Feature Story

Cotto-Margarito: Full Report from Madison Square Garden

By Matt Richardson
Photo: Rafael Soto/Zanfer

If there is such a thing as a perfect night for a boxer, Miguel Cotto certainly experienced it on Saturday. In front of a sold-out and largely loyal crowd of 21,239 fans at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the WBA junior middleweight champion avenged his most infamous and bitter defeat to date by stopping rival Antonio Margarito in ten entertaining but lopsided rounds. The end came at the start of the tenth as referee Steve Smoger elected to call a halt to the bout on the advice of the ringside physician as Margarito’s right eye was entirely swollen shut.

It was beautiful revenge for Cotto and his Puerto Rican fans in attendance as he erased the sour taste of his 11th-round TKO loss to Margarito in July 2008. That bout would later come under intense scrutiny as Margarito was discovered using illegal hand wrap inserts prior to his January ’09 fight with Shane Mosley. The thinking then became that if Margarito tried to cheat against Mosley, maybe he used loaded wraps in his previous fight against Cotto too.

Regardless if Margarito used the wraps the first time around, it was obvious that Cotto (36-2, 29 KO’s) absorbed his punches better in the rematch. He was way ahead on all three judges’ cards at the time of the stoppage by identical scores of 89-82. Fightnews only scored two rounds for Margarito (38-8, 27 KO’s), who was boxing in his first fight since losing a decision in November 2010 to Manny Pacquiao. Margarito absorbed a lot of punishment in that fight; having his right orbital bone crushed. He also endured numerous surgeries on his right eye prior to Saturday’s encounter. That became a point of contention in Margarito’s attempt to be licensed in New York and he was only approved the week before the fight. Once the eye began swelling, it was inevitable that the fight would be called before it went the distance. Despite the lopsided nature of the end result, however, the first few rounds saw sustained back and forth action.

Cotto boxed well from the outside in the first, connecting with punches and then dodging out of range as Margarito smiled. Margarito came forward, occasionally scoring with hooks and a right at the end of the frame. Margarito appeared to be much taller than Cotto but had difficulty utilizing his size advantage. Cotto was warned for a low blow in the first minute of the second round but later connected with two hard rights, separated by a slight pause in between. Cotto continued to box effectively while moving backward. Cotto landed a left hook in the third that made Margarito smile and a thudding right hand seconds later. But Margarito continued to come forward, despite a small cut on his right eyelid. Both men engaged in a furious exchange of wild shots after Cotto appeared momentarily stunned by a Margarito right. Cotto bounced back though, ripping Margarito with left hooks that did little to stop the Mexican from coming forward. Cotto landed a good left hook in the fourth but seemed slower than the previous rounds as Margarito chugged ahead, landing with uppercuts and body shots. Cotto landed a hard right in the final twenty seconds.

Cotto began the fifth boxing better, landing a solid left-right combination that had Margarito shaking his head to imply he wasn’t hurt. Margarito landed a hard right as Cotto was moving back into the ropes but Cotto moved off well, staying largely on the outside. Cotto scored well with two left hooks in the sixth round as he boxed more and brawled less. Margarito reached for Cotto’s body more in the seventh but the Puerto Rican moved out of range before the challenger could land. Many of Margarito’s shots sailed over Cotto’s head. Cotto landed a straight right as the soon as the bell rang, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Margarito’s right eye was completely swollen shut as the eighth round commenced. A brief pause was called to fix tape hanging from Cotto’s glove. When the action resumed, Margarito landed good uppercuts to the body but Cotto came back well in the final seconds with straight rights. Margarito feinted in an attempt to intimidate Cotto but the champion didn’t appear fazed.

The ringside doctor examined Margarito’s eye closely before letting him out for the ninth but the nature of the fight remained unchanged as Margarito absorbed two left hooks coming forward in the final minute. After being on the worse end of heavy punching in the round, the doctor once again entered Margarito’s corner at the start of the tenth to re-examine the boxer. But with the added scrutiny of Margarito’s eye leading up to the fight and the fact that it was completely closed with three rounds to go, the fight was called off by Smoger based on the doctor’s advice.

Margarito, now a loser of three of his last four, protested the stoppage but to no avail. He has taken hellacious punishment in each of the losses although he avowed that Cotto doesn’t hit hard. At the post-fight press conference a stitched-up Margarito said he felt he was coming on in the fight at the time of the stoppage.

Cotto, meanwhile, basking in the win of his perfect night said he would take some time to relax before deciding who and when he would fight next. The fight against Margarito was his last on his contract with Bob Arum’s Top Rank and there are already rumors circulating that Cotto could sign with Golden Boy and fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 should a bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao remain undoable.

Rios denies Murray title bid

By Matt Richardson

Former WBA lightweight title-holder Brandon Rios delivered an effective but slightly workman-like performance in the co-featured bout; stopping John Murray in eleven lopsided and bloody rounds. Rios (29-0-1, 21 KO’s), considered to be one of the most consistently entertaining fighters in the sport, appeared to win every round as he swapped punches with England’s Murray. After a particularly dominant barrage of punches in the penultimate round, the referee elected to step in and stop the fight with Murray (31-2, 18 KO’s) still on his feet. Rios led on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage: 98-91, 97-92 and 96-93. Regardless of the win in the ring, Rios no longer holds the belt after losing it for failing to make the 135-pound weight limit on Friday night.

Both fighters scored well with accurate body punches in the first. Rios scored well with uppercuts up the middle. Rios continued to throw uppercuts in the second but also absorbed a left-right-left combination to the end while coming forward. Both men were boxing in close quarters, forehead to forehead. Rios landed two uppercuts in a row in the third but also took a few right and left hooks in return. Both men concluded the round by exchanging shots as Rios kept his back along the ropes. The pace remained the same in the fourth and except for landing a wide right in the final seconds of the round, Murray was outworked again.

Action appeared to slow in the fifth as Murray’s rate of activity decreased. Murray began to bleed excessively from his nose in the sixth, splashing plasma on both fighters. Murray was docked a point for a low blow in the seventh, albeit without any prior warning. Murray absorbed more punishment in the eighth, taking a hard right to the cheek.

Rios continued to control the pace in the ninth and tenth frames. A barrage of rights in the eleventh hurt Murray badly and unlike in earlier rounds, he didn’t throw shots back. After wobbling from an uppercut thrown in combination, the referee mercifully stepped in to call a final halt to the action with a bloodied and thoroughly beaten Murray still on his feet. The time of the stoppage was

Rodriguez leaves no doubt

By Mariano A. Agmi at ringside

When Delvin Rodgriguez (26-5-3, 14 KOs) and Pawel Wolak (29-2-1, 19 KOs) met five months ago, their styles clashed perfectly to produce a candidate for fight of the year.
That bout, fought at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City on July 15th, ended in a majority draw. This time, Delvin Rodriguez left no doubt.

The Dominican-born fighter, now living in Danbury, CT, made key adjustments from their first encounter to win a controversy-free unanimous decision over his Polish-American rival.

Early on, it looked like Rodriguez (153 lbs) was in for a rough night. The “Raging Bull” was able to pressure him into the ropes in round one to land powerful shots, especially left hooks to the head.
However, as in his best spots of their first fight, Rodriguez effectively spun out of harm’s way whenever Wolak attempted to trap him, throwing sharp combinations and short right uppercuts on the inside.

While Rodriguez tried to create the distance necessary to launch three and four punch combinations, Wolak (153½ lbs) did his best to smother the 31-year-old while banging away at Delvin’s body. By the middle rounds, Delvin bled from his nose but was landing blistering combinations and uppercuts to Wolak’s head. The Polish-American never stopped his forward movement, although his mouth was bleeding and his eyes were reddening and swelling up from the hard counters.

“I had better defense and what made the biggest difference in the fight was the combinations,” stated Rodgriguez. “I was letting go of 3-4 punches at a time whenever he got close to me and they were really hard shots. In the first fight I went back a little bit too much so I couldn’t put as much power into my punches.”

Wolak enjoyed his best round of the fight in round six, landing short punches on the inside and focusing his attack on Delvin’s body in an effort to slow down his opponent. The tactic seemed to work, slowing Rodriguez down a notch while reddening his body on the left side from Wolak hooks.
However, just as it seemed as though the fight’s momentum was changing, the Dominican went back to boxing in rounds seven through nine, bloodying Wolak’s mouth with short uppercuts and landing combinations while pivoting out of harm’s way whenever his opponent closed the distance.

Conscious of the numerous times that close fights went the other way, Rodriguez went on an all-out assault in the tenth and final round and looked as though he would knockout his iron-chinned opponent. Rodriguez landed a flurry of punches, ranging from uppercuts to the face to big right hands to the head and it was a wonder that Wolak made it to the final bell.

Judge Robin Taylor, John McKaie and John Signorile respectively scored the bout 100-90, 98-91 and 98-92 for Rodriguez. Fightnews saw the bout 98-92 for Delvin.

It was an exclamation mark on the biggest stage for a marketable fighter with solid boxing skills who thus far has had a frustrating career.

“I was finally able to show my boxing ability,” said an elated Rodriguez. “If you follow my career, it happened to me so many times where I’m winning a close fight but I don’t get the decision. So I thought that I would try finishing the fight strong. That second wind kicked in and I wanted to take his head off and finish with a knockout.”

Rodriguez, promoted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, now hopes to land the winner of the night’s main event and welcomes any other big names in the stacked junior middleweight division.

“We worked so hard for it,” said Rodriguez of the victory. “I’ll keep working harder and want to fight the top names now. This is my second fight at 154 and I think I deserve a chance at the big names.”
Wolak, a true warrior in every sense of the word, could barely speak at the conclusion of the bout. The Raging Bull bled from the mouth from a possible broken jaw.

“He hit me with some really big shots,” admitted the 29-year-old. “I did the best I could do. I thought the scores should have been closer.”

Jones ready for welterweight title shot

By Mariano A. Agmi at ringside

In the first televised bout of the night, Philadelphia’s Mike Jones (25-0, 18 KOs) won a workmanlike twelve round decision over Argentine strongman Sebastian Lujan (38-6-2, 24 KOs) to earn a shot at the IBF Welterweight title recently vacated by Andre Berto.

Lujan (146 lbs) looked eerily like Miguel Cotto in physique and style, at least in round one. In fact, Lujan served as one of three primary sparring partners to Margarito in preparation for tonight’s bout. The similarities to Cotto ended there, however, as the rugged Argentine was outclassed by an opponent who enjoyed an advantage in size, speed and reach.

Jones (146 lbs), a highly touted Top Rank prospect, boxed much more patiently than in his first major pay-per-view assignment, when he won a controversial decision over Jesus Soto-Karass on the Pacquaio-Margarito undercard at Dallas Stadium. In that bout, Jones became overly excited after rocking Soto-Karass in round two and threw over one hundred power shots only to become fatigued and struggle for the rest of the fight.

Having learned from that experience, the calm and composed Jones did not jump on Lujan after stunning him with a right hand to the head in round one. Instead, Jones waited for openings and in round two ripped uppercuts and laser-like right hands to Lujan’s head.

Lujan fared much better in the third and fourth frames, as Jones found it difficult to penetrate his awkward style. Lujan bent low to avoid most of the incoming, landing overhand rights and body blows but seemed to only throw arm punches rather than fully committing to his attack.

Jones regained command of the bout from round five onwards, firing lethal counter left hooks and powerful right hands before pivoting out of harm’s way. Lujan was relegated to chasing Jones around the ring with what seemed to be light pitter-patter punches.

Lujan, who once attempted to fight through a severe ear laceration in a 2005 bout with Margarito, displayed his usual dependable chin, as he was able to withstand Jones’ firepower throughout the twelve rounds in a bout where he and Jones combined to throw over 2,000 punches.

Judge Don Ackerman scored the fight 118-110 while judges Ron McNair and Waleska Roldan both scored it 119-109 for the undefeated Jones.

“No fight is easy,” admitted the winner. “[Lujan] threw a lot of punches and a lot of awkward shots. I kept working hard. I was always on my guard. I thought I won all the rounds except for one at worst. I was always paying full attention to him.”

With the win, Jones is now set to face former junior welterweight titlist Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in 2012.

Lee stops Medina

By Mariano A. Agmi at ringside

In a four round light heavyweight contest, Notre Dame alum Mike Lee scored a last minute knockout over Allen Medina (9-20-1, 1 KO) to improve his record to 8-0 (5). Lee (177 lbs) searched for the knockout punch the entire fight against Medina (174½ lbs), who tempted his opponent with a dangerously low guard. Lee was able to hit Medina at will, but was unable to hurt his opponent until the fourth round, when a huge right hand dropped Medina to the canvas for a KO with 0:55 seconds left in the bout.

Monaghan destroys Martinez

By Matt Richardson

Local undefeated light heavyweight Sean Monaghan scored an easy second round knockout against overmatched Santos Martinez. Martinez was hurt and dropped in the opening round after taking a right and was dropped for a full-ten count after absorbing a flush combination in the second round. Monaghan now moves to 11-0 with 8; Martinez is 2-3 with 2.

Tapia crushes Ruiz

By Matt Richardson

Junior middleweight prospect Glen Tapia (12-0, 5 KO’s) defeated Mike Ruiz in a very exciting two round fight. After a competitive first in which both men exchanged shots, Ruiz (15-7, 7 KO’s) stepped it up in the second, banging Tapia to the body and head against the ropes. With the crowd roaring and Tapia seeming to be the worst for wear, the unbeaten fighter then came forward and connected with a combination of his own, finally dropping Ruiz to the canvas. Ruiz remained on his back for a rare but full-ten count. He attempted to rise but wasn’t quick enough to beat the count. Time of the stoppage was 2:27.

Martinez stays unbeaten

By Mariano A. Agmi at ringside

Antonio Margarito’s brother-in-law, Hanzel Martinez, improved to 16-0 (13 KOs) with a four round majority decision over San Antonio’s Felipe Castaneda (6-4-1, 3 KOs). Like his famous in-law, “El Tornadito” employs a merciless, swarming style that suffocates his opponents while landing blistering shots to the body and head. That’s exactly what he did to Castaneda (115¼ lbs), though the tough Texan was able to last the full four rounds and took the punches pretty well. Martinez (115½ lbs), of Tijuana, Mexico, won the first round with well-placed shots while avoiding most of Castaneda’s response. The fight became a war in rounds two and three, with Martinez trapping Castaneda against the ropes and working the head and body. The southpaw Texan fought back in spurts, attempting to counter Martinez with right hooks and straight lefts. As the fight came to an end, Martinez began pummelling Castaneda with a variety of punches. Judge Don Trella had the bout even (38-38), while judges Carlos Ortiz and Robert Perez both saw it 39-37 for Martinez.

Figueroa tops Shabazz

By Mariano A. Agmi at ringside

In the opening bout of the evening, Samuel Figueroa (2-0, 1KO) of San Juan, Puerto Rico, defeated Ibrahim Shabazz (0-1) by four round split decision in a four round welterweight bout. Figueroa (145 lbs) looked to be on his way to a quick knockout in round one, knocking down Shabazz (145½ lbs) with a counter left hand for an eight count. However, Shabazz regrouped in rounds two and three, walking down Figueroa and trapping him against the ropes, where he landed short uppercuts and dug hooks to the body. Sensing that the bout’s outcome was in doubt, Figueroa stormed out of his corner in the fourth and final round, letting it all hang out to pull off a split decision. The knockdown proved to be the difference in the fight as Carlos Ortiz scored the bout 38-37 for Shabazz but was overruled by Frank Lombardi and Robert Perez, who saw it 38-37 and 39-36 for Figueroa, respectively.

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