The Handwraps Travesty, Part II–Cotto vs Margarito
The highly anticipated on again-off again-relocated again Miguel Cotto/Antonio Margarito rematch has finally passed the snifters of the white gloved New York State Athletic Commission who prematurely pulled up Margarito from his training camp in Mexico to be interrogated under the white lights of NYSAC-appointed ophthalmologist.
Cotto vs Margarito
Both Margarito and Cotto have moved up to the light middleweight division and will be contesting Cotto’s WBA “Super” Title he won off the injuredYuri Foreman last year and defended against Ricardo Mayorga in a entertaining slugfest earlier this year.
Margarito is coming straight in off his very serious beatdown by Manny Pacquiao this time last year. After subsequent surgery and recovery from a fractured orbital bone, a very serious injury in the boxing world, a fair assumption is he will be the more damaged and rustier fighter compared to Cotto who has been more active.
Antonio Margarito paid a huge price after being caught up in a handwraps controversy just before stepping into the ring against Shane Mosley. He was lumped up before being knocked out and then suspended for a year. After serving his suspension he was refused relicensing by the California Boxing Commission. More history here:
Some claim it is Miguel Cotto who paid the heavy price after being beaten to a bloody pulp by Margarito, allegedly using the same illegal wraps. Others think retribution was extracted when Manny Pacquiao beat Margarito into a bloody pulp this year.
In this truth is stranger than fiction world, the facts are that Margarito has never been shown to have used illegal wraps for any fight. The “illegal” insert was placed in his wraps in plain view of the California commish by Margarito’s then longtime trainer, Javier Capetillo. It was the notoriously picky Shane Mosley trainer, Nazim Richards, who demanded the rewrap, exactly what the Margarito camp and everyone in boxing knew would happen. That’s when they discovered the inserts
In short, they might as well been holding a large placard taped to Margarito’s forehead stating illegal inserts were being used. Not only was there no slight of hand, but the inserts were shown to be nothing but crumbles, hardly a weapon any serious fighter would use to load his gloves when commission approved tapes and gauzes can be added in excess to more easily fly under the wire.
Had Margarito been busted for gummy bear inserts or knuckles of silly putty, those substances are just as “illegal” and confer the same laughable competitive advantage as plaster crumbles. It has long flown under the wire that Margarito was not fit to fight against Mosley because of eye surgery a week before the fight. My theory is the handwraps scenario was devised so the big players could cut their losses with appropriate counter bets, but who can really know the mindsets of these maestroes of travesty?
Though Margarito has always worn same approved wraps as his opponents, many in boxing will never forgive him in spite of him serving the full measure of his suspension. Such is the way it shall forever be.
It is the controversy that makes this fight both incredibly appealing or appalling, but potentially the fight could match or exceed the first fight, so it’s must see for true fans. Incredibly Miguel Cotto’s stellar reputation took a beating in the first fight when fairweather critics accused him of quitting after absorbing one of the all time beatings in boxing history. Go figure critics since they usually can’t support a shred of their charges. Margarito also took a horrendous beating, but managed to outlast the retreating Cotto who was completely spent by fight’s end.
The general concensus is that neither fighter has looked the same since their epic first match, one of the finest prize fights in the history of boxing. They are still some of the best fighters in their division even now, a testament to their dedication to boxing and toughness, so the match looks very lively and competitive.
Both fighters have different trainers now, not surprising given the role the trainers play in any handwrapping, and both are now covered in a maze of tattoos, perhaps a psychological bandaid designed to cover up the pain of the controversy and the beatings they have taken in the ring of late.
The problem for Cotto still remains though, Margarito is simply the bigger, stronger fighter by a significant margin and probably hits harder at the 153lb catchweight the fight will be contested at than their first welterweight title thriller. His style of being a heavyhanded war of attrition walk’em down tough guy is a difficult hurdle for any fighter to overcome.
Cotto made his chops as a brutal slugger, but he was also a pretty nifty boxer when he wanted and has often sparred with his little buddy, the quicksilver strawweight phenom and fellow Puerto Rican, Ivan Calderon, so by styles the fight is likely to start like the first fight with Cotto sprinting out to the lead for the early rounds.
It’s the mid rounds that are likely to spell the difference. Cotto has been whipping himself into better condition ever since he took the fight against Manny Pacquiao. Margarito of course is legendary for his work rate and conditioning, as high as 1200+ punches in a 12 round fight.
Tough fight to pick because of the unknowns, but Cotto will have the edge as “the good guy” against “the bad guy” in his comfortable “hometown” settings stocked with plenty of Puerto Ricans who love him. It goes without saying that he will target the repaired Margarito orbital, perhaps doing enough damage to earn a stoppage.
Margarito will have to beat Cotto substantially to eke out a decision, or seal the win with a knock out, never an easy task in the best of times under the best of conditions against a top opponent. Nonetheless, absent egregious interference from the ref, I expect him to walk down Cotto again, perhaps earlier if his eye holds up.
While the outcome may still be open, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito have a golden opportunity to set the record straight come December 3rd in Madison Square Garden and perhaps seal their legends with another modern classic.