NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito have sold out Madison Square Garden, proving there's plenty of interest in what happens in their rematch Saturday.
Even if it often sounds as though they're still fighting their bout from more than three years ago.
"There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of hatred between both of us," Margarito said Wednesday through a translator. "Someone will be getting hurt in this fight. Both of us are going out to hurt each other."
The two boxers spent more time talking about the past than the present in the buildup to their fight for Cotto's WBA super welterweight title. Margarito beat Cotto in July 2008, but what happened six months later forever changed discussions about that bout.
Margarito was found to have illegal hand wraps before a loss to Shane Mosley and didn't box again for more than a year. Cotto says he has photos proving that Margarito also used illegal hand wraps in their fight — which Margarito denies, just as he insists he didn't know his former trainer had placed illegal pads atop his fists in January 2009.
"He has to accept that like a man," Cotto said of wanting Margarito to admit wrongdoing. "That's the only issue I have with him."
Margarito said Cotto was just "talking the talk."
"That's what he wants to do," Margarito said. "What I said and I'll say again: I fight clean; I've always been clean."
The Tijuana Tornado stopped Cotto in the 11th round in Las Vegas in their first meeting. Cotto said he long resisted a rematch because he didn't want money going to an opponent who didn't fight fair.
"He played with my health," Cotto said. "This is a sport where you use your skills, your conditioning."
Cotto (36-2) said he noticed "something strange, something weird" in their first fight. His face swelled up in ways it shouldn't have.
Cotto controlled the early rounds in that bout, but Margarito (38-7) withstood punch after punch with not a hint of backing down.
"My constant pressure got to him," Margarito said, "and I finished him off."
He plans more of the same in Saturday's pay-per-view event.
"Everyone knows how I fight," Margarito said. "Pressure, pressure. That's what I'm going to be doing."
The 31-year-old Cotto said he didn't view the rematch as vindication, because nobody questions whether he was clean in the first bout.
"I don't have to prove anything," he said. "The pressure is on him."
Margarito stood on the stage at the Garden for Friday's weigh-in with a wide smile as boos rained down upon him. Moments later, Cotto did not show any outward emotion as he was awash in cheers.
Following the weigh-in — Cotto came in at 152 1/4 pounds and Margarito at 152 1/2 — both fighters posed for photographers as legendary promoter Bob Arum stood between them. Margarito, wearing dark sunglasses and a black ski cap, played to the raucous crowd, while Cotto stared straight ahead. Neither fighter looked at the other.
This is the second time Cotto has sold out the Garden — he also did it for his title defense against Zab Judah in 2007. The Pride of Puerto Rico would have a loud contingent backing him even if not for Margarito's current role of boxing villain.
Promoter Bob Arum dismissed talk that the crowd would sway the scores.
"He plans to knock Cotto out," Arum said. "He doesn't need the judges."
It's a high-profile stage for both boxers to prove they're still forces in the sport. Both have been battered by Manny Pacquiao since their first meeting.
The 33-year-old Margarito needed surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone in his right eye after a blow from Pacquiao last year. He considered retirement before doctors assured him he could still fight. The New York State Athletic Commission didn't license Margarito until Nov. 22 after ordering another examination of his eye.
Since losing to Margarito, Cotto has defeated Michael Jennings, Joshua Clottey, Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga while losing to Pacquiao.
"I just prepare myself for a war," he said. "That's what everyone's going to see."
Follow Rachel Cohen at http://twitter.com/RachelCohenAP.
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