Life isn’t fair, so bring on Pacquiao-Margarito
Antonio Margarito does not deserve a fight with Manny Pacquiao. When you get caught trying to cheat, get obliterated in the ring an hour later, cause several of your previous victories to suddenly grow asterisks and come back from all of this with one unspectacular victory over a non-contender, it’s safe to say you haven’t earned a pugilistic appointment with the best fighter in the world.
But who deserves what doesn’t always determine what happens in life, and it hardly ever determines what happens in boxing. It’s usually who you know and how much money you’re worth, fairness be damned.
There’s no denying that Margarito knows the right person: Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum.
And I happen to believe Margarito is worth decent money to Pacquiao. He’s not worth anywhere near as much as Mayweather, obviously. And you could make an argument that Pacquiao vs. Sergio Martinez or Pacquiao vs. Paul Williams might sell better on pay-per-view because fans will be legitimately compelled by the possibility of either of those men defeating Pac-Man. Just one problem: The risk-reward equation has Arum and Congressman Pacquiao stamping those matchups with a big, fat veto.
I recognize that what I’m about to write is not going to be popular. I recognize that many fans are morally opposed to “Margacheato” getting this financial opportunity.
I recognize that Pacquiao-Margarito will be dripping with controversy throughout the lead-up. And that’s precisely why I’m throwing my support behind it.
If we can’t have Pacquiao-Mayweather, I say bring on Pacquiao-Margarito.
Among all the possible fights for Pacquiao, you won’t find one more loaded with marketable plotlines. If it seemed Pacquiao-Mayweather had good vs. evil elements, that’s nothing compared to Pacquiao-Margarito. We’re talking about the most popular fighter on the planet taking on a guy who is suspected of putting opponents’ lives in extra danger by fighting with plaster on his fists.
Pacquiao-Mayweather was like Luke Skywalker vs. Han Solo during their first few scenes together in the original Star Wars, the good guy squabbling with the annoying egotist. Pacquiao-Margarito is Luke vs. Darth Vader.
And that good-vs.-evil aspect leads directly into the reason we can expect several hundreds of thousands of fight fans to order the bout on pay-per-view: They will derive pleasure from seeing Margarito take a beating from Pacquiao. The Tijuana native does not deserve the money that comes with fighting Pacquiao. But in the minds of many, he completely deserves the physical punishment.
Yes, Pacquiao-Margarito looks like a mismatch. The slow, easy-to-hit Margarito doesn’t exactly thrive against speed (see his loss to Shane Mosley), and there are some who wonder now if any of his wins over world-class opposition were achieved through legitimate means.
But there are worse things in the world than a mismatch. I’ll take an all-action, one-way fight over a close but dull jab-athon. And if there’s one thing that’s certain about Pacquiao-Margarito from a stylistic perspective, it’s that there won’t be a boring moment.
Pacquiao comes forward and dazzles with his offensive arsenal. Margarito applies pressure and never gives ground. Pacquiao will home in with straight lefts and right hooks that snap Margarito’s head around and make for spectacular super-slo-mo high-def replay material. And if Margarito should happen to land a few bombs, who knows? The fight might just have a little two-way drama.
And here’s another fun side angle: With Margarito’s licensing in Nevada very much in doubt at the moment, the fight would most likely land in Monterrey, Mexico. Pacquiao is known as “The Mexicutioner” for a reason. Mexican fans respect him endlessly, but they’d surely turn out to see one of their own try to bump off the only fighter who has beaten Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales.
And the fact that a Margarito fight would take place south of the border is good for Pacquiao financially, as Arum explained on last Saturday morning’s wee-hours conference call.
“Our sponsor, Tecate, and the governor of the state are all making major efforts to bring that fight to Monterrey,” Arum said. “There is a tremendous advantage for Pacquiao staging the fight in Mexico because if the fight is in the United States, the withholding is 30 percent and we are not obligated to withhold anything if the fight is in Mexico.”
If you want to see Pacquiao make a handsome paydayÔÇösomething he wouldn’t mind after a costly political campaignÔÇöthen this fight is worth endorsing.
But if you still can’t get behind Pacquiao-Margarito, pause and consider the other options.
As far as Arum is concerned, the only other option (since he wants to keep Pacquiao’s Nov. 13 fight in-house if the opponent isn’t to be Mayweather) is Miguel Cotto. Is there any fight fan alive who actually wants to see that again? When one guy spends the last six rounds essentially running for his life then gets TKO’d in a fight that could easily have been stopped three rounds earlier, you’re not going to find many folks clamoring for a rematch.
It’s quite possible that Pacquiao-Margarito will be even less competitive than Pacquiao-Cotto II would be, but at least it’s a fight we haven’t seen already. We don’t know for a fact how it’s going to turn out. With Pacquiao-Cotto, we do. Emanuel Steward’s a great trainer, but don’t let his nickname, “The Kronk Wizard,” fool you. He’s not an actual wizard. And you’d pretty much have to be capable of witchcraft and sorcery to lead Cotto to victory over Pacquiao.
So Cotto is not an appealing option. Martinez and Williams are not realistic options. What about Tim Bradley, who’s gathering steam among the hardcore fight fans? After all, the argument goes, if Pacquiao could sell 700,000 pay-per-view buys against Joshua Clottey, whose name meant nothing to the mainstream, he could do just as well against Bradley, right?
I have my doubts about that, based on the fact that there’s a limit to how many times you can go to the proverbial well. When Pacquiao fought Clottey, it was a major comedown from Pacquiao-Mayweather but the public accepted the relative no-name opponent. It’s a lot harder to pull that off again eight months later when we’ve been denied a Mayweather fight for a second time and the public is asked to buy another matchup that’s hard to hype.
For me, though, it’s not so much a matter of what makes the most money, since I’m not seeing a penny of the proceeds. The reason I don’t want to see Pacquiao-Bradley in November is because I feel it can be built into a more meaningful attraction around the time Mayweather passes on a Pacquiao fight next spring. What I’d like to see in the meantime is a fight this November or December between Bradley and Andre Berto or Bradley and Devon Alexander, with the winner becoming more than just an anonymous B-side for Pacquiao.
At the moment, Margarito has a much bigger name than any of those guys, even if it’s notoriety more than achievement that has fueled his current fame.
The only fighter who should be considered for Nov. 13 whose name is worth more than Margarito’s is Juan Manuel Marquez. There’s still unfinished business between Pacquiao and Marquez, and I feel Arum should consider making that fight. But the Top Rank chief wants to keep it in the family and wants to close a deal in the next week or so, which doesn’t allow us to wait for the result of the July 31 bout between Marquez and Juan Diaz.
Look, I hope Pacquiao-Mayweather happens. You hope Pacquiao-Mayweather happens. The guy down the block who orders one boxing pay-per-view every five years hopes Pacquiao-Mayweather happens.
But if it’s not going to happen, then bring on Pacquiao-Margarito. At the very least, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than Pacquiao-Cotto II.
And consider the possible outcomes: Either Margarito surprises us and makes it a competitive brawl, or he takes the pounding that his detractors feel he deserves. Either way, it’s a fight that’s guaranteed to satisfy.
ÔÇó The rumors are true about Ricky Hatton weighing 220 pounds, but it looks like mostly muscle and rather well distributed to me. What? What’s that you say? That was Alexander Povetkin on Friday Night Fights? Oh. Never mind.
ÔÇó From the what-goes-around-comes-around department: Before you feel too bad for Ishe Smith losing a questionable decision to undefeated Fernando Guerrero on ShoBox, remember then-undefeated Smith’s 2004 victory over Randall Bailey, also by questionable decision, also on ShoBox.
ÔÇó I remember my high school cross-country coach telling me that if you have enough left to sprint full speed across the finish line, then you didn’t run hard enough the rest of the race. Along those same lines, it was kind of refreshing to see Ray Robinson barely able to scale the ropes following the final round of his fight with Shawn Porter on Friday night. Robinson took the loss, but at least he emptied the tank.
ÔÇó Speaking of good losses, I sold Luis Carlos Abregu a little short coming into his fight Tim Bradley. The Argentine is still more “tough” than “good,” but there is definitely plenty of “good” in there.
ÔÇó As for Bradley, you know how you can tell when someone is a bad-ass? When he struts through the ‘hood wearing a sweater vest. That’s one dude you don’t want to mess with.
Eric Raskin can be reached at [email protected] You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine and follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin.