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August 23, 2014

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Take Five: Cotto vs. Margarito, ‘The Battle’

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Sam Morris

Miguel Cotto fans cheer the Puerto Rican fighter Friday at the weigh-in for tonight’s bout against Antonio Margarito of Mexico at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.

1. Classic rivalry

The clash of the world’s two best welterweights also carries on the rich tradition of fights between Mexican and Puerto Rican greats. “We have a top fighter from Puerto Rico, Miguel Cotto, and a top fighter from Mexico, Antonio Margarito, so that rivalry is rekindled, so it adds tremendous buzz and spice to the matchup,” promoter Bob Arum said. “This fight is something special.” Cotto, 27, has emerged as one of the most prominent sports figures in his boxing-mad homeland. Margarito, a 14-year pro at age 30, was born in California and grew up in Tijuana. Both weighed in at 147 pounds Friday at the MGM Grand.

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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2. Top-ranked

A superior performance by Cotto would bolster the position of boxing fans who consider him the best fighter in the sport pound for pound. A victory by Margarito would boost his status among boxing’s elite after a loss to Paul Williams last year, which was followed by consecutive spectacular victories against Golden Johnson and Kermit Cintron. Cotto, typically ranked with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Joe Calzaghe in discussions of boxing’s most talented fighters, downplayed the comparisons. “I’m not here to try to go over the great boxers,” he said. “I’m here to do the best I can. The people who know about boxing, who know about those things, are going to (worry about) the rankings.”

3. Who’s watching?

It’s going too far to suggest that the specter of a retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. looms over the fight, simply because Cotto-Margarito is such a terrific match in its own right. Yet both boxers were repeatedly asked about Mayweather in the buildup to the fight, because he would be a natural big-name, big-money opponent for the winner if he decides to return to the sport. “I am sure he’ll be watching,” Margarito said. “He will want to see how real fighters fight. I am sure there will be a lot of guys that haven’t wanted to fight either one of us that will be watching.” Said Cotto: “I can’t force anybody to fight Miguel Cotto. The guys who want to fight Miguel Cotto know where to find me.”

4. Undercard

Giovani Segura, the WBA’s No. 1 contender at 108 pounds, fights with an exciting style that yielded first-round knockouts in his two most recent fights, including a one-punch KO via a left hook to the body of Willy Valdez in October in Cicero, Ill. Segura, who has won 18 in a row since a draw in his second pro fight, is a lopsided betting favorite of about 8-1 against Cesar Canchila, a Colombian making his U.S. debut. Mike Alvarado, a strong prospect in the 140-pound division, should handle Cesar Bazan, a former world champ who’s 3-4 in his past seven bouts. Bernabe Concepcion, of the Philippines, is managed by a group that includes his countryman Pacquiao.

5. The pick

Both Cotto and Margarito bring an aggressive style to the ring marked by explosive punching power, a potent left hook and a good chin. Margarito could have trouble trying to counter a relentless attack to the body by Cotto, who has appeared particularly strong since moving to welterweight from 140 pounds in 2006. Cotto demonstrated his resilience and durability in brutally physical encounters with Zab Judah and Shane Mosley last year. Relying on a more rounded set of boxing skills, the champion should defend his belt for a fifth consecutive time in a close but unanimous decision.

FIGHT FACTS

Principals: Miguel Cotto (32-0, 26 KOs) vs. Antonio Margarito (36-5, 26 KOs), 12 scheduled rounds

At stake: Cotto’s WBA welterweight title

Time/site: 5 p.m. today, MGM Grand Garden Arena

Tickets: $100-$700, mgmgrand.com

TV: HBO pay-per-view ($49.95)

Promoter: Top Rank

Featured undercard bouts: Giovani Segura (19-0-1, 15 KOs) vs. Cesar Canchila (26-1, 21 KOs), 12 rounds, light flyweights; Mike Alvarado (21-0, 14 KOs) vs. Cesar Bazan (48-10, 31 KOs), 10 rounds, super lightweights; Bernabe Concepcion (25-1-1, 14 KOs) vs. Adam Carrera (19-3, 8 KOs), 10 rounds, super bantamweights

Betting line: Cotto minus-270 (risk $2.70 to win $1)

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