Cotto toys with Gomez

George Kimball @ ringside


Cotto toys with Gomez

ATLANTIC CITY --- Unbeaten WBA welterweight champ Miguel Cotto ran roughshod over an overmatched Alfonso Gomez to set up a July 26th collision with Antonio Margarito, who knocked out Kermit Cintron in the sixth round of an equally one-sided bout to win the IBF title at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall Saturday night.

Cotto virtually toyed with Gomez, switching from orthodox to southpaw and back again while outlanding his foe by a 3-1 ratio. Gomez was returning to the scene of his greatest triumph – last summer’s end to Arturo Gatti's career- but the popular Contender alum simply had no answers, and after he had submitted to a five-round battering, Gomez was rescued by the ringside physician, Dr. Mark Schaber, before the bell could announce the sixth.

Cotto had already floored Gomez twice even though he appeared to be engaged in little more than a sparring session. Just before the bell ended the third, Gomez went down from a left to the body, and in the fifth Cotto actually sent him crashing to the canvas with a jab, an eventuality which appeared to surprise the champion nearly as much as it did his adversary, and may have hastened the doctor’s between-rounds visit.

“I wanted to continue, but the doctor told me I couldn’t see out of my right eye,” said Gomez (18-4-2), whose performance was brave if hardly threatening.

After spending two frustrating rounds being frustrated by the much quicker Cotto’s long-range attack, Gomez, who hadn’t been able to get near him, opted to fling himself headlong at Cotto in an effort to narrow the distance, and paid dearly for it. At the end of five, Cotto had landed 188 punches to Gomez’ 63, and didn’t even seem to be breathing hard.

“I just tried to make my own fight,” said Cotto, whose record remains perfect at 32-0. “I wanted to work, and do it the right way.

Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward did his Clark Kent imitation again last night, working Cintron’s corner during the first half of the HBO telecast before joining colleagues Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant behind the microphone for the main event.

Steward had done similar double-duty in the same building last July, when Cintron and Gomez also performed in both halves of HBO telecast, albeit with dramatically different results for both.

On the earlier occasion, Gomez had retired Gatti and Cintron had left the Argentine Walter Matthysse for dead with a second-round kayo, but in the same ring nine months later, Cintron looked no more a champion than Gomez did.

“Kermit didn’t fight a smart fight,” said Steward, although it is by no means clear that it would have made a great deal of difference if he had. When they met two years ago in Las Vegas, Margarito had handed Cintron his only previous loss, stopping him in the fifth. This time he was even more dominant. On a night when Cintron was loading up and trying for the home run, Margarito not only took his best shots but in the end landed 207 power punches to Cintron’s 89.

And while it lasted the old master unveiled his bag of dirty tricks, hitting Cintron with elbows, hitting him with one hand while holding him with the other, and landing what appeared to be at least half a dozen borderline low blows. Instead of retaliating, Cintron seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time complaining to referee Earl Brown.

By electing to mix it up instead of boxing, Cintron walked into Margarito’s trap. Margarito was more than happy to perform as if the fight were taking place in a phone booth, and the 35 year-old Mexican showed an amazing ability to tattoo the soon-to-be ex-champion with uppercuts and right-hand leads from cramped quarters.

“The guy (Margarito) was just too tough for him,” said Steward. “He took Kermit’s best shots and just kept coming. He physically wore him out.”

In the end it was a left uppercut to the body that sent Cintron to the floor, where he writhed and twitched about in a melodramatic scene reminiscent of his performance right after the final bell of his unimpressive November win over Jesse Feliciano, when he claimed damage to his right hand. As the seemingly amused Margarito gloated from a neutral corner, Cintron was counted out at 1:57 of the round.

“When he hit me with that uppercut, I couldn’t breathe,” Cintron, now 29-2, said later. “I should have tried to box more and stay on the outside.”

Margarito, whose earlier collision course with Cotto was derailed by Paul Williams, said he had learned from that fight and came into this one determined to pressure Cintron from the outset, and he did.

“I’m like a tornado,” said Margarito. “Whenever you think I’m gone, I keep coming back.”

“They promised me Cotto, and they’d better deliver,” added the new champion.

“I’ll fight anybody,” said Cotto in what appeared to be assent. “I’m prepared to fight whoever they put in front of me – especially Margarito.”

Promoter Bob Arum confirmed that the July 26 unification bout is a done deal, although the site remains to be determined from a choice of Madison Square Garden, Las Vegas, or back at Boardwalk Hall, where an enthusiastic crowd of over 9,000 watched Saturday night’s doubleheader.

“Cotto sent a message tonight,” said Miguel Diaz, who worked in the WBA champion’s corner. “He will punish anyone who gets in the ring with him.”

Although Cotto is unbeaten and Margarito 36-5, it would be a mistake to consider Cotto’s continued march through the welterweight division a foregone conclusion.

“He’s a tough guy, and he might be the better puncher of the two,” said Steward. “It will be a great fight.”

There will be the predictable complaints that the welterweight champion Cotto should be fighting is Floyd Mayweather Jr., but with Money taking the summer off before a September rematch with Oscar De La Hoya that won’t mean much, he is currently unavailable. On the other hand, Mayweather would find it difficult to sustain his pound-for-pound pretensions were he to avoid the Cotto-Margarito winner.

Asked about Mayweather, Cotto shrugged and said “I’m a fighter, not a promoter.”

Saturday’s undercard showcased a pair of unbeaten featherweights also trained by Evangalista Cotto, and both Jesus Rojas and Luis Cruz prevailed to make it a clean sweep for the Puerto Rican stable. Rojas (11-0) twice floored Andres Ledesma (14-9-1) with left hooks in the fourth, the second leading referee David Fields to halt the bout at 2:14 of the round.

In an earlier contest, Cruz (5-0) dug himself into a hole by giving away the first two rounds on all three scorecards, but came on to win the last four to post a 58-56 (three times) decision over his game Mexican foe Olvin Mejia (3-2-1).

Some quick thinking by Fields resulted in an episode in the Cruz-Mejia fight, by the way, that should be studied by referees everywhere. On far too occasions, when one boxer knocks another’s mouthpiece out, the guy who gets the worst of the exchange actually winds up the beneficiary by catching a breather when the bout is halted while the mouthpiece is brought over to the corner, rinsed off, and replaced.

When Cruz dislodged Mejia’s gumshield in the fifth, Fields properly allowed the combatants to keep boxing while he awaited a natural break in the action, but in the meantime he swooped down, grabbed the mouthpiece off the canvas, and tossed it to Mejia’s corner.  By the time there was a sufficient lull in the bout that Fields could reasonably call ‘time,’ trainer Juan Ramirez had already rinsed the implement off and had it ready in the corner, meaning that no more than four or five seconds elapsed before action resumed. Bravo.

Ronny Vargas, a talented Venezuelan-born middleweight fighting out of the Bronx, improved his pro mark to 5-0, scoring aTKO over New Yorker Robert Irrizarry (2-4) when the opponent’s corner ran up the white towel at 2:51 of the third.

Puerto Rican opponent Angel David Gonzales gave local favorite Richard Pierson all he could handle and more, but still wound up on the short side of a split decision in their 6-rounder. There was a wide disparity on the scorecards, as Luis Rivera and Joe Pasquale both scored it 59-55 for Pierson, while John Stewart gave the winner just one round and had it 59-55 the other way. (Boxing Talk had Gonzalez up 58-56.)  Even though the decision went to the New Jersey fighter, the crowd voiced its displeasure with the verdict.

Pierson is now 7-1, Gonzalez 6-5-1.

The judges were even more widely split in their view of a four-rounder between Texan Don Mouton and Omar Coffi, a Venezuelan who was making his pro debut. Stewart scored every round for Coffi in returning a 40-36 scorecard, while Pasquale gave him just one round and had Mouton winning 39-37. When Rivera gave Coffi the first two rounds and Mouton the last two, his 38-38 score rendered the verdict a draw. Mouton is now 3-2-1.

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April 12, 2008-04-10

WELTERWEIGHTS: Miguel Cotto, 146  1/2, Caguas, Puerto Rico TKO’d Alfonso Gomez, 147, Tustin, Calif. (5) (Retainsw WBA title)

Antonio Margarito, 146 1/2, Tijuana, Mexico  KO’d Kermit Cintron, 146 1/2, Reading, Pa. (6) (Wins IBF title)
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Omar Coffi, 165, Caracas, Venezuela drew with Don Mouton, 164, Houston, Tex. (4)

Richard Pierson, 161, Paterson, N.J. dec. Angel David Gonzalez, 163 1/2, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico (6)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Ronny Vargas, 159, Bronx, N.Y.  TKO’D Roberto Irrizarry, 162, New York, NY (3)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Jesus Rojas, 122 1/2, Caguas, P.R. TKO’d Andres Ledesma, 123, Bolivar, Colombia (4)

Luis Cruz, 125, Las Piedras, P.R. dec. Olvin Mejia, 126, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico (6)