COTTO AND MARGARITO READY FOR WAR
Three years after their epic first meeting, Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto are on a war footing once again.
The pair will clash inside the hallowed confines of Madison Square Garden during the early hours of Sunday morning in an eagerly-awaited rematch.
Back in the summer of 2008 the then-unbeaten Cotto outboxed Margarito for the first half of what developed into a classic Las Vegas encounter. But he was gradually worn down and bludgeoned to a brutal 11th-round stoppage.
Since then a lot has happened - Cotto (36-2) was destroyed by Manny Pacquiao before successfully stepping up to light-middleweight.
Margarito (38-7), meanwhile, was given THAT suspension for wearing illegal handwraps ahead of his defeat by Shane Mosley in early 2009. Then he too suffered an ugly beatdown at the hands of P4P king Pacquiao.
The eye injuries the 33-year-old Margarito suffered in that massacre inside Cowboys Stadium led to doubt whether he'd even be licensed to box in New York. But the fight will go ahead for Cotto's WBA title, with a packed house expected.
The animosity between the two fighters was clearly there for all to see at their final press conference.
Cotto's camp has openly speculated since that 2008 meeting whether or not Margarito wore illegal handwraps, and the Mexican greeted his arrival at the press conference by shouting: "Here comes the criminal! Open the doors to the criminal! I've been called a criminal by the man next to me (Cotto). I don't know why? I don't beat up my family. He can hit my eye as much as he wants. He hits like a little girl. Super flyweights hit harder. He will never beat me."
Cotto, now 31, is already massive draw in New York having sold more tickets at the Garden than any other fighter this Millennium.
Margarito, though, said: "I know Cotto thinks he has a big advantage having the fight here (New York). That's his security blanket.
"This was one of my best preparations for a fight. I'm in great condition. This camp was different from the one I had before our last fight. The high altitude conditioning has made me stronger.
"When he feels my first punch he's going to be in real problems. I know Cotto's style and his style is perfect for me. He stands in front of me. I am a pressure-style fighter. That's what I do best and that's what I'm going to do on Saturday."
Cotto for his part had less to say, but his words were no less explosive.
"If you don't know what a criminal means, you can look it up in the dictionary," he said.
"It's someone who uses a weapon. We spoke about the wraps on Face Off (preview show on American network HBO). I showed you a picture of them.
"You (Margarito) are like a child. You are an embarrassment to boxing. I am going to slap you like a little girl."
So the show does go on, the waiting is almost over. Time to answer some of the most tantalising questions in boxing.
Will Margarito's eye hold up? How much did that Pacquiao beating take out of him?
Can Cotto hurt Margarito this time? Or will it be a repeat of 2008?
All questions which should be answered inside boxing's most famous ring in the early hours of Sunday morning.
By Graham Shaw
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