By Gary Purfield
Lost in all the drama leading up to this fight is the fact that this rematch, grudge match, revenge match, will take place exactly where it belongs. The proud Puerto Rican, Miguel Cotto 36-2 (29 KO) and tough Mexican Antonio Margarito 38-7 (27 KO) will square off in New York’s famed Madison Garden in front of their ethnically charged boxing crazy fan bases to provide an electric atmosphere for the evening.
I will start by admitting I have a bias in the topic. I will be venturing to the Garden with my barber who is a native of Puerto Rico to enjoy the night. We have two lower level tickets and have been geared for this night for months now. The thought of requesting a press credential to this one never occurred to me (and not just because I am probably not at the level right now to get one to this event). No, I was feeling the need to be within the confines of the fans for this one. For all the great perks of press row’s front row ringside seating, for this highly charged rematch I felt the need to be right in the thick of the crowd with my Boricua pal and probably at least a few cold brews.
And why not? This fight, in this arena, with this crowd, will have everything that is right with boxing. When it is so easy to focus on what’s wrong with boxing because the sport does that to itself, December 3 at the Garden will encompass what is great about this sport and why we keep watching no matter how big UFC gets and how much the mainstream media wants to declare that boxing is dead.
First, there is the fight itself. I will not bore you with details on why this matchup is so compelling. You are well aware of the controversy surrounding the first fight and debate on Margarito’s now famous and infamous hand wraps. This fight has to happen to settle questions about the nature and outcome of the first bout. It will not answer definitively what was in Tony’s gloves that night in 2008, but a convincing win for either man goes a long way in pushing the ever important perception and public opinion a long way. Not to mention, hand wraps aside, it was a great fight. It is a natural to do it again.
Next you have the best rivalry in boxing with Puerto Rico vs. Mexico. I tell non-boxing fans all the time that PR vs. Mexico is boxing’s version or Yankees-Red Sox, Cowboys-Redskins, or Lakers-Celtics. Both sides have some of the greatest fighters of all time and the matchups in the rivalry have produced legendary fights throughout the history of the sport. Once again the two nations will square off with pride and bragging rights on the table.
Nothing adds fuel to the rivalry fire like a crowd that has a hometown rooting interest. This fight will be like Yankees vs. Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Cotto represents the Yankees as he will clearly have home field advantage with the majority of the crowd being of Puerto Rican descent. The Boricua faithful will be waving flags and making enough noise to make your ears ring for several days afterwards.
But while New York is heavily Puerto Rican, the melting pot city of America has its share of Mexican faithful as well. No doubt they have bought up some tickets and will also proudly waive the colors and attempt to counter every Cotto chant with one of “Mexico-Mexico.” They will be like the Red Sox fans who bravely or stupidly (however you see it) enter Yankee Stadium with their Sox gear and Boston accents to invade the lion’s den in baseball’s greatest rivalry. The Mexican fans will know they are outnumbered but will not be intimidated to sit quietly.
But make no mistake it will be home field Cotto, which he deserves. Considering the evidence against Margarito from the Mosley fight and drawing power of the quiet warrior, if ever one fighter has earned home field it is the Boricua bomber in his quest for redemption.
Everyone in the crowd will have a rooting interest and a voice to be heard. This ain’t Las Vegas, baby with a crowd of celebrities and comped high rollers. This will be multi-national/ethnic pride and excitement from paying customers who will come early and cheer often. Reports show the garden is nearly sold out and sure to be at full capacity come fight night.
Nothing brings a more fever pitched atmosphere to a sporting event than national pride in a competitive matchup. It made Ricky Hatton fights great as the English sang and beat the drums from opening to closing bell. It makes the Olympics the great event it is and why, for better or worse, soccer games throughout the world have more intensity than any other sport. Because when people’s backgrounds, ethnicity, their country, etc. are being represented, they feel the pride that goes along with belonging to these categories.
Adding to the crowd fun will be the fans of several undercard fighters. Mike Jones fighting a title eliminator will bring plenty of Philly faithful up the Jersey turnpike to support their biggest contender for a title. John Murray will bring the English who add to any crowd, (adding more through the night as they drink at a pace I marvel at every time I see them at fights). The Mexican fans will roar for the always.entertaining Brandon Rios Throw in the fantastic undercard rematch between Wolak and Rodriguez, who both have close residences and ties to NYC, and this is sure to be partisan fan-fueled mayhem.
This night is everything that boxing, and sports in general, give to the fans. Athletes on both sides fighting for so much more than a “W.” It the deep animosity between Cotto and Margarito has become clear recently and the pairing of the two should produce violent fireworks. It is hard to imagine this fight will not be highly action-packed and entertaining for however long it lasts. Any of the three televised undercard fights could be at the very least an HBO BAD main event and have the potential to steal the show. Throw in the raucous crowd and atmosphere and this time, boxing actually got it all right.
To top it all off, it will be held in the mecca of boxing. New York’s Madison Square Garden has played host to so many legendary fights including the fight of the Century, Ali-Frazier 1. In recent years the Garden has been little used, but the great arena in the great city of New York will once again be the host of a legendary night, and a legendary fight.
- If you are also attending don’t be shy, shoot me an email at the address below. I will be in New York early and looking to catch up with boxing fans for a drink and fight talk. I have a Puerto Rican barber with me who owns a shop called Champions Barber shop. Let’s get the arguments rolling early in the day.
Question, comment, agree, disagree, or anything at all, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
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