|Antonio Margarito: “He’s in Trouble”
The Welter Report By Gabriel Montoya (April 8, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
On any given day at the Montebello PAL Boxing Gym owned by Contender Season One winner Sergio Mora, you can catch some of the world’s most skilled fighters. Victor Ortiz, Alfredo Angulo, and Jorge Arce are just a few of those I’ve had the pleasure of seeing at work in the gym. On this particular day, I was there to watch former WBO--titleholder Antonio “The Tijuana Tornado” Margarito as he prepares for his rematch with Kermit “El Asesino” Cintron Saturday Night in Atlantic City, televised live on HBO.
Margarito was in the final days of his camp as he began round one of sparring in the corner of the nearly--empty room. It was light work that appeared for Margarito to be more about footwork as he stuck and moved around the ring. Today he had two partners for two rounds apiece. There is a diligent focus about him as he works inside and out, slipping to the side to deliver a body shot.
“We always get the right sparring,” Margarito said afterwards through a translator. “This time, I worked on my hands. Trying to cover up my face and avoid any punches from Cintron. I mentally worked. I am confident on this fight.”
Following the sparring, he moved on to an impressive pad-work display. Margarito’s speed is deceptive, and what he lacks in it, he makes up for with odd angles and sheer volume.
Next came the double--end bag for a round or two, followed by tying off the ring
in quarters and working his way through it (His trainers attach rope or tape to the top rope on either side and divide the ring into quarters. He works on uppercuts and head movement along the various angles provided the tape, moving through each quarter, ducking under, and coming up with a vicious shot). Then, more crunches than you can shake a stick at followed by some stretching finished it off. The tired warrior headed to the showers long enough for me to fill those not keeping score in on what has led him to this point.
In his first fight with Cintron, Margarito was a slow storm. The fight began as a boxing match and accelerated into chaos as Cintron suffered the first and knockdowns, cut, stoppage, and (only) loss of his career. Considering the ferocity and devastating fashion in which Margarito won, it’s surprising that Cintron would want a rematch.
“No,” says Margarito, “I wasn’t surprised. If you want to be the best, you have to fight the best. [Despite] that defeat I have against him, he’s going to be confident. He’s going to be ready. But I am prepared too, and I am going to make sure it’s my night.”
That night back in April, 2005 should have catapulted him into the big-name fights he so desperately craves. It didn’t. Margarito didn’t fight the rest of that year, and only twice the next, blasting out Shotgun Gomez and barely edging out Joshua Clottey. Injuries suffered before that fight would hold him up until July, 2006, where his career took a rough turn as he unexpectedly lost to title challenger Paul Williams. It was a fight that was supposed to take him to the promised land of a Miguel Cotto match. And strangely, it has.
Following a long, fruitless negotiation period with Paul Williams, Cintron would instead opt for a rematch with Margarito, with the promise that the winner will get a shot at Miguel Cotto. The winner of that fight will arguably be the best welterweight titleholder in the world and a clear contender for Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the linear champion.
“It’s very significant,” says Margarito of the rematch with Cintron. “Very significant. It represents a lot for me to win the title and become a champion once again. Plus, I have been promised by my promoter [Top Rank] that I will fight Cotto if I win. If everything comes out okay,” he says, eyes looking within, “I am right there for the big fights coming up.”
In his first fight after the Williams loss, on the undercard of Mosley/Cotto card, Margarito emphatically finished off Golden Johnson in a blitz-style attack. It was an unexpected start and finish for a fighter who often took his time warming into bouts. Before the Johnson fight, Margarito told me his slow start cost him his title against Williams, and he vowed to fix the problem. After the fight, it was clear that it wasn’t just lip service.
“He’s going to be like a Golden Johnson,” he says of Cintron. “I’m a pressure fighter. I’m going to put all the pressure I can. But the intelligence will be right there. I’m going to put pressure, but I’m going to be smart about the way I approach this guy.”
Since his loss to Margarito, Cintron has done everything in his power to become a changed fighter. He fired his team and hired Hall of Fame trainer Manny Steward. Through it all, he has been in some rough fights, showing improvement along the way to some, and none at all to others. For Margarito, a change is evident.
“He’s improved a lot. His movement. The way he throws punches. He’s more accurate. I think he has a lot more experience now. He’s going to be ready. But I am prepared and we’ll see what is going to happen.
“I’ve been hearing and been reading that he’s been saying he’s going to be doing some boxing,” he continues. “But like I say, I’m going to be prepared for the kind of fight he brings. I’m going to try and do my best.”
What hasn’t changed at all about Cintron is his one-punch knockout capability. In their first fight, Cintron landed to no effect on the iron-chinned Margarito. It is that very part of the whole equation that may be the one true key to the rematch. Nevertheless, Margarito does respect the most dangerous aspect of Cintron’s game.
“Of course. I will agree he connected on me with a couple punches. It was a straight right, flush to my face. But I took it well. I don’t know if it’s because I’m very strong or because we were well prepared. But he didn’t do any damage. I didn’t get dizzy. Nothing like that. If you remember, if you look at it, I had a smile on my face. He’s in trouble,” he says, grinning.
With the exception of his ill-fated prediction of a seventh round knockout against Paul Williams, Margarito rarely practices that pre-fight ritual. This time however, he makes an exception.
“I feel very confident for this particular fight with all the work I did,” says Margarito as he looks around the gym. “I never predict a knockout for any of my opponents. But I’m pretty sure this time I can bring a knockout for all my fans.”
Gabriel at: Coyotefeather@gmail.com
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