By Jake Donovan
Through the hype, buzz, anticipation, lofty expectations and National Anthems representing three separate countries, a hell of a fight broke out at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At night's end, it was Antonio Margarito who pulled through with the biggest win of his career, rallying back to stop Miguel Cotto in the 11th round of their pay-per-view main event, turning the welterweight division and boxing world upside down in the process.
Blood and violence was promised for months on end. The fight took all of a minute to deliver on the violence front, with the blood soon to follow. Both fighters started off with the jab, but it was Cotto who landed the first significant combination of the fight, a flurry on the inside.
Margarito came back with an uppercut, but as showing Cotto respect, leading to his being thoroughly outworked over the course of the round. The final minute of the round ignited the crowd, though dominated by Cotto's crisper punches landing up the middle while Margarito was just a little too wide and slow in return.
Cotto picked up in the second exactly where he left off one minute prior – coming straight up the middle while easily getting out of harm's way when Margarito attempted to counter. That dynamic changed about a minute into the round, when Cotto got caught with a right hand that left him momentarily pinned along the ropes. Margarito took his attack downstairs, but caught several left hooks upstairs for his troubles. Blood began flowing from Cotto's nose, but didn't deter the Puerto Rican from ending the round with a shot upstairs.
Mobility was the key for Cotto in the third round, effectively mixing boxing and brawling while attempting to minimize the blood flow from his nose and a small nick over his left eye. Margarito kept targeting the body, but drew two separate warnings for low blows in the span of less than a minute.
Margarito closed the gap enough in the fourth to enjoy perhaps his best round of the fight to that point. A right uppercut for the Mexican slowed down Cotto, though steadily returning fire. Margarito went back to the body, but Cotto was able to re-establish enough distance to counter his way down the stretch, even if not enough to steal the round.
A boxing match threatened to break out in the fifth, though that didn't last very long. Cotto offered plenty of side to side movement which frustrated Margarito until a right hand about a minute into the round. Cotto stayed on the move, standing and trading on occasion, but only in landing a flurry before immediately getting out of harm's way. Margarito landed a straight right that had Cotto temporarily unsteady at the ten-second ticker, but the Puerto Rican went into Pernell Whitaker mode, slipping all of the ensuing shots until the final bell.
Margarito wasn't landing a lot, but remained the busier fighter in riding momentum into the sixth round.
A left hook to the body had Cotto on the defensive early in the seventh, but was able to flurry his way out of danger. A right hand upstairs stopped Margarito in his tracks, but the Mexican refused to wilt, coming back with fire power of his own, forcing Cotto to clinch. His face now a mask of blood, Cotto was forced to fight back, which only gave Margarito more confidence as the round – and fight – wore on. Margarito had Cotto under siege for much of the round, unloading to the tune of 130 punches in the three-minute frame according to Compubox.
Cotto was urged by his corner in between rounds to stay off the ropes. He obliged, offering lateral movement though paying the price in not gaining as much leverage on his punches. The plan worked for about 2:30 of the round, before Margarito was able to pin him in the corner down the stretch. A right hand by Cotto enabled him to escape harm's way, moving backwards as the eighth came to a close.
It was more of the same in the ninth, with Cotto flipping back and forth between southpaw and conventional stance while fighting in reverse. Margarito kept charging forward, hoping to come through with the shot that would keep his foe stationary. Those moments came in the second half of the round, though Cotto would counter enough to avoid a firefight.
The bout had to eventually slow down; that moment finally came in the tenth. The same pattern applied as in the previous two rounds, Margarito charging forward, Cotto staying mobile seeking counter opportunities to maintain space between the two. Margarito immediately closed the gap in the last fifteen seconds, landing a left hook, left uppercut and right hand that trapped Cotto on the ropes, leaving him open for an ensuing volley.
Trainer Evangelista Cotto told his nephew he needed to win the final two rounds to pull out the fight. Not only would that not happen, but Cotto wouldn't even last long enough to hear instructions for another round.
A left uppercut by Margarito midway through the round had Cotto stuck in the mud, left defenseless as he took a right uppercut and two right hands that sent him to the canvas. Margarito got in one last lick while Cotto was on a knee, but drew no warning from referee Kenny Bayless who issued a mandatory eight count.
Cotto got up but was all but done. Such became evident moments later, when Cotto once again went down, despite Margarito not landing another punch. Bayless moved in to count, but would never reach eight – Cotto was done for the night, confirmed by his uncle/trainer, who climbed on to the ring apron, white towel in tow.
The official time was 2:05 of round eleven.
It was brutal, and lived up to everyone's exceedingly high expectations. And according to Margarito, the fight went exactly as planned.
"It was all in my game plan, to start to press which I did around the sixth round," said Margarito, who improves to 37-5 (27KO) with what is easily the biggest win of his 14-year career. "I was able to catch him (to the body), then some uppercuts and saw that he was slowing down."
Not only was Cotto slowing down, but Margarito was pulling ahead. Final scorecards had the Mexican ahead on two of the three scorecards (each reading 96-94) and even on the third (95-95). But a decision win was the furthest thing from Margarito's mind at that point.
"Slowly the tornado rumbled, I knew the knockout would come, and it came."
On the other end, it's the first loss in the eight-year career of Miguel Cotto, who dips to 32-1 (26KO). His state was described by HBO color commentator Max Kellerman as "too emotional and distraught" to participate in post-fight discussion.
With the physical and emotional beating he took in this fight, it can be suggested that he won't be participating in a boxing fight for the remainder of 2008. It's doubtful that Margarito suffers the same fate. It could be said that a rematch with Paul Williams is necessary in ultimately determining welterweight supremacy, but there are far bigger fish to fry as far as Margarito is concerned.
"Obviously Oscar de la Hoya is a tremendous fight. If he comes through on his promise, we can give our Mexican fans a great fight."
For the moment, Antonio Margarito gives Mexicans a much needed shining moment in the long standing rivalry with Puerto Rico – and his own career instant validation in the process.
CANCHILLA DOMINATES SEGURA IN MAJOR UPSET
The evening's chief support offered one of the year's bigger upsets. Credit to Colombian puncher Cesar Canchilla, who entered hostile territory while accepting a fight against top junior flyweight contender Giovani Segura on short notice.
Even more impressive was his rising from a second round knockdown to otherwise dominate the Mexican-American en route to a wide unanimous decision and the guarantee of a mandatory title shot.
The first two rounds went like most other Segura bouts – bombs away and his opponent eventually being introduced to the canvas. That moment came in the second round, when Segura landed a right hook from the southpaw stance while taking a right hand in return.
Unlike most Segura opponents, Canchilla quickly recovered. Even more surprisingly, the Colombian puncher gained control of momentum, with Segura's activity rate and confidence rapidly dropping with each passing round.
There was no greater sense of desperation for Segura than in the seventh round, by far the best for Canchilla to that point. Segura was outpunched 3-1 in the frame, and appeared to have nothing left as he slinked to his corner at rounds end.
A burst of energy came in the eighth, when Segura's power momentarily turned the tide midway through the round. But it would prove to be his last decent stand; Canchilla regained control toward the end of the round and never looked back.
Segura was in big trouble in the tenth round, when Canchilla had him trapped in a corner and unloaded with headshots, most of which landed clean. Referee Jay Nady intervened, but only to break up a clinch. Realizing headshots alone wouldn't get the job done, Canchilla went to the body, most often when the two were along the ropes.
The final two rounds were altered by an unintentional clash of heads. Both fighters had their moments in the eleventh, with Segura landing a random punch – or flurry – whenever it appeared he had nothing left. Canchilla seemed well on his way to cruising to a sure fire win before getting clipped by a headbutt at the end of the round.
Referee Jay Nady attempted to call time, but neither the timekeeper nor the fighters' respective corners cooperated. Canchilla's corner went to work on the cut, which visibly shook the Colombian to where he was instructed to keep it strictly boxing in the final round. The Colombian did just that, with Segura never able to close the gap, or land the type of fight altering punch that would instantly erase the large deficit building up on the scorecards.
The judges did right by the road fighter in the end. Final scores were 117-110, 115-112 117-110, all for Canchilla, who improves to 27-1 (21KO) with the upset win. He is now in line for a title shot against Brahim Asloum, should the Frenchman decide the payday will be worth his time. This bout came about after Asloum pulled out a scheduled title defense against Segura earlier this month.
The irony in Segura suffering the first loss of his career (now 19-1-1, 15KO) was that this bout was put together as means to preserve an eventual rescheduled title fight against Asloum. That now goes out the window, at least in theory. Stranger things have happened, though on the surface it looks like Segura's next step is a quantum leap backwards.
ALVARADO CONTINUES QUEST FOR JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHT CONTENTION
It was believed after his knockout win over Michel Rosales a couple of months ago that undefeated junior welterweight Mike Alvarado was ready for top ten competition. Alvarado agreed, and still believes it to be true, but was forced to wait at least one more fight before reaching that level.
Offered his way on this undercard was faded former lightweight titlist Cesar Bazan, who danced as hard as he could but was eventually knocked out in the fourth round of their scheduled ten.
Both fighters had their moments early, though not unlike the first bout of the evening – the underdog (Bazan) busy, the favored fighter (Alvarado) more effective. Still, Alvarado's economical approach didn't fall favorably with his trainer, who was quite prolific in between rounds of his desire for his fighter to pick up the pace and not give Bazan any false hope.
Alvarado obliged, picking up the pace in the third, and closing the show in the fourth round. Bazan was trapped along the ropes, before a final one-two forced him to the deck. The Mexican removed his gum shield while taking the full ten count from referee Russell Mora.
The official time was 2:46 of round four.
Afterward, Alvarado (now 22-0, 15KO) expressed his desire to step up in competition after scoring his third win of 2008.
"I see myself contending in the top ten (at junior welterweight) from my next fight on. I feel comfortable at my weight."
When asked for a specific name, his response was simultaneously vague and direct.
"There are to many names out there; anyone from top ten on up, I'm coming after you."
CONCEPCION KEEPS WINNING, STOPS CARRERA IN THREE
Bernabe Concepcion figures to come after plenty of top super bantamweights in the months and years to come. The streaking Filipino opened up the telecast with a third round knockout of journeyman Adam Carrera.
Carrera was the busier of the two fighters early on, but Concepcion was effective with his offense and defense, making Carrera miss often while landing the more quality shots.
Concepcion turned up the heat in the third, which led to the end of the night for Carrera. A right hand midway through the round put the Californian on the deck for the first of two times. The second knockdown came moments later, courtesy of a right uppercut that had Carrera down and out. He attempted to beat referee Joe Cortez' count, but was still wobbly at nine, prompting a stoppage.
The official time was 2:14 of round three.
Concepcion advances to 26-1-1 (15KO) with the win. He is now 18-0-1 (12KO) since the lone loss of his career more than three years ago, including three wins in 2008.
Carrera falls to 19-4 (8KO) with the loss, his second straight and third in his last four fights.
The show was presented by Top Rank Inc.
Jake Donovan is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Comments/questions can be submitted to [email protected].