The WBA super light middleweight title is on the line Saturday night when Miguel Cotto takes on Antonio Margarito in New York City, but that belt almost seems like an afterthought compared to the tension between the two men and the controversy leading up to the fight.
Three years ago, they met, with Cotto controlling the early rounds, but ultimately succumbing to Margarito's pressure in an 11th-round TKO loss. The very next fight, against Shane Mosley, Margarito was caught with illegal handwraps and had his license temporarily revoked, leading Cotto's camp to question if there was foul play in the first fight and going as far as to call their opponent a criminal in the pre-fight press conference. Cotto has also referred to his opponent as a "child" and an "embarrassment to boxing."
Despite those words, Cotto denies that this particular bout is any more personal.
"No, it's not (personal)," Cotto says. "You know, it's just the second fight with Margarito. We're doing good. We have no doubt we're going to beat Margarito on Saturday. I'm ready for anything he can bring."
Cotto's 36-2 record as a professional includes only that loss to Margarito and one to Manny Pacquiao. Margarito also faced Pacquiao and was left with a broken orbital bone which required surgery and a few late visits to doctors before he was cleared to fight this week. Cotto says the eye is not necessarily a target, but if it happens to be damaged again, so be it.
"If anything happens to Margarito's eye or Margariot's person, it's not a concern to us," Cotto said. "We're just going to commit and do the same work for this fight and nothing's going to change."
Another storyline is the intense national pride behind both men. Mexican boxing fans are some of the most rabid around they will be behind Margarito. Cotto has an army of Puerto Rican fans that are always present at his fights, especially ones in New York.
"It feels good having my whole country behind me and for me, it means a lot, but I'm just really focused on my work and to be the winner on Saturday night," Cotto said.
Cotto says he has not thought about what may happen after this fight. There are many names that have been thrown about for him at 154 or 147 pounds, but he says he will not move forward until Margarito is taken care of on Saturday.
"I haven't thought anything about after this fight," Cotto said. "I just want to think about this fight and when it happens, I can think about what is next for us. (My fans) are going to see a Miguel Cotto with a lot of passion and a Miguel Cotto that is going to beat Antonio Margarito."