'HBO Boxing After Dark' Returns with Cotto/Pinto, Margarito/Santos

09.09.04 - By Paul Ruby: Before the hype for the Oscar de la Hoya-Bernard Hopkins showdown takes center stage, HBO is gracing boxing fans with a fine card on its ‘Boxing After Dark’ series this Saturday evening. In the main event, rising star Miguel Cotto takes on Brazilian slugger Kelson Pinto for the WBO Light Welterweight Title abandoned by Zab Judah while Antonio Margarito battles Daniel Santos-Pena in the co-feature. Every fighter on the card knows how to fight, and it should make for a great night of boxing.

In the Miguel Cotto-Kelson Pinto fight, a number of writers and critics have commented on the fact that Kelson Pinto beat Miguel Cotto in the amateurs on more than one occasion. Two things these people may forget is that Cotto also defeated Pinto and, more importantly, WE’RE NOT IN THE AMATEURS ANY MORE!!! Miguel Cotto has a game that translates to the professional ranks as well as any fighter in the last five years. Cotto’s greatest asset in the ring is perhaps not a physical one. Miguel Cotto is just an incredibly mature 23-year-old in and out of the ring.

Cotto is willing to go as many or as few rounds as are necessary to secure a victory. He does not get over anxious and go for broke. He sticks to his game plan and executes accordingly. Cotto does not throw wide punches and keeps a relatively tight defense. He just does not have the type of style that is prone to upsets. In this regard, a comparison to Marvin Hagler or Bernard Hopkins is in order. They are fighters who are simply too smart in the ring to get beaten by an inferior opponent. Each of these three view winning as the only thing that matters. Pretty, ugly, points, or stoppage… they don’t care. Obviously, Cotto’s accomplishments are not even in the same ballpark as those two all-time greats, but they are all comparable in their hunger, desire, and mental tenacity.

Another comparison between those three is preparation. Like Hopkins and Hagler, Miguel Cotto leads a clean life outside of the ring. Although it is hard for him to get down to 140, he does not let his weight balloon between fights. He does not drink or smoke. He doesn’t even really go out at night; he’s a loner who spends nearly all his time either at the gym or with his brother, wife, and son. He also has the advantage of stepping into the ring around 155 pounds. He will never be at a size disadvantage at 140 or probably even at 147. He’s just a big, strong, sturdy guy who is capable of getting his weight down very low for his size. I think he will be too disciplined and strong for Kelson Pinto.

Kelson Pinto is a good fighter, but he is not ready for this fight. There are two main things that give me pause about Pinto’s credentials: his level of competition and the fact that Frank Warren chose him as an opponent for Ricky Hatton. In the last year, Pinto’s two opponents have a laughable combined record of 2-6! I’m not kidding. The only opponent of Pinto’s fans would know is Emmanuel Augustus and Pinto went to decision with him (but complained of food poisoning). Pinto has fought beyond two rounds on only five times in 20 pro fights and half of his fights have been against fighters with 6 or fewer fights. Conversely, Cotto has dispatched of a number of skilled veterans. Perhaps some were beyond their prime, but Pinto has faced no fighter the caliber of Lovemore N’Dou, Cesar Bazan, Carlos Maussa, Ubaldo Hernandez, or Justin Juuko. Only three of Cotto’s opponents have had fewer than 14 professional fights, and they were among his first four opponents. In other words, Cotto has been swimming with some sharks so far while Pinto is still in the kiddie-pool.

I also mentioned Frank Warren’s choice Pinto for a Ricky Hatton opponent. Mr. Warren is known for taking a conservative pace and level of opposition when making matches for his marquee fighters. I do not believe there is any way he would pick a dangerous fighter to take on Ricky Hatton until Hatton wins a legitimate world title. Call me pessimistic, but that’s my honest opinion. That said, Pinto can punch. He’s rangy and tall with a big right hand and decent jab, but don’t let the description fool you – he’s no Tommy Hearns. Basically, Cotto is simply not lazy enough to get caught with a big shot from Pinto. I’m relatively certain this fight will be Cotto’s coming out party and he will win his first legitimate world title. I think Cotto will fight conservatively, but will still win by stoppage after some brutal left hooks to the body eventually take their toll. Take this one to the bank!

Cotto TKO 8 over Pinto

Now, I’m going to be honest. I might be more excited to see Margarito fight than anyone else on this card. I wrote a few weeks back that I feel he’s one of the most under-rated fighters in the game today and I think that he’ll put on a great show Saturday. Fans last saw Margarito on a Boxing After Dark card in which he Rafael Marquez easily dispatched of overhyped prospects. Daniel Santos-Pena is neither overhyped, nor a prospect and it should make for a good action fight. Margarito and Santos actually tried to fight once before. In 2001, they dueled to a no-contest after a clash of heads opened a gash over the Mexican’s eye.

Both fighters here are highly skilled and experienced, but my pick here is Antonio Margarito. I think that both fighters could have chosen easier opponents, and I credit them both for taking this fight. Margarito is great at cutting off the ring and is a superb finisher. Unfortunately, Santos is a southpaw and it takes more work and discipline to cut off the ring on a southpaw. This is an appropriate weight class for both men, and they are physically similar. Santos is maybe two inches taller and has an inch of reach on Margarito. Santos has not lost a fight since 1999, but Margarito is unbeaten in the last 8 years. Santos looked great against an aging Yory Boy Campas as well as outclassing Michael Lerma in April. Still, he was stopped by Kofi Jantuah five years ago. Antonio Margarito suffered three early career losses, but in the past eight years has largely dominated some good (but not great) opponents in Six Heads Lewis, Antonio Diaz, Hercules Kyvelos, and David Kamau.

Antonio Margarito and Daniel Santos are both tough, capable, and dangerous fighters, but I think Margarito has too much in the tank to lose. The fight should be a chess match for a few rounds while they acclimate themselves to one another, but that it will turn into a war as soon as blood appears on one man’s face. I think ultimately Margarito’s body work will take its toll on the Puerto Rican and Santos’ guard will drop. I think that Margarito will land his right hand consistently for the last half of the fight and eventually stop Santos. Santos is very good fighter, but I believe Antonio Margarito is truly something special in this game and he will show that Saturday night.

Margarito TKO 10 over Santos

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Article posted on 09.09.2004

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