By Nick Tylwalk
Birthplace: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Resides: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Height: 5' 7"
Current World Titles Held: WBA Light Middleweight (154 lbs.)
Former World Titles Held: WBO Junior Welterweight (140 lbs.), WBA, WBO Welterweight (147 lbs.)
Professional Record: 36-2, 29 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 16-2, 13 KOs
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 5-1
Record at Light Middleweight: 2-0, 2 KOs
Birthplace: Torrance, California
Resides: Tijuana, Mexico
Height: 5' 11"
Current World Titles Held: None
Former World Titles Held: WBA, IBF, WBO Welterweight
Professional Record: 38-7, 27 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 10-4, 8 KOs (1 NC)
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 2-2
Record at Light Middleweight: 7-2, 5 KOs
Call it the ultimate grudge match, revenge versus redemption, or any other catchy tagline one might dream up. Just call the rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito a rarity these days: a world class boxing match between two men who truly can't stand each other.
Cotto is motivated by payback, as Margarito handed him his first defeat as a professional when they first met in the summer of 2008. The battering he took during 11 hard rounds was bad enough, but the psychological fallout was even worse.
That's because Margarito was the villain in the most notorious boxing scandal of this young century. Just before he was set to follow his career-making victory over Cotto with a huge bout against Shane Mosley, Margarito's hand wraps were found to contain a plaster-like substance. His loss to Mosley and the subsequent suspension derailed his career, while his image as a working man's hero was forever tarnished.
It's never been proven that Margarito had loaded wraps during any other fight, but Cotto believes he did on that July night three years ago. That conviction has been enough to drive the proud Puerto Rican to seek out this rematch, a way to set the record straight in more ways than one.
And while Margarito has embraced his role as the villain in this piece, he maintains his innocence and makes no bones about the fact that he feels he will triumph once again. A bigger concern for the Tijuana Tornado might be the structural integrity of his right eye, which was badly damaged during a one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao and almost caused this fight to be moved. The fact that it wasn't is good news for Cotto, who should enjoy his usual warm welcome from a partisan crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The trainers could play a big part in this sequel as well, as each man has a different guiding voice in the corner since the time of the first fight. Cotto has hooked up with former Cuban amateur coach Pedro Diaz, with Margarito turning to rising star Robert Garcia afer his longtime trainer Javier Capetillo was essentially barred from the sport following the hand wrap incident.
Cotto's Winning Strategy: Head Over Heart
Anyone who doesn't think athletes can draw strength from perceived wrongs hasn't been listening to Cotto. Normally a man of few words, he's sounded like a man possessed during the build-up to this fight, even providing a rare zinger when he told HBO that he considers his dog more of a person than Margarito.
Still, all the motivation in the world won't win the actual fight. Cotto needs to remember that while he controlled a majority of the first bout, he did it by putting on the best boxing performance of his life, not slugging it out in a show of bravado.
Cotto's advantages will come from his superior mobility and defensive awareness. He can probably exchange at times without courting disaster, but he'll want to pick those moments carefully. Taking one to give one is Margarito's game, not his.
Mixing up punches will also be key, as Cotto is an excellent body puncher and will want to make that a big part of his attack. And if he's serious about attacking Margarito's injured eye, left hooks to the head will be important as well.
The unfinished business gnawing at Cotto can only be settled with a victory. Heart may drive him forward, but he'll need to make sure his brain is engaged before he lets loose the rage.
Margarito's Winning Strategy: Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
Tony managed to turn a losing proposition around three years ago by simply staying on top of Cotto until he eventually wilted. Many things have changed since then, but the basic game plan should remain mostly unchanged.
Sharp, accurate punches aren't really Margarito's forte, so his goal will be to stay busier in every round. He'll want to come forward as much as possible. Margarito also enjoys height and reach advantages, so he'll want to throw shots even at range so Cotto always has something to think about.
Just like Cotto, Margarito will also be wise to look to the body whenever it's available. Clean punches to the torso are the kind that sap a boxer's strength the most, and for Tony this will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Margarito may not be the same fighter he was before Mosley and Pacquiao put beatings on him, but Cotto also took a lot of punishment in his own meeting with Pac-Man and the prequel to this bout. If the Tijuana Tornado is as healthy as he says, he'll have to live up to his nickname and let his fists whirl again.
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