After the bad blood between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye turned out not to be bad enough to actually get the two men to try to hurt each other, the need for a prominent boxing match with genuine feelings of ill will on both sides only got that much more pronounced. Fortunately, the wait for just such a bout to be unveiled took just a few days.
ESPN's Dan Rafael revealed last night that Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito have agreed to a rematch on December 3. Promoter Bob Arum told Rafael that the site will either be New York's Madison Square Garden or the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, the fight will air on pay-per-view, though there is an interesting twist: Arum said that whoever wins the bidding war between HBO and Showtime to present the third meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez this fall will also get Cotto-Margarito II. Kind of a broadcasting bonus prize, if you will.
A second helping of this match-up would probably be warranted even without any underlying subplots. The first fight had plenty of action, with Cotto doing an excellent job of boxing (arguably his finest performance ever in this writer’s opinion, at least through nine rounds) and Margarito relentlessly advancing and throwing punches like an in-ring version of the Terminator. Just when it looked like Cotto might make it to the scorecards, Margarito finally hurt him with a flurry at the end of the 10th round, and the end came in the next frame. At the time, I thought Margarito would be a great ambassador for the sport and Cotto would remain the noble warrior in defeat.
I got that half right. Margarito’s downfall was swift, as he infamously got caught with loaded gloves right before he was about to make his first title defense against Shane Mosley. He paid for it by losing to Mosley, getting suspended from boxing for nearly two years, then having his face broken by Manny Pacquiao once he returned. Some fans still don’t think that was punishment enough.
Meanwhile, Cotto recovered from the Margarito loss, his first as a pro, and his own tough night against Pac-Man. He’s fought in the new Yankee Stadium and even become a world champion again. Yet even though he would never take the bait when asked (and some of that has to do with the fact that he is a man of few words anyway), it was readily apparent that he has always suspected that Margarito had his gloves “enhanced” when they tangled. With that burning inside of a fighter who is already plenty motivated in the best of times, you just know there’s an explosion waiting to happen.
This is a fight that will be easy to sell. It’s Revenge versus Vindication, with a world title and the promise of more big PPV fights for the winner thrown in for good measure. Maybe more importantly, the two boxers involved will absolutely, positively not fight each other the way Klitschko and Haye just did.
We have a saying among the Boxing Watchers that there's no such thing as guaranteed fireworks, but Cotto-Margarito II comes pretty damn close. It should be one heck of an ending to the year in boxing.
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