Wed, May 21, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Fight to illustrate Mexican and Puerto Rican rivalry

AP , MEXICO CITY

The upcoming bout between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito will clarify the welterweight division as well as showcase the rivalry between Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters.

Cotto, the undefeated WBA champion from Puerto Rico, will defend his perfect record July 26 in Las Vegas against Margarito, who won the IBF title in his last fight.

“It’s going to be an explosive fight for both of us,” Cotto said in Mexico City on Monday at the start of the fight’s promotional tour. “Margarito has always been open to big challenges, just like me.”

Cotto (32-0, 26 KOs) said the fight will be the next in a long line of bouts between fighters from two boxing hotbeds.

Puerto Rican and Mexican fighters have dominated boxing’s lighter weight classes for decades, and their rivalries go back to memorable bouts featuring Sixto Escobar against Rodolfo Casanova, Wilfredo Gomez against Mexico’s Carlos Zarate and Salvador Sanchez or Hector Camacho against Julio Cesar Chavez.

Monday’s news conference ended with scenes from the 1978 fight between Gomez and Zarate, which Gomez won with a fifth-round knockout.

“This rivalry has always been good and appreciated by all the fans,” Cotto said. “I will make sure this chapter ends in favor of the Puerto Ricans.”

Margarito (36-5, 25 knockouts) knocked out Kermit Cintron of Puerto Rico in the sixth round in April for the IBF belt, which he turned down to fight Cotto.

“It will be a battle. Just like me, he gives his all. We are warriors,” Margarito said. “He never takes a step back, and as you know, neither do I.”

Both know the importance of this fight — as do the promoters who hope it will be the most intriguing bout of the summer.

“This to me is to the welterweight division what the Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns [fight] was to the middleweight division,” said Bob Arum, Cotto’s promoter. “It’s going to be one of the most exciting fights imaginable.”

And what about the current WBC welterweight champion, Floyd Mayweather Jr? He’s generally considered the sport’s pound-for-pound champion, but many fans and rivals say he only faces fighters who aren’t a real threat, avoiding hard-hitting opponents like Cotto and Margarito.

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