Quick Jabs: Margarito Gets Fussy, Williams Just Gets Busy; De La Hoya’s Mystifyingly Low Weight; More

We start you off with some slapstick above, where, prior to getting knocked down all over the place last weekend by David Haye, heavyweight Monte Barrett knocked himself down with a poorly-executed ring entrance. It’s cheap thrills, I know, and I feel a little bad about it because I have a soft spot for Barrett for some reason, but I’m pretty sure unaccountable mockery is what blogs are for.

Besides the headline, also in this edition of “Quick Jabs:” some “Round And Round” where we look at fights in the works.

Case Study: Margarito Drops Mosley Fight, Williams Ready To Fight Anyone

Antonio Margarito’s getting a little big for his britches, isn’t he? Dude wins widespread recognition and acclaim by becoming the top welterweight (147 lbs.) after knocking out Miguel Cotto in July, then he gets all fussy about what kind of money’s good enough for him. To wit, Margarito has bailed out of a January fight with Shane Mosley that he agreed to, Mosley agreed to, Mosley promoter Golden Boy agreed to and Margarito promoter Top Rank agreed to. The fight would have paid both men $2 million, reportedly more than Margarito’s ever made.

Margarito has always had a little fussiness in him, despite his “I’ll fight anyone any time” rep. Back when he was issuing standing challenges in a bid to get a big money fight, note that Winky Wright said he’d be happy to fight Margarito, as did Cotto, as did a few others, only one of whom Margarito ended up battling. He jerked everyone around over the first proposed Cotto fight and instead went on to lose a bout against Paul Williams. Since, the Cotto win, though, Margarito’s turned into a regular prima donna. There were conflicting accounts of what happened to the proposed fall fight with Joshua Clottey, but one of them is that Margarito merely changed his mind. The only other viable claimant to welterweight supremacy, Margarito conqueror Williams, put a $4 million offer on the table, and after Top Rank claimed it would never do business with Williams’ people because of a preexisting feud, it became clear when Top Rank negotiated for a Williams fight on Clottey’s behalf that what they were really doing was keeping Margarito the hell away from Williams.

But the fact remains that Margarito’s rep, despite evidence to the contrary, has been that he’ll fight anyone, any time. He certainly talks pretty big when someone won’t fight him, which fuels that rep. He and his team sunk as low as to taunt Oscar De La Hoya as a cross-dresser when De La Hoya skipped out on a fight with Margs, and the following quote has been attributed to Margarito, about Mosley (I can’t find the quote’s original source, but it certainly sounds like Margarito): “Mosley is probably pissing his pants now that I have accepted the fight because he is afraid of me.”

So there goes that rep with people who viewed Margarito that way. Margarirto’s people know it, too. They can say all they want that they weren’t happy with a 50-50 split, and they have, but that sounds like the talk of a spoiled athlete, not the talk of a “fight anyone, any time” kind of athlete. They can say that it doesn’t make sense to risk losing to Mosley in advance of a likely more lucrative rematch with Cotto, which they haven’t, but they’re the ones who entered into the talks with Mosley in the first place when there was no major market pressure for Margarito to take a dangerous opponent before next summer. And all of that doesn’t erase the fact that it’s just stupid to turn down a career-high payday in an economy that’s fairly dreadful and hitting boxing particularly hard. It took me a while to warm to the idea of Margarito as a fighter, but “like” just got downgraded to “grudging respect.” Other fans are sure to be less generous.

By contrast, Williams is actually behaving like a man who will take on all comers. There’s literally no one from 147 to 160 pounds that he hasn’t said he won’t fight under circumstances to their choosing. Sergei Dzindziruk on his home turf in Germany? Done. Mosley? Just say the word. Kelly Pavlik? No problem. There’s a remote chance Verno Phillips upsets Williams later this month and makes my words look foolish, but I wonder when people are going to catch on to this guy the way they should. He’s exciting. He’s young. He’s American. He’s getting better every fight.

Anyone looking to jump off the Margarito bandwagon: May I suggest that you make Williams your busy, hard-punching, fearless welterweight of choice? (And I suggest you do it before he comes down with a case of spoiled athlete-ism, which sometimes happens to people once they obtain a certain level of success. Obviously.)

De La Hoya’s Foolish Weight Loss

Whereas Margarito has made a foolish strategic decision outside the ring, De La Hoya has made one in it. I can’t fathom why De La Hoya would think it was wise to boil down to 145 lbs. against an opponent who is jumping up in weight. Manny Pacquiao, his Dec. 6 dance partner, debuted at 135 this summer and currently weights more than De La Hoya at 152. That means that even if De La Hoya’s weight comes up some, he’s almost surely going to weigh less than Pacquiao come fight night.

One of De La Hoya’s chief advantages over Pacquiao — I would say his #1 advantage — was size. On age, Pacquiao has him beat. On speed, Pacquiao has him beat. On stamina, Pacquiao has him beat. On technique, De La Hoya probably has a leg up, especially on defense. But his real weapon was that he’d be bigger. No one knows if Pacquiao can take a punch from a 147-pounder, let alone a man who could rehydrate overnight to the vicinity of 160. No one knows what kind of power Pacquiao will have at 147, but viable, unbiased reports out of his camp are that his power looks fantastic, so that secondary size question was already heading to null and void.

Once upon a time, earlier this year, in fact, I thought De La Hoya-Pacquiao was a total joke. Pacquiao is one of the reasons it isn’t any longer, because his lightweight debut was extremely convincing, making the idea of a 147-pound Pacquiao seem less far-fetched. Now, though, it just got even more viable because De La Hoya has given away the biggest weapon he had, which is that he’s just a larger man — and while he may be taller, that wasn’t the main edge he had in being bigger. And why? There’s been no good explanation. He can’t possibly think he will be faster than Pacquiao as a result. I’m not saying yet that De La Hoya WILL lose as a result of this weight loss, but if he does, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the main reason.

Round And Round

–Let’s start with Haye’s options. He’s considering taking another fight in February or March in advance of a fight with one of the Klitschko brothers. I support this. As much as I think Haye is the best hope at heavyweight, he still has much to prove to a great many skeptics before anyone thinks he can deal with a Klitschko, and I’m interested in seeing him try. Little-noted in his bout against Barrett is that he was legitimately knocked down; the referee not only didn’t score it that way, but he penalized Barrett unfairly for hitting Haye on the way down even though he’d not penalized Haye for the same infraction.

But don’t take my word for any of this. Here’s what Haye himself said: “I need these fights to get me disciplined. In the cruiserweights I could do what I liked because the shots that came back I could take. Make a mistake as a heavyweight and you’re on the floor. It is all a learning process. Monte showed how tough he was. He hurt me and put me down, but I am willing to fight tough guys like this,” Haye told The Times of London. “Once someone buzzes me that is when I plant my feet and start swinging away. Adam goes crazy at me but the crowd enjoy it. His jabs were the equivalent of a cruiserweight’s right hand. That is something I’ve got to get comfortable with.”

He won’t be able to pull that “swinging away” stunt with either Klitschko. Better try to wean himself off it before it comes to that.

–As for the Klitschkos, they have some other business coming their way. Vitali wants a piece of Lennox Lewis, but there’s no evidence the retired Lewis wants that rematch. Vitali says he needs to see Haye in two more fights before he steps up. And Evander Holyfield says he wants the Klitschko brothers, too. Man, I wish Evander would realize how much harm he’s doing to the public perception of boxing by
continuing to fight. Among people who don’t follow boxing but know that I do, this Holyfield-Nicolay Valuev bout is the top subject of conversation they bring up, even more than De La Hoya-Pacquiao.

–Speaking of welterweights who both walk the walk and talk the talk, Mosley is moving on to a possible fight with the far younger Andre Berto. I think it’s an excellent, excellent bout, and it speaks to the kind of REAL “take all comers” attitude Mosley had. Mosley’s steroid woes turned me against him a little, but I’m getting back on board because I’m in awe of the fact that this 37-year-old man wants to test himself against young guns like Margarito and Berto.

–Glen Johnson, in calling out light heavyweight (175 lbs.) champ Joe Calzaghe, notes that Calzaghe actually pulled out of a couple different bouts the two men had once scheduled. Fairness dictates that I no longer list Chad Dawson as my favorite Calzaghe opponent. Johnson got screwed out a couple fights by one man and arguably got screwed out of a win against the other, so I bump Johnson up from 1B to Dawson’s 1A in favor of a first-place tie.

–No one is negotiating this fight, but I hope they do: Sakio Bika vs. Librado Andrade. The two super middleweights (168 lbs.) have among the finest abilities to take a punch in all of boxing, and both are relentless come-forward brawlers. It would be like some crazy, unending comic book battle between two superheroes who possess what they call in Marvel “invulnerability.”

–Jorge Arce and Vic Darchinyan are trash-talking up a storm. There is no better 115 pound fight that you could describe so easily as “good as long as it lasts.” I only fear that feuds between the promoters of both men will make it so that squawking is all we ever hear outta this one.

–The promoters of super middleweight Jaidon Codrington say they hope he retires. Me too. It’s sad in a way that a 24-year-old may already be ruined as a fighter as a result of his brave stand against Bika and another knockout loss, but my hope is that Codrington made some good dough coming in second place on the last season of “The Contender” and is financially secure enough to make the right decision. If he does quit, then it’s been a fun ride, and we should all thank Codrington for what he gave to the sport.

(Sources: ESPN.com, BoxingScene.com, Yahoo.com, news releases, Maxboxing.com, Times of London)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.