Antonio Margarito Does the One Thing You Can’t Do in Fighting

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What’s a bad sport to do with a bad man?

By Kyle Magin

Being a boxing fan is a lot like being Leonardo Dicaprio’s character in The Revenant. You’re constantly being clawed in the head by some terrible new thing and left for dead in the snow to breathe heavily and wonder what the fuck is going on. Frequently this violence is perpetrated by the same people who should have your best interests at heart.

Let’s visit the case of Antonio Margarito. The former welterweight titlist announced this week that he’ll be back on March 5 for a fight in Mexico City after a four-year layoff. Margarito’s pre-retirement highlights include smashing in the face of Miguel Cotto with hand-wraps that were probably loaded with plaster and then getting caught actually using plaster in a 2009 bout against Shane Moseley, which Moseley handily won after the suspicious hand-wraps were discarded.

The 37-year old Tijuanan is being pushed back into the limelight by promoter Bob Arum because of course Bob Arum would promote Antonio Margarito, presumably because two of his last three fights resulted in 1-million plus Pay-Per-View buys.

Loading one’s gloves really doesn’t have an analogous action in any other sport. I suppose it would be a Ty Cobb-level spiking offense in baseball or, I dunno, straight up gouging an opposing lineman’s eyes repeatedly, on national TV, in football. Both of those still don’t quite rise to the level of fighting with loaded gloves, wherein a fighter and his trainer purposefully make hands already trained to beat another person about the face, chest, liver and kidneys, harder.

To have Margarito land a fight (even against a tune-up opponent like Jorge Paez, Jr.) in a major metro with an eye toward re-entering an elite welterweight division (the home of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and others) is psychotic. It’s sort of like handing a gun to a crazy person (sound familiar?) and then also paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars for whatever he may do next. For Arum–hardly a paragon of moral acts but still a leader in the sport–to arrange this comeback is absurd on so many levels. All manner of gamblers, drunks, abusers, addicts and probable sociopaths enter the squared circle on a regular basis. Ninety-nine plus percent have one thing in common, though: their training is the only advantage they bring into the ring. It’s the one measure of integrity this sport has, that you can trust the man throwing the punch is only connecting with the bone, sinew, muscles and scar tissue that are naturally a part of his mangled hands. You’d be crazy to bet, or more importantly, buy, a Margarito fight because he’s proven his willingness to upset that calculus.

Due to his past actions, Margarito must re-apply for a fight license in the U.S. if all goes well against Paez. Let’s hope regulators deny it. This man is provably evil in the one way you can’t be evil in boxing.

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