It was June of 2008, and several boxing writers noted the 25th anniversary of one of the most notorious crimes in pugilistic history, the June 1983 assault by Luis Resto of undefeated Bob Arum prospect “Irish” Billy Collins by way of Panama Lewis’ removal of the stuffing from Resto’s gloves.
Everyone’s lives changed after that atrocious offense: Neither Collins nor Resto would fight again, and Collins would be dead from a car crash nine months later, unable to face down the physical and psychological effects of the devastation from his last foray through the ropes. Resto and Lewis would serve prison time and become ostracized.
Two years ago, while some devoted articles and columns to remember Collins and the infamous bout, others enthusiastically anticipated an explosive welterweight showdown between two of the roughest and best from the sport’s premier division, undefeated star titlist Miguel Cotto versus the feared Antonio Margarito. On July 26, 2008, the fight lived up to expectations, but when Cotto and his early lead eventually withered under the Mexican’s brutal attack for an 11th round stoppage, no one had Billy Collins and Luis Resto on their minds.
We now know what was witnessed in June 1983 on the Roberto Duran-Davey Moore undercard, with the findings of the New York commission and criminal courts along with Resto’s confession, including a recent admission to using plaster of Paris that night. Will we ever know what exactly we saw when Margarito bloodied, battered and busted up Cotto in Las Vegas that summer night?
And will we ever see the Miguel Cotto we knew before the Margarito loss?
No definitive proof exists that Margarito loaded his gloves against Cotto that night, unlike the January 2010 Shane Mosley bout, when trainer Naazim Richardson caught Margarito’s cornerman Javier Capetillo trying to sneak a piece of plaster into Margarito’s handwraps. Without Richardon’s keen eye, he would have gotten away with it one handwrap had already been loaded, unbeknownst to the California Commission’s rep and we may have never even suspected foul play in his Cotto victory.
Without direct proof in the form of an eyewitness coming forward or an admission from Margarito or Capetillo, chances are slim to none of revisiting the Margarito-Cotto contest or of Nevada criminal action. Some facts, however, provide circumstantial evidence to at least arouse suspicion that Margarito cheated against Cotto:
- He was caught attempting to load his gloves in his very next bout, just six months later.
- According to several reports, the inserts had what appeared to be dried blood on them, leading some to speculate that was Cotto’s blood.
- A photo surfaced this year of Margarito posing after the Cotto win, with a discolored handwrap.
- Unlike any fight in the past, including struggles with Ricardo Torres and Mosley, Cotto’s face became misshapen and swollen in spite of punches that (in retrospect) did not appear proportionately hard enough to cause such damage.
- Margarito’s past started to perhaps make more sense a sparring partner claiming he broke his orbital bone; a freak 2005 injury to opponent Sebastian Lujan where half of his ear tore off from a Margarito punch; and unorthodox arm punches wilting foes.
But that would have required Capetillo and Margarito to get over on not only the Nevada Commission in July 2008, but several other officials, and opposing trainers, in previous bouts. And though Cotto reacted differently to the Margarito onslaught than he had in the past, he had been susceptible to getting hurt and worn down before.
In 2005, Cotto got rocked in a big way by both DeMarcus Corley and Ricardo Torres before storming back to take them out. Less than nine months before he faced Margarito, he spent the last third of the grueling Mosley affair in a retreat mode vaguely similar to the one ineffectively employed against “the Tijuana Tornado.”
Yet, anyone claiming that Cotto’s been the same fighter in the last two years after the Margarito loss had not closely followed his career. He’s only 29 but takes punches like he’s 50. In the Joshua Clottey and Manny Pacquiao bouts, he didn’t respond to punches the same as he did before Margarito, he retreated for rounds at a time again and his face started to bear a striking resemblance to that fateful July night.
Are defensive and strategic liabilities in Cotto’s game just now manifesting as he faces another level of competition, or is something else at play here?
Before the Margarito loss, Cotto was an offensive machine who walked through fire to punish opponents with brutal body shots and precise power connects. He stopped Gianluca Branco and Carlos Quintana with vicious punches to the arm and body, and he broke Paulie Malignaggi’s jaw and battered Zab Judah around the ring. Though he eked out a razor-thin victory over Mosley, he took Sugar Shane’s powerful blows well.
He seemed destined to reach heights of greatness like his Puerto Rican predecessors, such as Felix Trinidad and Wilfred Benitez, and he’ll attempt to resume that quest this Saturday night at Yankee Stadium against skill boxer Yuri Foreman in a junior middleweight WBA title bout. Time will tell whether Cotto’s stretch as one of the best has passed and whether his post-Margarito problems inside the ring resulted from that July 2008 night or from the caliber of opponent he faced.
I can’t say what happened in Las Vegas on July 26, 2008, other than to join in on unproductive speculation. We can all reach our own conclusions, some clouded by allegiance to Margarito, Cotto or their nations.
There is no right or wrong answer about what happened that night, at least not yet.
As for me, for what it’s worth, I know what I’ve seen from both men before, during and after the fight, and when it comes to what went down between Margarito and Cotto, I can say this: