| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS The great Sugar Ray Leonard predicts great things for WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto if he defeats Antonio Margarito in Las Vegas on Saturday.
"I think Cotto is on the way and he needs a guy like Margarito to seal the impression," Leonard told Reuters.
Leonard, who won titles in five weight divisions after claiming Olympic gold in 1976, has been following Cotto's career with interest.
"I've been impressed with that young man for years," he said. "I've watched him grow, I've watched him develop. I think the thing I'm most impressed with is his confidence and his concentration. He is like the Terminator.
"He has no expression. The perfect thing with that is that you can never tell if you've got him frustrated. Even when he's hurt, he keeps the same face and expression."
One thing that particularly impresses Leonard about Cotto, 32-0 with 26 knockouts, is the Puerto Rican's body punching.
"He goes to the body with conviction. And that's a thing of beauty. I love that he goes to the body because that shows commitment. And he throws combinations. He has great balance."
Cotto is heavy favorite to beat former WBO and IBF champion Margarito, 36-5 (26 KOs), but Leonard believes the fight will be much closer, with Margarito standing four inches taller than the champion.
"This is a very interesting matchup," he said. "There's a height advantage for Margarito, but I don't think he takes advantage of that height.
"He's such an offensive fighter, he rarely relies on his height and reach advantage. The thing about this fight is that, at any moment, either man can win by knockout. They are two very big hitters."
Boxing historian Bert Sugar favors the underdog.
"I'm picking Margarito," he said. "Styles make fights, and Cotto leans forward as he comes in. That leaves him vulnerable to a left uppercut, which is Margarito's best punch."
Leonard considers Saturday's matchup the best in the welterweight division since he defeated Thomas Hearns in 1981.
"The welterweight division's been one of the great divisions of all time," he said. "The welterweights have given us all these great, great fights. And now we've got another one. (They) have 52 knockouts between them. They're going to be fighting in an area of the ring no bigger than a napkin at times."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)