When the last of the 17,943 tickets was sold for Miguel Cotto’s junior middleweight fight with Antonio Margarito on Dec. 1 of last year — two days prior to their HBO Pay Per View-televised clash at New York’s Madison Square Garden — it produced a gate in excess of $3 million.
A resident of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Cotto stopped Margarito in the 10th round to improve to 7-0 with four knockouts at The Garden, where he is believed to have sold more tickets than any fighter overall, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran “or anybody else,” according to Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum, who promoted Cotto-Margarito II.
Cotto rode the momentum and deafening cheers of the boisterous, partisan crowd against Margarito, a triumph which avenged the first loss of Cotto’s career, an 11th-round knockout in July of 2008.
“You can rename Madison Square Garden ‘The Mecca of Miguel Cotto,'” said Arum of a venue that has long been dubbed “The Mecca of Boxing,” where Cotto has decisioned former world titleholders Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Paulie Malignaggi, and knocked out Zab Judah.
“Selling out Madison Square Garden is an event,” said Arum. “Selling it out in advance is a mandate. New York is Cotto country. I don’t think any fighter has sold more tickets in this building than Miguel.”
Cotto (37-3, 30 knockouts) will look to continue his dominance at The Garden on Saturday night, when the four-time, three-division titlewinner challenges southpaw WBA junior middleweight beltholder Austin Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) in a Showtime-televised event being promoted by Golden Boy.
“For Miguel Cotto, that’s his home. That’s his house. So I think that with Miguel Cotto, and with this crowd, and with his sheer will, that will propel him to another victory,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “
“I think that will make him, yet again, become world champion. But there are a lot of different opinions out there, because Austin Trout is a very slick fighter. But the sheer will and heart that Miguel Cotto has makes him a tough not to crack.”
Cotto is immensely popular in the Big Apple, where his overall record of 9-0 includes four stoppage wins, counting a ninth-round knockout that dethroned Yuri Foreman as WBA beltholder at Yankee Stadium in June of 2010.
“Well, I think that he has just delivered here. He has won eight or nine times, all wins, and all of them very exciting fights. So he has delivered what the fans want,” said attorney and legal advisor Gaby Penagaricano of Cotto, who turned 32 last month.
“That’s why they’re so thirsty to see him again this Saturday. He’s just an exciting fighter, and you know he’ll bring the fight when he steps into the ring, and it’s a big, big, big attraction between the two, and I know that it’s very special for him.”
Cotto is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who added Cotto’s WBA junior middleweight title to his WBC welterweight belt, in May.
During a conference call on Monday, Cotto addressed the prospect of facing the youthful Trout at Madison Square Garden, among other things.
Miguel Cotto on how special it feels to walk Madison Square Garden, where he has had so much success and where he is embraced by the fans:
“I’m just happy to be here again. People here have treated me great for my whole career, and I know that next Saturday, it’s going to be the same.
“There will be a lot of people there shouting for myself, and they will be there just to watch an entertaining fight. That’s what Miguel is used to in the ring.
“So I’m ready. I’ve had good preparation for this Saturday, and I’m going to be ready for the fight and to beat Austin Trout next Saturday.”
On the special feeling of absorbing the praise and being energized by the cheers from his partisan fans prior to his last fight at sold-out MSG against Margarito:
“People just show me their good things that the had for me on that night. They are there for me, and I’m there for them. I’m going to make them proud.
“They’re going to tell me whatever happens with their cheers during the fight. This fight with Margarito was special, you know? It was my redemption fight.
“So I was given hope from the people after what had happened in 2008. I was just there for them, and they were there for me, and it was just as special for me as it was special for them.”
On how he believes Trout will handle his partisan crowd:
“I know what Trout says. He says that he’s been in Panama fighting with a Panamanian guy, and was in Mexico, fighting with a Mexican guy.
“But next Saturday, he’s going to be in New York, and in Madison Square Garden, fighting with Miguel Cotto. This is my home.
“And I know that nothing is going to be equal or the same as anything that he’s pass through before. This is going to be special.
“It’s a special venue, and it’s going to be a special night for me, and I know that he’s going to figure it out as other guys have had to figure it out in there.
“He doesn’t have to feel any kind of fear to be here in New York. People are just nice and people are pretty good. At the end of the road, it’s only him, the referee and myself that are going to be inside of the ring.
“What people outside of the ring do, people here, they are rooting for me. People there are going to be for me this time, and I’m going to be there for them.
“He has to do whatever he has to do to be the boxer that he wants, you know? He accepts that challenge to face me, and I accept the challenge to face him. Everybody will see what’s going to happen next Saturday.”
On what his performance against Mayweather did to re-invigorate him following the losses to Margarito and Pacquiao:
“Floyd Mayweather was an excellent fight. That was a good fight. I didn’t win, but sometimes, when you lose, you win. That was the case for me in this fight.
“I felt rejuvenated after that fight, and everybody wants to see me fight again next Saturday. We didn’t win the fight against Mayweather.
“But I won a lot of other things, you know, especially within myself. If felt better with myself than if I would have won. No matter that I lost.
“I’m just trying to do what I know to do the best that I can. I wake up every morning trying to bring the best that I can into every session of my training camp. I just want to be the winner that comes to fight.
“That’s what happens in this game. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be the new champion of the world. Everybody will see, on Saturday, the best Miguel Cotto ever.”
On the experience of defeating Muhammad Abdulaev in his first-ever fight at MSG in June of 2005:
“When I fought Abdulaev, I didn’t think that this arena was going to be so special for me for my entire career. But I’m happy.
“I’m thankful, and I’m just grateful for having a special and such a wonderful career, and such a wonderful arena such as Madison Square Garden.
“I can’t tell you that I just train to be a good boxer then something special came to my career when Madison Square Garden appeared in my career.
“People were there for Miguel Cotto, and Miguel Cotto has tried to do the best that he can for them just to bring them entertaining fights.
“I think that they appreciate that, and I appreciate a lot more what the people who have been there have done for me.”
On whether there is pressure for him to please his partisan fans at MSG:
“I’m just thankful for being here and I’m going to do my best, just for all of the fans and all of the people who are going to be there for me. I don’t know what will pass through Austin’s mind, but I’m going to enjoy the whole night.”
MIGUEL COTTO’S FIGHTS IN NEW YORK:
Waklimi Young, UD 4, Hammerstein Ballroom, April 28, 2001
Muhammad Abdulaev, TKO 9, Madison Square Garden, June 11, 2005
Paulie Malignaggi, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 10, 2006
Zab Judah, TKO 11, Madison Square Garden, June 9, 2007
Shane Mosley, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, Nov. 10, 2007
Michael Jennings, TKO 5, Madison Square Garden, February 21, 2009
Joshua Clottey, SD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 13, 2009
Yuri Foreman, TKO 9, Yankee Stadium, June 5, 2010
Antonio Margarito, TKO 10, Madison Square Garden, Dec. 3, 2011
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]