Miguel Cotto: Cotto would have liked to finish the job against Antonio Margarito on Saturday night in New York City. He would’ve liked to deliver more punishment to the battered face of his not-so-friendly rival, who stopped Cotto three years ago. A convincing 10th-round TKO is sweet enough revenge, though. Cotto didn’t dominate Margarito quite as Manny Pacquiao did but dominated nonetheless, outboxing an inferior boxer and delivering a brutal beating without taking inordinate punishment himself. Cotto is 5-1 (losing only to Pacquiao) since his loss to Margarito and has added two more major titles to his collection. And there are more big fights ahead. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.? Sergio Martinez? Whoever. This supposedly faded version of Cotto remains a dangerous threat to virtually anyone.
Antonio Margarito: Loser? Depends how you look at it. Margarito has been pummeled in his last two fights (and three out of his last four), against Pacquiao in November of last year and against Cotto on Saturday. He should be finished as an elite fighter if results mean anything. God knows what sort of long-term damage his eye has incurred. And, of course, many will always consider him a loser because of the illegal pads found in his gloves before he fought Shane Mosley. At the same time, after serving his suspension, he was allowed to do what he loves and make enough money to set him up for life in defeat. Margarito can’t be happy with the results in recent fights but, unless he goes blind, he made out OK.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Abner Mares: Mares’ one-sided victory over Joseph Agbeko in their rematch Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., was special on more than one level. One, Agbeko almost won their first fight in spite of numerous low blows by Mares that went unpunished. You had to like the Ghanian’s chances in a clean fight. Two, Mares was at a disadvantage knowing that any body shot near the belt line would be scrutinized. Thus, he didn’t throw as many punches to the stomach as he normally would. And, three, Mares suffered a nasty cut in the second round that bled for most of the fight. Still, in spite of all that, Mares outclassed a very good fighter in the finest performance of his young career. Mares has now had four consecutive taxing fights against top opposition, Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Agbeko twice. Golden Boy Promotions probably will give him a marginal challenge in his next fight. He deserves it.
BIGGEST LOSER II
Joseph Agbeko: Agbeko implied after the fight that he was the victim of a hometown decision, which was both absurd and disappointing. Absurd because Mares clearly outboxed him – 118-110 reflected reality – and disappointing because he has more class than that. Of course, he was frustrated. He narrowly lost their first fight even though he was fouled repeatedly as the referee stood by and did nothing. And then, because of Mares’ boxing ability, he had trouble scoring consistently in a relatively clean rematch. The back-to-back losses to Mares don’t help Agbeko advance in his career but aren’t severe blows. The Ghanian, strong and skillful, has demonstrated in defeat that he remains an elite bantamweight with a marketable name, meaning he’ll get more big fights. And don’t be surprised if he succeeds the next time.
Anselmo Moreno: The Panamanian hoped to make a strong impression against Vic Darchinyan in his first fight in the U.S. Mission Accomplished. Moreno, fighting on the Mares-Agbeko undercard, demonstrated superb boxing skills and athleticism to go with obvious toughness. The result was a surprisingly one-sided victory over one of the better little men of our time, albeit an aging one. Darchinyan acknowledged as much in a post-fight interview, in which he didn’t dispute the unanimous decision. Moreno will give any bantamweight trouble, including Nonito Donaire. I don’t think anyone in or around Donaire’s division would beat him but Moreno might have the style – great boxer, tough – to make it interesting. Moreno’s glaring deficiency is his lack of power but that won’t necessarily prevent him from accomplishing great things.
Vic Darchinyan: No shame in losing a decision to a fighter as good as Moreno. However, Darchinyan lost badly. That was his second loss in his last three meaningful fights. And he’s 35, which is ancient for a small fighter. I think Darchinyan would still pose problems for almost all fighters in his weight class, as his victory over Yonnhy Perez only seven-plus months ago proved. He just isn’t quite the terror he once was, particularly at bantamweight. He’ll probably get at least one more big fight, though. That might be his last chance to remain an elite fighter. For the record, Darchinyan showed a lot of class by giving Moreno credit for his victory.
Brandon Rios: Those who step into the ring with Rios might never be the same afterward. Rios doesn’t outbox you. He generally doesn’t stop you with one or two devastating punches. He WILL beat you to a pulp until you can no longer fight, which is what occurred against a game but overmatched John Murray on the Cotto-Margarito undercard Saturday. Rios has now beaten Anthony Peterson (DQ 7) , Omri Lowther (KO 5), Miguel Acosta (KO 10), Urbano Antillon (KO 3) and Murray (KO 11), all but Lowther being elite opponents. That’s an impressive run, one that has established him as one of the best young fighters in the world. And he is about to move into one of the deepest divisions in boxing, junior welterweight. Bob Arum, Rios’ promoter, is talking about a Rios-Mike Alvarado fight. Can’t wait.
Antonio Margarito, on Cotto’s power: “He punches like a girl.” A bad-ass girl.