Manos de Piedra (pt2)

February 26, 2009

           antonio-margarito11In addition to the financial losses (both immediate and potential) Margarito’s stock in the boxing community has plummeted quicker than Wall Street.  Leading up to his fight with Moseley, Margarito, with the notable exception of Pacquaio, was the hottest item in boxing.  His last fight was against the universally recognized welterweight champion of the world Miguel Cotto.  In a candidate for fight of the year in 2008, Margarito fell behind early and on the scorecards.  Despite the clean shots Cotto was ripping into Margarito’s face, Margarito was undeterred, bulling his way forward and landing thudding blows to the body.  As the rounds added up, Margarito’s attack showed their effects as Cotto ultimately took a knee under the relentless pressure as his corner threw in the towel. 

            The significance of the fight was not in the victory itself, but how he won the fight.  He systematically broke down a previously undefeated champion, one who was considered in the top three pound for pound fighters in the world.  His relentless body attack brought back memories of Julio Caesar Chavez in the minds of Mexican fighters.  The “Tijuana Tornado” was their kind of fighter, a true Mexican warrior, willing to take two punches in order to inflict one damaging blow of his own.  He was the new Mexican icon, and a match against Moseley in front of the record setting crowd at the Staples Center was the gateway to his entrance into superstardom. 

            Now following his license revocation, Margarito’s seemingly inevitable leap into superstardom, has turned into a popularity free fall.  For at least the next year, no major television outlet will carry his fights, and it is unknown whether they will put him on the air if he gets reinstated.  This will make it difficult for Margarito to reconnect with his shattered fan base in order to regain their faith, loyalty, and support.  For Margarito fans, the hand wrap scandal calls into question the exact characteristic that endeared them to Margarito: his destructive ability to slowly break down opponents and cause them to wilt under his pressure.  Only after several fights, and several victories, can Margarito ever hope to undo the damage he has done to his career with this scandal.  

            As a final note, I want to discuss the impact on boxing as a whole following this incident.  Margarito fought in a division that is loaded with talent, and any opponent against him made for a marquee fight.  There were multiple mega fights to be made (Cotto, Pacquaio, Mayweather to name a few) that were capable of generating mainstream attention, not just support from boxing fans.  In the post De La Hoya era, this is very important for boxing, and Margarito was one of the fighters poised to help boxing regain a foothold in America’s sports conscience.  The burden now falls on the other fighters in the division and hopefully they will fight each other and produce the right fights that boxing needs (Pacquaio/Hatton is a good start). 

            Boxing also has itself an MLB-esque asterisk situation regarding Margarito’s victories.  It is incredibly naïve and foolish to think that Margarito happened to get caught the only time he ever had an illegal pad in his gloves (why cheat against Moseley and not in your first mega fight against Cotto?), and it is even more ridiculous to believe the excuse given by his trainer that he grabbed the wrong pad by mistake (why even have an illegal pad on your training table? hmm . . . .) Why it is too daunting to look at all his fights, the fights following Margarito’s loss to Paul Williams, is a reasonable timetable to investigate.  During his winning stretch leading up to his fight with Moseley, Margarito was unstoppable, delivering se81085414EM007_MIGUEL_COTTO_nsational KO victories.  He seemed to be punching harder and crisper during this stretch; although it is possible this is only perceived after the fact.  The raw power exemplified by Margarito during this stretch are embodied in the images of a crumpled Cintron (a titlist at the time) from a vicious body punch and a bleeding Cotto kneeling in the corner as a white towel flies in.  Now the boxers’ records in question cannot be altered, but in the minds of boxing fans, I believe we are all placing a mental asterisk by the losses.

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