During the buildup to a great fight, talk gets cheaper as the bout draws closer. Still, for a grudge match like Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II on Saturday (9 p.m. ET) at New York's storied Madison Square Garden, the growing animosity between the fighters has loosened their tongues and made both more talkative than usual -- sometimes causing them to cross lines rarely stepped over even during the heat of a multimillion-dollar boxing promotion. But such is the case in the aftermath of Margarito's hand-wrap scandal, and with the subsequent suspicions raised that he might have used similarly nefarious (and illegal) methods in his first fight against Cotto, the rhetoric for this bout has escalated beyond even the usual tone of a typical Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry.
We caught up with the usually laconic Cotto during a halt in preparation for the defense of his junior middleweight belt, and this is what he had to say:
How was training for this fight?
Everything's well, thank God. The camp went much better than expected, and we're ready. We're doing great.
How is your relationship with new trainer Pedro Diaz? What have you learned from him so far?
We feel great with him. He brought a lot of new and good things to our camp, and we are very happy with the job he's been doing.
Did Margarito's delay in obtaining a license affect you in any way?
Not at all. Whatever happens to Margarito and his team should concern only Margarito and his team, not us.
Did the controversy about the site of the fight affect your relationship with promoter Bob Arum, after he canceled a teleconference in which you said you wouldn't fight anywhere but in New York?
Well, the teleconference wasn't canceled because of me. I said what I had to say and they decided to finish the call. I never said anything that could have affected the relationship between us.
You've said you will base your attack on Margarito's right eye. What is your strategy for this fight?
The strategy and what we have been working on is something that will be seen on Saturday. We have worked very well, and that is the only thing I can say. We are feeling well, ready and prepared to get another win.
How much different a fighter are you today compared to the Cotto of three years ago?
I believe we are all seeing a more mature Miguel Cotto, a more focused Miguel Cotto, who only has his job on his mind. And a Miguel Cotto who had a few good years since that fight until today, and who will continue having great years.
How different is today's Margarito compared to the fighter he was before the hand wrap scandal? Do you think the fallout affected him as a person or a fighter?
In my mind, there is no place for anything that might have anything to do with Margarito. We are ready and we worry only about ourselves.
You used the word "criminal" to describe Margarito. Do you really feel that way about him?
Well, it's just that if someone attempts to take your life or your health with a weapon, such as pieces of plaster in your hands, do you think that this is legal? Is this for clean and honest people? This is a question you can answer yourself. This is something that I don't even ask myself, because there is proof of this. It's something that I have been pointing out myself. I don't call him a criminal just for lack of a better name. I use this word because that's what he is.
Would you be open to a third fight with Margarito?
I understand that it's too soon to think about this, since we are going to be focused only on the job to be performed on Saturday during this fight. I don't think I will say anything else other than that.
How do you think the fight will be affected by all these personal emotions in play?
None of the things that could affect my performance during the fight has anything to do with feelings, so this isn't something that will have any effect on me.
How do you expect Saturday's fight to unfold?
We're going to get in there and we're going to pick up where we left off three years ago, but with a very different ending this time.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.