Pacquiao v Margarito this Saturday

By John Wight: The run up to the much anticipated fight between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito on November 13 in Texas at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, where they will meet for the vacant WBC Light Middleweight title, has thrown up a subtext of which any Hollywood screenwriter would be proud.

For Pacquiao, who along with Floyd Mayweather is the most recognised and exciting fighter of his era, questions have emerged over his preparations going into the fight. Having earlier this year been elected to the Filipino Congress, his training camp, consisting of an initial five weeks in the Philippines followed by three weeks at Freddie Roach’s famed Wildcard Gym in Hollywood, has appeared less than focused – at least judging by what we’ve seen and comments made by Roach during the build up on HBO’s 24/7..

In the run up to this fight it has depicted a man in Pacquiao whose hunger for the sport appears to have diminished. In an interview during episode one of the series, Roach revealed that in the gym one day Manny told him that he missed his job. When Roach replied that “this is your job,” Pacquiao said, “no, my job as a congressman.”

Scenes from episode two of the series show Amir Khan sparring with Pacquiao and dominating him, again leaving Roach worried about his fighter’s focus and desire.

If it is the case that one of the greatest fighter ever to grace the sport has lost his hunger for the sport, it should come as no surprise when we consider a career during which the man known to the world as Pacman has won a remarkable and unparalleled nine world titles at seven different weights. On November 13 he will be stepping into the ring to fight at his heaviest weight yet against the biggest opponent he’s ever faced in Margarito, who will likely come into the ring at somewhere in the region of 160-165lbs.

Heightening the drama even more is the fact that the fighter known as the Tijunana Tornada is hungry for redemption after last year’s illegal hand wraps controversy, when it came to light prior to his fight against Shane Mosley that his trainer was wrapping his hands with a Plaster of Paris type substance. The offending wraps were replaced with the legal variety and Margarito subsequently suffered a brutal beating on the way to being defeated by TKO in the ninth round. Ever since, and throughout his one year ban from the sport, Margarito has continued to plead his innocence, asserting that he was unaware that his trainer was wrapping his hands illegally.

In contrast to Pacquiao’s less than stellar preparations, the 5’11” Mexican looks in the shape of his life. Basing his training camp in Oxnard, California, Margarito has been working himself into the ground under the guidance of new trainer, Robert Garcia.

Though Margarito may be one dimensional in terms of his style, it is a style that could well cause Pacquiao problems. Tall and rangy, with an incredible engine, Margarito comes forward throwing punches in bunches. But with his punches tending to veer on the wide and wild side at times, an in shape and mentally sharp Pacquiao should be able to get move inside and find the necessary angles to unleash his own artillery. If for reasons of less than optimal preparation he isn’t able to, then the man from General Santos City in the Philippines could be in for a long night.

The extent of Manny Pacquiao’s fame in the Philippines is difficult to appreciate. But when you can turn up an hour late for an international commercial flight knowing that the aircraft won’t leave without you, you begin to get the idea. Manny Pacquiao enjoys the status of a national hero in a nation which has not had its problems to seek down through the years. But his popularity is not merely due to his exploits in the ring. It is also a result of his devotion to the poor and dispossessed from whose ranks he emerged. It manifests in his habit of handing out a significant proportion of his money to those less fortunate. He’s declared more than once that his motivation for going into politics is to serve and help improve his country’s fortunes. Not for him the life of a retired boxing icon, living in Beverly Hills or Las Vegas with nothing to do except spend his millions and wallow in luxury. Instead he’s chosen to replace one arena of combat with another, one that potentially brings with it more hazards than any he’s ever faced in the ring.

Naïve and idealistic, maybe, but what isn’t in doubt is the fact that Manny Pacquiao has reached a crossroads in his career. It’s for this reason that his upcoming fight against Antonio Margarito may well be his last. A fight against Floyd Mayweather Jnr is of course the fight the entire sport would like to see and the fans are calling for, but with the last attempt at making the fight ending in acrimony, and with Manny Pacquiao embarking on a new career in politics, the door is almost shut on the fight ever being made.

So if this fight against Antonio Margarito on November 13 is the Filipino legend’s last, let’s hope it’s one which lives up to the hype and drama befitting a man who will be seeking to cement his legacy and another who seeks redemption.

Article posted on 11.11.2010

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