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Preview and prediction: Cotto vs Margarito

In what can be defined as latest summit in the welterweight division following the retirement of former welterweight champion and pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather, Jr, WBA champion Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito will meet this Saturday night in a hot summer blockbuster event that has hotly anticipated.

The Battle, which is being televised on HBO PPV, will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NJ. At the weight limit of 140lbs, Cotto appeared to be a top contender who's pension for providing fireworks and setting up explosive knockout victories was a sight to behold. By the same token, less than stellar boxers the ilk of Ricardo Torres and a shopworn DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley both seemed to fall just short of stopping the vulnerable Puerto Rican sensation.

Struggling to make the weight in the jr welterweight division was visably hurting Cotto and hindering his performances in the ring. His final outting at that weight class was a entertaining twelve round unanimous decision over Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Garden in June of 2006. Malignaggi, a current titlist at 140lbs and not known for his punching power, gave Cotto all he could handle, but Cotto mustered up the determination to hand Malignaggi his first defeat as a professional. Following a tougher than expected tussle with Malignaggi, Cotto's move to welterweight wasn't only warranted -- it was long overdue.

Cotto's ascension to the top of the welterweight division has been meaningful, admirable, and inspiring. Making his debut in the division back in December of 2006, he faced the dangerous and equally undefeated Carlos Quintana for the vacant WBA Welterweight Championship. Quintana, a slick boxer who had just upset Joel Julio a few months prior, was actually favored by some to foil the Cotto express into the welterweight picture. Cotto had other plans in mind, beating Quintana and forcing him to surrender inside six rounds. This is the same Quintana who was able wrestle the WBO title from Paul "The Punisher" back in February of this year. That goes to show just how much of force Cotto has become at welterweight as well as in the boxing world as a whole.

Cotto followed up with a spectacular knockout victory of Former Undisputed Welterweight Champion Zab Judah, stopping the Brooklyn native in 11 punishing rounds at Madison Square Garden in June of 2007. At the same venue five months later, Cotto met former three division champion Sugar Shane Mosley in a matchup that was deemed virtually even going into the fight. The contest itself was a crowd pleaser and almost as close as spectators predicted it would be, with the official judges awarding Cotto a close unanimous decision victory.

Cotto and Margarito came pearlessly close to meeting each other last year, but those plans were derailed when Margarito lost his WBO title to Williams by unanimous decision in July of 2007. It was a setback that Margarito was quick to bounce back from, scoring a first round knockout of Golden Johnson on the undercard of Cotto vs Mosley at Madison Square Garden this past November.

In his last fight at Boardwalk in Atlantic City, Margarito rematched Kermit Cintron for Cintron's IBF welterweight title in a rematch of their fight from April of 2005, in which Margarito devastated and stopped an overwhelmed Cintron. Surely, Cintron would be more experienced and seasoned with three more years of experience and the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Manny Steward. Nonetheless, Margarito proved that he had Cintron's number, beating up the Puerto Rican power puncher once again and stopping him in six rounds of yet another one sided fight to claim the IBF title. On the same night, Cotto made yet another successful defense of his title with a 5th round technical knockout of Alfonso Gomez.

Just four days shy of July 26, 2008, Cotto and Margarito are back on the collision course that was all but set to transpire last year. The question becomes, who is going to emerge victorious?

Looking at the quality of opposition for both combatants, it is crystal clear that Cotto's opposition is way better than that of Margarito's. Margarito's best opponents to date are Clottey and Cintron. Cotto, on the other hand, has only been fighting at welterweight for approximately a year and half, and he's managed to defeat Quintana, Judah, and Mosley in that time frame. Even at junior welterweight, Cotto has beaten the likes of Torres and Malignaggi -- Malignaggi being a current titlist and Torres being a former champion who just lost his title to Kendall Holt.

Margarito is probably the strongest welterweight Cotto has faced to date, but it remains uncertain as to whether Margarito has faced someone who punches as precise and with the power that Cotto does. Cotto has been known to get into exchanges and trade with his opponents, but he's also shown the ability to box his way out of some critical moments. In no other Cotto was this more evident than his sea saw battle with Mosley.

There will be moments when this fight is fought toe to toe and both fighters will get into exchanges. At the end of the day, I believe it will be Cotto's ability to box and counter punch his way out of nervous moments. We may even see see Cotto in the same type of jeopardy that he was in against Mosley late in their fight. Margarito has never been hit by a puncher like Cotto either, so this is going to be interesting. I'll take Cotto by a close and exciting unanimous decision, in a fight in which both guys are hurt and possibly even on the canvas.

Cotto by unanimous decision