More than four years have passed since Antonio Margarito last stepped in the ring, but the former welterweight titleholder is making a return on March 5th against Jorge Paez Jr. in a 10-round junior middleweight bout at the Mexico City Arena.
The last time the Tijuana native fought was in a losing effort in his rematch against Miguel Cotto, and during the bout he re-agitated an eye injury that was first sustained against Manny Pacquiao in 2010. The injury forced a retirement soon afterward, but in June the Mexican declared the damaged eye “fully healed.” ESPN went on to report on a possible return back in October, and now it appears as though those projections will come to pass.
Margarito was once the center of boxing controversy after he was caught attempting to use a plaster-like substance in his hand wraps for his bout against Shane Mosley in 2009. Thanks to the watchful eye of trainer Naazim Richardson, the wraps were confiscated during the pre-fight examination, and Mosley went on to dominate Margarito in a spectacular 9th round KO performance.
The controversy cast a cloud of doubt on all of Margarito’s previous accomplishments, especially his come-from-behind win during his first match against Cotto. Closer examination of post-fight photos found a red stain on the pinky side of the right hand, one that suspiciously matched a stain found in the illegal wraps attempted to be used before the Mosley fight. The California State Athletic Commission banned Margarito from competition for 16-months immediately afterwards, but as mentioned earlier, was later able reemerged to one win and a pair of losing contests before an eye injury forced retirement.
Margarito is now set to face Paez Jr., who comes in with a respectable 39-7 ledger and has faced recognizable opposition, such as the Guyanese boxer Vivian Harris and the undefeated Jose Benavidez, though losing in both bouts. By most predictions, Paez Jr. should pose no threat in Margarito’s return, and is likely a mere mechanism to measure how the former champ would now fare in the elite levels that he once traversed. That is at least the view of his promoter Bob Arum.
"Let's see how he does with Paez first before we make a big effort to get him licensed in the United States," Arum told ESPN. "Paez is a good test for a guy who's been out of action as long as Margarito has been."
Antonio Margarito was once a force in the welterweight division. He’s fought many of the top names during his time, and was once even shortlisted as a candidate that could have potentially bested Floyd Mayweather Jr. He holds wins over Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Kermit Cintron and Sergio Martinez, a list of contenders that should not be taken lightly. Though he’s lost to Manny Pacquiao, Paul Williams, Miguel Cotto (in rematch) and Shane Mosley, there is nothing shameful about losing to such caliber of opposition. However, loading your hand wraps with an illegal plaster-like substance is, and it was bad enough that Margarito was allowed three fights since the incident (two of which generated million dollar paydays).
Boxing can too often be a life and death affair. Its fighters take the risk of participation operating under the belief that the rules ensure a certain level of safety, and that there is a right to fair competition. When a fighter chooses to go around those rules, they are essentially robbing their opponent of that right, and profit from endangering the life of another. To allow such a character back into the ring is a disgrace to the sport of boxing.
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