Cotto vs Margarito II: This Fight Should Not Be Happening

For two compelling reasons, it should be impossible for me to hold an objective opinion on the Cotto vs Margarito rematch this Saturday night. First, I was born and raised in Mexico. Second, and more tellingly, on July 26, 2008 I watched in person my countryman’s come-from-behind victory over Cotto. With the several thousands of Mexicans who were also there that night, I experienced an unforgettable, emotional ride ending in elation when Margarito finally raised his arms in triumph. Witnessing live in Las Vegas that ‘modern boxing classic’ – Max Kellerman’s words, not mine – single-handedly nudged up my boxing fandom from enthusiastic yet casual, to officially hardcore.

From what I’ve seen and read, there’s no 100% solid evidence – pun intended – showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Margarito cheated against Cotto that night. Of course I’ve seen the pictures that Cotto carries around on his iPad, but the fact remains, no ruling authority or sanctioning body has deemed those pictures to be concrete (ahem) evidence of cheating. Margarito’s win against Cotto, and his previous victories as well, are suspect. But to call for them to be reversed or switched to ‘No Contest’ is out of the question. No proof of guilt, no punishment. That is the way of the law.

But it’s what happened after Margarito was caught trying to plaster up that really baffles the mind. First off, Margarito should never have been allowed to enter the ring against Mosley, or to cash his paycheck from that fight. And second, no athletic commission with the tiniest bit of dignity and self-respect should have subsequently granted him a license, whether in New York, Texas, Mexico or anywhere else. A one year ban for what he did is laughable.

Some may say that due to the sport’s perceived declining popularity we cannot afford to do away with popular fighters. This is a ridiculous statement. A sport like boxing is savage enough without fighters trying to cheat their way into inflicting more damage on their opponents. No wonder professional boxing is widely regarded as one of the shadiest and most corrupt of ‘organized’ sports – it doesn’t even look after the safety of its athletes. It can’t, because the shameless and short-sighted pursuit of money at the expense of everything else is what guides the sport. The moral integrity of those organizing and promoting the sport, and the physical integrity of those who answer the bell, are both far down the list of priorities, somewhere below the choice of outfits for the ringcards girls, and completely forgotten once the hype machine gets rolling.

Arum: out of his mind?

It should go without saying that the last person to blame for Saturday’s fight is Margarito himself, though I will never buy his professed ignorance regarding his attempt to cheat against Mosley. In signing up to fight Cotto, he’s just pursuing his own self-interest, like we all do. But everyone else involved in this travesty – Bob Arum, Miguel Cotto and his team, the NYSAC, and whatever belt-giving organization that is sanctioning this contest – are all either out of their collective minds or, just plain greedy.

I’ve always held Miguel Cotto in high esteem. Win or lose, and past shady in-ring tactics aside (Cotto is not above the occasional low blow or headbutt), he’s always carried himself with class and dignity, showing nothing but respect for all his opponents. That’s why I’m having such a hard time understanding his decision to give Margarito another shot at a belt, not to mention the big, fat pay check.

As for the show itself, expectations are high regarding both the main event and the undercard. Controversy plus appealing preliminary fights – featuring the notably violent Brandon Rios and a sure-to-be-fun Wolak-Rodriguez rematch – make for a winning formula in the all-important PPV numbers category. But to be perfectly honest, I can’t be bothered to even pick a winner. For so many reasons, Saturday’s fight shouldn’t be happening. And while I’ll be watching, I won’t be feeling good about it.

Reflecting on this fight and the people involved, I’m reminded of some choice lines by that great poet, Bob Dylan:

Let me ask you one question:
is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find,
when your death takes its toll,
all the money you made
will never buy back your soul.

–Rafael Garcia 

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