This last Saturday saw the return of controversial boxing figure Antonio Margarito against Jorge Paez Jr. in Mexico City. Margarito went on to win the 10-round affair, though in less impressive fashion than most analysts had expected.
The “Tijuana Tornado” had been away from the sport for over four years due to an eye injury he initially sustained in his KO loss against Manny Pacquiao in 2010, and traumatized further in his rematch against Miguel Cotto a year later. Due to the injury, commissions had refused license to Margarito until passing medical examinations allowed him to be finally approved earlier this year.
Apart from the injury itself, there had been further resistance to allowing Margarito back into the ring. As most fans are probably aware, his corner was caught attempting to load a plaster-like substance into his hand wraps before facing off against Shane Mosley in 2009. Though Margarito went on to very pleasantly endure a brutal 9-round beat-down at the hands of Mosley, the controversy brought question to all of his previous performances, most notably his first match against Cotto where a red stain that was found on the loaded wraps can also be seen in a post-fight picture of his knuckle after his victory over Cotto. There were many, myself included, that felt Margarito should not be allowed to participate in boxing ever since.
But many have also come out in support of Margarito. According to reports, other Mexican boxing legends, such as Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Erik Morales, came out in support of their fellow countryman last Saturday, and plenty of cheers for “Tony, Tony, Tony!” could be heard throughout the arena during the first round. There is also a contingent of fans that believe one incident does not automatically condemn a fighter’s past accomplishments, and that Margarito could have been innocently ignorant of what was being done in his corner.
Despite my personal disdain for Margarito, I will admit that it was a fun fight to watch. The bout was a classic “phone-booth brawl” where both fighters traded relentlessly on the inside. It really could have been contended in a ring half its size. Margarito showed shadows of his signature close-range pressure fighting, as well as plenty of the grit and durability that he was known for previously. The four-year absence, however, did also appear to take its toll as Margarito also appeared slower, less reactive, and more susceptible to wide shots. With a minute left in the 6th, Paez Jr. put Margarito on the floor via a series of vicious inside punches that appeared to start with a solid right hand to the body. It was the first time someone had put Margarito on the ground since 1999.
Still, Margarito had put enough of the earlier rounds in the bank, and went on to dominate the remainder of the match as Paez Jr. began to fade down the stretch. Margarito went on to finish strong to win by scores of 95-94, 97-93, and 96-93.
Before the fight last Saturday, Margarito went on record saying that he’d retire if he lost the bout against Paez Jr. Though he had a subpar performance, it looks like he will very likely continue on the comeback road, most likely acquiring higher profile fights based on his reputation and ironically enough, on his controversial past. Based on what we saw this weekend, he is still capable of putting on exciting fights in a time where exciting fights are much needed in the sport of boxing, but with the deterioration of his skills, he will most likely suffer severely in the process. Perhaps that prospect is merely a forecast of pugilistic justice, but at the same time, there’s the question of whether or not he should be paid handsomely for it.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.