By Lamar Sparkman
A few months ago I was disappointed like many fight fans that Antonio Margarito (38-6, 27 kos) was being rewarded with a mega fight against p4p Manny Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 kos) one fight removed from being suspended for illegal hand wraps prior to fighting Shane Mosley. Not only did I feel he didn’t deserve it I didn’t think it would be competitive, even worse I thought it would be a total wipe out. After the second attempt to make a fight with Floyd Mayweather fell apart I figured Team Pacquiao would come up with a legitimate opponent worthy of the opportunity. Top Rank chief Bob Arum had something else in mind and his plan B was to pick another one of his fighters to keep the money in house and to assure an easy negotiation. Margarito was denied a license renewal by the California State Athletic Commission who handed out the suspension but Texas was more than happy to give the fallen pugilist a second chance and approved him.
A few months have passed giving me a chance to take a breath and realize no fight would be a consolation for the fight the world wants to see and since styles make fights maybe Margarito would suffice. During the build up to this fight I watched what both fighters during their respective training camps, read what’s been written by those covering the fight and paid attention to the opinions of journalists and fans. My prediction never wavered but I did feel that Margarito would put up a better fight than I initially thought due to his strong desire to clear his name and regain his credibility . He seems to truly resent being asks questions about the hand wrap controversy and the scrutiny he’s been under for the last 20 months.
After watching the two fighters at the weigh in Friday evening I have reservations about my prediction. The fight is being fought at a contracted 150lbs although it is for the WBC junior middleweight belt. Margarito weighed in at 150lbs and Pacquiao to my surprise weighed in at 144.6lbs, a few pounds shy of what conditioning coach Alex Ariza and trainer Freddie Roach had predicted. “That’s a little bit lower than we would have thought that he would come in at, he ate breakfast and he ate lunch so we thought he would com in around 147..it’s not a problem. I’m not worried,” Roach said. Manny had previously mentioned that he felt sluggish during camp when trying to put on extra weight so they cut back in order to maintain speed and quickness.
This seems to be a gamble in my opinion and its one that could come back to bit them. When they faced off there was a huge size disparity which they seem to think will be offset with speed but this is a different fight from his previous bigger opponents. Oscar De la hoya was a weight drained zombie who didn’t throw punches and Manny’s speed and power overwhelmed was too much. Miguel Cotto is 4” inches shorter and smaller than Margarito and leaned into countless shots attempting to throw with Manny. Joshua Clottey was much bigger but he refused to let his hands go and resorted covering up content on making it to the final bell. Margarito has a greater reach advantage and will throw punches while applying consistent pressure from start to finish. I know Manny will use lateral movement and set up his combinations bouncing in and out of range but what if he’s unable to hurt Margarito as he continues to come forward applying his patented pressure. What then?
There’s many people who feel that Margarito may have over trained for this fight as evidenced by his chiseled abs and sculptured physique. Members from Pacquiao’s team have insinuated during the week that Margarito looked dehydrated and emaciated as though they’re counting on him to be dead as De la hoya but he only put on two pounds over night. Its safe to say that Antonio will be at least 160lbs. Maybe Roach has made the correct calculation again and is confident Manny’s speed and movement will take away tactic Margarito may try but you can’t measure will and determination which he will certainly bring to the ring. If Manny can’t hurt him and the it gets into the later stages of the fight with Margarito continually applying pressure and taking four punches to land one will he have be conditioned to be on the move for 12 rounds? That’s the question and what makes this sport great is we’ll have the answer tonight when they get in the ring.
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