We’ve had a little time to digest last night’s avenging victory by Miguel Cotto over bitter rival Antonio Margarito at Madison Square Garden. Cotto (38-2, 30 KO) turned back the clock quite a bit, boxing brilliantly, showing quickness and smarts while picking apart the lumbering Margarito (38-8, 27 KO). It was a whitewash, and while punch stats don’t always tell the story in boxing, the numbers were clearly in Cotto’s favor.
Margarito was only able to land at a 22% overall clip, connecting on 157 of his 700 punches. Cotto was efficient and surgical, landing 210 out of 493 total punches (43%), and hitting on a staggering 51% of his power shots. Many of those power shots were Cotto’s signature left hook, a punch he normally throws to the body but on Saturday used it to bust up Margarito’s bad right eye, the damage to which ended up stopping the bout just as the 10th round started.
Cotto simply outclassed his opponent and proved that if he wants to continue his career with big fights, he has a lot left in the tank. The only thing Margarito proved is that no one is crazy for thinking he cheated with loaded hand wraps in his first fight with Cotto, and perhaps long before that as well. You could say that he again proved his toughness, which is the only singular thing admirable about him; he refused to relent, kept coming forward, and wanted to continue despite not being able to see out of his right eye for the second time in three fights.
I’d like to think Margarito will call it a career, but he likely will continue on (he clearly doesn’t care what the public thinks of him). On the other hand, Cotto has the opportunity to further validate his — not that he needs to. Here’s a look at what the next move for both fighters could be.
When you’re unlikable, people want to see you get beat up. Margarito has that going for him, and despite the hand wrap controversy and his recent in-ring performance (he’s 1-3 in his last four fights), Margarito generates attention. Top Rank could look to make a super fight in Mexico by matching Margarito with either Canelo Alvarez or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Both fighters are very similar: unbeaten Mexican brawlers with huge followings but a questionable track record. A win over Margarito would be the biggest name victory for either guy, and both would be favored to beat Margarito. Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KO), and Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KO) are both prized possessions of Top Rank, and a fight with Margarito guarantees a boatload of money if it was in Mexico or Southern California.
There were rumors before Saturday’s fight that it would be the last with Top Rank for Cotto, and that he’d move on to face Floyd Mayweather Jr, on May 5. Cotto said after the fight, however, that he would always be promoted by Top Rank, so that ends that (Arum hates Mayweather, if you haven’t noticed, which is a big reason him and Pacquiao have yet to fight). Cotto said he’ll take a few weeks off before thinking about his next move, but when he starts to, Alvarez will be staring him in the face. I think it’s an incredibly logical fight (which is a lot to say in boxing these days). The fight could be put in plenty of places; New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles or Texas all make sense and the fight would do well in any of those places. It would be the biggest test of Alvarez’s young career, but wouldn’t be a walk in the park for Cotto either. I think it would be a lot closer of a fight than people expected (many would favor Cotto due to Alvarez’s rawness), and it could be a great action bout. The only thing getting in the way would be Top Rank not wanting to get a loss on Alvarez’s resume before he fought Chavez Jr, which is basically the Pacquiao-Mayweather of Mexico at this point.
The name Sergio Martinez will come up. But Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KO), the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world according to most everyone, is simply too big for Cotto. Cotto is tiny for a junior middleweight, and Martinez has settled in as the world’s best middleweight. Martinez’s promoter Lou DiBella is clamoring for a fight with a big name like Cotto, but it just doesn’t make any sense for Cotto. Martinez would probably only move that far down for a huge payday with either Pacquiao or Mayweather. Cotto can make big money fighting plenty of other guys his size, and there’s plenty of picks for him in the 154-pound division.
James Kirkland is an exciting option. Kirkland (30-1, 27 KO) is one of boxing’s most intriguing stories, having come back from a prison stint to return to the ring. After a shocking loss to Nobuhiro Ishida, Kirkland last defeated Alfredo Angulo in November in a fight that brought us perhaps the round of the year, where in the first round Kirkland got off the canvas to knock down Angulo himself after holding on for dear life. Kirkland ended up smashing Angulo and forcing a stoppage, claiming his stake as an action fighter and a force in the 154-pound division. Kirkland is a lot like Margarito in that he comes forward at all costs, but he’s younger and packs more power at this point. I’d favor Cotto, but it would be exciting, as any Kirkland fight is.
Chavez Jr. is an option, however he’s a little bigger than Cotto as he’s settled into the 160-pound division. It would be a big money fight and both are Top Rank guys, so it’s a possibility. Could Cotto move back down to welterweight? It’s possible, and maybe could get Andre Berto if Berto beats Victor Ortiz in their upcoming rematch. Maybe Cotto has earned a second shot at Pacquiao, who is the only man to defeat Cotto without any supposed help. Pacquiao’s skills have seemingly diminished a bit, and Cotto proved on Saturday that he’s a smart fighter who can make adjustments. It might be a lot closer this time around.
Either way, Cotto’s victory on Saturday over Margarito both gave him the revenge he so desperately sought, and also kept him alive for a number of big time fights in the near future. That’s a good thing for boxing fans.