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Boxing
Cotto-Margarito II: 'Tony' gets his comeuppance

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - So, to all those insistent Antonio Margarito fans out there... how y'all feeling today?

Headaches gone away? Vision still a little blurry? Able to eat any solid food yet?

I'll type slowly, in case you're still a little woozy from Saturday night.

And if you get the sense that I'm feeling no sympathy, you're right.

Bet you're looking back between the Tylenols to the glory days when your man was blowing out the grimy underbelly of the welterweight division, prompting the breathless to sing his praises as the pedestrian WBO title defenses -- Lujan, Cintron, Gomez, Clottey -- piled up like cord wood.

I remember it reached a noisy crescendo the night he bludgeoned Miguel Cotto into surrender in 2008, and I can still recall sitting in my in-laws' house in Tennessee -- listening to the broadcast crew infer that somehow this was the guy striking fear into the heart of a then-sabbaticaled Floyd Mayweather Jr.

We all know I'm a Floyd guy. And I make no apologies for it.


The only question as the fight lingered on was how many shots Miguel Cotto could land before Antonio Margarito's, pictured, face caved in.
But even the objective journalist type in me that night was thinking: "This dude? Really?"

I'll bet it feels like about a thousand years ago now, huh?

A subsequent match with Shane Mosley looked like a win-win cakewalk six months after Cotto, designed to give gruff but lovable "Tony" a chance to spike the resume with a big name whose last significant win in the division was by then already more than eight years past tense.

But a funny thing happened on the way to locking up the welterweight penthouse.

Somewhere along the way, A-Marg became A-Rod.

You remember A-Rod, right? He was a teenage shortstop phenom a decade-and-a- half ago who looked like he'd own the major league home run record by age 35.

His smile lit up a room. His biceps made the women wobbly. And his all-around excellence actually turned Seattle for a time into the world's most unlikely professional sports destination.

Somehow, though... it wasn't good enough.

Call it peer pressure. Call it insecurity. Call it plain old stupidity.

But somewhere along the way, A-Rod decided he needed a little help.

Rather than taking his checkbook-bursting talents to Arlington and naturally continuing the record-book assault with the Texas Rangers, our man chose instead to dabble in locker-room pharmaceuticals in an effort to keep up with the burgeoning "chicks love the long ball" crowd.

And while the backside needling kept the dingers coming, the toll taken on the reputation has been immeasurable -- rendering the one-time Cooperstown-bound hero a modern-day punch line whose milestones from here on out will be served only with a side of cynicism.

Twenty years from now in ring history, it'll be the same story for Margarito, on a seamier scale.

Rather than simply using his supposed "most feared fighter in the world" acumen to grind a shopworn Mosley into near-40s dust, it seems ol' Tony decided he needed a little shortcut... or, for the conspiracy theorists, needed it again.

A little calcium here. A little sulfur there.

Add a little moisture and, presto... the boxing version of PEDs.

Punch-enhancing drugs, if you will.

At some point, whether his idea or someone else's, it probably seemed like a good path. A little extra oomph on the shots. A little late-round security to dissuade rallying opponents. And in a perfect world, a little insurance to ensure that the title-belt parade would last forever.

But just as with A-Rod, all good things come to an end.

Instead of carrying the weapons into the ring for the first, fifth or 15th time to use on an unsuspecting Mosley, the curtain was pulled back courtesy of an eagle-eyed Naazim Richardson at Staples Center and has never been fully replaced as the post-discovery Margarito has foundered.

Sort of makes you think the emperor had no clothes to begin with, no?

Or maybe it's just coincidence that the monster who'd terrorized foes before Los Angeles has won just once in four fights since, beating a hand-picked Roberto Garcia while taking fearsome poundings from Mosley, Manny Pacquiao, and, in Saturday's evidence that justice actually might exist in boxing after all... that very same Miguel Cotto.

Three years ago in Vegas, Margarito's sweeping punches had enough on them to render the Puerto Rican incapable of escape in the championship rounds. But in the midtown Manhattan rematch, the only question as the fight lingered was how many shots Cotto could land before his foe's face caved in.

The answer: 210. Before the "Tornado" was rescued by Steve Smoger, that is.

The brutal stoppage didn't keep the lumpy loser from claiming his conqueror "hits like a girl" and insisting he "only needed two more rounds" to turn the tide, still, it was quite likely enough to keep Bob Arum from propping his phony menace up for anything other than stand-in roles from here forward.

It's not perfect and it certainly won't save the Cintrons and Lujans of days gone by.

But if you're asking me today, all's well that ends well.

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

IBF junior welterweight/WBA super lightweight titles - Washington, DC

Amir Khan (champion) vs. Lamont Peterson (No. 1 WBA contender)

Khan (26-1, 18 KO): Sixth WBA title defense; Fourth fight in United States (3-0, 2 KO)

Peterson (29-1-1, 15 KO): Second title fight; Two wins in last four fights (2-1-1, 2 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Title-defense swan song at 140 for world-traveling champ." Khan by decision

IBF junior lightweight title -- Los Mochis, MX

Juan Carlos Salgado (champion) vs. Miguel Beltran Jr. (No. 14 contender)

Salgado (24-1-1, 16 KO): First title defense; Former WBA champion (2009-10, zero defenses)

Beltran (26-1, 17 KO): First title fight; Three scheduled 10-round fights (2-1, 1 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Two-time belt-holder extends second title reign." Salgado in 10

SUNDAY

WBO flyweight title -- Pasig City, Philippines

Brian Viloria (champion) vs. Giovani Segura (No. 1 contender)

Viloria (29-3, 16 KO): First title defense; Former IBF/WBC champion at 108 (two defenses)

Segura (28-1-1, 24 KO): Sixth title fight (5-0, 5 KO); Former WBA/WBO champion at 108 (four defenses)

Fitzbitz says: "Power-punching little man moves up for second weight-class title." Segura by decision

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Last week's picks: 6-1 Overall picks record: 365-121 (75.1 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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