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Margarito overpowers Cotto in 11th, claims WBA belt

LAS VEGAS -- By the sixth round, Miguel Cotto had thrown
every ounce of his power at Antonio Margarito, and he hadn't made a
dent.

The Tijuana Tornado was more of a Terminator, Cotto was
discovering. Margarito mercilessly moved forward through every
punch with little more than a flinch, and Cotto realized he would
spend this fight on his heels.

Margarito just won't back down, not even from an unbeaten
champion -- and that's why every welterweight in the world should be
even more afraid of their division's new king.

Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round Saturday night with a
masterpiece of relentlessness, capping a dramatic bout at the MGM
Grand Garden by claiming the WBA 147-pound title with two
knockdowns.

"I told my corner I would wear him down and then knock him
out," said Margarito, who won his third welterweight belt. "He
never hurt me, but that was the game plan, to come out early strong
and to wear him down and knock him out. I got him with body shots,
and then I hit him in the head, and then I knocked him out."

Though Cotto (32-1) fought admirably, Margarito (37-5, 27 KOs) --
so often ducked by the division's best fighters in recent years --
seemed to expend all the bottled-up energy he had from several
years of waiting to be a Vegas headliner.

Cotto controlled the early rounds but gradually lost faith in
his ability to slow down the taller Mexican star with the stone
chin, leading to a major momentum swing in the middle rounds. Cotto
rallied in the 10th, but he was spitting blood, and another barrage
from Margarito dropped him to one knee 80 seconds into the 11th.

Margarito chased him until the Puerto Rican star finally went
down again. With Cotto bleeding and woozy, the champion's corner
stopped the fight with 55 seconds left, sending Margarito's team
into a delirious celebration of a long-awaited victory.

"I told you I was a great fighter, just like Cotto is a great
fighter," said Margarito, who was ahead on two of the three
judges' scorecards when it ended. "He showed how tough he is. I
felt I hurt Cotto in the sixth round. I felt he was going down. I
told my trainer, 'I'm going to knock him out.' He said, 'I'm sure
you are, but don't get overconfident. Be careful."'

Caution isn't a specialty of Margarito, who has long been a
looming nightmare for the division's top fighters because of his
heedless style and tough chin. Among the many slights Margarito has
received, Floyd Mayweather Jr. turned down an $8 million payday to
avoid facing him in 2006 - a dodge that resonated with Cotto, who
also couldn't get the Pretty Boy to return his promoters' calls.

Cotto, unable to speak clearly through tears and welts, was
taken to a hospital from his locker room.

"I am very proud and very happy I was able to give the fans a
great fight," Cotto said. "Life continues. It's not over for me.
I'm going to take a long rest, decide what to do next. This night
was Margarito's night. He's an excellent fighter. He did his job
better than I did."

This fight came together in April when Cotto and Margarito
trounced two challengers on the same card in Atlantic City.
Promoter Bob Arum immediately gave both fighters the matchup they
craved, putting his two top welterweights together for a joint debut as Vegas headliners.

Arum said Cotto's $3 million guarantee could balloon to $7
million after the fight's impressive pay-per-view sales, while
Margarito also will make much more than his guaranteed $1.5
million.

With this career-making win, Margarito will be among the
finalists for the wildly lucrative spot opposite Oscar De La Hoya
on Dec. 6 in the Golden Boy's farewell fight in the same MGM Grand
ring. De La Hoya previously was circling Margarito for the fight,
but Cotto's battered face might give De La Hoya second thoughts
about both fighters.

"Oscar De La Hoya is one of the best," Margarito said. "If he
comes through with his promise, we can give Mexicans a true
battle."

De La Hoya previously said he would be reluctant to take on
another Mexican fighter -- particularly one who rearranges faces
like Margarito does. If the Golden Boy goes with Cotto, Manny
Pacquiao or a lesser challenge, Margarito could be looking forward
to a unification fight with the winner of next weekend's IBF title
bout between Zab Judah and Joshua Clottey.

The loss clearly stunned Cotto, who had shown remarkable
resourcefulness after being staggered in two 140-pound fights
earlier in his career. Though Cotto carried the early action,
Margarito bloodied Cotto's nose and mouth before picking at the
wounds throughout the middle rounds.

Cotto landed 43 percent of his 655 punches, but Margarito's
superior work rate was reflected in his 987 total punches.
Margarito jabbed poorly, but landed 237 power shots to Cotto's 179
-- most in the final few rounds.

Margarito, who took three of his five career losses as a
teenager in Mexico, lost his WBO welterweight title to Paul
Williams last year with an uncharacteristically slow start. He
claimed the IBF title three months ago by battering Kermit Cintron,
but had to give up that belt to make the match with Cotto -- a
gamble that paid off immensely.