarito, because I had Cesar Canchila fighting Giovanni Segura the fight before," said Diaz. "But if that was the case and I knew that Evangelista didn’t want to send anybody there then maybe I would say that we maybe should go and check.”
But no matter how you look at things, the time for speculating is over. Cotto-Margarito II is just hours away and the score will soon be settled.
[Reader's note: Continue on for the latest images from the boxing world Reliving Pacquiao-Marquez III / Photo-journalist Chris Robinson captures the boxing world / HBO's 24/7 Cotto-Margarito, part 2 ]
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]