Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito face off in their hotly-anticipated rematch this Saturday as big-time boxing returns to its "Mecca," Madison Square Garden. Boxing gives us many Hollywood-like story lines, the ultimate comeback, the gross underdog, and then there's good vs. evil. There isn't a fight in boxing that can be made that so appropriately can be labeled "Good vs. Evil" than pitting Cotto and Margarito against each other for a second time.
When the two first faced off in July of 2008 in Las Vegas, Margarito was seen as an exciting and tough fighter; the latest in the line of Mexican Warriors who seemed like they fed off the roars of the crowd as leather met face. They're not boxers, they're fighters, and true boxing fans could always appreciate that. Cotto, on the other hand, was looked at fairly similarly as he is today. Also a brawler, Cotto was as respected as any boxer in the world for both his in-ring abilities and out-of-ring demeanor. One of them has made a total about-face, and that's where we get Good vs. Evil.
Margarito's win over Cotto in 2008 launched him into boxing superstardom. He fought off a rough start, hung in there, battled back and knocked Cotto out in the 11th round. It was in true Mexican Warrior fashion. He next fought in January of 2009 against the old-and-getting-older "Sugar" Shane Mosley, and entered the fight a huge favorite. But he entered the ring a different fighter, because before the bout he was caught with illegal handwraps by Mosley's trainer. Margarito proceeded to get completely demolished by Mosley, and now the real questions came. Like a baseball player caught with steroids, all thought "how long had this been going on?" Margarito claimed naivety, and his trainer Javier Capetillo took the fall. But all eyes went back to Margarito's last win, the bloody battle with Cotto. It was Cotto's first loss, and when looking back on the fight and seeing Cotto's decimated face, one automatically put two and two together.
Now that these two will square off again, Cotto is intent on revenge. He's out to prove that he didn't lose to Margarito back in 2008, he lost to Margarito with loaded gloves. In HBO's Face Off promo for the fight, Cotto went as far as bringing an iPad to the table to compare an image of Margarito's hand wraps on the night of their first fight with the ones confiscated prior to the Mosley fight. Margarito doesn't want to hear it. He's innocent he claims, but he doesn't really want to get into it. It's almost as though he doesn't really care.
The dichotomy between the two was magnified on the first installment on HBO's 24/7. Cotto talks about the loss of his father - his former trainer and mentor - and we see Cotto's mother talk about the closeness of their family. Cotto comes to tears when saying that he'll have a fifth man in his corner on Dec. 3, that his father will be there in spirit. He talks about his children and his family and about how they are ultimately more important than fighting. And then there's Margarito. He's dressed in a tracksuit and huge designer sunglasses (he's indoors, by the way), looking again at pictures of his alleged doctored handwraps for the first Cotto fight. There's no remorse, simply smugness. He derides Cotto for being a crybaby, using the handwraps as an excuse for the loss. He laughs, maniacally, for Cotto's notion that family is more important than a prizefight. Margarito knows he's the villain, and he plays it perfectly.
After a crazy week in which the fight was nearly moved out of Madison Square Garden after Margarito's license to fight in the state was in serious jeopardy (not because of the handwraps, but because of questions surrounding his surgically-repaired eye thanks to a beating from Manny Pacquiao), the stage is set for Saturday. Cotto is the favored fighter, and if this were a movie he'd get his revenge. There is no script here though, and sometimes the real world can be a cruel place. It probably wouldn't sit very well with many people if Margarito were to win. There's a professional wrestling-feel to the buildup of this fight, it's clear who is good and clear who is evil. If you have a soul, you're supposed root for Cotto.
The fighters will feel that energy, they'll fight to the stereotype. Cotto is going for revenge, he's said as much. Margarito? Well, he doesn't really care what you think.