Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Even a Pacquiao at less than 100 percent is much too much for Margarito


Manny Pacquiao, who weighed in 5.4 pounds under the limit, might not be at his very best but he's still too much for Antonio Margarito. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Much has been made of distractions in the training camp of Manny Pacquiao, who some believe is less than his best. Many wonder whether a significant size disadvantage will finally bite the Filipino icon, particularly after he weighed in at only 144.6 pounds on Friday. And, as we know, crazy things happen in boxing.

This is the bottom line, though: The Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium is a mismatch.

Pacquiao probably will score a knockout in the middle to late rounds or win a one-sided decision, although the fight will be fun to watch while it lasts. Why such a wipe out? It’s not complicated: talent. Pacquiao is loaded with it, Margarito is not. Pacquiao has built his success on his natural gifts and refinement of his skills under trainer Freddie Roach. Margarito is a tough, well-conditioned brawler who has won consistently with determination.

Determination isn’t enough to beat a fighter of Pacquiao’s ilk, though. Pacquiao quite simply can do things for which Margarito will have no answers. For example, those who step into the ring with Pacquiao for the first time are invariably taken aback by his hand speed. More than one has said, in effect, “You can’t understand it until you experience it.”

He can throw three punches faster than Margarito can throw one, or so it seems.

Then there are his profoundly quick feet. Pacquiao is a master of landing two- or three-punch combinations and then scooting out of trouble before his opponent can react, particularly an opponent as slow as Margarito. Get in, inflict pain, get out. That’s a recipe for a one-sided fight.

Is it possible that the factors mentioned in the first paragraph here will open the door to an upset? Of course. Again, unexpected things happen in boxing all the time. Pacquiao could get caught with a big punch. He could get cut, which is something that throws him off his game. He could suddenly become a fool and decide to fight Margarito toe to toe. Anything is possible.

And let me state here for the record: I’ve been wrong many times before. For example, I was among those certain Mike Tyson would annihilate Evander Holyfield the first time they fought.

I’m not worried, though.

I remember when Oscar De La Hoya fought Rafael Ruelas in 1995. De La Hoya had begun to have significant distractions in his life, and his camp seemed to be in disarray. And I knew Ruelas well. He was like Margarito in that he was always prepared, tough and extremely determined.

So I picked Ruelas to win. The result? De La Hoya scored a second-round knockout.

I learned from that experience that we shouldn’t over-analyze fights. I should’ve asked myself: “Who’s better right now? De La Hoya or Ruelas? The answer, of course, was De La Hoya by a mile. Now, when a fight is made, I ask myself that question without picking apart every aspect of the matchup.

Who’s better right now? Pacquiao or Margarito? Again, the answer is obvious.

And that size thing? The last time I went with size over ability was when Pacquiao fought De La Hoya. I thought of Pacquiao as a small fighter and De La Hoya as a big one. Plus, in my defense, I and many others didn’t quite understand how much De La Hoya had declined.

The result? Pacquiao by technical knockout after eight one-sided rounds. The lesson? Size matters only when the fighters are at least roughly equal in ability, which doesn’t apply in the fight on Saturday.

I don’t think this fight will be a carbon copy of Roy Jones Jr.’s dominating victory over a much-larger John Ruiz when Jones won a heavyweight title, but that gives you an idea of what you might see, a fast great fighter baffling a slow good one.

The fact that Pacquiao probably will be outweighed by as many as 15 pounds when he and Margarito step into the ring gave many people pause after the official weigh-in on Friday, which was a reasonable reaction. We all thought Pacquaio would be a little heavier.

I had the opposite reaction, though. Pacquiao weighed what he did because that’s his natural weight. In other words, that’s the weight at which he’s most comfortable and the quickest. He had tried putting on some weight early in camp but felt sluggish and decided it was a bad idea. I agree.

And let me ask this: What type of opponent is best suited to Pacquiao’s strengths? Again, it’s obvious: An aggressive one who continually comes forward. And how does Margarito fight? Exactly.

Finally, some observers I respect believe Pacquiao really did have a relatively poor training camp, which might leave him in a precarious position against a dangerous opponent. One believes he’s no more than 80 percent.

My reaction? Doesn’t matter. Manny Pacquiao at 80 percent is still much better than Antonio Margarito at 100 percent. You’ll see on Saturday night.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]