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Friday, November 13, 2009

Miguel Cotto aiming to erase painful memories by lifting crown

By Ron Lewis, Las Vegas

All his career, Miguel Cotto has been used to being the star attraction. Despite having his WBO welterweight title on the line, Cotto knows that he has second billing to Manny Pacquiao for tomorrow’s big bout here. But Cotto is not worried about billing, he has a serious point to prove.

Cotto previously boxed in this city 16 months ago, when he suffered a bloody and painful defeat by Antonio Margarito. It was something of an upset, too, but it is a bout that will for ever be wrapped in controversy because of the events that followed.

In January, Margarito defended the WBA welterweight title he had won from Cotto against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles. Before the bout, Margarito and his trainer were caught trying one of the most outrageous pieces of cheating in the sport’s history.

As Margarito’s hands were wrapped by Javier Capetillo, Nazim Richardson, the trainer of Mosley, raised an objection. Rather than the usual gauze and tape, Margarito’s wraps included a grey pad and were wet.

The wraps were impounded by the California State Athletic Commission — Margarito’s hands were rewrapped correctly and he lost the bout — and it was found that they hardened in a style similar to plaster of Paris, which effectively would have turned his hands into rocks. Margarito had attempted to box with loaded gloves.

While Margarito and Capetillo had their licences revoked, many people’s thoughts turned back to the Mexican’s bout with Cotto and whether Margarito’s gloves could have been loaded that night. The Puerto Rican, who had been unbeaten, dominated the early rounds but was ground down by Margarito’s punches.

“The tears coming out of Miguel’s eyes that night were tears of blood,” Miguel Cotto Sr, the boxer’s father, said. “He was bleeding out of his nose, bleeding out of his ears. You had to see how deep the wounds were. It’s impossible to explain how someone with gloves could do that.”

No member of Cotto’s team had watched Margarito’s hands being wrapped that night because they had been busy with other boxers on the undercard. “The only people who really know when he has used those things are him or his team,” Cotto said. “That fight is in the past.”

But the question remains how much that defeat has taken out of Cotto. He returned in February, when he stopped Michael Jennings, from Chorley, Lancashire, for the vacant WBO title, and struggled to a splitdecision win over Joshua Clottey in June. He has a size advantage over Pacquiao, but so did Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton and neither could cope with the Filipino’s speed.

Cotto, 29, took up boxing to get in shape when he was an overweight 10-year-old. He discovered he was very good and now stands alongside the likes of Wilfred Benítez, Wilfredo Gómez and Félix Trinidad in the affections of his countrymen.

To help Pacquiao, who is moving up in weight, tomorrow’s match has been made at 10st 5lb, 2lb below the welterweight limit. The bout will still go ahead if Cotto fails to make the lower weight, but he would face a $1 million (about £600,000) fine.

While the world will be watching when the WBO world welterweight title is decided here tomorrow, far fewer will look on when Matthew Hatton challenges Lovemore N’dou for the IBO version at the Fenton Manor Sports Complex in Stoke this evening.

The IBO has made large strides but is still regarded as a fringe belt, as is shown by the fact that N’dou, a former IBF light-welterweight champion, and Hatton are Nos 26 and 50 respectively in the IBO’s independent rankings.

Still, it is a big chance for Hatton, 28, who has improved greatly in four wins since he was beaten by Craig Watson for the Commonwealth title 18 months ago. Victory over the 38-year-old champion from Australia could move him on to bigger things.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/boxing/article6914557.ece

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