Boxing presents two headline-worthy fights this weekend, and although David Haye has dubbed his upcoming WBA Heavyweight title defense against compatriot Audley Harrison a “public execution,” most of the boxing public’s eyes will be on the state of Texas. Because even though Harrison has had an emphatic shellacking coming his way for a while now, it’s Antonio Margarito who deserves what many are hoping is coming to him this Saturday even more.
Since attempting to go into the ring against Shane Mosley with loaded gloves in January of 2009, Margarito pushed fans to the edge and eventually right over it. He played dumb, he redirected blame and he never once took responsibility for his actions – even with countless individuals involved in the sport coming forward and saying there simply was no way a boxer could fail to notice such a hard substance against his knuckle.
In the weeks leading up to his showdown against Manny Pacquiao in Cowboy Stadium, Margarito has taken it a step further. With HBO’s “24/7″ cameras rolling, Antonio mocked the scandal by laughing as a member of his camp placed a block of cement on top of his hand while trainer Robert Garcia chuckled and encouraged him not to look.
Freddie Roach didn’t share their sense of humor. The Pacquiao trainer instead suggested that Margarito was an attempted murderer and disrespecting the sport by making light of a situation that could have cost Mosley his life. Margarito’s response? Caught on video with Garcia and sparring partner Brandon Rios mocking Roach’s Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
When the Internet backlash came in full force, Garcia and Rios took responsibility for their actions and apologized. Meanwhile, Margarito again deferred fault, at first having his camp state that none of them were aware Roach had the disease and eventually trying to play off the scene as something harmless.
Harmless has, in all likelihood, left the building at this point.
While Roach has never been known for biting his tongue, his fighter seldom has a harsh word for anyone. But if Pacquiao had no ill will toward Margarito before, perhaps now, he does.
And considering Pacquiao didn’t show any resentment toward Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton or Miguel Cotto before battering each of them into oblivion, it’s almost frightening to imagine what an enraged Pac Man might do to an opponent.
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. spending more time in court than the boxing gym, Pacquiao has become the sole bearer of boxing’s torch. Even if he doesn’t feel compelled to defend the honor of his trainer by dishing out a severe beating to Margarito, he at least owes it to the sport he represents to do so.
This Saturday, it’s not simply Pacquiao going into the ring against Margarito. It’s the face of boxing ridding itself of a blemish. It’s boxing’s biggest ambassador, both inside the ring and out, taking on a man more interested in acting like the criminal who got away with it than a proud Mexican warrior.
And who better to serve cold, hard justice than a man recently elected by his native people to lead them in Congress?
His own legacy all but secured as an all-time great, Pacquiao should be doing this fight for a disrespected trainer. He should be doing it for Miguel Cotto, who lost his perfect record at the hands of a man who may have used more than just his natural hands to batter him down. He should be doing it for Rashad Holloway, whose career was nearly ended when his orbital bone was damaged in a sparring session with Margarito, possibly for the same reason.
Boxing becomes more corrupt by the day, mostly due to sanctioning bodies acting in their own interest. But when the fighters stop playing by the rules and showing no remorse when they get away with it, then will the sport truly be lost to the fans. Right now, it’s up to Ambassador Pacquiao to make things right in one symbolic bout.
If Margarito won’t offer up a sincere apology willingly, perhaps Pacquiao can beat one out of him this Saturday. Boxing deserves it.
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