Margarito takes aim at Cotto

Antonio Margarito knows what it’s like to lose in the boxing ring. And he’d like nothing more than to share that feeling with Miguel Cotto when the two meet Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.

Cotto, 32-0 with 26 knockouts, has talked about how important it is to remain undefeated, as well as to retain his WBA welterweight title. Margarito is 36-5 (26 KOs), and his intent is to put a blemish on Cotto’s perfect ledger.

"I have been waiting for this chance for a long time," Margarito said Wednesday at the MGM during the final news conference for Saturday’s fight. "I know I am more hungry than he is. I know I want it more than he does, and I’m going to get it."

Margarito remembers the first time he lost. It was in 1994, when he was a promising young lightweight out of Tijuana, Mexico. Margarito dropped a six-round decision to Victor Lozoya, falling to 6-1, and it devastated him.

"Sure it bothered me," he said. "I thought the judges beat me. But you learn from every defeat."

He said his last loss, against Paul Williams last July at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., was his own fault.

"I went into that fight overconfident," Margarito said of the 12-round unanimous decision defeat. "I started too slow, and I couldn’t catch up. I learned a valuable lesson from that fight."

Expect Margarito to come out swinging Saturday, looking to pressure Cotto and back up his statement earlier in the week that he would knock out Cotto within four rounds.

Wednesday, Margarito backtracked on the prediction, saying his comments were taken out of context by a reporter at his Los Angeles gym.

"We were talking among ourselves, joking around," he said of his team at his L.A. camp, which has been held behind closed doors. "Someone overheard it and wrote it in the newspaper.

"I’m not saying I am going to knock him out. I will tell you this — it won’t go 12 rounds."

Margarito said to be the first fighter to beat Cotto would mean more than taking his belt. It would mean greater status for Margarito as a fighter.

"It’s very, very important to give him his first defeat, because he is considered to be the best in his division, and to beat the best is very important," Margarito said.

Losing isn’t on Cotto’s mind.

"When you train at the level and intensity of our camp these last 11 weeks, you don’t think about losing," he said. "You’re putting so much effort into winning with all the training, you minimize that thought of losing."

Cotto did admit the fear of losing has served as motivation for this fight.

"I go into every fight believing I will win," he said. "That’s why I try to be at my very best each time I fight. I do not want to know what losing feels like."

Cotto is a minus-280 favorite at the MGM Mirage properties. Ironically, one of the reasons Margarito had a closed training camp was to keep gamblers from gaining too much information. Yet he wasn’t bothered at all by the fact he’s a plus-240 underdog.

"That doesn’t concern me," he said. "It’s true, we’ve always had an open camp, but there’s a lot of bettors, and I didn’t want to deal with it. We opened the doors, but we were selective as to who we let in."

Margarito has not had the opportunity to fight the quality of opponents Cotto has. There’s no Shane Mosley or Zab Judah on his dossier. But Margarito now has the big stage he has always wanted, and he said he can’t afford to squander the opportunity against his biggest name opponent.

"Cotto has his reasons for fighting the people he fought, but I fought tough opponents, too," Margarito said, citing Williams and Kermit Cintron, whom he beat twice. "I wish I had the opportunity to fight Mosley and Judah. But this is the fight I’ve wanted for some time, and I will be the first one to beat Cotto."

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

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