By David P. Greisman
No wound pierces deeper or heals slower than a wound about which nothing can be done.
Miguel Cotto no longer showed the physical toll his face and body had taken from Antonio Margarito in July 2008. Three and a half years later, however, the mental scars had yet to fade — rather, they were more noticeable than ever.
Cotto could never truly prove that Margarito had cheated, that the tampered hand wraps found prior to Margarito's bout with Shane Mosley had been previously used.
Cotto never needed to convince anyone but himself.
That belief first placed him in the role of victim, of a man wronged and not willing to allow Margarito to further benefit from it. The action in the first fight promised profit in a rematch. The drama of the subsequent scandal meant even more money could be made.
That belief cut to his core, though. The wound could pierce no deeper.
His resolve against a rematch softened. The millions he’d be paid helped.
His rage against Margarito remained. No number would be worth as much to him as revenge.
Miguel Cotto had allowed the perceived injustice to infect him with vitriol, hatred that festered until, like a scar, it was always at the surface and also ingrained within him. He no longer needed to wait for the wound to heal — not when he could tear off the bandage and allow his anger to flow forth.
And yet the best way for him to channel that rage was to remain in control.
The build-up to the rematch between Cotto and Margarito was one of legitimate rivalry, of one fighter who’d blamed a beating on cheating, and of another fighter who said it did not matter what accusations flew, that all which would decide defeat would be the punches that landed.
Theirs was a blood feud so hostile that there was no ceremony, just acrimony. There would be no final face off at the pre-fight weigh-in. There would be no sportsmanlike touching of gloves before the bell rang.
Try as Margarito did to goad Cotto into battle, Cotto boxed, not empowered by emotion but driven to victory through discipline, strategy and smarts.
No wound pierces deeper or heals slower than a wound about which nothing can be done. Cotto had the right plan in his first fight with Margarito, boxing, throwing punches, then moving and doing it all again. He merely needed to do it better.
That would not necessarily be simple. Margarito’s pressure — and punching — had broken him before.
Cotto had similar success in the first six rounds of the rematch as he did in the opening half of the first bout. In July 2008, Cotto had landed 174 of 409 punches, or about 43 percent. On Saturday, Cotto landed 134 of 333, or about 40 percent. He was throwing less and landing less, which in this case was a good thing.
Cotto was not tiring himself with activity, with attempts to keep Margarito off him. Instead, he was capitalizing on moments — jabs and combinations of hooks and right hands, planting his feet for flurries, then moving away. Throwing any more punches would leave him in more danger of being caught. Focusing on footwork left fewer chances for Margarito to trap him on the ropes, where body shots and uppercuts had weakened him in the first fight.
Cotto still got hit but had methods to minimize the impact. He circled smartly to his left, then abruptly changed direction when caught on the ropes. When the fighters fought inside, he would grab Margarito and wrestle him in another direction, changing their positions. He also would leverage Margarito backwards; while on the move, punches from Margarito that once had torque were now closer to taps.
Margarito, too, had success in the first fight and would seek the same in the second. That meant Cotto knew what to expect — and how to react.
Technically and physically, Margarito’s style fit perfectly into Cotto’s counter-punching.
Margarito keeps his hands low when working in close, the better for sending out his body shots and uppercuts. Cotto, then, could throw left hooks and right hands over Margarito’s punches. And at a distance, the downward jabs from the taller Margarito brought openings for right hands from Cotto in return.
In those opening six rounds of the rematch, Margarito landed 102 of 450 punches, or less than 23 percent. He landed 79 of 229 power punches; the other half of what he was throwing tended to be range-finding jabs.
Cotto was incredibly accurate with his power punches, landing 96 of 197 in rounds one through six. Margarito has a reputation of taking punches in order to deliver punishment. But his right eye had been cut in the third round and was swelling shut — the same eye where he’d suffered an orbital bone injury a year ago against Manny Pacquiao and had needed surgery to repair a cataract.
With many of Cotto’s clean punches, Margarito, relishing his role of villain, would taunt Cotto with words or noises or a shake of the head or a grin or a tap to his own face.
Margarito was trying to break Cotto down mentally — except that Cotto had only retreated and then surrendered in the first fight as a result of not being able to sustain any more punishment.
In that first fight, Margarito had his best round in the seventh, landing 46 of 104 power punches in those three minutes alone, and a total of 134 out of 344 power punches from rounds seven through 11.
In the rematch, Margarito went 16 of 47 on power shots in the seventh and 11 of 40 in the eighth, and — facing the possibility of the fight being stopped due to injury — went 25 of 78 in the ninth. Many of those in the ninth had little behind them, lesser punches thrown while tied up or forced backward in clinches.
Cotto landed the same number of power shots as Margarito in the final nine minutes — 52 — but he was landing more than half of what he threw. Many of those were hooks targeting Margarito’s right eye, which the ringside physicians were watching closely.
After the ninth, the doctors spoke of stopping the fight. Margarito’s team protested.
“That was the best round!” someone said. “One more!”
They didn’t listen. Margarito’s face showed a combination of disgust and disbelief.
Margarito felt that he was not given a fair chance, that he still had the ability and opportunity to win. He felt that he was never hurt — that is, he was never rocked, never in danger of being knocked out. It was his skin that betrayed him, he felt, not his chin, not his muscles and not his heart.
There was nothing he could do about it.
Any win would have been satisfying for Cotto. The most emphatic revenge would have come via knockout. But that would have taken only a temporary physical toll on Margarito rather than leave mental scars.
Cotto gave Margarito an eye for an eye. Margarito suffered a loss he felt he did not deserve.
No wound pierces deeper — or heals slower.
The 10 Count
1. Finally, a pay-per-view without an ending that left a sour taste in your mouth.
First we had Victor Ortiz blatantly fouling Floyd Mayweather Jr., apologizing repeatedly, dropping his gloves for a hug and getting knocked out.
Next we had Bernard Hopkins going less than two rounds with Chad Dawson until he got shouldered to the canvas, falling and suffering a separated joint between his collar bone and shoulder blade.
And then we had Manny Pacquiao receiving a decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in which only a tiny fraction of observers had Pacquiao winning on their scorecards.
There are some who believe that the rematch this past Saturday between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito was stopped too early, that Margarito was still fighting despite his closed right eye.
Such decisions cannot be made in a vacuum, however. They have to consider a fighter’s past history when considering his health.
Though there have been fighters allowed to continue with their vision obstructed (most notably of recent vintage, Pawel Wolak in his first fight with Delvin Rodriguez, Andrew Golota in his fight with Mike Mollo, and Margarito himself in his fight with Pacquiao), one must imagine the referees and physicians wouldn’t have been as open to them continuing had they suffered serious injuries to their eyes in the past.
Just because Margarito had been deemed safe to step in the ring doesn’t mean that he was still safe to remain in it. The doctors apparently felt that Margarito’s closed eye against Cotto was putting him in more danger than they were comfortable with. And it is always better to err on the side of caution than to truly err and be negligent and allow a fighter to be too brave in the short-term at the expense of his long-term health.
2. Miguel Cotto’s win over Antonio Margarito this past Saturday shouldn’t do anything to bolster the case of those who believe Margarito used tampered hand wraps in their first fight.
I do believe it’s reasonable to be suspicious of Margarito, in the absence of there ever being, well, concrete proof. But those who pointed to the state of Cotto’s face following the first Margarito fight compared to how it looked after the rematch are falling victim to a fallacy.
That’s because Margarito hit Cotto with 106 more power punches in the first fight than he did in the second fight: 237 power shots over the course of 11 rounds in July 2008, 131 over the course of nine rounds in November 2011, according to CompuBox.
In contrast, Margarito landed 134 power punches just between Round 7 and Round 11 in the first bout with Cotto, the rounds in which the fight turned in Margarito’s favor.
3. The only thing that bothers me at fights more than people talking and yelling during a memorial 10 count being tolled after someone in boxing has died?
Booing of national anthems.
I thought it was utterly classless that many of those at Madison Square Garden booed loudly during the Mexican anthem. That’s not how to show support for your fighter — and disdain for his opponent.
4. What’s with New York State Athletic Commission representatives going overboard with things that either aren’t in the rules — or, if they are in the rules, shouldn’t be?
First the commission did not allow HBO to get unofficial “fight night” weights on Oct. 22 for the bout between Nonito Donaire and Omar Narvaez.
Then, according to HBO commentator Max Kellerman, a commission representative called for an end to a backstage interview between Kellerman and Naazim Richardson once Kellerman asked Richardson’s opinion on the commission not allowing him to observe Margarito’s hands being wrapped (on behalf of Cotto’s camp).
HBO didn’t have fight night weights on the pay-per-view. I’m not sure whether the network wanted to and if the commission didn’t allow it, but it’s a piece of the overall picture that fans like to know — such as how much weight a drained Brandon Rios had gained for his fight with John Murray —and that the commission has no need to prevent.
That said, I must give credit to the commission for allowing ringside physician Dr. Anthony Curreri to explain to Kellerman why he recommended the Cotto-Margarito fight be stopped.
5. The five nominees for the Boxing Writers Association of America’s “Fighter of the Year” are:
- the winner of the Dec. 17 fight between Andre Ward and Carl Froch
- Manny Pacquiao
- Amir Khan (if he beats Lamont Peterson this Saturday)
- Nonito Donaire
- Wladimir Klitschko
Nominating was done by those present at a pair of meetings, one in Las Vegas, the other in New York City. Floyd Mayweather Jr. had the same number of nominations as Klitschko but lost a tiebreaker vote. Also coming up short as Jorge Arce.
This isn’t a runaway year in terms of “Fighter of the Year.” Ward and Froch will have fought only twice. The same can be said for Pacquiao, Donaire and Klitschko. Khan is the only person with three bouts.
And none of their 2011 campaigns are comparable to those put forth by recent award winners.
6. This spot in The 10 Count would have been reserved for wondering, with alarm, how one of the best fights of 2011 could not even be included in the top five “Fight of the Year” nominees from the BWAA’s West Coast meeting. Fortunately, enough writers at the East Coast meeting put forth their support for the non-stop action in the 105-pound title bout between Akira Yaegashi and Pornsawan Porpramook.
The other four nominees for “Fight of the Year” are:
- James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo
- Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz
- Pawel Wolak vs. Delvin Rodriguez 1
- Jorge Linares vs. Antonio DeMarco
Among the bouts coming up short were Jorge Arce vs. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and the first bout between Hernan “Tyson” Marquez and Luis Concepcion.
7. One reason why Yaegashi-Porpramook struggled to make it onto the ballot — it ended up with the lowest number of nominations of the final five —is that fewer boxing writers have seen it.
This is understandable. It was not on American television. It was between two strawweights. And it was between two strawweights that only the most hardcore of boxing fans had heard of.
I’m admittedly not one of those hardcore.
But it is our responsibility as boxing writers to stay attuned to what is going on in the sport, even if we do not watch every “ShoBox” card or every bout on the Spanish-language networks. We must still keep our fingers on the pulse of the sport, even at the subcutaneous levels.
A late campaign had been made in 2006 for the 122-pound war between Somsak Sithchatchawal and Mahyar Monshipour, which eventually was named “Fight of the Year” thanks in large part to a few writers who spread the gospel via word of mouth and YouTube.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Featherweight prospect Matt Remillard has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading no contest to a charge of first-degree assault for attacking another man with a baseball bat in January 2010, according to the Associated Press and a past report from the Hartford Courant.
Remillard told police he used his fists, not a bat. Other people were also accused of striking the victim, who “needed seven plates and 30 screws for two skull fractures after the attack … and one plate and eight screws for the fractures in his left hand,” the Hartford Courant reported a couple of months ago. Charges were dropped against the other suspects, however.
The 25-year-old last fought in March, a technical knockout loss to Miguel Garcia. Remillard is 23-1 (13 knockouts).
9. Who’d have thought that a fight in which 2,025 punches were thrown over the span of 12 rounds — the welterweight bout on Saturday’s pay-per-view between Mike Jones and Sebastian Lujan wouldn’t be overly exciting?
Of course, much of that could be because of how few of those punches landed: 466 total, or 23 percent, or less than one in every four thrown. Jones landed 292 of 1,091, or 27 percent. Lujan landed 174 of 934, or 19 percent. All of the statistics were compiled by CompuBox.
Jones’ nickname is “Machine Gun,” but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that as he faces higher levels of competition, his firepower is of a lesser caliber. And Lujan, at times, seemed to be doing a working man’s impression of fellow Argentine fighter Sergio Martinez.
There are times in which fighters’ styles complement each other and make for great action. But in this fight, both men were aggressive yet not effective.
10. Out of the mouths of babes came this from Don King, speaking last week to some dude named Radio Rahim:
“Floyd came to see me and I tried to be able to work with him. In fact, I loaned him close to $500,000. Floyd, you ain’t paid me back yet. Send my money back to me.”
Says the guy who just had a $425,000 debt he owed Felix Trinidad forgiven…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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