By Eric Raskin
Most of the time when a boxer is launching his fists at another man’s head, it’s strictly business, nothing personal. But there are some occasions when it’s very, very personal. Sometimes we witness the release of personal emotion built up over the course of years. Other times it’s an intense feeling that’s only been brewing for a few seconds.
Cotto’s December 3, 2011, victory over Antonio Margarito was the conclusion of a three-year, four-month odyssey for the Puerto Rican warrior. Back in 2008, he’d suffered his first defeat, via 11th-round stoppage, at the hands of Margarito. But from the moment Margarito’s hand-wraps scandal began unraveling a few months later, Cotto suspected he’d been defeated unfairly. The rematch was about redemption. It was about Cotto proving he could take Margarito’s punch if he knew for sure there were no foreign objects behind it. It was a chance for Cotto to add a win and, to a certain extent, erase a loss.
Over 10 fiercely competitive rounds at Madison Square Garden, Cotto did precisely that. Like their first fight, the action was furious and every punch carried drama. In front of 21,239 screaming fans, Cotto and Margarito added a fitting second—and presumably final—chapter to their rivalry.
On September 17, 2011, Mayweather secured a measure of justice of his own. But his revenge was for an act perpetrated only 30 seconds earlier. In the heat of battle, Victor Ortiz lost his composure and launched his head at Mayweather’s, a flagrant foul that cost Ortiz a point. Ortiz apologized. Then he apologized again. Then referee Joe Cortez ordered the fighters to box, Ortiz insisted upon apologizing a third time, and Mayweather, his lip bloodied by the foul, made the emotional (but 100-percent legal) decision to throw punches at a man who had dropped his guard. A left hook buzzed Ortiz. A straight right hand flattened him. Fourth-round knockout.
It was an ending that got the sports world buzzing. For some, it was further evidence of Mayweather’s greatness. For others, it was further reason to hate him. Either way, the explosive conclusion solidified this as one of the most memorable rumbles that Mayweather has ever been in.