A decade ago a fight between two legends that produced legendary action and an ending that has not and will not be forgotten anytime soon went down. The tremendous back and forth combat has almost been forgotten in lieu of the controversy that would later be brought to our attention. The fight that produced unbelievable fireworks and was one of the most exciting chapters of the awesome Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry, is remembered as simply the hand wrap controversy.
The combination of the plaster of Paris brick that was found in Margarito’s hand wraps prior to his stoppage loss to Shane Mosley, the state of Miguel Cotto’s face after the first Margarito fight and a quite incriminating picture of Margarito’s hands immediately after the fight, has set the internet on fire and has lead a now decades-long debate of whether or not Margarito loaded his wraps in the Cotto fight. Margarito denies the accusation obviously, but he also says he was unaware that he had the blocks in his hand wraps while getting taped in the Mosley fight. Cotto reluctant to answer the question for many years finally admitted that yes, he thought Margarito used the loaded wraps. One of them is right and the internet and the boxing world has been split ever since.
Miguel Cotto was entering the fight as an undefeated two-division world champion with a record of 32-0 and making the fifth defense of his WBA welterweight title. He had in the recent past defeated two future hall of famers in Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. Cotto also captured Jr Welterweight gold where he reigned champion from 04-06. With Floyd Mayweather on a temporary retirement and away from the sport, Cotto was not just looking to seize control of the welterweight division but was also on the verge of becoming boxing’s next PPV star and the international face of the sport. All of that was on the line against the Tijuana Tornado, Antonio Margarito, a tremendously large and ferocious welterweight who had compiled a record of 36-5 and had captured two welterweight titles. First, a vacated WBO strap that he won against Daniel Santos all the way back in 2002 and lost in 2007 against Paul Williams in what was a Fight of The Year type fight. Margarito then captured the IBF strap when he stopped Kermit Cintron with an unforgettable body shot in April of 2008.
Only Cotto’s WBA belt was on the line, but legacy and national pride were up for grabs and seemingly much more important when the two meet up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on July 26, 2008. Cotto took control of the fight in the early going. The Puerto Rican icon was landing beautifully placed combinations to the head and body and using slick footwork to avoid the come forward flat-footed attack of Margarito. Cotto built up a sizeable lead on the scorecards through the first several rounds. In the middle rounds, the momentum began to shift as the “tornado” began to rumble. Was the plaster in Margarito’s gloves beginning to harden? Or was it simply the relentless Mexican warrior taking the Puerto Ricans best shot and then walking down the naturally smaller man? That debate is not going to be settled anytime in the foreseeable future. In the seventh round, a pair of Margarito uppercuts staggered Cotto, who began to bleed from his nose. Margarito continued to stalk his opponent down causing a tremendous amount of damage to Cotto’s face and sending the Puerto Rican star back to his corner in a state of absolute exhaustion after the 10th round. The 60-second recess did little to repair the WBA champ and Margarito picked up where he left off. In the 11th, the challenger unleashed a flurry of punches forcing Cotto to the ropes before landing punishing power shots on Cotto. The end came quickly for Cotto as Margarito finally forced Cotto to take a knee after another massive combination. Cotto rose to his feet and was quickly beat down again. This time bringing in Kenny Bayless to call a halt to the fight. Completing the comeback and crowing Margarito as the new WBA welterweight champion.
Cotto went on to recapture a strap at welterweight and then struck gold at both the Jr Middleweight and Middleweight divisions. Making Cotto a four-division world champion and a sure-fire first-ballot future Hall of Famer. Of all of Cotto’s memorable victories, none seemed more satisfying for the Puerto Rican legend then when he exacted revenge on his former Mexican conquerer at his home away from home, Madison Square Garden, in a defense of his 154 pound WBA strap on December of 2011. Margarito on the other hand never won a substantial fight again, as a matter of fact, he never really won a round in meaningful fight again, being destroyed and more or less shut out by Shane Mosley in his very next fight, then being destroyed by Pacquiao and Cotto. After the Cotto stoppage, Margarito returned to the ring after a nearly 40-month layoff and has picked up three consecutive wins off of much, much lower tiered fighters. Margarito is still considered active and is now more of a sideshow. His loyalist still show up, to show the former all-action fan favorite Mexican support and love, while others tune in to hopefully see the “cheater” get beat up like he deserves.