Who will win Saturday: Cotto or Margarito?

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COTTO
MARGARITO

Cotto has more left in the tank

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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We all remember the bloody, brutal end of the first Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight in 2008, how a fading and busted-up Cotto was being beaten down. His face was a wreck and blood was pouring from everywhere -- his eyes, nose, mouth, and I think even his ear -- when he finally took a knee and submitted in the 11th round for his first career defeat.

What many don't seem to remember is that for the first six rounds, it was all Cotto. He and Margarito were making a great fight, but Cotto was outclassing his slower, less-skilled opponent.

Because of the illegal hand-wrapping scandal that engulfed Margarito in his next fight, against Shane Mosley, Cotto -- like many others -- firmly believes that Margarito got away with illegal wraps in their fight.

Whether Margarito knew about the knuckled pads coated with a plaster-like substance before the Mosley fight or if he had no idea and it was all on his former trainer, Javier Capetillo, we will probably never know. But I'm with Cotto in being a firm believer that Margarito's wraps were illegal in the fight, and that it made a big difference down the stretch as his wet wraps began to harden.

Because of the massive scrutiny that will be given to the wraps Saturday -- as was the case for Margarito's fight 13 months ago against Manny Pacquiao -- there won't be any funny business.

But even more important when considering the outcome of the bout is where the fighters' careers are now, relative to three years ago. Yes, Cotto took a beating in the final few rounds against Margarito. And, yes, Cotto also suffered a rough 12th-round TKO loss to Pacquiao in November 2009.

But since the loss to Margarito, Cotto is 4-1. Other than the loss to Pacquiao, Cotto has looked pretty good against reasonable opponents: Michael Jennings, Joshua Clottey (in which he overcame a horrific cut), Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga.

Cotto may not be what he was pre-Margarito, but he is still a damn good fighter, one who I have ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10.

Margarito, on the other hand, is, in my view, far more diminished than Cotto, who is highly motivated to kick his ass in front of his New York crowd and avenge the loss in that tainted first fight.

Since beating Cotto, Margarito's career has been a wreck, and he has looked horrible in his three fights. Minus the loaded hand wraps discovered before he fought Mosley, Margarito got destroyed. Mosley punished him and knocked him out in the ninth round. Then came a 16-month layoff because he had his license revoked. In his return, Margarito outpointed D-grade opponent Roberto Garcia, but looked bad.

Then came the destruction by Pacquiao. Margarito took inordinate punishment in a fight that should have been stopped around the eighth round, but he was inhumanely allowed to continue by referee Laurence Cole and Margarito's corner.

Margarito wound up with a disfigured face that looked way worse than Cotto's after their fight. Margarito had a busted right orbital bone and a crushed right eye, the results of which required surgery, sent him into a 13-month layoff and nearly prevented Saturday's fight from happening.

I think Cotto is capable of performing like he did in the first six rounds of the first Margarito fight, and I don't think Margarito can overcome all the issues he has had over the past three years. I think he is basically done after the sustained beatings he has taken from Pacquiao and Mosley, the injuries and the layoffs.

With Cotto targeting the right eye and an edgy commission and ringside medical personnel paying close attention, I think Cotto gains his revenge. He'll bust up the eye and the fight will be stopped in the middle rounds.

Tony plays too rough for Cotto

Langendorf By Jason Langendorf
ESPN.com
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"Say good night to the bad guy! ... Come on, make way for the bad guy! There's a bad guy comin' through! Better get outta his way!"

Sorry, I know Antonio Margarito is Mexican and not Cuban, and I'm also fairly certain he's not an ill-tempered, trigger-fingered, vaguely incestuous drug lord. But every time I've watched him sit on that dais during the media meat market that has been the buildup to Saturday's rematch with Miguel Cotto, I swear he's just a twitch away from jumping out of his chair, shaking his fists and screaming, "Say hello to my little friends!"

It's just too perfect: The smug scowl, the resolute indignation, the relishing of the villain role. Tell me, who said this: Tony Margarito or Tony Montana?

"You wanna f--- with me? OK. You wanna play rough?"

And how about this:

"Here comes the criminal! Open the doors for the criminal!"

See? I can't tell where one Tony ends and the other begins. (I mean, "Scarface"? Scarface!) But here's the thing: One of these Tonys isn't going out in a hail of unfriendly fire at the end, and I'll tell you why:

Margarito is bullet-proof. He proved it against Cotto three years ago, and he proved against Manny Pacquiao. Hell, he's been proving it throughout his career. The man walks through fire. Does he get burned? Sure. Does it seem to phase him one iota? Not remotely.

And durability, I think, will be the bellwether for Saturday's main event at MSG. Talk all you want about Cotto's superior skill, sharper recent form and burning motivation, but this thing is bound to turn into a brawl. Think the guy who can walk through fire won't have the advantage there?

Look, I don't know whether Margarito loaded those wraps against Cotto in '08. I'm not sure I'm even able to muster a strong suspicion one way or the other on the subject. But Cotto, for all his boxing acumen, has shown increased vulnerability over time -- especially as he has moved up in weight -- and was by no means invincible even when Margs handed him that first defeat of his career.

Fast-forward to today, and even the perceived Cotto advantage of a cleaner medical sheet seems overblown. The Puerto Rican's face has been mashed so badly in recent years that his bleeding might be every bit as likely as Margarito's eye to occasion a ringside doc to stop this thing.

Margarito very well may be the bad guy in this drama, and we certainly shouldn't make light of his crimes, if in fact he was aware his wraps were loaded for Cotto -- or any other fight. But it's impossible for me not to think of another line from "Scarface" when taking the measure of Margarito:

"Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie."

Whether or not his words on the scandal are true, the man's fists don't lie. Margarito still throws thunder, and he's got a bottomless gas tank and an iron chin. If Saturday's fight somehow goes the distance, Cotto, having outboxed and outfoxed Margarito, will have his revenge.

But guess what? Twelve rounds is a long time to stay in the ring with Margarito. I don't think Cotto is up for it.

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