WHAT MIGUEL COTTO MEANS TO ME

I watched Cotto vs. Margarito II on pay-per-view at a friend of a friend’s house. When I arrived, one of the first things I said to a room full of strangers was that if Miguel Cotto lost I was going to cry. Everyone nodded. It was as though we knew each other already. We were all rooting for the handsome man with sad eyes.

For those who don’t follow boxing: when Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito first fought, Cotto lost by TKO at the very end, his face flattened and bleeding. It was one of only two losses on his record (the other was to Manny Pacquiao). But some months later, Margarito was caught putting plaster in his hand wraps before his fight with Shane Mosley. He was exposed as a cheater, and it cast doubt on all his previous victories.

Had Margarito been cheating the night he beat Cotto? For boxing fans looking for something to get worked up about in the absence of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the answer was “OH MY GOD PROBABLY YES!” The fight was universally understood to be Cotto’s revenge.

I remember going to bed the night before the fight thinking, Where is Miguel Cotto now, and how is he going to fall asleep? How does a man rest knowing that he must get up the next day and prove that he is strong enough to strike with the hammer of justice? The answer, I suspect, is that such a man does not sleep at all. I went to bed that night knowing that Miguel Cotto’s life was harder than mine, and that he was probably awake somewhere jumping rope and holding congress with the angels of retribution.

Would it make him tired for the fight? Would he be at a disadvantage for not having slept? Or is this one of the things that is just different for professional boxers? Their relationship to pain is different. Their tolerances are different. I can easily imagine that sleep is a different thing for the Miguel Cottos of the world. Negligible somehow.

The next evening, they showed each boxer’s backstage headquarters before the fight. Boxing officials were arguing with Margarito’s handlers—there was some kind of issue with how and when his hands would be wrapped this time. The attitude in Margarito’s camp seemed to be “Yeah yeah yeah yeah we know fuck you.” Margarito himself sat on the floor, listening to an iPod and looking elsewhere.

Cotto, meanwile, was shown hitting mitts with his trainer, shadowboxing, jumping rope. One of the guys watching said, “Cotto is not a bad looking dude,” and I said, “He is beautiful.” If I have one point to make with this piece, it’s that Miguel Cotto is beautiful. Google image search him if you don’t know.

Cotto’s entourage included his wife and 6-year-old son. They walked with him to the ring. Oh God, I thought, what was the fight going to do to this family? I suddenly regretted saying that I would cry if Cotto lost. At least he wasn’t my dad. What was that young son going to learn about his father tonight?

I remember being relieved when Cotto won the first round: it was clear he knew exactly what he was doing. He had a look in his eyes that said, “I am going to excel at this, however bloody and scary it gets.” This is the reason why I love Miguel Cotto. He has a menacing ring style that sometimes reminds me of George Foreman in the 70s: very predatory and deliberate. But his face also exhibits a loneliness that fascinates me. It’s as though he holds all the cruelty of boxing in his heart, and it makes him stronger but also makes him sad.

Meanwhile, Margarito would grin and shake his head whenever Cotto landed shots. Almost immediately, Cotto had started directing his serious blows to the right side of Margarito’s face because of the cataract surgery Margarito had received after fighting Pacquiao. Margarito was losing his right eye, and when he grinned at Cotto he looked like an insane pirate.

After the 9th round, Margarito’s eye had swollen completely shut and the ring doctor declared victory by Technical Knockout for Miguel Cotto. Margarito left the ring almost immediately, and Cotto went straight to his opponent’s corner to watch him walk away. Later, a ring announcer asked him what he had wanted to do to Margarito right then, and Cotto said, “Just to look at him, and taste my victory.”

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