Cotto, Margarito to fight at MGM

Almost four years have passed since Miguel Cotto last fought in Las Vegas. So why did he decide to end his hiatus for what will be one of his biggest fights when he meets Antonio Margarito on July 26 at the MGM Grand Garden?

Money, of course.

Top Rank Inc., president Bob Arum convinced Cotto, who is from Caguas, Puerto Rico, that he could have the most lucrative payday of his career if he fought in Las Vegas. Late Wednesday, Cotto officially agreed, and the deal, which was reported as done Tuesday, was finalized.

“Las Vegas makes sense because the fans of both fighters enjoy coming to Las Vegas and will want to go there instead of New York or Atlantic City,” Arum said. “The hotel rooms are cheaper, and for Margarito’s (West Coast) fans, it’s an easy trip. Plus, Cotto has established himself on the East Coast. We thought Cotto could boost the West Coast numbers by coming out to Las Vegas.”

Arum said the Cotto camp stirred no controversy about choosing Las Vegas over New York or New Jersey, where seven of Cotto’s last nine fights have taken place.

“These were complicated negotiations,” Arum said. “… But the very first meeting we had with him, Cotto said he wanted to fight in Las Vegas.”

The fight, which will be for Cotto’s WBA and IBF welterweight titles, will be shown on HBO Pay-Per-View. Ticket prices are being finalized, and an announcement on the public sale is expected in the next few days. Arum is confident the fight at the Grand Garden, which can seat 16,270 for boxing, will sell out quickly.

When Cotto fought Shane Mosley in November on pay per view, the fight did 350,000 buys. Arum said he thinks Cotto-Margarito will surpass that. “It can do four (400,000),” he said.

Both fighters are coming off spectacular performances last month in Atlantic City. Cotto stopped Alfonso Gomez in the fifth round to improve to 32-0 with 26 knockouts. Margarito knocked out Kermit Cintron in the sixth round to improve to 36-5 with 26 KOs.

One of the big hurdles in bringing the fight to Nevada was the state’s rule regarding glove size. Since September 2006, all fighters at 135 pounds and above have been required to compete with 10-ounce gloves. Cotto refused to fight unless he could use 8-ounce gloves. On April 24, the Nevada Athletic Commission amended its rule, stating that if both fighters agreed to use the same size gloves, they can use the 8-ounce version.

“That was the key,” Arum said. “Once the commission agreed to the change, that’s what made it happen.”

Arum said he couldn’t disclose the fighters’ purses but that each would make a record payday. The most Cotto has made was $3.2 million when he fought Mosley. Margarito’s biggest payday was $1.2 million when he fought Paul Williams in July 2007.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ or 702-387-2913.

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