'The Battle' a classic war!
Margarito usurps Cotto for welterweight crown
Ringside by Andrea Hale and Victor Perea
Photography by Chris Cozzone
There are fights and then there are wars.
Saturday, July 26, featured the latter. The highly anticipated war between welterweights Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas was exactly what boxing needed—an instant classic that gave boxing fans all over the world all they could handle . . . and then some. When the dust and debris settled, Margarito had usurped the WBA welterweight title with a grueling 11th round TKO victory in front of a near capacity crowd of Mexican and Puerto Rican supporters who’d witnessed a bout that was one for the ages.
It was only appropriate that Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez was on hand to witness this true war of attrition. Eighteen years ago, Chavez won his own war of attrition by defeating the faster and more fleet of foot Meldrick Taylor by pounding him out every minute of every round until he knocked him out in devastating fashion at the last second of the last round. Although not as dramatic as that encounter, Margarito looked as if he may be outfoxed by Cotto’s superior boxing abilities early on. But as the rounds went by, an increasingly relentless Margarito closed the distance and, with every thudding uppercut and devastating body punch, took a chunk out of the usually durable Cotto.
By the 11th round, Cotto had been so mercilessly bludgeoned by his opponent that his corner threw in the towel to save their fighter from further punishment.
Early on, Cotto looked brilliant as he stuffed his jab in Margarito’s face and kept his opponent off balance with an excellent showcase of hand speed and footwork. The exceptional quickness was evident early as Cotto reeled off multiple combinations and, just as Margarito would get close, Cotto would squirrel away and shuffle to the opposite end of the ring. In the fifth round, it looked as if Cotto would be too much for the Mexican as he closed the round slipping six straight punches with bad intentions.
Puerto Ricans went wild but Margarito would be undeterred. Cotto may have been piling up the points in the first five rounds by delivering a boxing lesson in what was reminiscent of Ali’s “rope-a-dope” style, but slowly and surely, the stalking Margarito closed the distance.
Margarito took Cotto’s best and shrugged it off as if it were merely a speed bump on his path to destruction. By the sixth round, Cotto wasn’t fighting Margarito for twelve rounds—he was fighting for his life. It was a valiant attempt by Cotto but the war was wearing on Cotto. Every second that passed made Margarito stronger, and Cotto wilting away.
By the 10th round, Margarito was stuffing Cotto full of uppercuts and vicious body punches that the Puerto Rican just couldn’t get away from any longer. It seemed that the expressionless Cotto was being dismantled right before the crowd of half-Mexican and half-Puerto Rican. Cotto’s heart wouldn’t allow him to quit–but his body could take no more.
Round eleven found Margarito on the prowl again as Cotto did everything he could to keep Margarito from catching him on the ropes. Unfortunately, Cotto's big heart could not make the body do what it couldn’t. A left uppercut followed by a right uppercut sapped all the life Cotto had left, and he took a knee to avoid any further punishment.
Cotto’s will pulled him to his feet but the shark smelled the blood in the water. With the Mexican fans erupting, Margarito launched another violent barrage at Cotto and the former champion sank to a knee again. This time, Evangelista Cotto couldn’t watch his nephew take the brutal beating any longer and threw in the towel at 2:05 to save him from further damage.
The Mexican fans went wild as Margarito and his corner broke into a raucous celebration as the fighter long known for being ducked finally got the respect he deserved. In the process, he turned the entire world of boxing upside down with one helluva performance.
“Obviously, Cotto is a very strong fighter,” said Margarito, who improves to 37-5 with his 27th KO. “I told my corner during the fight that I would knock him out and it did come he never hurt me but that was the game plan - to come out strong and knock him out. I got him with body shots, then hit him in the head and knocked him out.”
Cotto – who falls to 32-1, 26 KOs, vacated the ring immediately after the loss but spoke from his locker room before being taken to the hospital.
“I am very proud and very happy I was able to give the fans a great fight,” said Cotto, who’d taken the emotional and physical beating of his life.
“Life continues. It’s not over for me. I’m going to take a long rest, decide what to do next. This night was Margarito’s night. He’s an excellent fighter. He did his job better than I did.”
Margarito was up 96-94 on two of the judges’ scorecards going into the eleventh while the third had the fight even. An eye opening statistic found Cotto connecting on 280 out of 655 punches thrown – a 43% clip. But comparing that to Margarito launching 987 punches of his own and landing 267 (27%) and 237 of those being power shots, was just staggering and showed exactly how Margarito wore down his game opponent. --AH
Motivated Chancila upsets Segura for interim belt
The precursor for the main event of the evening featured WBA No. 1 contender Giovani Segura versus WBA No. 2 rated Cesar Canchila, for the interim WBA light flyweight championship.
On paper, the Mexico-born Segura had the scheduled 12-round bout in his pocket before entering the ring. An -800 sports book favorite, the undefeated Segura came into the bout with 15 of his 19 victories by way of knockout and 9 of those were in the first round. Meanwhile, in his 27 bouts, Canchila had only faced nine men with winning records. The combined record of Segura’s last two opponents was a respectable 49-3-3; while Canchila’s last two opponents combined for a pathetic 2-15-2—yes, that’s two records combined.
However, the ink on paper meant nothing once the two pint-sized warriors stepped between the ropes.
Segura entered the bout sure of himself, sporting a mohawk-lowhawk hybrid and looking to take Canchila’s head off. Left, straight right down the pipes shook Canchila right off the bat. A thudding left hand to the head of Canchila was followed promptly by another left Segura won him the first round.
A minute into the second round, the two traded bombs and, as expected, Segura stayed on top, sending Canchila to the canvas with a flush right hook. The fight restarted and Segura went back to work swinging for the fences with more power than anybody weighing 108 pounds should have. Segura, full of confidence, continued to look for the punch that would end the night early, throwing with ill regard for Canchila’s punches as the second round ended.
Segura continued to dominate, midway through the third, landing a right hand on Canchila during an exchange. It appeared that the southpaw Segura was close to victory. Canchila pestered Segura with a jab here, a right hand there, but it was Segura’s hard shots that were dictating the bout. As the round ended and the bell rang, the two snapped at one each other, exchanging shoves slightly after the bell.
Like a fly in the kitchen, Canchila refused to go away as Segura, throwing slower and slower, continued to look for the one big punch. Canchila, though lacking pep in his punches, kept on ticking with combinations in numbers. Nothing substantial, nothing that hurt Segura, but as the undefeated Mexican continued to swing for the fences, Canchila’s game plan was starting to pay off on the scorecards.
Canchila dug away with right hooks to the body in the fifth, and, with a little more than a minute to go, landed one low, which earned him a warning.
Canchila continued to take rounds while Segura, lacking “Plan B,” looked too hard for the one-punch knockout.
Segura continued to swing and miss while Canchila continued to pepper him with punches. The crowd grew tired of Segura’s lack of output and made it known, as they began to cheer on Canchila.
They traded heavy to start the eighth, but Segura was clearly tired, slowing and frustrated. Finally a right uppercut right hook opened up the best combination in many rounds for Segura. Finally showing some snap back in his punches, he appeared to catch a second wind. Unfortunately for him, the Columbian was too motivated, and he took back momentum from Segura, who was swinging as wide as his mouth was open.
Breathing heavily for the remainder of the bout now, Segura sported a solid mouse under both eyes with the right eye nearly shut. Canchila smothered his opponent with punches, putting Segura in the corner and unloading as the crowd got a rise. There was nothing powerful, but the accumulated punches were wearing down the ill-prepared Segura. Segura resorted to throwing wild, wide shots, visible from a mile away.
Entering the final rounds, Canchila had overcome a deficit on the scorecards, leaving Segura needing a knockout to win. A right hand popped Segura’s head back; simultaneously, Segura landed a grazing right shot of his own—stylish but no last stand on the hill. Unfazed, unafraid, Canchila continued to strike his way to victory.
In the end the judges scored the bout 115-112, 117-110 and 117-110 all for the 8-1 underdog out of Columbia. The winded and heavy-handed Segura landed 151 of 602 power punches thrown, while the pestering Canchila landed 268 of a total of 986 punches slung Segura’s way.
With the victory Canchila, 26-1, 21 KOs, wins the WBA Interim light flyweight title, while a disappointed Segura, now 19-1-1, 15 KOs, swallows his first loss. --VP
Alvarado passes test, defeats former champ Bazan
Mike Alvarado put together an excellent clinic by defeating former WBC lightweight champion Cesar Bazan via fourth round TKO in their junior welterweight bout. Bazan, who had only been knocked out previously by Jose Luis Castillo (6th round) and Miguel Cotto (11th round), valiantly attempted to use his experience to gut out a win against the young Alvarado. But Alvarado is a young fighter with a bright future ahead of him and would not be denied his chance in the spotlight.
Bazan (who falls to 48-11-1 with 31 KOs) was the busier fighter early, trying to pound the respect out of Alvarado. Unfortunately, the fading veteran wasn’t ready for the offensive barrage that would come his way in the third and finish him off in the fourth. After being quite economical in the first two rounds, Alvarado opened up his attack more in the third and found that Bazan had no answer for the right hand. By the fourth, Bazan tried to turn the fight into a brawl but Alvarado’s right hand snuffed out his attack. After backing the Mexican to the ropes, Alvarado reeled off a beautiful left hook-left uppercut-straight right hand combination that dropped Bazan along the ropes for the full ten-count from referee Russell Mora at 2:46.
Although Alvarado was in control for most of the fight, referee Paul Smith gave the first three rounds to Bazan. Maybe he thought we wouldn’t notice.
Alvarado, who improves to 22-0 (15 KOs), clearly expressed his desire to climb the rankings and fight the best in the division.
“I see myself contending in the top ten from my next fight on," he said. "I feel comfortable at my weight.” --AH
Concepcion keeps on smiling, stops Carrera
Twenty-year-old Bernabe Concepcion had on a snickering smile since the day he got to Vegas. At the airport, at the weigh-in, and as he entered the arena, Concepcion has worn a smile.
Last night, the smiling Filipino super bantamweight prospect had a great reason to keep smiling after he chopped down Adam Carrera of California in just three rounds on the opening PPV-televised bout.
After a typical feeling out first round, Carrera and Concepcion took to it center ring second round, trading strikes evenly, for the most part. Concepcion landed a few left hands with more thud than Carrera could manage, but the round was not dominated by either fighter.
That all changed in the third round when the stronger Concepcion began to find his mark. With a Puerto Rican versus Mexican main event the crowd was dominantly Hispanic. Accordingly, for probably the only time during the event the two nationalities joined together clearly in supporting the California fighter with their jaunts and cheers, even though Carrera has fought exclusively in the states while Concepcion has gone into the fire winning his last two bouts in Mexico.
Carrera’s support from the crowd lasted only until a thudding right hand landed square on his temple, dropping him to a knee. Clearly shaken, Carrera took the count to recover before continuing the contest in hopes of fighting back. Concepcion, however, had a different plan and executed it perfectly, dropping Carrera a second time during a heavy exchange with an on-target right uppercut that floored the older opponent.
Obviously hurt, a grimacing Carrera rose to his feet on shaky knees to have Referee Joe Cortez wave off the bout at 2:14 of the third round.
Concepcion, 25-1-1, 15 KOs, continues his winning ways while Carrera, 19-4, 8 KOs, loses his second fight in a row, both via third round knockout. --VP
Rojas goes distance with Laryea
In super bantamweight action, Jesus Rojas pounded his way to an eight-round unanimous decision against Anyetei Laryea.
Laryea was the busier fighter early on, but Rojas’ power proved to be the equalizer to the African’s speed. The second round saw Rojas stalking his opponent and stunning him with a three-punch combination. It appeared that each punch Rojas landed had bad intentions as another searing left hand tore into Laryea’s face to close the round.
Rojas dropped his opponent with a chopping right hand in the third but Laryea rise to survive the battering for the rest of the round. Laryea proved to be pesky and denied Rojas his 11th KO in thirteen fights as he took the power shots well and made it to the final bell.
Regardless, Rojas improves to 13-0, as he won with scores of 77-74 and two scores of 78-73.
Laryea drops to 16-5, 9 KOs. –AH
Flores too much for Torres
A special featherweight attraction between Houston’s Benjamin Flores and former No. 1 rated Vernie Torres of the Philippines nearly went the full scheduled eight rounds before an accidental head but stopped the action.
The ten year younger Flores appeared to be playing the role of the 34-year-old in the opening stanza as Torres tagged him with a healthy dose of left hands. Ducking and moving Torres countered everything Flores threw with powerful shots that commanded respect. Unfortunately for Torres, his lively first round performance would be just that—a one time event.
Torres started the second round still looking to make his left hand do the dirty work, landing it thrice in the first 30 seconds. Flores did not back down, and took it to the Filipino, backing him up against the ropes and striking away. Sporting his hand me down Pacquiao “Pacman” No Fear branded shorts, Torres was tagged with a big left hand as Flores, who clearly lost the first round, made it even.
Both fighters came out slinging in the third stanza, Flores throwing in numbers, Torres slower and with more power. Flores began breaking away, landing his shots and slowly, but surely, making Torres look sluggish. Two big right hands center ring opened up a crowd-rousing barrage for Flores who was breaking away.
Flores continued his hurried pace stopped only during the fifth when referee Robert Byrd deducted a point from Torres for holding and hitting. Flores delivered punches by the dozen, bullying the slower Torres around the ring. Flores positioned his opponent on the ropes often where he teed off and worked the older fighter. Although unhurt Torres left much to be desired as the two featherweights traded away with Flores now clearly in control.
Torres landed the heavier shots on an occasional basis while Flores getting much better odds landed three for every one he received. The seventh round was the only glimpse of promise for Torres as he may have found a second wind. For the first two minutes the Davao City native found his mark with his left hand often, as for the first time since the first round Torres was the own playing the bully. Flores, however, turned the tables with about a minute to go, pinning Torres against the ropes and punishing him for the remainder nearly stealing the round.
The eighth and final round began with a big right hand from Torres who was clearly in need of a knockout. Torres went looking for it, leaving Flores covering up and dancing around the ring looking to last the round and win the bout on cards. As Torres came in flying with a left hand a clash of heads opened up a gash on the right brow of Flores. After the cut was looked at by the ringside physician the bout was called, going to the scorecards.
Torres managed only to win one round as the judges awarded Flores the unanimous decision via scores of 78-73, 79-72 and 79-72. With the victory Flores (19-3) wins his 5th straight bout while Torres (27-12), who’s clearly seen his best days pass, loses his sixth straight.—VP
Cervantes-Ramirez 'cut' short
Unfortunately, for super bantamweights Luis Cervantes (7-3-3, 2 KOs) and Brian Ramirez (5-1, 3 KOs), their affair would be cut short early.
Just as things were beginning to heat up, the two clashed heads and opened a nasty gash on Ramirez’ head. Blood was immediately streaming down Ramirez’ face, causing the ref to call time for a doctor to take a look at the cut. Due to doctor’s orders and the fight not going four full rounds, Referee Toby Gibson was forced to stop the fight and rule it as a no decision at 1:22 of the third round. –AH
Cruz makes quick work of Villa
The opening bout of the evening featured featherweight fighters Jaime Villa and Luis Cruz in a scheduled six-round contest.
Cruz, of Midland, Tex., took it right to the favored Puerto Rican opponent. With both fighters banging from the get-go, the few in attendance could tell it would not be long before somebody hit the canvas. Unfortunately, for Villa that would be him.
Cruz began working the body but, shortly after a left hand went astray, Referee Joe Cortez warned him for the low blow. With 30 seconds left, Cruz continued to work Villa’s body with hard and heavy shots the body. Finding a better home for his left hand, Cruz dropped Villa with wide left hook to the body. From one knee, Villa beat the count with just ten ticks to go. Cruz unloaded and managed to punish Villa enough for “fair and firm” Cortez to jump in and stop the bout at 2:59.
With the TKO victory Luis Cruz (7-0, 5 KOs) continues to represent Puerto Ricans as an undefeated fighter while Villa (5-6-1, 2 KOs) drops under .500. --VP