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Friday, September 23, 2011
Cotto-Margarito II tension already high

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

There was a time when Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito were a bit friendly with each other, having fought on the same Top Rank cards several times. That all ended, of course, in the aftermath of their July 2008 fight in Las Vegas, when Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round of a tremendous slugfest to win a welterweight title.

Margarito had launched a huge rally over the second half of a fight he had been losing, grinding Cotto -- whose face was bloodied, bruised and looking like it had been hit with a baseball bat -- into submission.

Perceptions of that fight changed radically for many, including Cotto, when, before Margarito's next fight -- a January 2009 defense against Shane Mosley -- he was caught trying to enter the ring with hand wraps coated in a plaster-like substance. His hands were rewrapped legally and Mosley knocked him out in the ninth round. Margarito, who blamed former trainer Javier Capetillo for inserting the illegal pads without his knowledge, was later suspended by the California commission for the funky wraps and did not fight for 16 months.

Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs), like many, has said he believes Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) got away with wearing loaded hand wraps for their fight, which many attribute his gruesome facial swelling to.

"The first fight has to go down with an asterisk, after what happened with Mosley," Cotto said Thursday. "So there is a doubt that there are questions about our fight. Everyone knows what happened to him after our fight."

As if a rematch between the two wouldn't have been anticipated enough, we can throw the controversy over the hand wraps into the equation -- which was a big part of the discussion as they spent this week promoting their Dec. 3 (HBO PPV) sequel at New York's Madison Square Garden during a four-city media tour of San Juan, Puerto Rico, New York, Mexico City and Los Angeles.

"The hand wraps, that is an issue," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "It's an issue based on what Cotto thinks and what happened with the Mosley fight."

Arum -- who maintained all along that Margarito never knew the wraps were loaded before the Mosley fight and said he believes that Margarito did not wear altered wraps for the 2008 fight with Cotto -- said they will take measures to make sure there is no funny business with the wraps before the rematch.

Arum said his plan is for each trainer, Emanuel Steward for Cotto and Robert Garcia for Margarito, to seal all of their wrapping materials -- tape, gauze and pads -- in bags at the weigh-in and charge the New York commission with keeping them secure overnight, until it's time for the boxers' hands to be wrapped on fight night.

"Why not take all the steps that you can to make it not an issue in this fight?" Arum said.

He said he has talked to New York commissioner Melvina Lathan, who said the organization would do something to keep the materials secure.

"The first fight was thrilling, and even without this stuff, it's going to be a great fight -- the same kind of fight as the first one," Arum said. "The only question from Cotto's standpoint is, has he been able to develop the stamina to go all 12 rounds with this guy? That's what he has to work on, in my opinion."

Before the first fight, nobody from Cotto's camp -- including uncle and trainer Evangelista Cotto, who has since been fired -- oversaw the wrapping of Margarito's hands. The Nevada commission had an inspector in the dressing room to watch the proceedings, but a member of the opposing camp usually is present to observe.

"We're going to make sure that we take care of that," said Cotto, who will be making the second defense of his junior middleweight title. "Everybody on my team knows their job on fight night."

Said Arum: "The commission in Nevada swears its inspectors inspected everything and [that] Margarito's hands were clean, but who knows?"

Cotto-Margarito
Miguel Cotto still stews over the result of his first fight with Antonio Margarito, whom he (among others) suspects of wearing loaded hand wraps for the bout.

Cotto vowed he would never give Margarito a rematch, thus preventing him from making a significant payday. However, economic realities set in and Cotto agreed to the rematch because it was also the biggest available payday for him. According to Arum, Cotto will earn $5 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view profits, while Margarito will earn $2.5 million and a lesser percentage of the PPV upside.

Although he didn't address the financial factors, Cotto said, "I'm happy to get the rematch so I can prove I can beat him. I'm very confident it will be a great fight like the first one, but with a different result. I know the mistakes I made in the first fight and they will be corrected. I'm more mature now and I have a better attitude about my training and about getting ready for a fight than I did three years ago."

Margarito, who will be fighting for the first time since suffering a serious eye injury in a 12-round thrashing at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in November, maintains that his wraps were clean for their first fight and predicts another victory -- this time without any taint.

"I'm a clean fighter. I have never done anything illegal in my career," Margarito said. "Once I beat him again, it will be proof. But I understand where he's coming from.

"The guy had no power at welterweight. I never felt his punches. I doubt he will have any power at 154."

Arum said Cotto needs to let go of his bitterness to be effective against Margarito.

"The one thing that can really hurt Miguel in this fight is that he has such anger built up," Arum said. "He certainly believes that they were illegal hand pads in the first fight, and he's an angry man. There is no love lost between him and Margarito, but not on Margarito's side. I just think if Miguel has anger, it's not good for his performance. Hopefully, he uses that anger to prepare for the fight and comes into the ring without the anger, and then he can put up a much better fight. The anger tends to sap your strength."

Although Cotto has behaved professionally and hasn't engaged in trash talk, Arum said he could feel the tension during the media tour when they would stand with each other for photos.

"They conduct themselves like professionals. That is a real plus. I can't stand the trash talking, but there is an intensity involved in it," Arum said. "I can feel it. I can see it. It makes the whole thing very uneasy. But controversy like that always sells, gives you a storyline -- and it's an interesting storyline."

Said Cotto: "He sits on his side, I am on my side. We are close only for the pictures."

Although Cotto has always been a big ticket seller, Arum said the heat for the fight and the grudge match angle are reasons that nearly 10,000 of the roughly 18,000 available tickets were sold in the first few days they were on sale this week.

"These are real people buying tickets, not [a] casino," Arum said.

Doctors OK Taylor license

Former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor's path to receiving a boxing license cleared a major hurdle Thursday, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission's medical advisory panel offered a 5-0 recommendation that the commission approve him medically, commission executive director Keith Kizer said.

Taylor is seeking to return to the ring after almost two years since stepping away from the sport when he suffered a small brain bleed in an October 2009 12th-round knockout loss to Arthur Abraham in the opening round of Showtime's "Super Six World Boxing Classic."

Taylor has undergone a battery of tests by multiple doctors, including his doctor in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., at the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. The results were examined by Nevada's medical advisory board, which met via teleconference to consider the reports. Taylor and adviser Al Haymon listened to the call, Kizer said.

Now that the medical advisory board has given its recommendation to the commission, Taylor's application is on the agenda for the commission's Sept. 28 meeting, at which the panel is expected to vote on whether he will receive a license.

Kizer said Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs), 33, must appear in person at the meeting for his application to be considered. If Taylor is licensed, he plans to fight before the end of the year, probably in Little Rock.

Arce defends in Nongqayi rematch

Mexican star Jorge Arce, who knocked out Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in the 12th round in May to win a junior featherweight title, will make his first defense against South Africa's Simphiwe Nongqayi in Mexicali, Mexico, on Saturday (Fox Deportes, 10 p.m. ET).

Arce (57-6-2, 44 KOs) will be looking for revenge. In September 2009, Nongqayi (16-1-1, 6 KOs) went to Mexico and won a unanimous decision against Arce to claim a vacant junior bantamweight title. Now that Arce has moved up and won another belt, he wants payback.

Jorge Arce
Jorge Arce, who upended junior featherweight champ Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in a thriller back in May, will make his first defense Saturday in a grudge match with Simphiwe Nongqayi.

"It was a bad time for me and my team in Cancun," Arce said of the site of the first fight. "I had shin splints, I was sluggish, slow and weak. One day earlier, I had been hit with a cold and I never recovered, and Simphiwe boxed well. But things will be different in Mexicali, and I will KO him to even the score.

"I have several offers in case I beat Simphiwe. One of them is a rematch against Wilfredo 'Papito' Vazquez in November and the other one is a fight against [Jhonny] Gonzalez for the featherweight title. They're both attractive fights, but I need to win in Mexicali first."

After beating Arce in their first meeting, Nongqayi retained his title in a draw against Malik Bouziane then lost it via sixth-round knockout to Juan Alberto Rosas in July 2010.

"I want to thank Arce for giving me this opportunity to revalidate my achievement here," Nongqayi said to Arce at this week's final news conference. "I beat him the last time and this time it will be the same. I don't know why you want to fight me. Perhaps 'Topo' Rosas could tell you a little bit about me. But now I am very strong as a fighter, so please look at me now, Jorge, because on Saturday I will knock you out."

In the fight before Nongqayi defeated Arce, he had outpointed Jorge's brother, Francisco, in a title eliminator.

"I did it to your brother Francisco, I followed up with you, and then on Saturday I will finish you off," Nongqayi said. "I am happy to be in Mexico, and I will regain my title again."

Quick Hits

• Erik Morales (52-7, 36 KOs), who won a vacant junior welterweight belt by stopping Mexican countryman Pablo Cesar Cano in the 10th round on the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz undercard this past Saturday night, likely will return in December. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com that Morales visited his Los Angeles offices this week to discuss plans for a defense in Mexico before the end of the year. Although Morales, 35, was cut in a very physically taxing fight with Cano, Schaefer said that Morales "really wanted to fight again before the end of the year, so we are working on plans for him."

• Schaefer said he is also making plans for the next fight for junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (38-0-1, 28 KOs), who successfully defended his belt for the second time by stopping Alfonso Gomez in the sixth round this past Saturday at the Staples Center on the Los Angeles portion of the Mayweather-Ortiz split-site HBO PPV card. Alvarez is only 21 and looking to stay busy, so Schaefer said he is planning a fight for him -- Alvarez's fourth of the year -- in November or December in his native Mexico. No opponent or venue has been determined. Even though the American TV networks are booked for the rest of the year and have spent their money, Schaefer said, "Once we have a fight and a date, I will see what TV is available. I'm quite sure HBO or Showtime would love to have Canelo and would make a date available. I'm not worried at all that there won't be TV for Canelo in the United States."

• If you missed Mayweather's controversial fourth-round knockout of Ortiz to win a welterweight belt on HBO PPV this past Saturday night in Las Vegas, HBO will show a replay on a special edition of "World Championship Boxing" on Saturday (9:45 p.m. ET/PT). In addition to the bout, the delayed broadcast will include what is, in essence, the fifth episode of the network's "24/7" series. It will include footage shot during fight week, including after the fight in the dressing rooms and postfight news conference. Following the HBO replay of the main event, the Alvarez-Gomez and Morales-Cano undercard bouts from the pay-per-view will be replayed in Spanish on HBO Latino (11:15 ET/PT).

• With the ongoing lawsuit pertaining to the estate of the late two-time titleholder and all-time action fighter Arturo Gatti, and given the belief by many that Gatti was murdered while on vacation in Brazil with his wife, Amanda Rodrigues, and infant son -- and that he did not kill himself, as Brazilian authorities ruled -- his untimely July 2009 death remains a mystery. The season premiere of CBS' news magazine show "48 Hours Mystery" on Saturday (10 p.m. ET/PT) examines Gatti's death for the hour-long program. Correspondent Erin Moriarty's report includes Rodrigues' first television interview. She was originally arrested for murder but released nearly three weeks later when Brazilian authorities ruled that Gatti had hanged himself with her purse strap and had not been murdered, even though serious questions remain over the validity of the ruling. Rodrigues is embroiled in a lawsuit with Gatti's family over his multimillion dollar estate. The report also includes interviews with Joe Gatti, Arturo's brother and a former professional fighter, who shares his own theory about how his brother died, and Micky Ward, Gatti's ring rival and close friend.

Mike Garcia
Mikey Garcia will next appear in a stay-busy fight on the Oct. 22 Nonito Donaire-Omar Narvaez undercard while awaiting a featherweight title shot.

• Featherweight contender Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (26-0, 22 KOs) is closing in on a title opportunity. But while awaiting it, he'll stay busy fighting Oct. 22 in New York's Madison Square Garden Theater on the undercard of Nonito Donaire's bantamweight title defense against junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez. Garcia's last two bouts have been on HBO, but this one is not part of the network's telecast -- although the network likely will show highlights of the bout. Garcia will face Mexico's Juan Carlos Martinez (19-12-1, 7 KOs), who has won two fights in a row, including an upset eight-round decision against former title challenger Bernabe Concepcion on May 6 on "Friday Night Fights" in Las Vegas. "The plan is to get Mikey a title fight," manager Cameron Dunkin said. "We've worked toward that. He does have this fight first, but Mikey's day is coming soon. He will have his time."

• When former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo signed with Golden Boy in June, the original plan was for him to fight last weekend either on the Mayweather-Ortiz undercard or on a Golden Boy show the previous night. Neither worked out, but Collazo (31-4, 16 KOs) is now scheduled to fight Oct. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. Collazo will face Freddy Hernandez (29-2, 20 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round junior middleweight bout at a contract weight of 150 pounds. Hernandez hasn't fought since being knocked out in the first round of a welterweight title bout by then-titlist Andre Berto in November. Most of the card pits Golden Boy fighters against Gary Shaw-promoted fighters. Schaefer has talked about putting together a tournament of welterweights and said Collazo is a name that could fit in if the event comes off. "I think he fits perfectly into that mix," Schaefer said. "He's a guy who can make a lot of noise in that weight class, which is why we signed him."

• Middleweight titlist Felix Sturm (36-2-1, 15 KOs), who survived to win a highly controversial decision against Irishman Matthew Macklin of England in June, will face another fighter from the United Kingdom, Martin Murray (23-0, 10 KOs), in his next defense on Dec. 2 in Mannheim, Germany. Although his résumé is thin and lacks notable victories, Murray will get a shot at a title and is bidding to become the first fighter promoted by Ricky Hatton to capture one. "I am absolutely buzzing and have so much motivation to go over there and beat Sturm," Murray said. "I first knew about the fight in early September, but we couldn't say anything until the contract was signed. I have started an 11-week training camp at Oliver Harrison's gym, and come fight night I will be in the shape of my life. I have been ready for this chance for about nine months, but I seemed to slip under the radar because everybody talks about Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker as the main middleweights in Britain."

• Former strawweight and junior flyweight champ Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon's return to the strawweight division is set for Oct. 29 in his hometown of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, promoter PR Best Boxing announced. He will face former two-time strawweight titlist Raul Garcia (30-2-1, 18 KOs) of Mexico for a vacant interim belt on a card that coincides with the WBO's annual convention, which is in Puerto Rico this year. Calderon (34-2-1, 6 KOs) has been idle since being knocked out in a junior flyweight championship fight by Giovani Segura in April. Also due to appear on the card are two other former titleholders from Puerto Rico: junior featherweight Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (20-1-1, 17 KOs), in his first fight since losing his title via 12th-round knockout to Jorge Arce in May, and junior middleweight Carlos Quintana (28-3, 22 KOs), a former welterweight titlist. Their opponents have not been determined.

• Junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk (37-1, 23 KOs) of Ukraine suffered a shoulder injury, forcing him to withdraw from a mandatory defense against Lukas Konecny (47-3, 22 KOs) on Sept. 30 in Konecny's native Czech Republic, according to Matt Rowland of Banner Promotions, Dzinziruk's co-promoter. A new date has not been determined, Rowland said. Gary Shaw, Dzinziruk's co-promoter, told ESPN.com that Dzinziruk should be ready to train in October. He is returning to 154 pounds to defend his title after being stopped in the eighth round of a one-sided fight challenging middleweight champ Sergio Martinez in March. Dzinziruk already owns a win against Konecny. He won a majority decision against him in a 2008 title defense in Germany.

• Super middleweight James DeGale (10-1, 8 KOs), the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, will try to rebound from his majority decision loss to rival George Groves in May by challenging Poland's Piotr Wilczewski (29-1, 10 KOs) for the European title. Promoter Frank Warren announced that the bout will take place Oct. 15 in Liverpool, England, on the undercard of light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly's defense against Tony Bellew. "Piotr is a good, tough champion and he looks like a right handful," DeGale said. "This is a really tough fight for me and I'm expecting him to bring the best out in me on the night. It's fantastic that I'm challenging for the European title in my first fight back, and I'm going to take the title."

• Junior lightweight Adrien Broner (21-0, 17 KOs) is due to fight on HBO on Nov. 26, possibly for the belt Scotland's Ricky Burns recently vacated to move up to lightweight for a November fight against Michael Katsidis and a shot at a vacant interim lightweight belt. Broner is without an opponent, but Argenis Mendez (18-2, 9 KOs) is volunteering for the fight. He is coming off an entertaining and controversial decision loss to Juan Carlos Salgado for a vacant junior lightweight belt on Sept. 10 on Salgado's turf in Mexico. "Mendez should be the IBF champion right now," promoter Lou DiBella said. "He lost a close decision due to hometown advantage. If Adrien Broner wants to be a champion, he has to fight top-quality opposition. Broner and Mendez is a perfect championship match to replace [Burns]."

• Faded former two-time lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo (62-11-1, 53 KOs), 37, coming off a surprising loss to fellow Mexican Jorge Paez Jr. in March, hits the road to Montreal for his next fight to face fringe welterweight contender Antonin Decarie (25-1, 7 KOs), 28, on Oct. 20 at the Bell Centre, where promoter Yvon Michel's new season of regular cards begins. The Decarie-Castillo card is the first of five shows Michel will promote this fall at the Bell Centre. Michel said middleweight prospect David Lemieux (25-1, 24 KOs), 22, is due to fight on one of the Bell Centre cards in his first fight since suffering a stunning seventh-round knockout loss to Marco Antonio Rubio in April. Michel's series also will feature three fall cards at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.

Quotable

Martinez

"I have been training very hard and am expecting a tough fight out of Barker on Oct. 1. Barker is coming here to the states undefeated and he intends to leave that way. I must be in top shape, both physically and mentally, to prevent that from happening. The fact that Barker is willing to step up and put his undefeated record on the line shows you that he has a lot of heart and that he is a true warrior, which isn't the case for all fighters."
-- Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, on Darren Barker, whom he faces next week on HBO in Atlantic City, N.J.

Marquez

"I have been waiting for this fight for a long time and I am very excited that it is finally going to happen. I beat him the first two fights but did not get the decisions. This time I will beat him again -- and I will also get the victory."
-- Juan Manuel Marquez, on pound-for-pound king and welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, against whom he has a controversial draw and split-decision loss and will fight for a third time Nov. 12 (HBO PPV) in Las Vegas

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.