Cotto-Margarito: Mutually Assured Destruction

This past Saturday night in Atlantic City, welterweights Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto dished out impressive beatings to their two respective opponents, Kermit Cintron and Alfonso Gomez. Now Margarito and Cotto, each holding welterweight titles, will turn their savagery upon each other in what promises to be an ultra-violent July 26th showdown at Madison Square Garden. ↵

↵For months now, the entire boxing universe has been dominated by one looming question – when will Floyd Mayweather end his ongoing series of publicity stunts and step into the ring with the 147-pound Frazier to his Ali, Miguel Cotto? But on Saturday night, the urgency of that question evaporated into the New Jersey fog as the tantalizing prospect of a classic Mexican (Margarito) vs. Puerto Rican (Cotto) all-out nuclear war took shape before our eyes. ↵

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↵There was an apt symmetry to the way both men took care of their business on the A.C. card, first Margarito ending Cintron’s night in the sixth round with a brutal left hook to the liver, and then Cotto, exuding confident fury, unleashing a terrifying body assault on the overmatched Gomez that forced the Contender veteran to quit on his stool after five rounds of punishment. ↵

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↵Immediately after the fight, Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, announced the July 26th date for Margarito/Cotto at the Garden, letting fly with some not-so-veiled shots at the proposed September bout between Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya in the process. “This is the kind of fight that boxing needs,” Arum said. “No old fighters. No 24/7. No fighters dropping F-bombs and no fighters going to nightclubs and throwing money around.” ↵

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↵Not that I am generally inclined to heap accolades upon Bob Arum, but he’s got good cause to stand up on his soapbox about this one, because he has a bona fide class A welterweight rumble on his hands. It doesn’t quite have the marquee juice of say, Mosley/De La Hoya, or Whitaker/Chavez, or that granddaddy of welterweight super-fights, Leonard/Hearns. But if it’s not in that rarified class of rumble, it’s damn close, and with the straight-ahead, take-no-prisoners approach of the two principals, it also has the potential to be one of those epic Irresistible Force vs. Immoveable Object kind of battles that we talk about forever afterwards, à la Hagler/Hearns or (dare we even dream to dream it?) Corrales/Castillo. ↵

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↵In short, circumventing the sport’s two biggest stars entirely, Saturday night’s results brought us what is now unquestionably the most anticipated fight of the year left on the 2008 calendar, a bout that has more than a glimmer of a chance at being an historic affair. But of all the reasons to love the idea of Cotto and Margarito mixing it up, it’s hard not to feel that perhaps the best part of the whole thing is that it suddenly makes all of The Golden Boy’s pomp and circumstance and all of Money May’s mercurial vacillations seem utterly irrelevant, a welcome development if ever there was one. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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