Redemption: Miguel Cotto Stops Antonio Margarito in Rematch

NEW YORK, NY–Junior middleweight beltholder Miguel Cotto seized an opportunity to re-write history Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, out-boxing and out-smarting Antonio Margarito on his way to a TKO victory in a rematch of their brutal 2008 bout that left Cotto with his first professional loss. The ringside doctor stopped the fight at the start of the 10th round after examining Margarito’s injured right eye, which was swollen shut.

At the time of the stoppage all three judges had Cotto winning handily, with each awarding Margarito a single round on their scorecards. For one night at least the old Miguel Cotto returned: an athletic boxer-puncher that used a pinpoint jab and excellent movement to withstand Margarito’s pressure and control the fight from the outside. Cotto repeatedly ducked shots from the much slower Mexican, bouncing outside, changing direction and landing at will with his lead hand. The final CompuBox stats showed Cotto landing 43 percent of his shots, evidence of his complete domination of the fight.

A stench of injustice has hung over the first Cotto-Margarito fight since the latter was caught with loaded handwraps prior to his beatdown at the hands of Shane Mosley. Margarito’s performance tonight will only add fuel to the fire of those convinced he cheated against Cotto, as his punches tonight showed none of the impact of their first bout. But Cotto wisely resisted the lure of revenge and the screams of the mostly Puerto Rican sell-out crowd, choosing instead to stick largely to the gameplan and avoid heavy exchanges. I thought Cotto could win the fight in such a fashion but doubted whether he would be smart enough to avoid a brawl. I clearly underestimated the Puerto Rican’s intelligence and ring-savvy.

21,239 packed the renovated Madison Square Garden for the bout creating an atmosphere that can only be described as electric. Cotto’s fans were in place early and the entire arena throbbed with anticipation for the main event during the stacked undercard. While fans in attendance were doubtless hoping for more blood (they cheered every time Margarito’s wounded eye was shown on the big screen), they appeared more than satisfied with Cotto’s victory. Cotto himself appeared to finally have put some of his demons to rest, telling HBO’s Max Kellerman afterward flatly that Margarito means nothing to him.

The fight itself was a mostly one-sided affair but riveting nonetheless. Cotto came out boxing similarly to the first fight, winning the first three rounds while circling his bigger, slower opponent. Cotto began by using his jab effectively and mixing in the left hook, targeting Margarito’s injured eye as promised and quickly drawing blood. By the second he was stinging the Mexican with straight right crosses before dancing away from any attempted response. Margarito kept advancing but his punches lacked the same pop he’s shown previously, adding fuel to the fire of controversy that will forever mar his accomplishments.

The Tijuana Tornado had more success in the 4th as Cotto unwisely lingered inside and on the ropes, where he was available for Margarito’s uppercuts. I scored it for Tony, the lone round he won on my card. But Cotto recovered well in the 5th and came back with combination to stumble Margarito in the 6th. By the 7th Cotto’s jab was landing so cleanly it was clear Margarito no longer had vision out of his right eye. Half-blind, slow and without the menacing power he showed three years ago, from that point it was just a matter of time before the ringside physician chose to end the fight in hopes of protecting Margarito’s eyesight.

The road for both men from here remains unclear. Margarito’s appearance at the press conference was delayed while he was stitched up by a plastic surgeon, according to Top Rank boss Bob Arum. His injured eye already nearly prevented New York from licensing him for this bout and continuing to fight would seemingly jeopardize his long-term health, but somehow I doubt this will be his curtain call.

Cotto on the other hand has placed himself squarely back on the map and dispelled whispers about him being shot. His effort tonight cements his position as the money man at 154 lbs. and makes him the top target for the many aspiring contenders in boxing’s deepest division. Miguel said he plans to take a well-deserved rest before considering his next move, but matching him against either Saul “Canelo” Alvarez or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would undoubtedly do huge business and satisfy fans thirsty for a continuation of the heated Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry. 

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.