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The Crimes of Antonio Margarito: What Manny Pacquiao is Facing

By Jeff Stoyanoff

What follows is simply an opinion about possible actions of Antonio Margarito and the likely consequences of those actions. It is important to stress that while the Margarito camp was caught trying to put an illegal substance into his hand wraps prior to his fight with Shane Mosley last year, there is no concrete evidence regarding an attempt to do the same thing in any other fight during his career. Any inference to such an action is merely conjecture at this point. The truth will never be known for certain. Still, it is difficult to avoid wondering about Margarito and some of the fighters he has met in the past….

Kermit Cintron does not have a fight scheduled at this point. Neither does Miguel Cotto. Cotto might just be waiting to see which way the wind blows after Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito finish their business on November 13th. Meanwhile, it’s hard to say what is going on with Cintron except to say that his lack of notoriety and considerable skills make him perhaps the ultimate high risk low reward opponent in boxing today. Despite their difference in popularity, these two fighters have strong similarities in their careers the most striking of which is the not so subtle tinge of tragedy.

What Might Have Been

Kermit Cintron, 32-3-1, 28 KO’s, could very easily be undefeated right now. His technical decision loss to Paul Williams in May was as meaningless as the incident that precipitated it was bizarre. After being thrown from the ring in a tangle of legs, Cintron was unable to continue and the fight went to the cards after just four rounds. Williams received a split decision. It was the first four round decision for either man in some time one can be sure. As for Cintron’s other two losses, they came to one man, Antonio Margarito. Cintron went 12 rounds against the ferocious Alfredo Angulo winning a fairly one sided decision. Yet curiously, he was stopped twice relatively early on by a man who tends to wear down opponents and has spent much of his career at Welterweight in Margarito. Cintron has not only never been stopped, he has never even hit the canvas except against Margarito. If only there was something about Margarito that might account for such an anomalous result?

It seems quite possible that Cintron was another victim of the cheating ways of Margarito. And, if so, it has done terrible damage, not simply to him physically, but to his career as well. It was Cintron who had to meet Sergio Martinez when nobody in the world wanted to fight either one of them. After a hard fought draw, it would be hard to envision the largely unknown Cintron getting a rematch with Martinez. The star of Sergio Martinez has risen, if he beats Williams, there has to be an easier fight with a better known fighter than Cintron; whose status among casual boxing fans remains utterly unchanged.

Recently, it was Cintron again who found his way into the ring with the most avoided man in boxing, Paul Williams. After the bizarre ending in which Williams was awarded a victory, it is hard to imagine Williams seeking out Cintron again. Just as is the case with Martinez, if Williams wins his rematch with the Argentine superstar, there will be a multitude of options that will make more sense than a man with the skills, power, and sheer anonymity of a Kermit Cintron. Cintron didn’t do himself any favors when he showed startling versatility in easily out boxing young phenom Alfred Angulo in May of 2009 either; a great win, but one that might have closed more doors than it opened for Cintron.

On paper, Cintron has had his shot and it appears that he was either too good, absolutely unlucky, or cheated depending on which fight from his record you choose to examine. Yet, in the end, he has three losses and a draw; the specifics are interesting, but irrelevant. While those around him seem to find their way to the bright lights, Cintron seems destined to troll the shadows, an avoided man literally cheated out of his chance. The key is Margarito and those two losses. Without those losses, Cintron would have only one loss stemming from a freak occurrence; he couldn’t be avoided as he would be too good for boxing fans not to notice. Instead, he’s damaged goods. He’s been exposed. And no star needs to take the chance anymore. When I see Antonio Margarito, I instinctively think of Kermit Cintron and what might have been.

Yet, that mild tragedy is perhaps overshadowed by the fact that Miguel Cotto, 35-2, 28 KO’s, also crossed paths with Margarito. It is hard to forget the night Cotto met Margarito in July of 2008. The then undefeated Cotto was already a huge star in the sport and appeared destined for an eventual mega fight with cash cow Floyd Mayweather Jr.. Nearly eleven rounds later, Cotto’s face was a badly swollen, bloody mess. Cotto was beaten and his corner mercifully threw in the towel. One need only look at Cotto’s face and pair that image with the events in the lead up to the Mosley-Margarito fight last year to ascertain what happened that night. Cotto is still a star in the sport, but who can ever say what that night did to him? In the end, Cotto was likely also a victim of cheating.

Cotto’s only other loss was to perhaps the hottest fighter that the sport of boxing has seen in some time in Manny Pacquiao. Allegations of PED use have dogged ring legend Manny Pacquiao during his recent spate of dominating performances. To date, nothing even approaching concrete evidence has surfaced against Pacquiao, but the rumblings persist from fans, writers, and even other fighters. However, Manny Pacquiao is a separate discussion altogether. The PED allegations, be they baseless or not, merely provide a greater context to the tragic dynamic that pervades the career arc of Miguel Cotto. He wasn’t robbed of his moment in the spotlight. But, the spectacular nature of his losses and the questions those losses engender cannot be denied. It is hard to know just how much of Miguel Cotto was lost in the savage beatings he took in his two losses. And, it is hard to separate the questions that surround those fateful nights, especially the night Cotto squared off against Margarito. Pairing Cintron and Margarito might be just me, but who can think of Miguel Cotto and NOT think of Antonio Margarito and the specter of loaded gloves?

Anyone Ever Seen Memento?

When Luis Resto had a portion of the padding of his gloves removed before his 1983 fight with Billy Collins it appeared to be an attempt for some individuals to make money through betting on the fight itself. Interestingly, no such plot seems to have surfaced regarding Margarito and his attempt at loading his gloves. One possible interpretation is that Margarito’s attempt was simply an attempt to gain an edge; an attempt to ensure victory. As that is presumably the goal for a fighter every time out, one can assume that the night of the Mosley fight was far from the first time Margarito sought such an “edge“. We all saw what Cotto looked like. It wasn’t that Margarito won, it was Cotto’s face. How can one not wonder about that night? Kermit Cintron is a less publicized, but equally vexing case. Knowing what we now know, it would be hard not to wonder about those wins for Margarito.

Margarito stands on the precipice of a chance that so few fighters get and he doesn’t deserve it. He is a veritable grim reaper in the sport, who knows how many shoulders he tapped with his plastered hand. It is not beyond boxing fans to consider what he might have done to Mosley, what he likely did to Cotto and Cintron, what he very well might have done to so many fighters: Santos, Williams, Clottey, and the list goes on. Antonio Margarito was 9-3 with 5 KO’s in 1996. He didn’t seem to be on the fast track to the mega fights in which he would eventually find himself. Yet, somewhere along the line something changed. Just how much of that was Margarito and how much was the gloves will never be known for sure. But, nobody will care. My colleague Geno McGahee has written passionately and persuasively about the necessity for fans to strongly disavow the upcoming Pacquiao-Margarito fight. I couldn’t agree more that we should pass on this fight as the affront to decency that it absolutely is, but I can’t be optimistic.

Antonio Margarito is merely a recent chapter in the sordid story of boxing. Allegations of loading of gloves are as old as using gloves to begin with. Luis Resto did so and was caught. Sonny Liston put something on his gloves against Ali in their first fight and got away with it. Even Jack Dempsey is believed by more than a few to have loaded his gloves before entering the ring against Jess Williard for their title fight in 1919. And as always, that is just a sampling of what has transpired in that hideous arena. One can be sure that history is replete with story after story of such behavior throughout the sport’s sometimes ugly past.

Beyond the cheating, there are the triumphant returns of criminals, most notably, Mike Tyson. If Edwin Valero would not have committed suicide, there would have been legions of fans hoping for a miracle acquittal just so they could see him fight once again. The fact that his funeral was treated as a national tragedy shows just how far boxing is from having any kind of moral compass. If Ike Ibeabuchi were somehow released from prison a few years ago is there any doubt that he would have been welcomed back, not simply as a talented fighter, but as a potential savior of the flagging Heavyweight Division? His despicable acts would, of course, have been completely overlooked when he entered the ring. And, of course, should Floyd Mayweather Jr. return to the sport, his transgressions might be fodder for forum posts and blogs, but they will do nothing to impede his ability to participate in the sport and make ridiculous amounts of money.

Boxing is thought to exist in a seedy world of corruption and crime, but the fact is the sport and some of those in it are every bit as seedy as the underworld in which they supposedly exist. Boxing fans have realized for some time that the fight game is as far from perfect as a sport can get. Fights don’t get made, corruption poisons the process of making and officiating fights, unsavory characters become stars here more often than anywhere else, and yes, people cheat. Fans don’t like it, but if fans insisted that the game meet some morality standard, there would be no fans left.

It isn’t that all boxing fans simply ignore or minimize repugnant acts such as those of Antonio Margarito. Rather, they seem to simply accept them as an unavoidable evil inseparable from the sport itself; just as history has shown. In order to not give up on boxing completely, fans are forced to cling to what is good and develop an amnesia for what is bad. Many fans, myself included, will choose not to buy this fight and thus reward Antonio Margarito and those who enabled him to escape the punishment he so richly deserved. But, after that, the sport will go on in all its deeply flawed beauty and our memory and vitriol will sadly fade. And when the next bad thing inevitably happens, we won’t immediately think of Antonio Margarito; we will have already forgotten him. A little amnesia is the only way to remain a boxing fan at all.

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