In the months and now weeks leading up to the November 13 WBC junior middleweight title bout between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito, one would think that hardcore boxing fans have collectively ejected their Jean Pascal tapes and opened Blaise Pascal texts instead.
Margarito’s ignorance, false or genuine, to the fact that his handwraps were illegally stuffed with plaster prior to his 2009 loss to Shane Mosley has fans and critics of the sport questioning the morality of licensing and enabling a cheater. In a calendar year in which a neurologically damaged fighter was licensed to take part in a title bout that also might have been fixed by a Lebanese street gang, a fighter with numerous broken facial features and a blown shoulder was allowed to be pummeled by a future Hall of Fame heavyweight, and any number of ludicrous judging errors have been made, these folks have waited all the way until November, for this fight, to hoist their picket signs the highest.
Calls to boycott the fight were prevalent as soon as Top Rank formally announced the event, with some protesters trying to thicken their soft moral argument with silly claims that Margarito is unqualified to fight Pacquiao, and that better choices were available. Slowly however, that picket line has disbanded to catch the Manny bandwagon before its departure next month. For reasons that don’t need to be justified by a promoter, whose job is to attract as many fans as possible and make money, this fight is intriguing.
It’s the most loved fighter in the sport against the most controversial: The ultra-exciting, beloved marvel future Hall of Famer, conquerer of 10 weight classes, against his largest opponent yet, who happens to be hopelessly aggressive, dangerous, accomplished, and marketable as a heel in the United States and a hero in Mexico.
Some have accepted this, so fans and media have a new doomsday outlook: If Margarito wins, it’s a black eye for boxing.
It seems as if this rally needs a little cheer, so, ahem…1, 2, 3, 4!…ways a Margarito victory could be good for boxing.
1. You don’t want to believe that Margarito’s career is tainted, do you?
If you believe that Margarito’s championship run at welterweight took place because he was slinging 100 cinder blocks per round, then there’s a lot of years, let alone great fights that are tainted — unless you’re Paul Williams campaign manager Tim Starks, then you essentially believe that your man defeated The Juggernaut.
But deeply rooted in the allure of boxing are the ideals of history and tradition. They’re the reason why people are so outraged about Margarito in the first place, because he may have broken the ancient code of ethics (and a few federal laws). Right now, it’s impossible to enjoy Margarito’s 2008 war with Miguel Cotto, or get goosebumps when Max Kellerman poignantly blurts “that was a modern boxing classic.” After all, you could be watching a crime.
However, if Margarito were to defeat Pacquiao, fans could suspend their suspicion and appreciate the brilliant pressure fighting Margarito displayed for the better part of the decade, and the time capsule bout he gave us with Cotto.
2. The boxing schedule opens up.
Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather may have caused boxing fans plenty of tears, but there are lots of fighters between 140 and 154 who could have at least given them a hug. Instead, plenty curled up with them and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s until the megafight replaced “Terms of Endearment” on the television. For two consecutive years, most have sat idly and wasted roughly five months as the two superstars negotiated fruitlessly, just hoping they’d be the one either man chose as their back-up date.
A Margarito victory would do two things on this front. First, Margarito immediately becomes a third “big money” option for fighters to chase, opening up any number of possible matchups. Secondly, Pacquiao becomes a tad less untouchable, and although it isn’t immediately plausible, it becomes a tad more realistic for the Timothy Bradleys and Andre Bertos–the types the rabid boxing audience wants to see but general public is unaware of—to get a crack at Pac.
The idea that fans care too much about one loss doesn’t get tossed out just because Pacquiao has lost. In the eyes of most, this Manny Pacquiao is undefeated anyway. But would a Pacquiao with a loss to Margarito be any less exciting to see in the ring afterward, maybe with imaginative opponents?
Of course not.
3. Pacquiao and Mayweather suddenly won’t be the only fighters worth covering.
Even if a Margarito victory is dubbed a fluke, the mainstream media will have no choice but to congratulate and sing the praises of The Tijuana Tornado. There’s no way for them to spin out of it. They’ve built Pacquiao up that much.
Remember that theory that there’d suddenly be three “big money” fights available? Along with that comes a third true star, and a 50% increase in media coverage. It might not be much, but assuming all three fighters keep a two fight per-year pace, we’d see pugilism in our newspapers six times a year, as opposed to four!
4. A rematch makes big money.
All of the storylines that make this fight intriguing are amplified, because the notion that Margarito is unclear, unfit and unworthy all go out the window. Add the element of revenge, and as someone once pointed out, you have the possibility for another classic.
And for those morally inclined, you do want men risking death to be properly compensated, so that their worried families, and storm-torn homelands can be aided, right?
Corey Erdman is a boxing writer, as well as host and producer at theScore on SIRIUS 98. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers and publications, and was featured prominently on the now-defunct Sporting News boxing portal. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/corey_erdman