Cotto vs. Margarito 2: What Will Cotto Do Differently?

Miguel CottoBy John G. Thompson: When then unbeaten Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29 KO’s) of Puerto Rico and Mexico’s Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KO’s) met in the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas back in 2008 fans expected a great showing from two of the world’s premier welterweights and the fight did not disappoint. HBO boxing analyst Max Kellerman declared it “a modern boxing classic” after the two fighters went to war over the course of eleven rounds. Cotto showed superior boxing skills but eventually succumbed to one of the most relentless attacks in memory. Therein lies the dilemma for Miguel Cotto; he did very little wrong and still lost the fight. So with their long awaited rematch this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the question becomes, what will Cotto do differently?

Cotto boxed extremely well in the first fight. He took most of the early rounds moving away from Margarito and countering the hell out of him. Unfortunately for Cotto, none of his power shots seemed to bother his opponent who just kept coming at him. While Margarito showed no regard for Cotto’s power, Cotto did seem to be affected by Margarito’s power shots. Eventually, Margarito’s sustained attack took a toll on Cotto and both he and his corner called it quits after Cotto went down twice in the eleventh round as a result of a severe accumulation of punches.

So if Cotto fought a good fight with an excellent game plan and proved to be the superior boxer what could he do differently in order to win? The most obvious thing is to stay off the ropes. Backing up his opponent the entire evening, Margarito did his best work when Cotto’s back hit the ropes, occasionally rocking him with shots. Between rounds Cotto’s corner yelled at him to stay off the ropes. Another element which could use a change is Cotto’s vulnerability to uppercuts. Not specific to this fight, Cotto has always been vulnerable to the uppercut, often ducking low with his hands up high, head forward and chin exposed. Margarito exploited this at times throwing two or even three uppercuts in a row (as his corner told him to do), and this defensive lapse must be fixed prior to the rematch.

Another strategy which Cotto might want to employ is as simple as this – don’t back up. Cotto is known as a power puncher as evident by his twenty-nine KO’s, but those knockouts usually came when Cotto was on the attack, in the “seek and destroy” mode Cotto fans have come to enjoy. A blueprint Cotto might want to look to as a guide to beating Margarito was designed by Shane Mosley. Mosley fought both fighters, losing a close but unanimous decision to Cotto. In a prime example of how styles make fights, a little over a year later Mosley wound up destroying Margarito, stopping him in the ninth round. Mosley did not back down against Margarito, standing up to him and countering him with tremendous shots, putting his weight behind the punches as Cotto failed to do against Margarito. Most if not all fighters are more powerful coming forward than they are backing away. It is simply harder to put your full weight behind a punch when you are moving backwards. Margarito may have a lot of skills, but defense is not one of them.

One other bit of advice to Cotto may not be fan friendly, but the warrior needs to learn to tie up and clench when Margarito gets too close. In the first fight Cotto relied on blocking and head movement even when stuck on the ropes. While he was able to block and duck many of Margarito’s punches, many others landed. If Cotto is backed to the ropes in the next fight, he needs to grab on to Margarito and hold him so that Margarito cannot smother him with punches, just as Mosley did in their fight.

Of course, no discussion of the first fight cannot go without mentioning hand wraps. Margarito was famously (or infamously) caught prior to the Mosley bout with illegal hand wraps – basically “Plaster of Paris,” a substance on the gauze which hardens like plaster when activated by moisture (in this case sweat) as the fight goes on, creating dangerous weapons. That illegal action has brought many of Margarito’s wins into question and none more so than his match with Cotto. Perhaps in the rematch Margarito’s punches will not cause so much damage to Cotto’s face, but that remains to be seen.

For the larger fighter Margarito to repeat his win, he simply needs to do what he did before – apply constant pressure, work the body, and look for the uppercuts. For Cotto to come out of the fight with a win, he has a choice – fight the same fight he fought before, but even better, or change his game plan. If he can just keep off the ropes and tie up as needed, his original game plan could work towards a decision victory. But if he really wants to erase the “Ghosts of Margarito” as the press repeatedly referred to Cotto’s outlook following his first loss, Cotto could take Mosley’s approach and come out at the bell looking for the knockout.

Article posted on 03.12.2011

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