Antonio Margarito: Sweet Vindication

Antonio MargaritoBy Anthony Coleman, photo by Naoki Fukuda: No offense to Miguel Cotto, but when Antonio Margarito’s hand was raised in victory I was smiling. Not because Cotto was defeated (and I hope that he is recovering after taking a Vargas-esque beating like he did). Not because my prediction of a Margarito victory came to fruition (go onto a popular boxing website and lookup Blackartsviper). But it was the fact that he was able to get the greatest victory of his career after boxing politics seemingly stalled it.

Ever since he won the WBO Welterweight title from Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis (remember him?) in 2003, Margarito has been near or the very top of many boxing fans and writers list of best Welterweights. Yet despite his credentials and Bob Arum by his side, he still couldn’t score that one mega-fight that would pay him millions and bring him to the pound-for-pound inner circle. He was consistently looked past for fights with Forrest, Mayorga, Spinks, Judah and of course Mayweather (who didn’t accept an 8 million dollar offer to fight Margarito in 2006). It was the same boxing cliché: Too good for his own good..

Margarito wasn’t a superstar and didn’t have a huge fan base. He wasn’t groomed for boxing superstardom the way Jermain Taylor, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto were. He didn’t have a huge HBO contract. He was a man who started his career when he was still a teenager and lost three fights before his title winning victory over Lewis. When he continued to garner knockout victory after knockout victory, he still wasn’t in serious discussion for a big money payday fight and those megastars had a reason to look over him because he was a relatively anonymous fighter. Yet even worse were the detractors, many of them fans of the brand name superstars, who went out of their way and voiced their opinions that Margarito was overrated.

The criticism was often the same: his punches were too wide and it made him easy to hit. His hands were slow. His feet were made out of cement. He didn’t have one punch KO power. While most of this true to a point, his critics greatly exaggerated his flaws.

True, he didn’t have the amazing hand or foot speed of a prime Sugar Ray Leonard. He wasn’t the defensive genius that Pernell Whitaker was. He didn’t have Jose Napoles’ tremendous balance, technique and combination punching and he didn’t possess the “Psycho Crusher” that Hearns or Trinidad had. However, Margarito always had world class, pound for pound level talent.

Every punch he throws came with maximum leverage and carried power. While his footwork isn’t amazing, given enough time he would get to his opponent and tear them apart. He is a great body puncher. His stamina is impressive. Also, while his handspeed isn’t special, his punches are wide and he is there to be hit, it also must be noted that he places his punches at the most hurtful parts of the body and that in his combinations at least one of those hurtful bombs will land. Plus he has one of the best chins I have ever seen. I mean, my god, did you see some of the punches that Cotto tattooed him with? Again it seems as if many were looking for a reason (cough* Mayweather fans*cough) to discount him.

Even when he won certain fights he was never given the credit he deserves. Going into his first fight with Kermit Cintron, many felt that the KO artist would stop Margarito. Yet when the Tijuana native physically and mentally destroyed Cintron in five rounds, he got no credit and those same fans who championed the Puerto Rican power puncher wrote him off as overrated as well. Again it was a case of fans not wanting to give Margarito credit for his success.

Last year it looked as if the sun was possibly setting for Margarito. Going into his mandatory title defense against Paul Williams it was agreed by Bob Arum that if he would defeat him then it would lead to a showdown with Cotto in October. However, Margarito would lose his title on points to Williams and he watched as Cotto took on Shane Mosley later that year. With his thirtieth birthday approaching it looked as if his time had past.

But thankfully Margarito didn’t feel sorry for himself and moved forward. On the undercard to Cotto-Mosley, Margarito would put on one of his best performances and took out Golden Johnson in the first round. Then in April of this year he would defeat Cintron for a second time, and this time picking up his IBF version of the Welterweight title. His win over Cintron set up his title unification with Miguel Cotto. Again he was the underdog to the Puerto Rican sensation and those same detractors were loading unto the Cotto bandwagon.

Yet with his arrival on the world stage Margarito didn’t disappoint. Though Cotto took an early points lead, Margarito proved why he is called the “Tijuana Tornado.” He started to walk down the smaller Cotto with his pressur, bodypunches, and uppercuts on the inside. By the end of the tenth round a hurt Cotto was holding on for dear life. By the 11th round Cotto’s face looked like an absolute mess, and then Margarito closed the show by knocking his foe down twice and forced the referee to stop the contest. Margarito had finally proven that he was on par with any Welterweight on the planet.

After the win I was almost clapping in my own damn living room. In my very first article I championed Margarito and expressed my anger that Mayweather refused to fight him. But now, after getting his big chance to show to the world that he could not only hang, but beat one of the best boxers in the sport I was thrilled that he finally gained the respect of the boxing world. Even though he was behind on points, he didn’t quit and proved his toughness and he is now the “man” and Welterweight.

So what’s next for him? Hopefully he can take a break and enjoy his accomplishment. He has earned it. But after that, I only want to see one fight: a rematch between he and Paul Williams to determine absolute supremacy at 147. If that fight can’t be made because of boxing politics (I will address this in a later article this week) then the boxing fans are once again being cheated. However, I’ll discuss this at a later time; right now I just want to congratulate Antonio Margarito for finally overcoming obstacles and arriving at the superstar status that he should have achieved years ago. This is in fact Sweet Vindication.

News of The World:

After the fight I was really worried about the health of Miguel Cotto. I mean his face was just mangled and he had taken some horrible body shots over the ten and a half previous rounds. I hope that he takes the rest of the year off and recovers then comes back into the ring. In my opinion this loss doesn’t drop or diminish him in anyway. He is one of the best fighters in the sport and is firmly entrenched in my personal pound for pound rankings. However, I’m worried that he won’t comeback after taking such a beating. David Reid and Fernando Vargas weren’t the same after getting torn apart by Tito Trinidad. Ditto for Meldrick Taylor after his run-in with Julio Cesar Chavez. And let us not forget about Jeff Lacy after the beatdown he absorbed from Joe Calzaghe. I’m hoping this was just a loss and that Cotto can come back strong and give us more great fights. So right now I send my well wishes to him.

-Memo to Jeff Lacy: Please retire. He looked like ass on Wednesday against Epifanio Mendoza, nearly getting KO’d three times in the fight. Plus his balance diminished speed and reflexes are pretty apparent. Though he was able to score the victory he is unquestionably shot and I don’t want to see him take more punches. If he loses to Jermain Taylor later this year he will run away with my “Evander Holyfield” award.

Article posted on 30.07.2008

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