In the world of boxing there is a long and rich rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. Each country has produced a number of fighters considered to be favorite sons – some rising to the level of national icon. When pitted against one another, it’s about more than the men in the ring. It rises to a matter of national pride, bragging rights for a country if you will. In the 1980’s it was Julio Cesar Chavez demolishing virtually every Boricua you put in from of him. The 1990’s saw Puerto Rico get the upper hand as Félix Trinidad stole Oscar De La Hoya’s thunder. The latest chapter finds Puerto Rico’s Miguel Angel Cotto squaring off against “El Tornado de Tijuana,” Antonio Margarito in a rematch that has enough subplot, back-story and drama worthy of a telenovela.
The two men first met in Las Vegas on July 26, 2008. Back then Cotto was the champ and an undefeated star on the rise. Fighting Margarito was considered a formality on the way to a mega pay-day against either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Margarito was on a different trajectory, though still considered one of the most feared fighters in his division, a recent defeat at the hands of Paul Williams had marked him as a “beatable” fighter. Except, someone forgot to tell Margarito that. That night in the desert Margarito, slowly but surely, dismantled Cotto with a relentless attack that left him a battered and bloody mess. The end result was Margarito stopping Cotto in 11 rounds. It was the kind of ass-kicking that many fighters never mentally recover from. It harkened back images of the 1990’s fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor. Similarly Taylor was out boxing Chavez, but the methodical attack by Chavez over 12 rounds left the boxer a shadow of the pugilist that stepped in the ring with him. Taylor never recovered. Many thought Cotto would suffer the same fate.