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Antonio Margarito: Of Reprehension and Redemption

By Hans Olson

Recent news reports indicate Top Rank’s Bob Arum is in the early stages of including Antonio Margarito’s comeback fight on the undercard of Pacquiao/Clottey on March 13th in Dallas. At first glance, a very questionable choice given the circumstances of the event; an event conceived after fallout of Mayweather and Pacquiao unable to agree on the level of drug testing amongst other issues. Fight fans have long been wary of various aspects of the sweet science throughout history, not the least is legitimacy of a fair shake a fighter may or may not have on any given night. Warranted or not, Pacquiao at least in the immediate future will have to face the questions of why exactly he won’t cooperate with testing that would silence any who criticize his abilities being anything other than natural. He has already started to do this, and having never failed a drug test in his astonishing career, should be taken at his word until proven otherwise. Knowing this, or maybe because of it, Arum has found the landing spot of a Margarito return. Lets examine the psychology when it relates to Margarito, how he should be received (if at all), what warrants that reaction, and if we should be given the chance to react at all.

January 24th, 2009. It’s harder to find a single night more damaging to a career in every aspect. Antonio Margarito had long been lauded for his astonishing ability to take a punch and move forward, both in his personal and professional career. He was the type of fighter that fight fans loved for the purest of reasons. Unfortunately for Margarito, not only was he dominated by Mosley en route to being stopped in the fight, his entire career was now up for debate. Everybody knows what happened during the prefight inspection of the hand wraps. After further examination, the hand wraps were confirmed to contain a substance similar in nature to plaster of paris. The intention of the plaster is to develop a hard protection of the hand. The cast like protection would reinforce any impact from hand injury at the same time add obvious damaging effects to the punches one can land. Either intention aside, the illegality of that is apparent. Was this a tactic Margarito always used? The Cotto fight? The Clottey fight? If so why wasn’t he caught before? Why did the California commission sign off on one of the gloves allegedly before Nazim Richardson intervened? If he had never used this tactic, why start at the Mosley fight? These are the many questions that only Margarito knows the answers to. We can only hope that one day he can answer them all truthfully, with a degree of evidence to back his claims. He needs to answer hard questions. The same way sports fans expected Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and others to face the public, Margarito needs to do the same. If he can’t do that, he can’t expect any sympathy…or a career at that.

To play devil’s advocate and for the slightest benefit of doubt, there may be a deeper story on why Margarito did what he did. Maybe it was the Cotto fight. Margarito grew up in poverty and turned to the fight game, fighting men professionally twice his age of 15 to survive and lost some of those fights which haunted his career, thus not enabling him to land a huge fight he deserved. Margarito dealt with his brother being murdered, amongst other hardships many of us are fortunate to have never had to endure. Maybe the result of his life experiences lost a degree of how he perceived a fair shake, when life hadn’t offered that hand to begin with. We need to hear more from Antonio Margarito. And as much as he has put his body on the line for the sake of our viewing entertainment, we should take a moment to listen. As much as boxing fans ask for a utopian idea of sport, we must be realistic and realize that sometimes people aren’t perfect. It is one of the reasons why for better or for worse, we are intrigued by boxing as an extension of our own pride, hopes, and dreams.

Antonio Margarito is a relentless warrior that fights with passion and pride. Unfortunately, he may also have been a fighter who had loaded hands on top of that. Some nights, maybe that was enough to defeat skill. Some nights, maybe it wasn’t. I’m not sure the suspension has, or will do any good on the boxing world’s perception of him, or others. People will still cheat so long as they get away with it. It’s ironic the man who caught him attempting to cheat is Shane Mosley. Mosley’s troubles with the accusations of PED’s are well documented. Maybe if Mosley never used PED’s, he would never have been in a position to fight Margarito. Nobody can say for sure. I can’t say I’m rooting for or against Margarito’s comeback. We love a comeback, we love redemption, but the only thing Margarito can redeem is his own identity, not of the past but the present and future. The lasting events of a fight can linger for years. Those events may overshadow everything, as the night of January 24th 2009 did for Antonio Margarito. Boxers aren’t exempt from making mistakes, and in this part of the world, we’re usually allowed to redeem them. Our opinions on Margarito can all be passionate, they can all be true. If never allowed to fight again, the road out of Hell may be longer for Antonio Margarito. If given another chance, perhaps on March 13th we’ll be able to unequivocally judge Margarito from this point on, much like Alex Rodriguez asked baseball fans to do so last February after admitting using PED’s. I’d like to hope at that point we can root for redemption, and not reprehension.

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