Cotto, Pavlik will recover in the ring

By Francis Walker
Updated: February 20, 2009

Former two-division world champion Miguel Cotto addresses the media. Cotto, fighting for the first time since his loss to Antonio Margarito in July, challenges Michael Jennings for the vacant WBO welterweight championship at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Former two-division world champion Miguel Cotto addresses the media. Cotto, fighting for the first time since his loss to Antonio Margarito in July, challenges Michael Jennings for the vacant WBO welterweight championship at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

NEW YORK — The big question coming into Saturday’s split-site doubleheader on pay-per-view isn’t whether Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik will emerge victorious. The big question is whether Cotto and Pavlik are strong enough to recover from the brutal beatings they received in each of their last outings.

“Cotto & Pavlik: Two World Title Fights — One Night” will be broadcast live on pay-per-view at a suggested retail of $44.95.

Cotto (32-1, 26 KOs), a former two-division world champion at 140 and 147 pounds, will challenge Michael Jennings (34-1, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBO welterweight championship in the main event at Madison Square Garden.

Miguel Cotto isn't worried about facing Michael Jennings on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Cotto is 4-0 at the World's Most Famous Arena. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Miguel Cotto isn't worried about facing Michael Jennings on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Cotto is 4-0 at the World's Most Famous Arena. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Also, WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) returns to 160 pounds to face WBC No. 1 contender Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 38 KOs) in the main event at the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, OH.

“It will be a very interesting show,” said boxing promoter Bob Arum. “They’re both coming off losses. We’re going to see how they react. I think it’s going to be a super card.”

Cotto is coming off a brutal 11th round TKO defeat at the hands of Antonio Margarito in July. The question was how much did that brutal fight take out from both men?

Apparently, it took a lot out from Margarito, who looked like a dried turkey when Sugar Shan e Mosley knocked him out in the ninth round last month. Margarito was given a one-year ban from boxing after his hands were wrapped in a “plaster-like” substance prior to the Mosley fight.

How much did the now questionable loss to Margarito take out of Cotto? Is Cotto the same fighter he was that beat champions Mosley, Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, Ricsrdo Torres, and Demarcus Corley? Is the fire still there for Cotto?

“You’re going to see on Saturday,” Cotto said. “I’m going to show my best performance.”

Jennings is the perfect “opponent” for Cotto first bout in seven months. Jennings hasn’t fought anyone recognizable in his career. His record suggests that Jennings doesn’t hit nearly as hard as Cotto. Therefore, Cotto shouldn’t worry about getting caught on the button coming straight forward as we’re accustomed to watching.

“We train almost the same,” Cotto said of his preparation for Jennings. “We train to capitalize on Michael Jennings mistakes.”

Kelly Pavlik vs. Marco Antonio Rubio

Pavlik absorbed a tremendous beating when he fought Bernard Hopkins at a catch-weight of 170 in October. Pavlik, recognized for his aggressiveness, combination punching, and two-handed power, was literally no match for Hopkins. According to sources, Pavlik was diagnosed with having the flu and was on antibiotics several days prior to the fight.

Moving ahead, can Pavlik return to form? He won’t be fighting at 166 as he did in his rematch with Jermain Taylor last year. He won’t be fighting at 170 as he did against Hopkins. Instead, Pavlik returns to his comfort zone as a 160-pound middleweight champion in his hometown of Youngstown.

Pavlik will meet an opponent that’s made to order for him in Rubio. Expect a good action fight, but expect Rubio’s face to swell and cut before Pavlik stops him.

Fighting for the first time in exactly one year, Ireland's John Duddy returns to the Garden to face Matt Vanda in a middleweight bout. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Fighting for the first time in exactly one year, Ireland's John Duddy returns to the Garden to face Matt Vanda in a middleweight bout. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

John Duddy returns on Cotto vs. Jennings undercard

“Cotto & Pavlik: Two World Title Fights – One Night” will comprise of the undercard fights from Madison Square Garden. “Ireland’s John Duddy returns to the ring after a one-year absence to battle Matt Vanda in a 10-round middleweight bout.

“Matt’s a tough and experienced pro,” Duddy said. “He’s never been stopped and never been knocked down.”

Duddy is an immensely popular, undefeated fighter. He was one victory away from challenging Pavlik for the world middleweight title, but a cut he suffered in a 10-round war with Walid Smichet (L 10) on the Wladimri Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov undercard last year ended Duddy’s title hopes. A lot of people believed that Duddy lost the fight, but BASN scored the bout 96-94 for Irish lad.

To make things worse, Duddy disappeared from boxing after he discovered that his managerial and promotional team, The McLoughlin brothers at Irish Ropes was taking his money. Duddy filed a lawsuit and his anxious to resume his fight career.

“Whatever problems that I’ve had have been taken care of,” Duddy said. “I’m happy that I’m fighting and that’s what I’m focused on. “I’m going to be 30 and I’m not a young pup anymore so anytime I spend outside of the ring is bad for me. As long as I’m able to get back and do what I love doing at Madison Square Garden, there’s no better place to kick it off again.”

Pictured from left to right: Matt Korobov, John Duddy, Miguel Cotto, Michael Jennings, Matt Vanda, and Maureen Shea will all be in action at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Pictured from left to right: Matt Korobov, John Duddy, Miguel Cotto, Michael Jennings, Matt Vanda, and Maureen Shea will all be in action at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Matt Korobov & Maureen Shea

In addition to Duddy-Vanda, Russian Olympian Matt Korobov and women’s contender Maureen Shea will also be featured underneath Cotto-Jennings.

Korobov (3-0, 3 KOs) meets Cory Jones (4-4, 1KO) in four-round middleweight bout, while Shea (13-0, 7 KOs) challenges Kina Malpartida (8-3, 1 KO) for the vacant WBA super featherweight title.