Boxing


Despite Emphatic Win, Margarito Stymied By Dearth of Quality Opponents

Antonio MargaritoBy Taj K. Eubanks: One would think that should a fighter rise to the top of his division, the world would be his oyster. That’s what one would think. Antonio “The Tijuana Tornado” Margarito punched his way to the apex of the welterweight division two weekends ago, yet finds himself in a position scarcely better than the one he has been in the last five years. He is the now the top dog, but quality opponents evade him like they did when he was the division’s untouchable.

After dispatching of Miguel Cotto with extreme prejudice, Margarito, in theory, should be sitting on top of the world. Yet boxing, with it’s myriad divisions, backroom squabbles, and paucity of available fight dates has once again left the proverbial outsider with far fewer options for his next fight (tentatively scheduled for November) than his team and fans would have anticipated.

Immediately after his win, Margarito cast his lot in the Oscar De La Hoya sweepstakes (like every other active fighter with a winning record and a pulse). Oscar apparently has other intentions, however. While it has been rumored that he wanted to face the Cotto-Margarito winner before their fight occurred, his post-fight intentions have seemingly veered in a different direction, Manny Pacquiao apparently now the target in his sights. This development has left Team Margarito publicly castigating Oscar for his seeming change of heart. As reports flood in that serious negotiations between Golden Boy and Team Pacquiao are heating up, the likelihood of a De La Hoya-Margarito fracas are becoming slimmer.

Which begs the question: what are Margarito’s other options? For starters, there is the obvious choice of Paul “The Punisher” Williams. It is common knowledge that not only does Williams hold a unanimous decision win over Margarito, but also that he is the champion’s greatest threat at welterweight, he of the 6’1”, volume-punching, southpaw frame. And while this is a true boxing fan’s matchup, factors such as finance and a reportedly chilly relationship between Bob Arum and Al Haymon, Williams’ advisor, threaten to make this fight but a dream.

Then there is his stablemate, Joshua “The Hitter” Clottey. The Ghanaian, while well on the way to a systematic beating of Zab Judah, won the IBF belt on a technical unanimous decision. And while a Margarito-Clottey rematch is the best option should a Williams rematch fall through, it is now another fight destined to fade into oblivion as reports of Clottey’s torn bicep ruin the chances of a November meeting.

Then there’s the WBC champion, Andre Berto. While Andre Berto is a young, exciting, well-schooled offensive force, there are several factors that preclude him from being a realistic option for Margarito’s next fight. First, there is the issue of experience, as Berto has yet to face a fighter of Margarito’s caliber (or size for that matter), winning the vacant WBC strap against the forgettable Miguel Rodriquez. He needs more experience before being thrown in with the likes of Margarito. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it is smarter to “cash in” for a little while, using his title to secure a couple of less-demanding yet deserved paydays, hence the recent talk of an Andre Berto-Stevie Forbes matchup. A Berto-Margarito matchup will not, and should not, happen before late 2009.

Which leaves Margarito with three options for a significant payday. First, there is the Cotto rematch, a surefire moneymaker, yet a foolish proposition from Top Rank’s standpoint, as Cotto will certainly need a few “soft touches” and at least a year to recover from the psychological impact of the beating he sustained at Margarito’s hand. Next, there is Zab Judah, who despite losing to Clottey remains one of boxing’s few household names. The problem here is that not only is Judah coming off a loss, but his inability to prevail against Clottey makes the prospect of a competitive matchup between he and Margarito nothing more than fool’s fancy.

Finally, there is the esteemed veteran, Shane Mosley. Unfortunately, Mosley will not be available this fall as he has a date with well-traveled Nicaraguan brawler, Ricardo Mayorga. Second, had Mosley been available, the import of a fight with Margarito would have been minimal, as Mosley lost his last fight handily to the man that Margarito just vanquished, Miguel Cotto.

And so it is that Margarito’s options for a quality opponent (one not coming off a loss and presenting a the possibility for a competitive fracas) for his next fight consist solely of Paul Williams. Whether or not this no-brainer of a fight comes to fruition is anyone’s guess, but it appears to be the best (and only) quality matchup available if Margarito expects to have his next bout be an exciting and lucrative one.

Article posted on 05.08.2008



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