On Saturday, July 26 two men look to save boxing.
This is not to say that boxing is a shade of its former self as many believe, but for whatever reason it has lost its grip on the casual fans. The diehard fans remain as dedicated as ever (and as a member of this group I can attest to the fact that these are the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in any sport).
No, the fans who have disappeared are those who would meet up on a Saturday to pitch in and order the prize fight on PPV. Perhaps this collapse is directly related to the once beloved stagnant heavyweight division, or perhaps it is due to the sudden rise of MMA.
Whatever the reason may be, Miguel Cotto (32-0, 26 KOs) and Antonio Margarito (36-5, 26 KOs) have the opportunity to change all the negative perceptions when the two beloved warriors clash in the ring at the MGM Grand Arena in Vegas this Saturday night for the right to be called welterweight king. If there ever was a fight to draw the fans back to the sport they once loved, this is it.
The storylines here are endless. Two men who know one speed from the opening bell, fighting for more than just the welterweight title. Endless blows will be landed and it is almost a sure bet that one or both of these men will hit the canvas before this bout is over.
Cotto vs. Margarito. Puerto Rico vs. Mexico. It's a boxing rivalry that has been and will be just that much bigger when these two men once again take the forefront in boxing.
These are two countries that respect and love their fighters because they know that the men will leave every last drop of sweat and blood in the ring for them. It's a rivalry that sparks intensity and can make an arena shake. You better believe that the MGM Grand Arena is going to be electric this Saturday night, with the huge followings of both men making their presence felt at the arena.
This fight is everything that boxing has not been for the last decade. Two men, the best in their division, facing off in a match that has "fight of the year" written all over it. The implications for both men run deep.
For Cotto, it's a chance to cement his status as the welterweight king and even make his case as the pound-for-pound (P4P) king of boxing. A win in this title fight would put Miguel Cotto in line for his well-deserved showdown with one of the two biggest names in the sport—Floyd Mayweather, Jr., or even Oscar De La Hoya in his final fight.
For Antonio Margarito, it's an opportunity to take what has so unluckily slipped through his grasp time and time again: boxing infamy. The name Antonio Margarito will strike fear into anyone in the boxing world today. For proof, just ask former P4P king Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and the P4P king before him, Sugar Shane Mosley.
Both of these men received plenty of heat for avoiding the all risk, no reward battles with the knockout machine from Mexico. Margarito is a man who became notorious for his big punches, steel chin, and as the man who was constantly avoided by the best in boxing.
A career that started out slow and then led to a string of victories put Margarito in line for one of the many linear belts in boxing today. With two victories over Kermit Cintron—arguably the hardest puncher in the division—Margarito has proved time and time again that he has a steel chin that can match up with the best of them.
After his first victory over Cintron, Margarito took his mandatory defense against the 6'2" Paul Williams in the summer of 2007. In this fight, Margarito made the mistake of starting slow as Williams took it to him in the early rounds, and Margarito's efforts late were not enough.
This fight may have cost Margarito his first fight with Cotto, but I believe this fight did more good for Margarito than it did bad. In his next bout against a Golden Johnson, Margarito came out swinging and disposed of his opponent in the first round.
In his rematch with Cintron, Margarito made sure to start quickly again, taking Cintron's best punch and finishing the champ off in six rounds. This new approach of leaving nothing to chance and taking it to his opponent from the opening bell could prove troubling for anyone, especially Miguel Cotto.
This Saturday a man will step into the ring as a man with a chip on his shoulder, as a man who has been avoided time and time again. Finally, it is Antonio Margarito's chance.
Cotto has proven that he is at his best when he is counted out and the odds are stacked against him as he so courageously demonstrated in his 2005 bout with Ricardo Torres at 140 pounds in which Torres had Cotto seriously injured.
A true throwback, Cotto is known for his constant work rate and his stalking style, reminiscent of former warrior Roberto Duran. His patented left hook to the body has sent many men crumbling to the floor, searching for air.
It has been nothing short of amazing to watch Cotto develop from just another brawler with a big heart into a well-rounded fighter with a skill set that rivals nearly anyone in boxing.
A refreshing change from many of today's fighters, the soft-spoken Cotto has not received the mainstream attention that a man of his caliber warrants and has yet to headline his own PPV bout, a benchmark for any fighter.
Cotto has primarily fought in New York City (Madison Square Garden) and Atlantic City (Boardwalk Hall) and this fight in Vegas is his chance to prove to the world what many boxing enthusiasts already know—that Cotto is a boxing legend in the making.
As for my prediction, I'm going to say Margarito comes out strong in the first few rounds, landing shots on Cotto that have never been landed on him before. I feel that Margarito will be able to control the fight in the early rounds and may even be able to score a knockdown before the midway point of the bout.
However, I see Cotto surviving this flurry, maybe even a knockdown, and strengthening as they reach the later rounds, as he has done time and time again.
This change in the control of the fight will coincide with Cotto working from the inside and focusing on the body, with Cotto landing an eventual knockout in the ninth round. Cotto TKO 9, setting up the unavoidable clash of the titans in late 2009 between Cotto and my man, the P4P greatest, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
My prediction and even the actual winner of this fight are truly irrelevant as both men will come out better and more popular than they were before.
It is the responsibility of the diehards to bring their friends in and make them watch this fight, and show them what they have been missing in boxing for the past few years.
Bring back those same people who excitedly ordered Mayweather vs. De La Hoya, hoping it was the return of the sport they once loved. Tell them that this is what a real prizefight is supposed to look like when two blood and guts warriors step into the ring.
Do yourself the favor, and order the PPV, sit back, and enjoy the fight of the year. Saturday, July 26, 9:00 PM EST on HBO PPV.