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October 21, 2014

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Cotto giving fans what they want to see

Welterweight champ says his decision to take on his toughest opponent is good for boxing

Fans greet Cotto

Watch and listen as fans greet Miguel Cotto Tuesday at the MGM Grand. Cotto fights Antonio Margarito Saturday night at the MGM Grand.

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The welterweight world championship fight between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is more than just an enticing matchup of the division’s two most dangerous and aggressive boxers.

As Cotto sees it, the bout, if not a cure-all for what ails boxing, is at least emblematic of the way the sport should do business.

Cotto isn’t just risking his WBA belt Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. He’s fighting his toughest possible opponent.

He’s not ducking anyone. He’s not settling for a tuneup bout and a vague promise to consider a more attractive megafight sometime in the future.

Nope. He’s taking the fight people want to see. Right now.

If Cotto, widely considered one of the most talented boxers in the sport, can do it, why can’t others?

It’s a good question, Cotto said.

“The fans want to see the best fights out there,” Cotto said. “That’s the reason boxing has gone down a little bit, because the boxers choose their opponents and they never choose the best guy.

“When the best guys fight, it will create a good fight. It’s what the fans want to see.”

Cotto, a 2000 Olympian for his native Puerto Rico, has certainly followed the formula lately.

Margarito, who won the IBF title by knocking out Kermit Cintron in April, is the third big-name opponent for Cotto in a little more than a year. (Margarito relinquished the IBF belt, which came with a mandatory fight attached, to take on Cotto.)

After stopping Zab Judah in the 11th round of a violent fight in June 2007, Cotto returned to Madison Square Garden to defend his 147-pound title for a third time, this go-round against former three-division world champion Shane Mosley.

On paper, it looked like a boxing cliche: Put a surefire hall of famer nearing the end of his career (Mosley) in the ring against a rising star (Cotto) looking to add a victory against a high-profile opponent to his resume.

It almost didn’t work out that way.

Mosley displayed his power both early and late in the physically punishing fight, but Cotto responded with pressure of his own as well as pure boxing skills to come away with a close 12-round decision.

For Cotto, his first true megafight was also the toughest bout of his life.

This week at the MGM Grand, Cotto spoke of how Mosley impressed him with his heart, his unrelenting desire for victory, his willingness to push the pace to the limit each round.

“He kept coming,” Cotto said. “That’s the reason he was so tough. Judah was a good boxer, but you ask me who was the best? The best was Mosley.”

Cotto, hoping to keep intact his record of no defeats in 32 professional fights, has been preparing for a similarly brutal test against Margarito, known for his intensity and his attacking style.

Like boxers of yesteryear, Cotto employs a classic methodology in the ring that entails, more often than not, breaking down his opponents piece by piece, round by round.

“I’m not a new-style boxer,” Cotto said. “I’m more old school. It’s just the way my trainer in my whole career taught me how to fight.”

Cotto figures to pound on Margarito’s body in hope of wearing down the challenger, although he promised to adjust to whatever Margarito throws at him.

For his part, Margarito has said only that he plans to keep the heat on Cotto throughout the scheduled 12-rounder.

“I know I have to use everything I have to win this fight against Margarito,” Cotto said. “I’m going to use my upper attack, my lower attack, everything. My team studied the videos (of Margarito’s fights) and they gave me some hints.

“I’m going to use the style I feel (most) comfortable with. That’s the way I have to fight.”

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