Cotto-Margarito II: Mistakes, Revenge Porn, And The Looming Dread Of Watching Miguel Cotto Fight

We all make mistakes.

I can only assume that it was a careless mistake on the part of the Top Rank PR team to place me not at ringside Saturday night, but in a new auxiliary press section high in the rafters of the newly refurbished Madison Square Garden, which offered a grand view of the arena as tableau, but an awful view of the two specific athletes in the boxing ring hundreds of feet below. Not having been apprised of this seating development in advance, I mistakenly forgot to bring my binoculars and was reduced to peering at a TV screen set into my desk to get a sense of any details more fine than the color of trunks. Traveling all the way to an arena only to watch a sporting event on a television set is, clearly, a mistake.

There are, conservatively, hundred of thousands of Mexican boxing fans in the New York City metropolitan area. All of them mistakenly failed to show up to the fight. Granted, the Mexican fighter in the main event, Antonio Margarito, is an antihero rather than a hero, but still. It's important to keep up appearances. The Mexican fans completely ceded the 20,000-plus seats in the Garden to Puerto Rican fans, who thronged every level and tier and aisle and row, but mistook this boxing match for a fervent political rally, so strong and thunderous was the cheering and flag-waving. It's always a mistake for any one group to so thoroughly dominate the crowd; it leaves no one on the other side to serve as a receptacle for epithets.

Fighters make mistakes. Mikey Ruiz's mistake was fighting at 153 pounds despite being only 5-foot-7. Were he a weight class smaller, his snakey right hand would be clobbering guys his own size. Instead, he got cocky and ended up getting clobbered by Glen "Jersey Boy" Tapia, who is 5-11 and well-muscled and looked cartoonishly bigger than Ruiz, like the villain in a Rocky movie. Glen Tapia's mistake is being from Jersey, not that you should tell him that to his face.

Seanie Monaghan made a canny move by being born Irish on Long Island and going into boxing; due to the vagaries of circumstance he's the most high-profile Irish fighter in the city at the moment, despite only having 10 fights to his name. He is therefore guaranteed at least 200 voluble fans of his very own every time he gets in the ring, as long as he persists in wearing a green hoodie with a shamrock on it during his ring entrance. Seanie Monaghan makes the mistake of walking straightforward and pounding, as if he were wielding a club, but his opponent tonight was in no position to make him pay for it. Santos Martinez made the grievous error of not realizing that playing opponent to an Irish fighter on a New York undercard is a loser's game, and he suffered momentary death by left hook to the body in the second round, only moments after I declared to my seatmate, "This guy's gonna get knocked out." My mistake was in not recording my sharp prediction, and in making predictions that are obvious to an entire stadium full of casual fans simultaneously.

Allen Medina's nickname was "Funky Cold." Funky Cold Medina. Everything is right about that. Everything else he did was wrong. He looked quite genuinely like a crack abuser, sporting a bizarre Hare Krishna-style curl on top of his bald head and an intense glare in his eye that, combined with his perpetually hunched shoulders, gave him the distinct air of a lunatic. A lunatic who could not box a bit. (He's from Colorado, which explains everything. Trust me.) Medina was fighting God Damn Mike Lee, a boy from Notre Dame, of all places, the current great white hope of the light heavyweight division, notwithstanding the fact that mediocrity is still a ceiling for him. Mike Lee is enjoying a nice run of fighting on bigger cards than he deserves, thanks to his backstory. He'll realize his mistake once he's forced to fight a light heavyweight who's actually good. Tuning up Colorado crackheads does not pay great dividends as a training method.

If you thought that Sebastian Lujan was another Miguel Cotto, you'd be mistaken. Yes, he has the same bald head and the same physique, and he bounces thickly on his toes, and sometimes he puts his hands down and swings wide shots from his hips by throwing his shoulders around in a fashion identical to Cotto. He's just not nearly as good. And not nearly as good as his opponent, Mike Jones, either. Even accounting for Lujan's hard head, Mike Jones should have been able to knock him out well before 12 rounds were over, had Jones not made the mistake of keeping his spring-loaded right hand constantly cocked by his chin, rather than letting it fire off like a paddle ball, bouncing in some unpredictable direction when it reaches the end of its string. Mike Jones looks as if he's holding an invisible microphone in his right hand and interviewing himself as he moves forward throwing jabs. If he would only pass the invisible microphone into his jab hand and throw rights instead, we all wouldn't have been forced to sit through a dozen interminable rounds of one of those fights in which the only thing surer than the outcome was the probability that no knockout will ever, ever occur.

Pawel "The Raging Bull" Wolak probably thought that his rematch with Delvin Rodriguez would be just like their last fight—a neck-and-neck contest of Wolak pressing forward while Rodriguez furiously moved backward and tried to unleash enough flurries to keep the relentless Wolak out of his chest. Wolak was mistaken. Instead, the taller Rodriguez went into a humorously pronounced crouch which, yes, made him look like a fighting question mark, but minimized his surface area enough so that Wolak, coming forward, could run into only fists, not chest. Rodriguez was able to keep Wolak, one of the most persistent forward-pressure fighters in all of boxing, at bay for 10 rounds by sticking his left arm straight forward and keeping Wolak at the end of it. The old "little brother straightarm" move. That's not supposed to work in amateurs, even. Then Rodriguez kept draping his right arm over Wolak's left glove on the inside, minimizing his ability to throw clean shots. Rodriguez also hit him with sharp hook-uppercut combos many, many times. It was a career performance. Rodriguez's only mistake is thinking that he has anywhere but down to go from here.

Brandon Rios fights like a fool. He plasters his gloves to his forehead and shuffles forward like an old man, throwing extremely basic jabs along the way. Only when he gets inside and starts turning his shoulders into his opponent's forehead and shooting perfect uppercuts up the middle to the chin does he look skillful. At all other times he looks like a petty-vandal juvenile delinquent whom some coach is planning to save from a life hanging out in front of 7-Elevens by teaching him how to box.

In fact, Rios is one of the best lightweights in the world. He has been unbeatable by virtue of having both a harder head and harder fists than anyone else in his division. So while Englishman John Murray fought in an almost identical style to Rios and landed an almost identical number of punches, Rios's punches hurt Murray far more than Murray's did Rios. It's just basic arithmetic. Everyone who tries to fight Brandon Rios inside shall eventually crumble, as Murray did in the 11th. Christ, you could have looked up that fact on the internet, John Murray. Rookie mistake.

Michael Buffer, veteran unflappable announcer motherfucker that he is, made the mistake of telling more than 20,000 screaming fans "shhh, shhh," and then turning to someone standing next to him in the ring and spitting out some cuss words that could be lip-read on the overhead monitors. There was quite an impressive light show in advance of the main event, but our little press nook made the mistake of keeping the lights on the whole time, ruining the thunderstorm effect that everyone else got. When Antonio Margarito entered the ring, we could see that he'd made the mistake of getting angel wings tattooed on his back, like some drunk sorority girl. Yes, Miguel Cotto made the mistake of signing an endorsement deal with Ecko, a company that hasn't been cool in a decade; but his tattoos are marginally less ridiculous.

Nothing left after that but the fight, during which it became clear that maybe Margarito really did load his hand wraps in their first fight, because his punches this time around had no discernible effect. He gamely plodded forward as always, but Cotto consistently beat him to the punch, preventing him from throwing those big, scooping underhanded shots to the body that cause Margarito's prey to back themselves into a corner. Instead, Margarito got popped with a hard left hook in his surgically repaired right eye early, and for the next six rounds or so lost both his depth perception and his ability to land any right hands—his power shot, which does in fact require depth perception. So we had big bad el gran mafioso Antonio Margarito just running after Miguel Cotto, poking ineffective jabs at him, and getting hit, as his eye swelled ever more tightly shut. Not the "game plan" they talked about.

Watching Miguel Cotto fight, though, is always an exercise in looming dread. He does just fine as long as he keeps moving backward, planting to throw two or three hard punches, then circling backward again. But you wouldn't call him light on his toes; he's heavy on his toes, like an offensive lineman wearing shoes with springs in them. And as he bounces and bounces continually backward, you can just see the fatigue building up in him bit by bit, rising from his toes through his calves and seeping over his entire body, all the way through his shoulders and down his arm, eventually overcoming him, at which point he will stop moving backward and drop his hands and be destroyed. In this fight, it did not happen; he closed Margarito's eye and the fight was stopped after the ninth round, before Cotto's fatigue level rose too high. But, oh, it will happen, sooner rather than later, if Miguel Cotto keeps fighting, and all the rabid Puerto Rican fans will be treated once again to the anguish of their really very decent and likable hero being pounded and pounded inhumanly past the point of reason, because I forgot to mention he's also pretty into "never giving up," which is admirable until it gets your brain pounded into paste so that 20 years from now your lovely wife and beautiful kids who sit ringside at your fights are spoon-feeding you rice pudding and reflecting on the fact that the several million dollars you made for those last few fights really wasn't worth it, in the long run.

But Saturday night? Saturday night was a good night.

Hamilton Nolan writes for Gawker and writes about boxing for places besides Gawker.