by Cliff Rold
No one will ever know for sure whether or not the first loss of Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KO), at the hands of Antonio Margarito (38-8, 27 KO), was tainted beyond the inner circle of the victor. We can all know, for sure, who the better man is in December 2011.
Standing, staring into the corner of the defeated Margarito, Cotto declared redemption and revenge for himself, in one of the game’s most dramatic post-fight moments since Bernard Hopkins stared down press row after defeating Kelly Pavlik.
On the other side of the continent, four Bantamweights showed their wares, two of them giving fans a hell of a fight and another, making his U.S. debut, proving to be even better than his hardcore following could have hoped.
Let’s got to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cotto B; Margarito B-/Post: B; C
Pre-Fight: Power – Cotto B+; Margarito B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cotto B-; Margarito C-/Post: B; D+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cotto A; Magarito B/Post: A; B
Pre-Fight: Speed – Agbeko B+; Mares B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Agbeko B; Mares B-/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Agbeko B+; Mares B/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Agbeko A; Mares A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Speed – Moreno A; Darchinyan B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Moreno C; Darchinyan A/Post: B-; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Moreno A-; Darchinyan B-/Post: A+; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Moreno A; Darchinyan A/Post: Same
The U.S. debutante was WBA 118 lb. titlist Anselmo Moreno (32-1-1, 11 KO). Briefly featured in this site’s pound-for-pound list a while back, Moreno had experienced problems with layoffs, management, and entered off a lackluster win over Lorenzo Parra. He’d looked marvelous against Wladimir Sidorenko and Mahyar Monshipour, a real road warrior so good the judges couldn’t rob him. However, before Saturday, he’d never seen anyone with the power or depth of resume Vic Darchinyan (37-4-1, 27 KO) had.
Moreno responded with a successful ninth title defense and the best performance of his career. As the rounds wore on, Moreno showed off a range of talents, slipping, countering, and most importantly raking the body. Moreno’s defense is so eye catching it distracts form the way he kicks the other guy’s ass. Moreno’s power isn’t Darchinyan-like, but it’s clearly underestimated. He rocked Darchinyan more than once and had him as hurt as he’s been since his first loss to Nonito Donaire. It was the worst of his defeats since then overall as well.
Darchinyan could at least claim to be competitive in losses to Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares. The same was not the case Saturday. With one of his best career outings against Yonnhy Perez earlier this year, Darchinyan entered Saturday with a head of steam. It made Moreno’s performance all the more outstanding.
Moreno affirmed his place in the bantamweight ratings behind Donaire. Those two were rumored to be close to facing off earlier this year before Moreno’s business issues derailed it. They might just be on a collision course in a larger division some day (Donaire is moving up and the tall Moreno will be someday too) with serious pound-for-pound regard on the line.
A man who might have something to say about it is IBF titlist Abner Mares (23-0-1, 13 KO). Sharing a promoter with Moreno, one would assume a unification match with Moreno could be made. Whether that’s the case, for now Mares made clear the referee ultimately makes no difference in his rivalry with Joseph Agbeko (28-4, 22 KO). The scores were too wide, but Mares earned the win and did it with a clutch rally in the final two rounds.
Ahead but flagging late, Mares found a salvo of shots in the eleventh and then seized the twelfth, fighting smart but still fighting where others may have coasted. The former Mexican Olympian has come into his own and, despite being cut, delivered his finest performance in a string of tough fights. He mentioned moving up in weight and one wonders just how good Jr. Featherweight might be a year from now.
For now, one can hope this vivid era of bantamweight action can go on just a little longer. Moreno-Mares would be a perfect way to continue.
Agbeko, gallant in defeat, can continue to be a factor as well. If Moreno-Mares can’t be made, Moreno-Agbeko would have intrigue. A rematch with Darchinyan, or rubber match with Yonnhy Perez, would also be welcome.
Options are much different at Jr. Middleweight. In terms of talent, it’s not on the same sort of ebb as bantamweight but it’s got a stacked, ticket-selling top ten that makes for raucous action fights. Cotto leads the way and is a firm division leader. The best money in class would probably be against Saul Alvarez but Cotto’s promoter, Top Rank, spoke afterwards above Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at some sort of catchweight.
Cotto could win but that’s a size nightmare. Chavez came into his last fight, at Middleweight by way of day before weigh-ins, above the Light Heavyweight limit on fight night. Cotto is already a smaller Jr. Middleweight. There are actual Jr. Middleweights for him to fight. Just because his promoter might not want to play with others doesn’t mean Cotto should bother with going outside of a perfectly solid weight class for foes.
What, something like Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland isn’t a good enough fight?
For now, it is enough for the Puerto Rican warrior to have erased a blemish in his career and to have posted the sort of Madison Square Garden win that can mark his place among his nations best.
For the defeated man, one has to wonder if it would be right to allow him to fight on. Margarito’s right eye blew up early and badly in the fight. Concerns he was coming in wounded, and will continue to do so, appear merited. To his credit, the iron beard and resolve of Margarito was on display. He certainly could have continued prior to the overzealous doctor’s stoppage, though Margarito’s feeling the tide was turning was probably wishful thinking. However, if he is fighting the rest of his career essentially with one eye, it’s a little ghoulish to encourage it.
It’s his eye. Margarito can make up his own mind. He’ll never get his reputation back after having been caught trying to load his wraps against Shane Mosley. One would be hard pressed not to see a hard man in the ring despite the controversies.
Report Card Picks 2011: 41-16
Heavyweight: Unfortunately have not yet seen the controversial Robert Helenius-Dereck Chisora contest. However, the reports are so one-sided as to cost Helenius a slot and bring Tyson Fury, the previous conqueror of Chisora, into the top ten.
Middleweight: After getting the benefit of the doubt versus Matthew Macklin, Felix Sturm escapes Martin Murray with a draw. Murray was considered for a rating but the top ten is crowded and no one below Sturm really merits a bump so the top ten remains as it was.
Jr. Middleweight: Miguel Cotto moves to the top spot and Delvin Rodriguez enters the top ten. Pawel Wolak slips out of a very crowded field and can be considered a firm eleven.
Bantamweight: The results lined up so clearly with the ratings that no changes to the ratings were merited. For early warning purposes, the site pound-for-pound ratings won’t be updated until after Carl Froch-Andre Ward. Be assured, Moreno will be in the top ten.
These moves and more are reflected a page away.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]