Lem Satterfield

Margarito embraces criminal image leveled by Cotto

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NEW YORK — Ex-titleholder Antonio Margarito told Miguel Cotto “you hit like a little girl,” to which the RING No. 1-rated WBA junior middleweight beltholder later retorted, “you’re an embarassment to boxing.”

The duo leveled those comments, among others, at one another during Wenesday’s heated final press conference in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, where the fighters will try to beat each other senseless in the ring before an expected sellout crowd in Saturday night’s HBO Pay Per View-televised main event.

Not since Marvin Hagler’s third-round knockout of Thomas Hearns in April of 1985 has Top Rank Inc’s Bob Arum witnessed such genuine raw and intense anger between two fighters, their emotions taking the Mexican-Puerto Rican boxing rivalry to new heights.

“When Hagler and Hearns fought, they were so pissed at each other, I mean, it was scary. They didn’t give a s–t,” said Arum. “When the bell rang, they went out to kill each other. And we got probably the best fight, short though it was, that we’ve ever had.”

The 31-year-old Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs), of Caguas, Puerto Rico, still is simmering from the bloody beat-down delivered more than three years ago from the rock-hard (suspiciously so, Cotto believes) hands of the 33-year-old Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs).

Cotto was an unbeaten WBA welterweight titleholder before being dethroned by an 11th-round knockout loss to Margarito in July of 2008, a fight during which Cotto’s nose was broken, he was knocked down once, took a knee on another ocasion and was left with blood dripping down his face from a deep gash over his left eye.

But Margarito, of Tijuana, Mex., would suffer losses in two of his next three fights, the first being a ninth-round knockout loss to Shane Mosley in January of 2009, before which an illegal plaster was found in Margarito’s hand wrappings and removed.

Margarito was later drubbed during a unanimous decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in November of last year, suffering a fractured right orbital bone that required surgery to repair.

Cotto is sure that Margarito was dirty when they fought, owing to his recently calling his Mexican rival, “a criminal.”

“Cotto believes that Margarito is guilty. So if he believes that he’s guilty, then he should be pissed off. I don’t believe that [guilt] to be the case, but I respect what Miguel Cotto’s feelings are,” said Arum, who turns 80 on Dec. 8.

“This is thow it has played out the whole time. These are two guys who don’t conceal their feelings. What they said was from the heart. But Margarito believes, as I do, that he is innocent of everything. I really believe that and I have believed it from the beginning.”

But if Margarito laments being cast in the role of the villain by Cotto, he certainly did not show it on Wednesday.

“Open the door for the criminal,” said Margarito, wearing ominous, dark shades, during his turn at the podium. “Here comes the criminal.”

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