By Jake Donovan
There are three different stories surrounding three separate rematches taking place on Saturday evening. Two are staged in the very same building, while the third plays to a venue on the other side of the country.
No matter the distance between them, or the relevance of each fight, all three have fight fans abuzz.
The long awaited grudge rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito has captured most of the headlines prior to and during fight week, and for very good reason. The bad blood alone makes their return go at Madison Square Garden must see TV, no matter the price.
Such a statement will truly be put to the test, given the $54.95 price tag attached while competing against a Showtime telecast that comes with your monthly subscription to the network.
Whether it’s by accident or was done just to spite HBO for the sake of competition, Showtime’s bantamweight doubleheader is as good of a card as the network has aired all year.
The lead-in fight is a true pick-‘em, with Anselmo Moreno making his stateside debut in a dangerous bantamweight title defense against former two-division champ Vic Darchinyan.
However, it’s the headliner that has fans truly salivating, as Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko return less than four months after the controversy surrounding their Showtime Bantamweight tournament Finals matchup, in hopes of settling all debates.
Which one do you choose? The way the cards are staggered, it’s not out of the question to catch both and not miss either main event. You will have to play catchup on the HBO pay-per-view, though. Featured on the undercard is a sequel to one of the year’s best fights, when Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez throw down in a ten-round bout with nothing but bragging rights at stake.
Put them all together, and you’re provided with a loaded fight weekend featuring the good, the bad and the ugly – arguably with each bout boasting all three elements.
PAWEL WOLAK-DELVIN RODRIGUEZ II (HBO PPV PRELIMINARY BOUT)
The good: Their first fight this past July was truly one of the year’s best, and quite possibly the most brutal war to be featured on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights since the series returned over a decade ago. Wolak – a Top 10 contender at 154 lb. – jumped out to an early lead, determined to make a statement at Roseland Ballroom, a New York City venue not too far from his New Jersey home. Rodriguez came roaring back in the second half of the bout, fighting like a man whose career was at stake as he had only won two of his previous six bouts. While the judges couldn’t agree on a winner at the end of ten rounds, boxing fans around the world agreed that it was a fight well worth a sequel. If not to produce a winner, then just for the sake of watching another war in its most primitive form.
The bad: The only negative to come from their first fight five months ago was the fact that neither guy could claim victory. For the rematch, even the greatest pessimists can’t nitpick beyond the fact that they’re once again fighting with nothing at stake – no title, no guarantee of a title fight in the near future, which means the loser possibly stands to lose more than the winner has to gain. With just one pro loss and several notable wins, Wolak’s career could withstand the hit. Having won just two in his past seven, Rodriguez is rapidly approaching win-or-fade-to-obscurity status.
The ugly: The most common question asked after their first fight was how the hell they allowed Wolak to continue with his right eye tripling in size over the course of the fight. The Polish-American was dangerously close to having the fight stopped on several occasions, but showed plenty of fighting spirit throughout to discourage physicians from making that call.
In closing: Of the three rematches in store for Saturday, this is the only one to not have a winner in the first fight, yet still has the least amount of controversy. Their styles should make for yet another all-out war, with boxing fans getting their money’s worth well before the evening’s main event.
ABNER MARES-JOSEPH KING KONG AGBEKO II (SHOWTIME MAIN EVENT)
The good: Showtime finally completed a tournament. Two separate super middleweight tournaments in recent years have yet to provide a true winner, although December 17 will hopefully solve that problem for the Super Six World Boxing Classic. The end result of the bantamweight tournament saw Mares – a member of the 2004 Mexican Olympic Boxing team – become Golden Boy Promotions’ first ever home-grown champion, lifting a bantamweight title from Agbeko after 12 hard fought rounds. The rematch means yet another in a series of tough fights for both. Agbeko over the past 2 ½ years has faced Vic Darchinyan, Yonnhy Perez twice and now Mares twice. Mares has fought Perez, Darchinyan and now Agbeko twice, all coming in the span of 19 months.
The bad: While the action and close nature of the first fight was enough to warrant a sequel, the real reason we are here again is due to the inept officiating of referee Russell Mora. Mares was warned and warned for low blows, but never received a point deduction and was even credited for a knockdown on perhaps the most blatant (though accidental) foul of the evening, coming in the 11th round.
The ugly: Sadly, the controversy surrounding the low blows and lack of action taken by the referee has overshadowed what was actually a very good fight. Agbeko, no stranger to receiving the short end of the stick in close fights, even went as far as to claim racism as a motivator for the questionable officiating. You almost get the sense that anything short of a rout in either direction on Saturday, the loser of the rematch won’t go away quietly.
In closing: Of the three rematches, this one has the most potential for a third fight, and is also the most meaningful of the bunch in relevance to its division. With Nonito Donaire set to move up to 122, there’s a strong case to be made for the winner of this bout to be recognized as division’s best.
MIGUEL COTTO-ANTONIO MARGARITO II (HBO PAY-PER-VIEW MAIN EVENT)
The good: Their first fight was an instant classic. Even in taking place more than three years ago and both fighters now past prime, their respective styles can’t possibly make for a bad fight – against each other or anyone else. Cotto in the Garden is always a festive occasion, dating back to his first main room headliner in 2005. Less than 500 tickets remain and is anticipated to be a full sellout by fight night. The raw hatred and fresh material offered in their abbreviated 24/7 series only adds to the storyline and heightens anticipation for a rematch years in the making. The addition of three terrific televised preliminary bouts means that fans could get their money’s worth well before the main event players take center stage, which would only make the night that much more memorable should Cotto and Margarito hold up their end of the bargain and deliver another Fight of the Year contender.
The bad: There exists a significant faction of fans who believe that Margarito should never be allowed to fight again after the handwrap scandal prior to his fight with Shane Mosley nearly two years ago. Cotto has since insisted that his questionable wraps existed long before that night, including his own fight with Margarito six months prior. A loss for Margarito most likely means the end of his career given recent medical concerns (though some might consider that as a good thing), whereas a win could spell trouble among a boxing public that views him as Public Enemy #1. Neither have shown the other an ounce of respect during the entire promotion, something that figures to play out well beyond the result (though again, could be interpreted as a good thing depending on the viewpoint).
The ugly: Where oh where to begin. The damage suffered in his beatdown against Manny Pacquiao forced Margarito to have eye surgery perform, along with a clean-up visit. Miscommunication over the matter led to a long-drawn out dispute with the NYSAC, who threatened to not license the troubled Mexican. Cotto emphatically claimed during a media conference call that the fight takes place in New York or doesn’t happen at all, which debunked the claim by Top Rank that the show will go on even if it means moving to another state.
In closing: The most likely scenario is that nobody will give a s(p)it about the aforementioned drama once the opening bell rings. By that point, fans will have been so thirsty for the sequel to begin that the fight itself finally becomes the focus, capping what on paper appears to be the most stacked card of the year.
Sometimes, sequels lack originality and there exists a huge letdown when they fail to live up to their predecessor. Chances are that on Saturday night, an evening filled with ‘take two’s’ proves to be a triple play of satisfaction.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]