Pacquiao-Margarito: Head-to-head analysis
MANNY PACQUIAO vs. ANTONIO MARGARITO
When: Saturday, Nov. 13
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV: HBO Pay-per-view, 9 pm. ET / 6 p.m. PT
Weight: Junior middleweight (150-pound catch weight)
Title(s) at stake: Vacant junior middleweight
Also on the card: Mike Jones vs. Jesus Soto Karass, 10 rounds, welterweights; Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Ricardo Cordoba, 12 rounds, junior featherweights; Brandon Rios vs. Omri Lowther, 10 rounds, junior welterweights.
Height / reach: 5-6¾ (169cm) / 67 (170cm)
Hometown: General Santos City, Philippines
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 51-3-2 (38 knockouts)
Trainer: Freddie Roach
The Ring rating: No. 1 pound for pound; No. 1 welterweight
Titles: WBC flyweight (1998-99; stripped for failing to make weight); IBF junior featherweight (2001-03; vacated); THE RING featherweight (2003; vacated); WBA junior lightweight (2008; vacated); WBC lightweight (2008-09; vacated); THE RING junior welterweight (2009-present); WBO welterweight (2009-present).
Biggest victories: Chatchai Sasakul, Dec. 4, 1998, KO 8 (won first title); Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, June 23, 2001, TKO 6; Marco Antonio Barrera, Nov. 15, 2003, TKO 11; Erik Morales, Jan. 21, 2006, TKO 10; Morales, Nov. 18, 2006, KO 3; Barrera, Oct. 6, 2007, UD 12; Juan Manuel Marquez, March 15, 2008, SD 12; Oscar De La Hoya, Dec. 6, 2008, TKO 8; Ricky Hatton, May 2, 2009, KO 2; Miguel Cotto, Nov. 14, 2009, TKO 12; Joshua Clottey, March 13, 2010, UD 12.
Losses: Rustico Torrecampo, Feb. 9, 1996, KO 3; Medgoen Singsurat, Sept. 17, 1999, KO 3; Morales, March 19, 2005, UD 12.
Draws: Agapito Sanchez, Nov. 10, 2001, TD 6 (Pacquiao cut); Marquez, May 8, 2004, D 12.
Height / Reach: 5-11 / 73
Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico
Nickname: Tijuana Tornado
Turned pro: 1994
Record: 38-6(27 knockouts)
Trainer: Robert Garcia
The Ring rating: None
Titles: WBO welterweight (2002-2007; lost it to Paul Williams); IBF welterweight (2008; stripped); WBA welterweight (2008-09).
Biggest victories: Antonio Diaz, March 16, 2002, KO 10 (to win WBO title); Kermit Cintron, April 23, 2005, TKO 5; Cintron, April 12, 2008, KO 6 (to win IBF title); Miguel Cotto, July 26, 2008, KO 11 (to win WBA title).
Biggest losses: Daniel Santos, Sept. 11, 2004, TD 10 (for WBO junior middleweight title); Paul Williams, July 14, 2007, UD 12 (to lose WBO title); Shane Mosley, Jan. 24, 2009, TKO 9.
Skills: Pacquiao was once a one-dimensional striker. Granted, he was an immensely talented attacker, but essentially a one-armed bandit. His offense consisted of a lightening bolt of a straight left and he didn’t have much defense. Roach made it his mission to add layers to Pacquiao’s foundation and over the course of five or six years his fighter evolved into the dynamic boxer-puncher who is celebrated today. Margarito is a volume-punching pressure fighter. Perhaps he could have been developed into more than that but his longtime former trainer Javier Capetillo had no such ambition. Even if Capetillo wanted to improve Margarito’s technique and skill, it wouldn’t have happened. He simply lacked the trainer’s know-how. The boxing pariah is, however, an excellent conditioning coach, and that’s what Margarito relies on (along with his toughness) in the ring, not skill.
Power: This is a tough category to assess. In a pound-for-pound sense, Pacquiao is the much harder puncher. However, who has more power at the fight’s contracted weight of 150 pounds is a question mark. Margarito, the larger man who has fought most of his career at welterweight, is known for his heavy hands. However, in the aftermath of his hand-wrap scandal, many question how hard the Mexican mauler really hits. His best stoppage victories (over Cotto and Cintron in their rematch) now have asterisks by them. Still, even as a young fighter, before Capetillo was in his corner, Margarito scored impressive knockouts of strong, talented welterweight prospects such as Alfred Ankamah and Sergio Martinez. Pacquiao appears to have the greater one-punch power, even at welterweight. No doubt, his awesome speed and superior technique factor into in the effectiveness of his single shots. Pacquiao has stopped two of the three welterweights he’s faced, however De La Hoya was weight drained and way past his prime and Cotto had already been weakened by his punishing battles with Margarito and Clottey.
Speed and athletic ability: This is no contest. Margarito is a strong fighter with terrific endurance but he’s not much of an athlete. Pacquiao is arguably the most dynamic athlete in boxing. Speed, power, ultra-quick reflexes, hand/foot-eye coordination, agility, you name the athletic attribute, the PacMan’s got it at omega levels.
Defense: Pacquiao had the ability to avoid punches better than Margarito even before Roach instilled basic defensive techniques into his ring generalship. Pacquiao’s always had the reflexes and footwork to dodge punches or jump away from trouble. Margarito’s always met incoming punches head-on, his chin being his primary line of defense. He has learned to block and pick off some punches over the years but his offensive output usually suffers when he does this so he uses this tactic sparingly. The current version of Pacquiao ducks and rolls under punches about as well as any aggressive boxer in recent memory.
Experience: Margarito is one of the sport’s more experienced active veterans, having faced nine fighters who were current, former or future major titleholders over his 17-year career. However, Pacquiao has fought more titleholders and better fighters over his 16-year career. Pacquiao has faced 14 fighters who were current, former or future major titleholders, including future first-ballot hall of famers such as Barrera, Marquez, Morales and De La Hoya.
Chin: For years, the one truly world-class attribute that Margarito possessed was his chin. He would take the hardest shots from bona-fide bombers directly to the chin and just smile or shrug before resuming his pressure attack. Then it all came crashing down — quite literally — when he fought Mosley. Was it because he was severely weight drained, as his managers and former trainer claim? Or is he neurologically spent from all the punishment he has willingly absorbed over the years? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Pacquiao, on the other hand, seems fresh and still in his prime after 15 years and more than a few tough fights. His chin is not impenetrable — as evidenced by brief wobbly moments he suffered in the third round against Oscar Larios and in the early rounds of his rematch with Marquez — but it’s reliable, even at the heavier weights, which was proven during his early exchanges with Cotto.
Conditioning: Margarito doesn’t have a fraction of the natural ability Pacquiao was blessed with but he works just as hard in the gym, and for this fight, the Mexican veteran was more focused and dedicated to his preparation. However, even the distracted version of Pacquiao can fight hard for 12 rounds.
Wear and tear: Pacquiao has had a few grueling bouts, most notably his first bout with Morales and his two classic encounters with Marquez. But he hasn’t been in as many hard extended fights as Margarito, who absorbed his share of punishment against Mosley, Cotto, Williams, Cintron (the rematch), Santos (the rematch), Antonio Diaz and Danny Perez (first bout). Margarito is also notorious for overtraining and engaging in gym wars, which takes its toll on an aging fighter’s body.
Corner: Robert Garcia, a former junior lightweight titleholder who retired in 2001, has shown the potential to become an elite trainer in recent years. He helped Steven Luevano and Brian Viloria win major tittles, developed Victor Ortiz into one of the sport’s top prospects, and guided Brandon Rios from a second-tier amateur standout to a top lightweight contender. However, he has a way to go before equaling the knowledge and accomplishments of Roach, who has won the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Trainer of the Year award an unprecedented four times.
Outcome: Pacquiao will build an early points lead, hitting Margarito at will while evading the bigger man’s retaliatory punches through the first three rounds of the bout. The pound-for-pound king will give his fans a reason to cheer when he wobbles Margarito with a body-head combination midway through the fourth and then further excite them by attacking the gangly Mexican head on. However, Pacquiao fans will shriek in horror when Margarito catches their hero with a left uppercut near the end of the round. Pacquiao will briefly trade with Margarito but wisely retreat in the closing seconds of the fourth round after absorbing a couple of hard body shots. Between rounds, Roach will calm his fighter down and instruct him to resume his stick-and-move tactics. “Manny, I need you to go back to boxing this guy,” Roach will implore. “We can still get the knockout, but we need to break him down first.” Pacquiao will obey his coach and box effectively in the fifth, sixth and seventh, though a warmed-up Margarito will make those rounds intense by occasionally closing the gap and landing punches, mostly body shots. Margarito will absorb considerable punishment in the middle rounds but he will continue to stalk his dynamic prey with a swollen face. Margarito’s pressure will finally back Pacquiao into a corner in the eighth round. The two will exchange vicious combinations to the thrill of the 70,000 inside Cowboys Stadium. Pacquiao will land the sharper — perhaps harder — punches but his face will bear marks from the combat at the close of the round. Roach will once again caution his fighter against the macho stuff, this time with more urgency, and Pacquiao will once again obey his trainer by using his legs more than his fists in rounds nine and 10. Margarito will land some punches but Pacquiao will keep his back off the ropes and clearly outbox his bigger, surging adversary. The championship rounds of the bout will expose how much each fighter wants the victory and how good (or bad) their camps were. Pacquiao will show signs of fatigue for the first time in many years as his constant movement and Margarito’s body attack take a toll. Margarito will bull Pacquiao to the ropes, where they will go tit for tat, landing head-spinning power punches and crippling body shots. The crowd will be on its feet for the duration of the dramatic 12th round as Margarito closes hard and a tired, but defiant Pacquiao exhibits the heart of a champion. Margarito’s rally will sweep the final two rounds but it won’t be enough to matter on the scorecards.
Prediction: Pacquiao by unanimous decision.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.
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