by Charles Jay
After the Plaster of Paris is taken away, I’m not sure what Antonio Margarito really has left. You couldn’t like what you saw from him when he fought Manny Pacquiao, and that’s the only fight he’s had in the last eighteen months. is there any evidence that Margarito isn’t a shot fighter? Part of me wonders if this rematch with Miguel Cotto tonight isn’t simply a matter of “payday time” the way it was with Pacquiao.
My personal feeling is that this is Cotto’s fight to win, and the odds, where Cotto is a 2/1 favorite or more, may not sufficiently reflect that.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
However, Cotto’s got to fight the right way to get it done.
The first time, as you know, much of his time was dedicated to circling the ring and moving away while Margarito pursued him. This was the formula for eventual disaster, despite him being able to convince the HBO announcers that he had suddenly become a “boxer,” as if that’s the kind of thing guys can transform themselves into from one fight to the next.
Or that such an approach was even good for him.
For a guy like Cotto, who hits with authority, that was a retreat. Yes, he was scoring points for a healthy portion of the fight, but every minute he continued with that plan, the closer he was getting to a bad ending.
That kind of style practically invites Margarito to stalk him, which is exactly what he wants to do. And the effect of it was to allow Margarito to wear him down. Maybe I was just a lucky guesser, but to me it just looked like a matter of time. Cotto was just making it too easy the first time around.
The bicycle is not right for Cotto and never has been. In fact, it’s a sign of trouble. It’s just unnatural. He’s not a slick boxer and mover, but someone who is more at home being aggressive, coming forward and giving himself an opportunity to dig that left hook into his opponent’s body.
By the same token, it’s a mistake to just wade in.
He’s going to find success somewhere in the middle.
That’s also what I took from my discussion with Emanuel Steward, who was working with Cotto at the time, before the fight with Ricardo Mayorga.
Steward understood that Cotto couldn’t run away from opponents. It was just counter-productive. But he couldn’t just stand there either.
What he’s got to do, and what Steward had advocated for him, is move in and out, landing combinations and then establishing his distance so that Margarito doesn’t have the opportunity to land counterpunches. He needs to keep the fight near ring center, and isn’t doing himself any favors by moving around near the ropes. That would just let Margarito, who is slow and plodding, gather momentum by coming forward.
With an edge in speed, Cotto is fully capable of carrying out that kind of game plan. But I’m thinking that if he gets nailed early by his opponent, he’s going to revert back to “hyper-movement.”
And if that is what happens, he better hope that Margarito is indeed a shot fighter.
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