Monday, December 05, 2022  |



Dettloff: Why a Margarito victory would be good for boxing


If Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito is good vs. evil, there is no question which roles the fighters play. However, one could argue that a Margarito victory would be good for boxing. / Chris Farina-Top Rank

Conventional thinking holds that as a business, boxing is largely dependent on the success of its most-popular participant. Within the context of its position in the sporting world, boxing has been at its most commercially vibrant when its biggest heroes — Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya — were at the peak of their powers, transcending the sport and creating new fans with each win.

By this logic, all of us who hope for good things for the sport should likewise hope that Manny Pacquiao, by far the most-popular prizefighter in the world and one of the most successful athletes overall, vaporizes Antonio Margarito when they meet on Saturday night on HBO PPV.

By virtue of a charisma that finds its genesis in the improbable combination of humble, cuddly playmate and criminally gifted assassin, Pacquiao has parlayed his success in the ring into international superstardom.

Aided by flawless promotion and a nation of hero-worshipping boxing fans, Pacquiao has captured the hearts of sports fans to such a degree that even his pedestrian singing ability and occasional giddy cluelessness — both of which were evident during a recent appearance on American late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live — serve only to make him more lovable.

Which brings us to the best-possible outcome for boxing when Pacquiao and Margarito meet in front of an expected 70,000 or so fans at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas: a conclusive victory for Margarito.

The reasons are several.

First, upsets are good for business. Think Douglas-Tyson. Think Ali-Foreman. Think Spinks-Ali. Grand upsets remind everyone that what will happen in a prize ring is never a certainty and that is part of the sport’s great, enduring appeal.

At this writing, Pacquiao is roughly a 5-1 favorite. Most expect him to dominate Margarito on the way to stopping him late or winning a unanimous decision. An upset would very likely lead the sports news segments on Nov. 14.

Next, great theater demands both hero and villain and there’s no doubt who is who in this drama. Even if Margarito hadn’t been caught loading his gloves against Shane Mosley, he would be the villain here by virtue of his appreciable size advantage and an appearance that grows more or less sinister in relation to the length and pointiness of his goatee. Moreover, until promoter Bob Arum finds a way to match his star against a basket of puppies, Pacquiao will always be the good guy.

And if there’s one law in the ongoing drama that is good vs. evil, it is this: The good guy can’t always win. Sometimes the bad guy has to win. It’s an essential piece of good story-telling. Evil sometimes has to triumph over good. Not all the time. But enough of the time to keep the outcome in doubt. Good vs. evil, with the right balance of wins for each side, sells. Ask Vince McMahon. Good must have some adversity from which to rebound.

Which brings us to the next reason a Margarito win would be good for the sport: The rematch would blow the roof off everything. If they can put 70,000 in Cowboys Stadium for this match, which isn’t viewed as especially competitive or compelling, what do you think a rematch would do with a Pacquiao who has re-dedicated himself to boxing and a Margarito who has proven he can win the biggest fights without the aid of a crowbar in his gloves? It would break the bank.

As a bonus to all you Mayweather haters out there, a win by Margarito on Saturday and then an immediate rematch would essentially freeze Mayweather out of the picture and forces him to sit on the sideline watching a hugely important fight play out. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Finally, everyone loves a redemption story. Once a cheater, Margarito finds true success playing by the rules. It’s not a perfect redemption story, but it doesn’t have to be to sell. Redemption always sells, even when it’s flawed — or fabricated entirely.

If the odds are right and Pacquiao wins fairly easily, don’t fret. There are worse things. A Pacquiao win presumably brings us closer to Pacquiao-Mayweather next year. But a Margarito victory would really shake this sport up. And that’s never a bad thing.

Some random observations from last week:

We all should feel honored to witness the ongoing miracle that is Glen Johnson. I cannot think of any other fighter, who, in his 40s, dropped down a weight class and fought as well as Johnson did while stopping Allan Green Saturday night. It’s unprecedented. This is one hell of a fighter and one hell of a man. ÔǪ

Let’s not mince words: Rafael Marquez quit on his stool against Juan Manuel Lopez Saturday night. There’s no nice way to put it. He surrendered. If it makes you feel any better, he earned the right. ÔǪ

Kudos to Lopez for taking all those hooks from Marquez and staying on his feet, if barely. I heard that in sympathy, Felix Trinidad went down twice at ringside. 

I never would have imagined 10 years ago that the day would come when I would cheer the sight of Steve Albert calling a fight on Showtime, but when Albert — as opposed to Gus Johnson — opened the show Saturday night, I almost burst into tears of joy. Not really, but you get the point. ÔǪ

Know what the best thing is about the Showtime broadcast teams? They don’t take themselves so damn seriously. ÔǪ

Same old Zab Judah. What’s the over/under on how soon before we get another series of articles about how the new, more “mature” Judah is finally ready to assert himself? Newsflash: Judah’s problem has never been his maturity level. It’s his lack of substantive self-confidence. ÔǪ

The best thing to happen to Robert Guerrero on Saturday night was that he missed the right hand he threw at Vicente Escobedo when Escobedo was down in the third round. That lands, he probably gets disqualified. That he missed by three feet doesn’t say much for his punching accuracy, but hey, you take breaks where you can get them in this business. ÔǪ

When you take the kind of beating Kevin Engel took from Marcus Johnson on ShoBox Friday night and then complain when the referee stops it, what you’re really saying is that you need to be institutionalized. ÔǪ

Speaking of Johnson, who is a heck of a prospect, can someone please explain why commissions test fighters for marijuana? What do they care? It’s not like pot is a performance-enhancer, unless someone can prove that ingesting nine pounds of Cheetos in 11 minutes makes you a harder puncher. ÔǪ

Note to James McGirt Jr.: Your father loves you. You can stop now. 

Aaron Pryor Sr. is 5-foot-6 tall. Aaron Pryor Jr. is about 9-foot-7 tall, which leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the younger Pryor’s mother is the late Manute Bol.

Bill Dettloff is THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer. His biography of Ezzard Charles is coming along slower than a Tye Fields right hand, but it’s coming.

Bill can be contacted at [email protected]

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