(there’s something happening down there…and I don’t think it’s the comedy stylings of Fred Travalena)
Never mind living up to the hype, Antonio Margarito’s TKO victory over Miguel Cotto in the 11th round last night exceeded most lofty expectations, except perhaps, for those of the defeated favorite. Margarito knocked Cotto down twice in the 11th, the latter’s corner throwing in the towel on the second occasion. Neither blow was the most devastating punch Margarito threw all evening, rather, the accumulated damage Cotto suffered for several rounds had left him almost entirely defenseless and out of gas by the fight’s conclusion.
Margarito was apparently ahead on two of the three judges’ cards when the fight was stopped, and while I wouldn’t dispute Cotto landed a larger percentage of quality punches earlier in the fight, few of ’em had a lasting impact on his tenacious challenger. From the 7th round onward, Maragarito had successfully worn Cotto down (consecutive uppercuts in a neutral corner exemplifying the shift in momentum), and barring a glaring error by the former IBF champ, it seemed just a matter of time before Cotto would suffer his first professional loss.
Max Kellerman suggested the bout would begin with a ferocity reminiscent of Hagler/Hearns, and while that wasn’t the craziest projection ever uttered, there was no chance these fighters would maintain that short of pace beyond the early rounds. What was surprising is that Margarito looked so sharp while withstanding Cotto’s initial assault, while conversely, Cotto did a masterful job of staying upright, let alone landing a few effective counterpunches over the course of rounds 9 and 10.
During a week in which the Columbus P.D. did battle with paying customers at a Crew/West Ham friendly of all things, there was something kind of awesome about Maragarito and Cotto’s rival fans waving their respective flags, trash talking throughout the night….and when it was all over, mostly exchanging handshakes or high-fives. Fighting at the MGM Grand was confined to the ring, and I witnessed no unpleasantness in the casino afterwards either (the proliferation of Ed Hardy tees excepted). Whether the high ticket price or the bonhomie generated by a tremendous match have something to do with it, I dunno, but maybe the beer muscles develop faster at NYC’s sporting venues.