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For Miguel Cotto, Saturday's fight against Ricardo Mayorga could be a means to an end

Cotto is an 8-1 favorite to retain his WBA super-welterweight title in Las Vegas, and a victory by the Puerto Rican would set up a career-defining match against his nemesis Antonio Margarito in July.

March 11, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Miguel Cotto strikes a pose after weighing in for his fight against Ricardo Mayorga.
Miguel Cotto strikes a pose after weighing in for his fight against Ricardo… (Al Bello / Getty Images )

Miguel Cotto understands the value of redemption, and to get there requires a successful title defense Saturday night against Nicaraguan madman Ricardo Mayorga.

Should he do the expected as an 8-to-1 Las Vegas betting favorite and keep the World Boxing Assn. super-welterweight belt in a pay-per-view bout at MGM Grand, Puerto Rico's Cotto (35-2, 28 knockouts) has agreed to make his nemesis, Antonio Margarito, his next opponent in July.

"Miguel has taken some horrific beatings, but he's always retained his dignity and the thing I always talk to him about is the importance of signature fights," said Emanuel Steward, Cotto's Hall of Fame trainer. "More than putting on a great fight against someone else, that [Margarito] fight has to be dealt with."

Both fighters came in at 154 pounds at Friday's weigh-in.

Cotto, 30, was initially reluctant to accept a Margarito bout after the Tijuana fighter's 11th-round TKO in 2008 that left the previously unbeaten Cotto bleeding from his ears. Cotto would later say Margarito likely fought with loaded gloves.

Nevada inspected Margarito's hand wraps before that fight and found no tampering, but the boxer was found to have plaster-hardened inserts in his wraps before his first post-Cotto fight, a January 2009 loss to Shane Mosley.

Cotto, after an excusable loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2009, split with his uncle-trainer Evangelista Cotto and united with Steward to wrest the title belt from Yuri Foreman last year at Yankee Stadium.

"I've never had a better person to train than Miguel Cotto, nobody tops this guy and his basic nature of being quiet, bashful, humble — his mystique is why people love him," Steward said. "He never complains, and he's had reason to after fighting with a bad right shoulder for the last three years.

"But he believes Margarito cheated."

At a news conference Monday in Los Angeles, Cotto said, "I'm 100% sure [Margarito] knows what was in his hands. I'll fight him. I just want to take the stick — the thorn — out of my body."

Mayorga, a former two-division champion, turned 38 Thursday and is as out of sorts as he was nearly a decade ago, when he met the challenge of unbeaten Vernon Forrest by swinging wildly en route to a surprising 2003 victory. Mayorga has lost to Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Mosley since, but still has the ability to captivate an audience.

"I'm putting money on myself that I'll knock you out," Mayorga said to a stone-faced Cotto in L.A.

Mayorga's promoter, Don King, said of his fighter, "I have no reservation, the man is absolutely insane." .

Rather than participate in the traditional face-off with Mayorga this week, Cotto let his promoter Bob Arum stand with King to separate the boxers.

In the ring, it will be different and Cotto has found with Steward a way to complement his world-class body punching with more speed and balance — all aimed at redemption.

Saturday's card includes a 10-round super-welterweight bout between Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs) and tough Polish fighter Pawel Wolak (28-1, 18 KOs), and an IBF lightweight title fight between champion Miguel Vazquez (27-3-2, 12 KOs) and Australia's Lenny Zappavigna (25-0, 17 KOs).

Also, Baltimore Ravens strong safety Tommy Zbikowski — an NFL restricted free agent and former Notre Dame player — will fight Richard Bryant in a four-round bout.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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