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Pavlik/Cotto twinbill on PPV this weekend!

WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and former WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto will return to the ring for the first time since they both suffered the first losses of their respective careers in 2008.

Pavlik, who was soundly beaten by Bernard Hopkins at a catch weight of 170lbs last October, will return to 160lbs to defend his middleweight championship in his home town of Youngstown, OH against number one contender Marco Antonio Rubio. Also live from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, Cotto will attempt to rebound from his TKO loss at the hands of Antonio Margarito last July by winning the vacant WBO welterweight title against top contender Michael Jennings. Both of these contests, from separate locations, will be distributed on a Top Rank PPV telecast.

What should boxing fans be looking for when watching these fights? Competitive bouts featuring the two stars on this PPV card fighting against evenly matched opposition? Not exactly. Perhaps the height of inquiry and curiousity is largely focused outside of the ring rather than the affairs scheduled to take place inside the ring.

Ever since the Tijuana Fists of Concrete, better known as Antonio Margarito, were suspended for up to a year, Cotto has been lobbying for a deep investigation into whether or not illegally loaded gloves on Margarito's behalf were any factor in his victory over Cotto last summer. Certainly, the Margarito hand wrap scandal has cast a dark cloud over his conquest of Cotto, but Cotto should remain focused on the task at hand against Jennings on Saturday.

Boxing fans should be on the look out to see if Cotto's skills or ability have diminished following his first loss. Is it the same Cotto who attacks the body and then comes back up to the head with combinations? Is Cotto any less durable than he was prior to the Margarito fight? Has his ability to take a punch been hampered by the TKO loss to Margarito? That's what viewers will find out on Saturday.

Can Pavlik return to his natural weight class of 160lbs and finally emerge as a dominant force in that division? Will Pavlik be the same fighter he was prior to being exposed by the old 43 year old veteran Hopkins? After all, since stopping Jermain Taylor to seize the middleweight crown in September of 2007, two of Pavlik's three fights have taken place above the middleweight limit. Rubio is the first step in Pavlik's march to middleweight dominance, but skeptics correctly note that his true challenges lie with IBF champion Arthur Abraham as well as the winner of the intriguing Paul Williams vs Winky Wright match up that is taking place on April 11 in Las Vegas.

Should Pavlik have any intentions of universally claiming the middleweight division as his very own, Top Rank promoter Bob "the Bobfather" Arum would be well advised to allow these highly significant matches to take place. At the post fight press conference following Pavlik's exciting title winning victory over Taylor, Arum made loud and clear to the media that Pavlik would indeed turn out to be one of the greatest middleweight champions of all time. A three round destruction of an over matched Gary Lockett last June is a far cry from such a lofty distinction. In fact, the term 'far cry' in this case is a serious understatement.

Nonetheless, the year 2007 witnessed the culmination of both Pavlik and Cotto as two of boxing brightest stars, with Cotto defeating Zab Judah and Shane Mosley and Pavlik beat Taylor. In 2008, both of the undefeated stars witnessed their demise. Resurrection and resurgence are in order, and it all begins in Youngstown and Atlantic City this Saturday night!



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