In seven weeks, Antonio Margarito will face the world's best prizefighter, Manny Pacquiao, at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. While “The Pac-Man” commenced his preparations for the fight in the Philippines, Margarito began his first week of training for this match-up at the South El Monte Boxing Club in El Monte, California.
He knows that almost nobody is giving him a chance to win that fight on the night of November 13th.
"I'm aware of it," he said through his manager, Sergio Diaz, this past Tuesday afternoon. "Everybody has a right to their own opinions. But I just want everybody to know that I'm preparing; I'm very confident. This is what everybody said when I was going to face [Miguel] Cotto. Fighters have their styles and I think I have the right style to beat him."
Many are of the belief that Margarito should forever be banned from the sport in light of the illegal hand-wrappings he was caught with prior to his fight with Shane Mosley. Others think that he isn't deserving of getting this opportunity to face Pacquiao. Fortunately for Margarito, none of that matters but he realizes that whatever he has accomplished in the past will be placed under great scrutiny and inspection. 45 fights into his professional career that began in 1994 and Margarito is considered a tainted boxer who is in the position of proving that his résumé has not been accomplished with doctored hands.
"That's what I feel, that I do have to prove myself. But again, I want to say I have never fought with anything illegal. I didn't fight with anything illegal that night. I've always been a clean fighter," he insisted.
As you see Margarito go through the first stage of this training camp, it's clear that cutting down to the catchweight of 150 pounds will not be an issue.
"For this camp, he came in weighing 160 pounds," said Diaz. "Against Mosley, he came in about 175 pounds- you're the one who called him “The Tijuana Torta.” But he is really focused, really motivated and hungry."
One of the many reason he got thrashed that night against Mosley may have been a hangover from celebrating his win over Cotto in the summer of 2008. Diaz admitted, "I didn't think it was going to take any effect but Antonio did let go of himself. Going around Mexico, going around the U.S., he was happy. He had just won a big fight. Unfortunately, when we started the Mosley camp, he just came in overweight. That's what really affected him."
His trainer Robert Garcia says that right now, "He's ready to fight. He's close to weight already and his conditioning is good and he's running the mountains that mostly everyone does in an hour. He did it in 47 minutes. So he's ready."
What took place this past week was a bit of a pre-training camp before they head off to Oxnard on Monday. "That's what we're doing," said Garcia. "To do the mountain running at Mt. Baldy, we're doing it every day. When we get to Oxnard, we're going to be ready to spar and plan for the fight."
OK, but they do have all their “sparring permits,” right?
"We've been in contact with our attorneys," said Diaz, "We've been talking about this and they've assured us that we're not breaking any rules. He is a licensed professional fighter in the United States. But we got to make sure our sparring partners are also licensed. If not, they have to have these sparring partners."
With that taken care of, they can focus in on Pacquiao, who in recent years, has had a historic run. Margarito has always struggled with speed and movement (something that Pacquiao can provide in abundance) and he'll have to be exponentially better than he was in his return bout in May versus Roberto Garcia in Mexico.
Garcia (the trainer, not the opponent) expects as much. "Oh, definitely, that was my first fight with him. We had a little over two months working together. We have another three months that we're going to be working for this fight. It'll be a much better Margarito." Garcia says that Margarito is still as heavy-handed as ever. "I had to switch body-shields," explained Garcia, "because the one I had was a “Title” (brand) one and it was brand new. My ribs were sore already last week. So I ordered this one from “Everlast.” I still feel it but not as much."
To pull the upset, “The Tijuana Tornado” will have to apply constant pressure and swarm the naturally smaller man. You don't need to be Angelo Dundee to figure that out.
"That's one of the plans that we have," Margarito said. "Pressure, throwing punches consistently, countering."
The victory over Cotto put Margarito on the map. A win over Pacquiao will go a long way in reestablishing him and gaining a certain sense of redemption. Regardless, he will put up much more of a fight for Pacquiao than Joshua Clottey did in March.
"This is the fight of my life," Margarito states. "I'm going to come out with my arms up in the air. Robert and I, we've been adapting to each other. We worked for the first time for the Garcia fight but everything is now falling into place."