‘Left-Hook Lounge’: Vivek Wallace’s Mailbag feat. Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito, and Zab Judah!!!

Hector U. (Aventura, FL): I continue to be disappointed in this particular HBO 24/7 series, although I did think that Margarito did a great job to sell his personality. He seems to be a very different person than the media portrays, and I was wondering do you think there could be a misconception about him in the sport?

Vivek W. (ESB): I was raised from day one, well before I knew a thing about boxing, that judgment of any character in which you don’t have full access to is perhaps one of the biggest crimes known to mankind. I can openly say, Margarito is a man that I have personally struggled with, in terms of learning and understanding his true nature. I can remember crossing paths with he and wife Michelle in Southern California on more than one occasion, and although my Spanish isn’t as fluent as I would like, we were always able to speak cordially, and they really seem to be good people. I can also think of the time when he absolutely disgusted me by signaling to a badly hurt Kermit Cintron (after the knockdown in their 2nd fight) what appeared no less than the words “get the f*** up so you can take more of this a** whippin'”! It’s very interesting, because there are several elements to his personality that show you clearly that there are two sides to him like there are to each of us..

Maybe not as extreme in each of us, but no doubt, he’s not the pure monster many have made him out to be. If you’ve ever been in his presence, you see that this is a man who displays a certain level of love and kinsman-ship to those around, whether he knows them or not. I think there’s a lot about Margarito that people simply don’t consider, all overshadowed by one moment in time. This is a man who has been married to one woman for 12 years at age 32. That’s a huge accomplishment in my book! It’s pretty bizarre that you can take years to build yourself up, and one incident to tear all of that hard work down. The handwrap controversy has been looked into for quite some time, but my personal perspective is to put it in the past, because the man is licensed and my thoughts on the topic won’t change that. We know he’s clear of the illegal handwraps now, so all we can do is judge going forward.

Speaking about going forward, all of this particular discussion plays into why I think he will be a VERY dangerous man on the night of Novemerb 13th, in Dallas, Texas. Seems everyone has an opinion of him that’s less-than-favorable, and when you speak to him and those who know him, you hear the opposite. No one can question Pacqiuao’s motivation, but I’ll say this……..lets’s say Margarito is truly innocent in this matter and has lived with the pain of being prejudged. Do you have any idea how motivating it is to know that you have one shot – that you weren’t even supposed to have – at redeeming yourself, restoring your name, and proving your innocence? This man knows full well that he is fighting one of the best EVER. Not just now, but EVER! And he has the opportunity before him to not only beat this man while everyone knows that he’s free of illegal effects, but the opportunity to do something truly grand and actually stop him!

If Margarito can actually stop Pacquiao within the distance and prove that he’s just as dangerous without illegal effects, whether his critics want to continue being critical or not, they will have to respect him! This is the type of growing motivation that overcame a 42 to 1 odds when Buster Douglas defeated Mike Tyson. This is the type of motivation that kept this very same Margarito standing in the midst of some very powerful shots against Cotto, proving that with or without illegal handwraps, he has the heart and will to do everything it takes to give himself a shot at victory. Is Margarito a dangerous man? Hell yeah! And by the morning of November 14th, the motivation of proving critics wrong may serve as proof that he’s even more dangerous than we thought…..even when playing on a level field. Stay tuned.

KaRon D. (Brooklyn, NYC): A lot of people are saying that the Margarito/Pacquiao fight is fixed, and that Margarito will “lay down” to make Pacquiao look good and give him leverage for an eventual Mayweather showdown. I would like for you to speak your thoughts surrounding this possibility.

Vivek W. (ESB): To be very truthful, I hear these same speculations, but personally, I don’t think anyone watching should go into this illustrious evening thinking this way at all. Conspiracy theorist certainly have a way of shaping opinions, but again, it would pay to keep a closed mind going into this event, withholding judgment and simply watching to see how things unfold in the end analysis. It’s always funny to see these type of things grow a life of their own. Going into the Clottey fight there was initially no such consideration, but a lackadaisical effort, and a few odd reports from his fight camp prior to the fight set a different tone. A tone which later erupted by a very strange admission of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who went on record stating that he gave Clottey an additional $1.5M for what he termed “a good effort”. When trying to decipher these coded messages, one has to go no further than the internet, as it’s common to see these type of statements pegging paths to victory for both men, not just one.

In your example, you apparently “heard” that Margarito will “lay down” for the benefit of Pacquiao, but there’s also the one theory I read out there which speaks of Arum’s allegiance to Margarito. In this particular theory, the person spoke of the fact that before the huge possibility of Mayweather/Pacquiao happening, Margarito was the only Top Rank fighter Arum supported to face Mayweather – evidenced by placing a very lucrative offer ($8M) on the table for him rather than Cotto; and in this case, the person then went on to speak of what they felt was (in so many words) Arum’s blind affinity to Margarito by not condemning him in regards to the handwrap controversy, but actually supporting him stronger, despite the evidence presented.

In this person’s mind, Margarito would be made the victor of this fight because Pacquiao has committed himself more to the political landscape of his country and has less of a committed future in the sport. So, again, it all depends on who you like and what you choose to listen to and believe. There are theories out there that stray in both directions and I don’t think one can really afford to hedge their bets (or mindset) either way on fight night, as these are clearly unfounded and purely misguided statements. No need to stay tuned on this one……

Bobby G. (Atlanta, GA): If Zab Judah is successful this coming Saturday, who do you want to see him face next?

Vivek W. (ESB): Considering that Alexander and Bradley are tied up, and Maidana and Khan are as well, I think he should make a bee-line in one of two directions. I would pursue either Victor Ortiz or Andreas Kotelnik. Both men are solid contenders looking to get where he’s going. He might as well remove them from the equation to give the winners of the aforementioned showdowns a reason to have to face him next. If Ortiz and Kotelnik aren’t available, I would even consider someone like the hard-nosed Urango, or the slick Guzman. All of these guys are credible names that will present different challenges, which means not only will he get good work in, but if he can score solid victories, it will easily cement his presence in the mind of the others at the top of the division. What Judah has going for himself is strong experience.

These men like Khan, Bradley, and so forth, speak of one day facing Mayweather. Judah has done it, and proved that he has the skill and ability to do it well on that very elite level. He has faced the much bigger Joshua Clottey. He has faced the slick Cory Spinks. So, Judah has seen it all and now has a chance to do it all. I think he should be taken very seriously. I’ve always said that Judah is Mayweather, less the high-definition 3-D. In other words, he lacks the “definition” of Mayweather based on his missing DISCIPLINE, DETERMINATION, and DEDICATION. If he has found those 3 elements……watch out! He immediately steps to the head of this still vastly unproven class. Anyone who says anything less is a lie……tell ’em I said so and have ’em come see me…..that’s an easy debate waitin’ to happen!

Sean E. (Dallas, TX): Everyone keeps talking about Margarito’s great conditioning. Last I checked, he had to drop only about 7lbs to make the catchweight, but he looks so ripped already, I’m concerned that he doesn’t really have that much to lose. Do you think he’ll face the issue of having to be smaller than his body will allow when we get closer to the fight?

Vivek W. (ESB): I think this is a very interesting question, because there does come a point when an athlete simply has nothing left to give. I can remember being present for the Campbell/Funeka weigh-in, standing at the scales thinking to myself that Campbell had already shredded every ounce of liquidity his body had to offer, and that there was not even any water weight to disburse. Similarly, when I look at Margarito, we still have another 12 days or so until showtime, and that guy is so diced up and shredded that anything short of removing a limb, (pun intended), I really don’t know what he’ll do to drop another 7lbs that he hasn’t already done. He has trained extremely intense, but this close to a fight, the hard stuff is practically over. So the only thing he can do to drop that weight within the last week or so of the fight is simply eat less.

Margarito fought around the jr. middleweight level years prior to now, so I’m not sure what his true weight classification truly was when he returned from his year suspension. What I will say is this……when he did return to the sport, he decided to go to the 154lb division for a reason. He sat out that year and realized that the money was in the welterweight ranks. If he skipped that group knowing it was where the money was, he did it for a reason. He has looked quite well in sparring, but that’s eating with less moderation, and training at a higher, more practical weight. When he goes that final week or so eating less and trying to rip off those last few pounds, it will set a very interesting subplot at the weigh-in that will follow him until the moment he climbs into the ring on fight night.

It will all reach a culmination point midway through the fight when Pacquiao’s patented work rate starts to kick into high gear and he finds himself searching for that extra gear to accommodate. If he can’t, we’ll know something was wrong, as this is a man who has consistently shown us a well above average work rate, and still owns the compubox record for punches thrown in a fight with 1675 punches…..a very wicked 139 punches per round! Stay tuned!

(Vivek Wallace can be reached at vivexemail@yahoo.com, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), Facebook and Myspace)

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