People tend to overlook how formidable and exciting Antonio Margarito was as a fighter. His ring highlights and achievements are overshadowed by the illegal handwraps controversy. The Mexican veteran was quite a force in the ring, he once tore a piece of the ear off of a very tough Argentine Sebastien Lujan in a world title fight. He slugged it out and bloodied Paul Williams in a very exciting, hard fought battle three years ago. He scored spectacular highlight reel knockout wins against Antonio Diaz, Hercules Kyvelos, Andrew Lewis and Manuel Gomez.
Antonio Margarito is an absolute warrior who was the first man to expose the ducking cowardice of Floyd Mayweather in 2006. It was Mayweather who walked away three times from a career high payday offers of $8 million (plus pay-per-view upside) to fight Margarito in 2006.
Back in the mid-2000’s Margarito, despite his crowd-pleasing relentless style, could not land a major marquee fight. He was a little too good for his own good. And unlucky too as he always seemed to toil in the shadows of other Mexican stars like Barrera, Morales, Oscar and the Marquez brothers. Sympathetic to the Margarito plight, I remember clearly how Margarito was futile in attempts to fight the likes De La Hoya, Mosley, Wright, Baldomir, Vargas, Mayorga. No matter how well he did or looked in victory, Margarito just could not score the big fight. And the failure to get Mayweather in the ring when he was at the end of his prime years in 2006 I believe was a major setback and discouragement for Margarito.
Now, it seems all the years of hard training and tough fights have taken their toll. Margarito is on the decline. Over 15 years in this business, with his average defensive skills, Margarito is clearly not the fighter he once was, as evidenced by his KO loss to Shane Mosley.
But Margarito is still going to be dangerous for Manny Pacquiao because he’s a big man, strong, super fit, who will walk through the fire to win. He has the burning ambition that you can’t measure, that can intimidate boxers like Mayweather. And in Margarito’s favor is his quest for redemption from the shame of the handwraps fiasco of the Mosley fight. He will do anything to clear his name and revive his career.
But the disturbing mockery of Freddie Roach’s Parkinson’s disease related handicaps this week which was captured on video for the world to see is a tremendous embarrassment for Margarito. Now Margarito’s image as a cheating criminal has been darkened even worse. He is viewed by the public as a cruel, insensitive, classless jerk. I only know Margarito from interviewing him about five times and conversing at press conferences but I believe Margarito is a friendly, good-hearted (with a mean-streak of course), sensitive soul who is very misunderstood. I always liked him, he was always nice, gracious, polite and pleasant to everyone in the media, the fans. I really, really liked him, he became one of my favorite fighters in this sport. His story and how he kept persevering to land the “big fight” was inspiring, how he kept on punching and fighting and trying and winning tough fights.
It’s over now though. In my opinion, he will go down as one of those excellent, exciting fighters who had tough luck. He never became the superstar he could have and should have become – I am quite sure he would have demolished Mayweather in 2006, unfortunately for Margarito, Mayweather knew it and ducked the fight.
So for all the hate you may feel for Margarito now (remember how disgraceful Mike Tyson was at his worst?), try to have some empathy for Antonio at the same time. He sacrificed and risked his life in this sport and never really got his just due, the big opportunity he deserved, until it was too late. Yes it’s easy to hate Margarito now, but I still like him and respect him and forgive him. Boxing is a brutal business with lots of beauty and ugly. You will find the best and worst of everything in boxing.
He cheated. He ridiculed a sick man. But he’s still a champion. Antonio Margarito will always be a champion.
Mayweather will not fight Margarito, in 2006 or now. Mayweather knows Margarito will take punishment and keep coming and coming.