Margarito required 75 minutes of surgery to repair a massive cut and swelling beneath his right eye socket — damage caused by the fists of Pacquiao during a loss that had come some 22 months since he was knocked out for the first time in his career by Shane Mosley in January of 2009.
There is, for some, a twisted irony in the last two losses of Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs), who brought with him an aura of invincibility before being vanquished by Mosley.
Much of that stemmed from his 11th-round knockout of Miguel Cotto, who had been undefeated before suffering a horrendous beat-down at Margarito’s hands that dethroned him as WBA welterweight titleholder in July of 2008.
Since that bout, however, an illegal plaster was discovered and removed from Margarito’s hand wrappings prior to his facing Mosley, causing suspicion as to whether or not Margarito’s hands were clean when he faced Cotto.
The 33-year-old Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) will get a shot at clearing his name against Cotto (36-2, 30 KOs), whom he will try to dethrone as WBA junior middleweight beltholder on Dec. 3 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Margarito said that he is fully recovered from the loss to Pacquiao.
“He was the cause of me having to stay off for so long, He fractured my eye socket. I had to have surgery on my orbital bone,” said Margarito. “But I’ve had some time off. I’m back in the gym. I feel mentally and physically strong.”
Is Margarito confident of another victory over Cotto?
“Definitely I don’t want to say confident, but I feel like my preparation will lead me to a victory and even quicker,” said Margarito, a three-time beltwinner, during a Tuesday press conference in New York promoting their HBO Pay Per View-televised bout.
“Everybody knows what my style of fighting is. I go in and I bring a lot of pressure. I’m going to jump on him right from the beginning to take him out quicker.”
Margarito claimed no knowledge of the content of the wraps, even as his license was revoked by the California State Athletic Commission in February of 2009.
Margarito was more or less exonerated prior to facing Pacquiao following a hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Their decision allowed each state commission the freedom to consider sanctioning Margarito for a license, which Texas did for his bout with Pacquiao, and New York has done for the Cotto fight.
Margarito said he feels no pressure to clear his name regarding the past controversy.
“No, no, not at all. This a great fight for the fans. This is an opportunity for me to become a champion again. I can’t put that pressure on myself,” said Margarito.
“If I carry that into the ring and into training camp, it’s going to affect me. My goal is to get ready to fight a good fight against Cotto.”
Cotto has won twice since being dethroned as WBO welterweight titleholder by Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) via 12th-round knockout in November of 2009.
Cotto’s ninth-round knockout dethroned Yuri Foreman as WBA junior middleweight beltholder in June of last year, and he defended the belt with a 12th-round stoppage of ex-beltholder Ricardo Mayorga in March.
Owing the the punishment he has taken against Mosley and Pacquiao, Cotto wonders if Margarito has lost something as a fighter.
“He received a lot of punches from those guys,” said Cotto. “He didn’t look good in his last fight, and I think I will take advantage of anything that I can.”
Although Pacquiao-Margarito was contested at a catchweight of 150 pounds, Pacquiao faced a 17-pound weight disadvantage (165 pounds to 148 in favor of Margarito) by the time the two fighters entered the ring.
For that reason, Cotto requested and received a negotiated catchweight of 153 — one pound below the junior middleweight limit.
And it is for that reason that Margarito question’s his rival’s confidence level.
“Cotto says he is the champion, but he tried to make this fight at 150, then 152 and we settled on 153,” said Margarito. “I wonder why all of this happened. I really do not understand why he was trying to change the weight from 154.”
Ask if he believes Cotto suffered a damaged psyche after losing to him, Margarito said, “I believe so.”
Margarito is well aware, however, of the cheating stigma attached to him heading into the rematch with Cotto.
“Of course. It’s out there. It’s their opinion. I’m aware it’s out there, especially with the fans in Puerto Rico,” said Margarito.
“But Cotto took a really bad beating from Manny Pacquiao. You could see it in his face. Does that mean that Manny Pacquiao was fighting with loaded gloves? I don’t think so.”
A Puerto Rican native, Cotto has been a big draw in New York owing to the large Puerto Rican population in the area.
Cotto is 8-0 with four knockouts overall in New York, and 6-0 at Madison Square Garden, where he has decisioned former world titleholders Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Paulie Malignaggi, .and knocked out Zab Judah.
Two fights ago, Cotto dethroned Yuri Foreman as WBA junior middleweight titleholder at Yankee Stadium in New York in June of last year. Cotto made the first defense of his belt with a 12th-round stoppage of ex-beltholder Ricardo Mayorga in March.
Still, Margarito said he’s up to the challenge of fighting in New York for only the second time, the first being a first-round stoppage of Golden Johnson in November of 2007.
“I’m really happy about it,” said Margarito. “I know there are going to be a lot of Puerto Rican fans rooting for him. But in the ring, it’s just going to be him and myself.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com