LAS VEGAS -- 10:40 p.m. -- Ever since I first learned about Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito, I've felt alone on an island.
Why? Because I think I'm the only one who believes Margarito can win.
"I think you are," said Ed Keenan, one of the PR coordinators for this event, in the press room a few hours before the fight. "Everyone out here seems to like Cotto."
Why? OK, I know why. Cotto is undefeated (32-0) and an extremely gifted boxer. His jab carries the force of a straight right (ask Alfonso Gomez, who was floored in the fifth round by a Cotto jab) and he patiently works the body of his opponents with pinpoint precision. To put it another way, Cotto is the Iceman of boxing.
Still, I like Margarito. Big time. The great Jack Dempsey once said of an opponent, "All the time he's boxing, he's thinking. All the time he was thinking, I was hitting him." Like Dempsey, Margarito is not a boxer. He's a brawler. He doesn't want to engage in a technical fight. He wants a rumble. He wants a war.
And he can deliver one, too. While Cotto will try to slip his jab and collect points in bunches, Margarito will be trying to force a street fight. He knows there is little chance he can score a decision against a skilled boxer like Cotto so he will do everything he can to make sure it doesn't get that far.
I think he'll be successful. Let's get it on.
10:57 p.m. -- I love boxing's obsession with the stool. Every time a fighter is KO'd, the referee will wave to his corner to bring out the stool. As if the stool has some sort of magical healing power.
I know he's bleeding from this six-inch hole in his skull but it's OK: He's on the stool!
It happened again in the undercard fight between junior welterweights Mike Alvarado and Cesar Bazan. Alavarado had just put Bazan down in the fifth round and Bazan could not beat the count. Referee Russell Mora waved for the stool and practically lifted Bazan up on it. Unbelievable.
11:00 p.m. -- I've just been told that Margarito closed at a -230 underdog. Last chance to put your money down, people. Why does no one believe me? My buddy Tony refused to put a couple hundred down, even though he pays about 75 bucks a month in rent and drives a Wrangler. Pony up, cheapskate!
11:03 p.m. -- Obligatory Make Fun of Michael Buffer Comment: I see Buffer went with the white suitcoat tonight. I'm also told he went with L'Oreal instead of Maybelline. I swear, I've dated women who use less makeup.
11:09 p.m. -- Just stood through three national anthems. If the NBA adopted the policy of performing the anthem for each country represented by a player in the game, a 7:00 start probably wouldn't tip until 9:10.
11:12 -- Cheapo Tony just texted me using inappropriate language. Clean it up, Tony.
11:14 -- Stephen A. Smith in the house. I mention that because that seems to be the only "celebrity" in attendance tonight. Apparently, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates thought last night's USA-Canada exhibition was a better ticket.
11:16 -- Does anyone else think its a good idea for Sports Illustrated to start their own boxing federation? Too many belts out there. I'm still trying to figure out why Margarito, who won the IBF title from Kermit Cintron earlier this year, had to vacate the title. The SIBF title would be money.
11:19 -- Both fighters have entered the ring. Give a slight edge in fan support to Margarito, which could be an advantage in the later rounds. Remember how Cotto fed off the pro-Puerto Rican crowd at Madison Square Garden in November?
Round 1 -- Cotto comes out winging that jab in round one. Much more aggressive than Margarito, which is surprising. Edge in cleaner shots goes to Cotto, who backs Margarito up with a strong combination halfway through the round. Margarito, granite chin and all, keeps moving forward however and lands a few shots of his own. 10-9 Cotto
11:22 -- Keenan just explained to me why Margarito's title is not at stake. I still don't get it.
Round 2 -- Cotto looks strong. His jab is finding the mark and Margarito is not yet able to counterpunch. A series of wild flurries! Cotto hangs tough, but you can tell he has never been in the ring with a puncher like Margarito. Clean punches late give Cotto the round. 10-9 Cotto
Round 3 -- Cotto's still the busier fighter. Margarito doesn't appear to be fazed, but Cotto's defense is preventing the big shot. And his flurries are scoring him points. Margarito's chin seems to be his defense. Margarito is warned about repeated low blows. How is that possible? He's got four inches on Cotto! 10-9 Cotto
Round 4 -- Margarito isn't jabbing enough. Cotto is getting inside easily and doing some damage while he's there. Margarito better hope Cotto wears down late, like he did against Mosley. But Mosley was far more aggressive than Margarito, whose arms look like they are in quicksand. 10-9 Cotto
11:35 -- Via text, Tony would like me to remind the world that he is a very handsome man. I'd like to remind the world that I once told him the way to get back to my house from a bar was to take a left out the door and walk one mile. He took a right and wound up in the next town over.
Round 5 -- Margarito rocks Cotto with a straight right, his best punch of the night. Cotto counters with a vicious uppercut and left hook. The guy next to me just yelled at Cotto to stand and fight. But why should he? He's frustrating Margarito and landing better punches. 10-9 Cotto
11:38 -- Both Cotto and Margarito make the sign of the cross when they come out of their respective corners. God's going to disappoint someone tonight.
Round 6 -- Cotto is still throwing but moving a little slower this round. He's blocking Margarito's punches but paying the price for it. Margarito is relentless. He doesn't care how much punishment he takes, he's still moving forward. Three straight uppercuts earn Margarito his first round. 10-9 Margarito
Round 7 -- Margarito seems to think Cotto is susceptible to the uppercut and he is firing it repeatedly. Cotto is hurt! He holds on but is bleeding from the nose and mouth! Margarito pounds Cotto to the body, as Cotto spits blood. The uppercut is landing all round. 10-9 Margarito
Round 8 -- Cotto's a little lighter on his feet this round. Margarito's still the aggressor and Cotto's combinations are fewer and fewer. Cotto looks tired. 10-9 Margarito
Round 9 -- Cotto tries to yank Margarito down by his head. He's getting frustrated. Having to constantly be in motion is wearing on him. If Margarito can throw more rapid combinations, he will win the rest of the rounds. Late run by Cotto, who is still counterpunching effectively. 10-9 Cotto
Round 10 -- Now Margarito looks to be tiring. His punches are wide and Cotto is back to slipping that jab inside. Hard combination by Cotto! Any other fighter would be on Dream Street right now. Hard combination by Margarito! Cotto hurt again! Saved by the bell! 10-9 Margarito
Round 11 -- Cotto gushing blood from the nose. After this fight no one will question his chin again. Margarito keeps firing. Cotto hurt! Cotto down!!! He's a bloody mess! Cotto down again! Fight stopped!!!
12:02 a.m. -- I hate to say I told you so, but ... I told you so! Margarito is the new WBA welterweight champion.
12:04 -- Truly a great fight. But like I thought, a furious Margarito -- who seemingly could withstand getting hit by a freight train -- is now the unquestioned king of the welterweights and the next opponent for Oscar De La Hoya.