Boxing: Jennings facing a date with destiny

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Michael Jennings has filled halls in Wigan, Widnes and Warrington during his 10-year career and will tonight walk from the safety of his dressing room to fight for a real world title in front of 18,800 people at Madison Square Garden in New York.

In the opposite corner will be Puerto Rico’s Miguel Angel Cotto, a veteran of three sell-out fights at the Garden, and a massive favourite to win the vacant World Boxing Organisation welterweight title.

Cotto has lost just once in a glittering career that has so far seen him stop or knock out 26 of his 32 victims and win world titles at two weights during what could only be called a reign of terror. However, there was something disturbing about his defeat last summer to Antonio Margarito that perhaps gives Jennings a glimmer of hope.

Margarito, who had lost five times, forced Cotto to quit in round 11 of a shocking and brutal brawl but last month an illegal substance was found inside the bandages on Margarito’s fists before a fight. He lost the fight and a few days ago the Mexican idol was suspended from boxing for a year when it emerged that the substance was plaster. “I’m not sure how this will play on Cotto’s mind,” said Jennings. “I think the loss to Margarito was terrible but now he knows that there is a chance Margarito used illegal bandages, perhaps it will give him a boost.”

Jennings, 31, is a former British champion with just one loss in 35 fights and a win tonight in New York will equal the shock triumphs of Lloyd Honeyghan against Don Curry in 1986 and Ken Buchanan against Ismael Laguna in 1970. Cotto needs to be dead at the weight and still suffering the mental scars inflicted by Margarito’s hands to give the Chorley man a hope.

Jennings v Cotto – WBO welterweight title. Madison Square Garden, NY. Tonight; Live Setanta 2 at 2am