Saturday, July 26, 2008 | 9:23 p.m.
Prefight: Electricity fills the air -- along with Puerto Rican and Mexican flags -- at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as a sizable crowd prepares for a clash of the world's two best welterweights, Miguel Cotto of Caguas, Puerto Rico, and Antonio Margarito of Tijuana.
Cotto, putting his WBA belt on the line, is listed as a minus-230 favorite (risk $2.30 to win $1) at fight time with the takeback on Margarito plus-190 (risk $1 to net $1.90), according to MGM Mirage odds. The price represents some late betting interest on the underdog, as the line on Cotto was in the minus-280 range during fight week after opening at minus-170.
- Take Five: Cotto vs. Margarito, ‘The Battle’ (7-26-2008)
- Boxing: Cotto vs. Margarito
All three national anthems evoke rousing yet tasteful roars of approval from what appears to be a sellout crowd. Although Cotto has ample support in the arena, overall it's a pro-Margarito crowd -- a stark contrast from the typical scene in traditional Cotto hot spots such as New York and Atlantic City.
Round 1: Cotto, working off his jab, fires off repeated quick combinations, jarring Margarito a couple of times but not fully stopping the challenger's forward momentum. Margarito tries to establish his left hook as Cotto works the body, drawing one warning from referee Kenny Bayless to keep his punches up. Both fighters probably believe they won, but Cotto's round.
Round 2: Tremendous action as Margarito dictates the pace, putting the champ on the defensive with a relentless attack, particularly to Cotto's body. Cotto fights back by landing several solid shots, but sustains a cut on his left eyelid. Margarito's round.
Round 3: Neither man seems to be tiring despite a punishing pace. Cotto is alternately bringing the action up close and personal on Margarito and wheeling back to fight at a distance. Cotto complains to Bayless twice about borderline shots from Margarito, but wins the round.
Round 4: Margarito inflicts more visible damage, drawing blood from Cotto's right nostril. Margarito winds up and connects cleanly with a couple of left uppercuts. Cotto continues to work the body, but Margarito frustrates him by refusing to back up or slow down. Margarito's round.
Round 5: Margarito succeeds in staying busy and controlling the tempo, but Cotto lands the majority of the punches that do any significant amount of serious damage, countering well against the Mexican's aggressive attack. Cotto's round.
Round 6: Halfway through its scheduled distance, the bout is living up to its billing as a fight of the year contender. Margarito appears more active, but Cotto is landing the more vicious blows as both men engage in repeated brutal exchanges. Cotto earns higher marks for defense for blocking a number of Margarito's shots with his gloves. Cotto's round.
Round 7: A monster rally by Margarito gives him the upper hand as he catches Cotto with a dynamic combination of punches and pours it on through the closing bell. A superb round by Margarito gives the Mexican a huge boost of momentum in a sensational, action-filled fight. Margarito's round.
Round 8: The furious pace takes a bit of a breather, although the round still boasts more action than you would find in most other fights on most other nights. Cotto is covering up more, landing solid counterpunches less as Margarito keeps moving forward. Margarito's round.
Round 9: Margarito's fans chant his name as they sense an upset in the making. Cotto retreats from a barrage of punches from his taller, rangier opponent and spits a gob of blood onto the canvas. Margarito forces Cotto up against the ropes, with Cotto slower to respond than he was in the early rounds. Margarito's round.
Round 10: A fairly close round until the closing moments, when Margarito temporarily wobbles Cotto with a searing left hand and capitalizes with a flurry of punches as Cotto is left stunned and briefly defenseless. The accumulation of punches from an extremely busy Margarito could be taking its toll on the champ. Margarito's round.
Round 11: Margarito drops Cotto twice in a fearsome display of punching power, raw force and barely controlled aggression before it's waved off at the 2:05 mark. Margarito emphatically cements his position among the sport's elite with a victory by technical knockout in one of the most thrilling boxing matches of this or any year.
Postfight: The new world champion, understandably in good spirits as he shares a laugh in the ring with promoter Bob Arum and Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez, offers a succinct postmortem of the biggest victory of his career to date: "I got him with body shots, then I hit him in the head, then I knocked him out," Margarito says.