Right place, right time

If anyone has any doubt whether Antonio Margarito belongs in Saturday’s megafight with Miguel Cotto, go back and watch Margarito’s last fight.

Competing on the same card as Cotto on April 12 in Atlantic City, Margarito simply annihilated Kermit Cintron, knocking him out in the sixth round of their rematch from 2005 at Caesars Palace.

Margarito pummeled Cintron, an excellent fighter in his own right, who had landed some good blows early on, only to have Margarito shrug them off like Superman would flying bullets against his chest.

But Cotto is no Cintron. He is a far superior fighter, and Margarito will have to raise his game if he hopes to take Cotto’s WBA welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden.

“During that last fight (with Cintron), I had been telling people all along that I wanted to become a champion again, and as far as I’m concerned, that is what the fight against Cintron proved,” Margarito said through an interpreter. “Cotto is a totally different thing, and that is all I am focused on right now.”

Margarito (36-5, 26 knockouts) said everyone figures he will try to outslug Cotto. He admitted that pressure will be a big part of his strategy. But he won’t leave his boxing skills in the dressing room.

“I am not sure what kind of strategy Cotto will have for this fight,” Margarito said. “I know I am the type of fighter that throws a lot of punches and puts a lot of pressure on my opponent, and we’ll see how he comes out and how he reacts to it.

“I think my strength is my power and my stamina, and to be on top of him all the time. Boxing is going to have a lot to do with me winning this fight.”

Margarito knows a win over Cotto will cement his own legacy as a champion. He has won two world titles: the WBO welterweight title in 2002 and the IBF welterweight title in April. He had seven successful defenses of his WBO belt before losing it to Paul Williams on July 14, 2007. That night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Margarito started slowly and couldn’t catch up, losing a 12-round unanimous decision.

It appeared he learned a valuable lesson from that fight. Against Cintron, Margarito came out swinging from the opening bell, resulting in a one-sided fight in his favor.

“I told everyone that I was going to have a fast start, and I was going to do that for 12 rounds,” Margarito said of his plan for Cintron. “I showed that I belong at the top of this division.”

He gave up the IBF belt he had taken from Cintron in order to fight Cotto. To be a world champion again is his prime motivation.

“Sometimes, you think things are not going to come your way,” Margarito said. “I did not want to leave my (IBF) title on the table. I wanted to defend it.

“Things did not go as well there as I had expected, but the opportunity is here right now. It’s been a long, hard road, and now I am here.”

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

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