Sean did a great write-up yesterday of what turned out to be a great fight, and I refer you to it.
Here’s my take, in 10 neatly-ordered, digestible nuggets:
1. Not to start with the negative, but for as good as it was, I must respectfully disagree with friend-of-the-site Unsilent Majority at deadspin.com in calling it “the unquestionable choice for Fight of the Year.” I do question that. I think the best it can muster is a strong second behind Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III. This was a highly interesting, competitive, dramatic bout — but the swings of momentum in Vazquez-Marquez III, the last-second knockdown, the win by one point, well, they all add up to more than the total of Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito. Among top boxing writers for the major boxing publications, no one leaped to call Cotto-Margarito Fight of the Year, although ESPN’s Dan Rafael went as far as calling it “a fight of the year candidate.” Actually, I could see some people maybe favoring Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez II or Joel Casamayor-Michael Katsidis over this one, so far. We’ll see how this shakes out; maybe in their rush to file on deadline, nobody thought to put this in perspective with the rest of 2008’s best.
2. Margarito is the manliest, toughest fighter in the whole wide world. Once upon a time, it was expected that the heavyweight champion of the world be the “baddest man on the planet.” For badness, I would take Margarito over anyone alive, even as a mere welterweight (147 lbs). No one takes nasty, flush power shots without flinching like Margarito, and nobody dishes out more punishment. Read the coverage, and you’ll see two words used more than any other to describe Margarito’s performance: “Terminator” and “relentless.” In one telling sequence, Margarito threw four straight punches, whiffing on all of them except the fourth; that told the story of Margarito’s constant, unceasing punching paying off. I said the winner of this one would be the boxer who proved he was the lone unstoppable force. Margarito proved he was the unstoppable force, and philosophy dictates there can only be a single such force.
3. There were some who witnessed the fight at my place who felt Cotto quit. I don’t. I think he learned a trick from Zab Judah from their fight, when Judah voluntarily went down in the 9th and ended up surviving a couple more rounds by taking that break. Cotto, I’m sure, would have fought on had his corner not thrown in the towel. Not to say Cotto didn’t look relieved that they did. It was the right call. Surely Cotto knew he was beaten, but it takes a man of only slightly lesser stuff than Margarito to take the kind of whooping Cotto took.
4. The reason Cotto was so tough to have fought the way he did is because in the 6th, the fight definitely shifted. Sean said it best: That’s the round that “the winds of change were beginning to swirl.” Cotto’d outboxed Margarito solidly, but Margarito picked up some serious steam in that round and never let up, even if some of the rounds between the 6th and the 11th were exceptionally close. Cotto survived five more rounds of hellacious punishment during those rounds.
5. Before the 6th, I had Cotto winning every round. Among the three unofficial scorers visiting my apartment Saturday evening, two had Cotto up going into the 11th and the other had it a draw. That was all moot, of course, but I have a hard time understanding how two of the official judges had Margarito winning and the third had it a draw going into the 11th. I mean, there were some close rounds there, but I had it 7-3 for Cotto, and I wasn’t the only one who thought Cotto was well ahead until the conclusive round.
6. The uppercut was a major, major reason Margarito won. I identified it as one of the keys to the fight beforehand when I said this: “If Cotto is the sportÄôs best body puncher, Margarito may own the gameÄôs best uppercut. He throws it often and from all kinds of angles, and when it lands, heads go flying back. Zab Judah in 2007 landed his far quicker uppercut frequently against Cotto, stunning him with it at times.” But Cotto hurt himself, I think, with his lack of body punching. He never seemed zeroed in on testing Margarito’s long ribcage. Everybody already knew you couldn’t do anything with Margarito’s head, right? Cotto swole it up pretty good, but never once did Margarito seem even annoyed with Cotto swelling him up. Maybe, too, Cotto might have slowed Margarito down a lil with some body punching. Don’t know.
7. I’m not sure where to put Margarito on the pound-for-pound list just yet. He beat Cotto, who I had at #3, but even with this loss, I don’t think you can drop him too low. I could see putting Margarito as high as #5, with Cotto not too far behind. I need to reflect. I only had Margarito at #20 before this fight. One thing’s for sure: Margarito is a totally different fighter than he was last year when he fought Paul Williams and lost because he started slow. Margarito started slow against Cotto… for one round. Then, it was all into the mega-high gear that, among human beings, only Margarito seems to possess.
8. Oscar De La Hoya’d already been preparing himself not to fight Margarito by saying he didn’t want to fight another Mexican in his farewell bout (not long ago, he’d said he would fight anyone but a Puerto Rican), but no way can the Golden Boy have watched Saturday night and said, “yup, I’d like some of that, please.”
9. Margarito vs. Williams in a rematch is the fight I’d most like to see if there’s no rematch of this one. My second choice would be the winner of the Joshua Clottey-Judah bout. Promoter Bob Arum wanted Cotto against the winner of that one, just a couple days ago even. I could see Judah giving Margarito some trouble with speed, although not for real long. A rematch of Margarito-Clottey is highly intriguing. Remember, Clottey looked like he was cruising to a victory until his hand injury problems. But then, Margarito had some ring rust and he’s definitely a way better fighter now than he was even in 2007. I do still think, despite Margarito’s excellent performance, that an unretired Floyd Mayweather or even Shane Mosley would have to be a strong favorite over Margarito. He had trouble with Cotto’s movement for a long time in that fight. Cotto, despite being pretty good on his feet, is no master footworker like Mayweather and Mosley.
10. There is, reportedly, no rematch clause. So what Cotto does next is up to him. He appeared to take the loss hard. One press account had him crying afterwards. There’s no shame in that, in my mind. But mental toughness was a major component of what made Cotto great, and that mental toughness was beaten out of him for one night. Despite the hospital visit, I think Cotto should be OK, physically. It’s not like Margarito’s beaten any major competitor into retirement or a permanently weakened state that I know of. My bet is Cotto bounces back. But I don’t think he should take a rematch any time soon. He had this fight in hand, but he made some costly mistakes — the aforementioned lack of body punching, and the way he went away from his highly effective jab, whether because Margarito forced him to or because he was tired, and why in the hell wouldn’t he have tied up Margarito more often when Margarito got in close? — and might still have some learning to do at age 27. Margarito’s just a bad, bad match-up for him. I think Cotto beats any other welterweight in the world right now. He wasn’t ready for Margarito yet. Maybe more seasoning would make him more ready, plus some rebuilt confidence with more success in the ring away from Margarito.