Antonio Margarito has become a lightning rod for discussion these days. It seems you either love him or hate him. Anyone who posts here regularly knows how I feel about him. Some (you know who you are………Paul) might even say I am biased towards him. I don’t totally disagree with that viewpoint. But I think what heterosexual crush I have on him is still tinged with a hint of realism. Contrary to popular belief I don’t think he’s unbeatable. He is full of faults and most times, gets wins based on his toughness and conditioning alone.
Some people dislike (I think that the word hate is too strong) Antonio Margarito. And I can totally relate to that. It seems to me much like the recent examples of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather jr, Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Calzaghe. I think all are very good to great boxers, but their fans have a tendency to overrate their accomplishments or place in history. All of them have very good wins but a closer look at some of those wins puts them more into perspective. It’s easy nowadays for a fighter to pick up titles in multiple weight classes without facing the best at that weight. A closer look at certain wins might bring most super fans down to earth regarding their chosen boxing deity.
When I first started typing this blog, I was planning on writing a blog defending Margarito and his accomplishments. But then, I thought ,why would anyone care about what I thought about Margarito? As a possibly biased individual ,could I be counted upon to show both the good and bad sides of Margarito’s career? So, I thought to myself, why not write a blog that forces me to look at both sides of the equation? You,the reader, can read this and take a hard look at the evidence put forth and decide for yourself.
So at the risk of exposing one of my favorite fighters, I will be taking closer look at some of Antonio Margarito’s biggest accomplishments. I will be doing this in a point/counterpoint format. First comes the good then comes the bad. This way ,the negatives about Margarito’s superhuman feats ( this is going to be harder than I thought) will get the last say .So join me as I attempt to take an unbiased and fair look at Margarito’s 3 biggest claims to fame.
Antonio Margarito is a 3 time welterweight champion and has held WBO and IBF versions of the 147lb crown, as well as the WBA title he currently holds. He held the WBO title from 2002 to 2006, winning the vacant title against Antonio Diaz and losing it to Paul Williams. During that time he went 9-1 with 7 KOs. After losing the WBO belt, he won the IBF trinket from Kermit Cintron, a previous victim who had not lost since and had seemed to mature as a fighter. He then vacated the belt for a fight fan’s fight with WBA champion and recognized #1 welterweight Miguel Cotto. He won when Cotto’s corner saved him from further punishment in the 11th round of what turned out to be a brutal fight. In his combined reign as a welterweight champ he went 12-1 with 8 KOs, losing only to freakishly tall and talented Paul Williams in a close decision.
As promised in the intro to this blog, let’s take a closer look at Margarito’s title reign. We’ll start with his reign as WBO champion.
Antonio Diaz ,while talented, was one year removed from a 5th round TKO to Shane Mosley. To get the title shot he beat four journeyman. Two retired immediately after the losses and another never won a fight again and was stopped 6 out of the 9 times he continued fighting.
Danny Perez, who had the glossy record you would expect from a prospect, earned his first shot by beating David Kamau. Kamau coming off a 2nd round KO to Oscar De La Hoya………22 months earlier. After losing a close split decision, Perez would earn his second shot by beating 11 straight opponents. All 11 were coming off a loss except for two fighters including an 8-3 opponent.
Hecules Kyvelos was an undefeated but undeserving and untested Canadian.
Sebastian Lujan had never fought outside of Argentina.
Kermit Cintron, a heavy handed prospect, was still green when he challenged Margarito. His best win to date was an 8th round stoppage of Jamaican banger Teddy Reid, who was stopped 3 rounds earlier at 140lbs by Ghanian contender Ben Tackie. After winning the IBF strap and going life and death with two limited brawlers, he lost in a rematch with Margarito.
Manuel Gomez ,although undefeated in twelve fights, was a journeyman coming off a draw with an 11-3-1 opponent.
Joshua Clottey, a poor man’s Ike Quartey, lost a ridiculously wide unanimous decision in a fight he looked well on his way to winning before injuring his right hand.
As for the IBF, it’s almost an insult call winning a belt and dropping it a reign. He won it from Cintron who he easily beat in their first fight and dropped it to avoid a tough rematch from mandatory Clottey.
The Cotto win
After years of being avoided by the elite of the welterweight division, Margarito finally made his way to the top of the welterweight division with a win against undefeated Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto. After being outboxed for the first 6 rounds, he came on strong late to force an exhausted Cotto to wilt. With their fighter physically and mentally beaten Cotto’s corner was forced to throw in the towel when Cotto took a knee for the 2nd time in the 11th round. It was huge win for Margarito, who was a big underdog in a big time fight that actually lived up to the hype. Cotto was considered no worse than top 5 pound for pound and some lists had him as high as 2nd or 3rd.
Forget the odds. Cotto was damn near tailor made for Margarito. And his performances in past fights, as good as they were, showed why. Cotto tired down the stretch of his bout with Shane Mosley, an aging boxer/puncher. And had Mosley not done the same due to his age, Margarito wouldn’t have been the first fighter to beat Cotto. Everybody knew that Margarito’s workrate and bodypunching would make Cotto expend himself more in this fight than in the Mosley fight. Also,Cotto’s defense when pressured is to put on the ear muffs and lean forward, which leaves him open to Margarito’s best punch , an uppercut straight up the middle. Another problem was that Cotto’s gameplan in the ring has always been to come forward and break his opponent down. When put in with a taller guy with a much better chin and heavy hands, Cotto was unable to turn from pressure fighter to fleet footed boxer. Add to all this Cotto’s sometimes suspect chin and you can see why nobody should have been surprised with the result to this fight.
“The most feared man in boxing”
Margarito, for most of his career, was the definition of a high risk/low reward fighter. While some elite fighters in and around his division feasted on past their prime names or contenders fighting out of their optimum weight, Margarito was often the odd man out. Seen as a somewhat limited but tough champ , everyone knew that win or lose it would not be an easy fight. A huge welterweight with a solid chin and incredible workrate is about as popular as the plague, just ask Paul Williams.
At 147, both Shane Mosley and pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather jr turned down multi-million dollar deals to face Margarito. Nicaraguan wildman Ricardo Mayorga, just days after knocking out pound for pound entrant and welter weight titlist Vernon Forrest, refused to even acknowledge Margarito’s plea for a unification fight. At 154,tricky southpaw Winky Wright, volume punching Kassim Ouma and The Golden Boy Oscar De La hoya refused to even glance at any contract that had Margarito’s name on it. De La Hoya even had said before the Cotto-Margarito fight that he would fight the winner, believing Cotto would come out on top in a bloody war. When the result didn’t come out the way he envisioned ,he decided to fight blown up lightweight Manny Pacquiao instead.
At the times the offers were made, both Mosley and Mayweather were looking for bigger fights. Margarito was just the WBO champ and invisible to the public at large. Mayweather was looking to a huge fight with De La hoya, he had been for years. Mosley was looking towards possible fights with hugely popular Fernando Vargas, Mayorga and Mayweather himself. Mayorga was tied up with the rematch with Forrest and later a proposed clash with Mosley, should he get past the light hitting Cory Spinks.
Ouma was chasing his own fight, a unification with Wright. Wright had his eyes on De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, the middleweight living legend. De La Hoya never had any reason to fight Margarito. Cotto was the big draw. When that fight fell through, De La Hoya looked towards a fight with Pacquiao, the current number one pound for pound fighter in the world.
Do you know what all these fights, proposed or otherwise, had in common? They were all bigger fights than they would have had fighting Margarito. And don’t feel bad for Margarito, since gaining recognition as one of the top welterweights in the world, he has already ducked rematches with both Paul Williams and Joshua Clottey (twice for Clottey) and almost got out of a Mosley fight citing money issues after saying Mosley was “scared to fight me”.Not bad,huh?
Now you’ve heard the from both the defense and prosecution. Now it’s up to you to decide for yourself. Antonio Margarito: feared warrior or overrated bum?