1000 Fights: Cotto-Margarito II

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

This Saturday, HBO Boxing airs its 1,000th fight. To commemorate the occasion, HBO Boxing Insiders selected their favorite fights from the HBO catalog and wrote about them.

December 3, 2011

By Frank Della Femina

When asked to name a favorite anything – be it an athlete, band, food, whatever – I find it's best to go with the first thing that jumps to mind. And so, when I was asked about my favorite fight, I immediately thought about Cotto-Margarito II.

Now, I wouldn't argue that it's the greatest fight HBO has ever shown. But it's a fun one to watch, for a variety of reasons.

More: HBO Boxing Insiders Pick from 1000 Fights

It starts with Antonio Margarito's savage beat-down of Miguel Cotto in July 2008. Then, as Margarito prepared to face off against Shane Mosley six months later, Mosley's trainer Nazim Richardson spots a foreign substance in Margarito's gloves. While nothing officially proved that he used that same tactic in the fight against Cotto, many fight fans took the image of Cotto's pulped face as evidence enough. 

Immediately, when the news of a rematch was announced, everyone knew Cotto would be out for blood.

And he didn’t hide it either. In the weeks leading up to the fight, Cotto said he would target the surgically repaired right eye of Margarito, the result of a broken orbital bone he had suffered just over a year prior in his fight against Manny Pacquiao. The injury, surgery, and subsequent recovery nearly cost Margarito his career, but eventually he was cleared and granted an opportunity to fight in New York. For Cotto, it was his chance to seek revenge and finish what Pacquiao started. 

The fight itself seemed a bit one-sided right from the get-go. Cotto landed clean and often in the first round as the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd howled in delight at every blow. By the end of the third, Margarito’s right eye was already beginning to bleed and swell. It would either be a short night for him, or a long and painful one. Cotto chose to pursue the latter.

While a Cotto victory was hardly a surprise, I don't think anyone could have predicted the level of savage brutality he delivered over the course of nine full rounds. He didn’t just target the right eye, he was trying to knock it clean out of Margarito’s skull.

After a few one-minute check-ups from the doctor during the break between rounds, the fight was officially called before Margarito could come out of his corner for the 10th. Now this is where it gets nasty: official Punch Zone statistics showed that Cotto landed 86 punches to the right eye area of Margarito. Eighty-six. More than any other area on his opponent’s head or body. If that’s not the work of an embittered man on a steadfast mission, I don’t know what is.

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

Even when you thought it was over, Cotto still had more to give. Moments after the fight was called off he stoically cemented his feet in the direction of Margarito’s corner and stared his opponent down. When HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman asked him during a post-fight interview why he did that, he answered, “He means nothing to me.” A poet of pugilism, Miguel Cotto is.

And perhaps the funniest, most delusional, “How hard did you really get hit to think that?” moment came when Margarito claimed he never felt Cotto’s punches. 

I’m pretty sure the thing growing on his face in place of where his eye once was suggested otherwise. He’d retire shortly after and never fight again.