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Too Big, Too Fast Or None Of The Above?: Preview And Prediction For Manny Pacquiao Vs. Antonio Margarito

So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2010, Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13. Before: the debate over purchasing the pay-per-view; the stakes of the bout; and keys to the fight, part I and II. Next: the rest of the weekend schedule, including the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard.

With so much wrong about boxing on display from the moment Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito signed to fight one another, with so much polarizing about this match-up to fans, you wouldn’t think it could get any worse in the days leading up to the bout, but it has. The failed attempt by Pacquiao to lure Floyd Mayweather into the ring, the Margarito glove-loading scandal, the more qualified opponents passed over so Top Rank could keep the bout in house… then, days ago, came the video that surfaced of Margarito’s camp mocking Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach for having Parkinson’s disease.

There are fans who are looking forward to this bout, because it features the biggest and best fighter in the world, among other reasons. But there are others, such as myself, who just want Saturday to come and go already. Then the next weekend comes a fight that isn’t polarizing at all and shows so much that’s right about boxing: Paul Williams’ rematch with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

But Saturday hasn’t come and gone yet, so we don’t know the ending to this saga so brimming with negativity. We can only try to imagine.

(Cheerleader cheerleader Manny Pacquiao cheerleader Antonio Margarito cheerleader cheerleader. Credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)

There are certain simple things about Pacquiao-Margarito. Pacquiao is going to be faster, gobs and gobs faster, light years faster, all kinds of faster. Margarito is going to be bigger, much bigger, maybe as much as 20 pounds bigger after weighing in Friday at 150 lbs., and definitely taller and longer. Strategically, nothing is certain, but if past and public pronouncement are to be trusted, it should go like this, rather simply: Pacquiao is going to quick-strike, in-out; Margarito is going to try to pressure, smother, wear down.

There are certain complex things about Pacquiao-Margarito. How powerful will each man be, Pacquiao at his new weight and Margarito with all those questions about whether his power was artificial? How will they hold up to each other’s punches, since Margarito is Paquiao’s biggest opponent yet and Margarito’s chin probably not the off-the-charts asset it once was? Will Margarito be more like the grizzly who beat Miguel Cotto, or the declawed bear we’ve seen the two years since? Will a Pacquiao who didn’t train has hard for this fight as previous bouts be vulnerable to defeat? Whose style is worse for the other’s?

I’ve given my take on many of those things already, via keys to the fight parts I and II.

If you’re a Pacquiao fan and you’re worried about your man – a 6-1 or 5-1 favorite with bettors – you have to worry about these scenarios:

  1. Pacquiao won’t be able to hurt or otherwise dissuade Margarito from coming forward relentlessly, and Margarito will thereby negate Pacquiao’s speed.
  2. Margarito proves he was the monster he was against Cotto and before.
  3. Pacquiao’s hit-and-move strategy won’t be effective against a constantly-throwing Margarito, and Pacquiao will be too small to tie up Margarito the way Shane Mosley was able to in the only comprehensive defeat of Margarito’s career.
  4. Pacquiao’s early poor training camp will come back to haunt him, and his bad foot isn’t all the way healed, and mentally he’ll be distracted by politics and the unnamed personal issue he raised a couple weeks ago, and maybe for good measure his stomach is a bit sensitive from the ulcer he developed earlier this year while campaigning for Congress.

As good a job as HBO 24/7 has done in making this fight sound competitive, I think Margarito only wins if all four of those scenarios materialize.

So long as Pacquiao can hurt Margarito, he will likely win, even if Margarito is pretty good, even if Pacquiao has to run a little bit, even if Pacquiao is not in top shape. Each of those other things also stand on their own. If Margarito is not the monster he once was, then Pacquiao is too good for him for anything else to matter. So long as Pacquiao can hit and move, he can coast to a decision. So long as Pacquiao is in top form, it doesn’t matter what Margarito does.

It’s my view that Pacquiao – whose power has shown no signs of diminishing as he’s moved up in weight, and who knocks people out with quick, unpredictable blows – will be able to hurt Margarito. Pacquiao’s going to hit Margarito plenty, because Margarito is slow and has no defense, and there’s virtually no chance he’s improved significantly enough not to get hit by Margarito.

It’s my view that Margarito is worse for the wear because of the punishment he took against Cotto and the knockout loss to Mosley, and, yes, maybe because the exposure of his loaded gloves suggest a career built on a foundation of cheating. He might be worse for the wear for other reasons, too: Roach and Pacquiao’s conditioning coach Alex Ariza suspect Margarito has overtrained in a bid to get down to 150, a concern I’d also raised.

It’s my view that while Pacquiao won’t be able to tie up Margarito the way Mosley did, he won’t have to do so. Cotto evaded Margarito for the bulk of their fight, although he took some punishment along the way that later caught up to him. Cotto isn’t anywhere near as fleet-footed as Pacquiao, or as good on defense, or adept at stepping out of harm’s way. Pacquiao’s been caught on the ropes before in his career, but he hasn’t done it in years except when he fought Cotto himself and willingly did so in a show of machismo. He might do the same against Margarito, but if he tastes Margarito’s power and doesn’t like it, he can go back to the quick-strike/in-out gameplan.

It’s my view that the biggest concerns are Pacquiao’s training camp, distractions and health. But it won’t be enough for Margarito to capitalize upon.

It’s possible Margarito makes a battle of it, of course, and there’s an argument or two in his favor that aren’t wildly unconvincing. If he does, and especially if he wins, the people who supported this bout as competitive will crow, and they have every right. Maybe I’ll even be grateful for a competitive bout, because it will reduce the worst suspicions I have about Margarito, suspicions I wish I didn’t have. And everybody roots for great, competitive fights.

But I don’t think this one will be. And I won’t take any consolation in the “Pacquiao will mete out some justice” angle. Margarito will end the year with no worse than the third or fourth biggest paycheck any boxer in 2010 got. A beating is a small price to pay for such a rich reward. Pacquiao gets the stoppage in the 8th.

[TQBR Prediction Game 5.0 starts here and takes us through the end of 2010. Don’t forget to read the rules, but because of the late nature of this post, you have an extension until noon Saturday to make a prediction.]

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., where he is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call.

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