Pacquiao-Margarito: Disappointing, but hardly a stunner


If you’ve been expecting anyone other than Antonio Margarito to be waiting in the ring for Manny Pacquiao this November, you haven’t been paying attention. This is the fight Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wanted all along.

Disappointed it’s not Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather? Sure, me too.

But that’s not the way this sport works. Nothing comes easy. There are always agendas.

Arum’s agenda has been transparent from the start. Pacquiao will fight Margarito for the same basic reason he ended up fighting Joshua Clottey in the spring in a matchup that in no way lived up to Cowboy Stadium as a venue. Arum controls both fighters, so he doesn’t have to split the gate.

The direction they were headed  became apparent during Arum’s sham of a conference call a week ago at midnight Pacific Time – 3 a.m. on the East Coast. Just like Knicks fans tuning into LeBron’s Decision special, boxing writers and fans craving the one remaining potential superfight called in or listened at Top Rank’s website, only to hear that the deadline for Mayweather to give an answer had passed without response.

Arum went on to say that though the two sides would continue to negotiate, within a week they would move on to either Miguel Cotto or Margarito. That indicated it would end up being Margarito, since it would be difficult to sell another fight against Cotto after the beating he took from Pacquiao last November.

Meanwhile, Mayweather refused to address the offer, saying he was taking time off from boxing, presumably using it to dive Scrooge McDuck style into the $60 million he made last year. And then his people claimed they weren’t actually negotiating with Arum. Someone’s lying. Whatever, the whole thing’s a mess.

Regardless, Margarito gets the big payday. What has he done to deserve it? Well, he attempted – and probably succeeded at certain points – to fight with loaded gloves, mandating a year’s suspension. He returned and pounded some guy named Robert Garcia in Mexico. So we get him in a championship match at a 150-pound catch weight against Pacquiao, who will undoubtedly win his “eighth” world title at different weight classes.

I’m sure Arum would want to play this up with Margarito being a villain that Pacquiao will vanquish, but none of us really give a damn. If it were Cotto trying to get his revenge, if you will, that’d probably be something I’d be at least somewhat interested in. But an unrepentant Margarito getting the big payday and a huge spotlight in a fight he has zero chance to win an doesn’t deserve? Get out of here with that.

Honestly, it’s insulting. But what do we expect? Arum thinks he’s going to make money this way – and he’s probably right.

There are better fights out there for Pac that we’d rather see – Tim Bradley, Paul Williams and Andre Berto come to mind. But I’ll reiterate, Arum owns both guys here, so he pockets everything. Arum has also said Pacquiao sells fights on his own, so he doesn’t want an albeit talented fighter with less name value that someone else happens to promote to piggyback off his meal ticket.

Plus, there’d be the chance Pacquiao loses to one of those other guys, a risk they’re not taking here with Mayweather still a possibility at some point.

Imagine if the Yankees somehow declined to play a series in Tampa Bay against a good Rays team, citing the enhanced gate and revenue sharing as TB not holding up its end. Crazy, right? Boxing’s the only sport where this sort of thing happens. Even MMA usually gives fans the fights they actually want to see.

The fight is likely to be in Vegas, and the big-time gamblers will come out in force. Fight fans desperate for Pacquiao-Mayweather will feel compelled to buy this fight as the next best thing, even though it’s not. I mean, they got 50,000 people at a football stadium for a horrible fight against Clottey.

Given the choice, I could actually picture Arum potentially having wanted this fight in November over one with Mayweather, which is why he was so adamant about letting Floyd off the hook for his lack of response to Top Rank’s deadline. Obviously the money would be bigger for Pac-PBF, but it’s not as if the Margarito fight won’t turn a fairly large profit on its own, and it would merely whet the public’s appetite even more for the fight they really want to see.

I do expect we’ll see that fight at some point, when Floyd is good and ready, and thinks he has a definitive advantage of some sort. Pacquaio apparently is ready to submit to drug testing that Mayweather would consider sufficient. Maybe, as Arum says, Floyd’s uncle’s assault trial is truly a factor. It actually can’t be discounted.

What we do know is that Floyd isn’t ducking Pacquiao. If PBF fights the way he did against Shane Mosley, I’m not sure Pacquiao touches him. Manny won’t have the option of taking three punches to deliver one. He’d never get that punch off.

We know all about Floyd by now. He likes to have the upper hand, be it age, weight advantage or whatever. He’s like Mike Tyson only in that he wants a psychological edge before he even steps in the ring, which has become much easier with the HBO 24/7 series allowing him to put his message out there in a more expedient fashion.

But strip away the fact that Pacquiao’s a Congressman with character held in extremely high esteem by the public, and it has become apparent over time – even to a Pacquiao apologist – that he and Mayweather are cut from the same cloth. Manny fights at whatever weight class benefits him, and his opponents are carefully selected. It benefits nobody if either Floyd or Manny lose right now.

And now, we wait. Obviously we’re disappointed at not getting the fight that we want, the one that makes sense for the sport. But I’m almost numb to it by now. Who can ever have faith in the right thing for fans to happen in boxing?

They know when they eventually put this fight together – and I do believe that they will – we’ll all come crawling back.

So in the meantime, what to do about this Pacquiao-Margarito mess?

I mean, I’m going to watch it. I’ve seen most of Pacquiao’s fights the past six years or so.

But I don’t intend to pay a dime for it, and I don’t think you should either. I don’t like watching shady Internet streams of fights because to me, it’s akin to stealing. But they’re stealing from the public with this sham of a fight, which I believe they were aiming for all along, so I think it’s justified in this case.

I don’t need to spend a ton of time in contempt of the situation, but I also don’t need to spend any money on Antonio Margarito.

The problem is that Top Rank knows there are plenty of people who will.

So I think we’ll eventually get what we want, not that the powers that be care what we want. There’s too much money in the fight to let it slip. But we’ll just have to keep waiting for it.




  1. I loved this article and I hope to see another before the fight and after.

    After watching the 24/7 episodes to date on this fight it's becoming increasingly evident that Pacquiao is losing interest in the ring. Who can blame him though? He's destroyed every elite boxer in the past five years. De La Hoya, Mosley, Cotto, Marquez, Barrera, Morales, Hatton! Wow. Add an above average fighter in Joshua Clottey (who clearly was just in the ring to get a paycheck and not get knocked out with no intention of trying to win) and a still better than most, hard hitting, Antonio Margarito (as much as I despise him as well) and you've got a rough and tough schedule he's dominated. If this were the BCS Pacquiao would be #1, 2 and 3 in the world based not only on his schedule but his margin of victory as well.

    I've always been a huge Mayweather supporter but the guy is scared. Mayweather has not dominated the way Pacquiao has and always waits to fight the big names until after they've peeked. Unless Floyd steps up to fight Manny in the next year and beats him, than Manny, not Floyed, will go down as the best pound for pound boxer of this fifteen to twenty year generation.

    • Thanks for the note! I think I'm long overdue to write again on this, I'll see what I can come up with. Your analysis is sound; nobody can ever say Manny has ducked anyone. His resume is as good as any fighter we've seen. He's beaten all those guys — sometimes twice, in the case of Morales and Barrera. And these are legendary fighters! History will look kindly on Pacquiao. At the rate he's going? Floyd, not so much.

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