By Matthew Hurley: Something happened in a boxing ring in Texas this past Saturday night that was both oddly just and unreasonably cruel.
There was one man who has transcended his violent trade and transformed himself into a global phenomenon. A humble athlete at his peak who, with a smile and a wink, embraces his heroic status as a man of the people.
And then there was the outcast. A man many believe committed boxing’s greatest sin, attempting to doctor his weapons before entering the ring, searching for some form of redemption when he probably didn’t deserve the opportunity in the first place.
Manny Pacquiao, arguably the best fighter of his generation, laid a beating on Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium that so many of those who hold Antonio in such contempt must have enjoyed – to a point. There is a bloodlust in the hearts of most boxing fans to begin with, but when it comes to someone so wrapped up in scandal like the disgraced ‘Tijuana Tornado’ the catcalls for his head ran rampant on boxing message boards and in the carefully chosen words of many columnists.
But at the bout’s end even his executioner felt weariness in his soul. Pacquiao looked to the so often denigrated referee Laurence Cole to end the brutality that he himself had to show mercy by pulling his punches near the bout’s end and resigning himself to a decision victory. Even Margarito’s noble trainer Robert Garcia refused to wave the white flag when it was his job to do so, leaving his fighter to stumble into endless, unwarranted punishment.
Pacquiao’s great trainer Freddie Roach was not overstating matters when he harrumphed, “Margarito’s corner ruined his career by not stopping the fight.”
So complete was Pacquiao’s domination that by the tenth round even those who thirsted for Margarito’s bloodletting began to squirm and rethink how much punishment a man truly deserves.
But as Antonio continued to plod forward and grimace in pain through every slashing shot that his nemesis laid upon him a certain amount of respect was restored. Whatever he may or may not have known in regards to the hand wrap scandal he will forever be remembered for, so too should the courage he showed in the ring Saturday night be footnoted in his biography.
Pacquiao – Margarito wasn’t a great fight or even a great event, but it was an astonishing display of fistic artistry by a truly great fighter. Pacquiao remains a joy to watch no matter who he fights and it will be hard for boxing fans to bid him adieu when he decides to hang up the gloves.
As for Margarito, his notoriety will always precede him whether he likes it or not, and Pacquiao probably ended his career, at least on the highest level of the sport. Although his corner and referee Laurence Cole certainly contributed to his demise. But at the very least he can thump his chest with pride at the bravery he showed, and apparently that’s what it was all about for a fighter so desperate for just a modicum of redemption. If that’s what Margarito truly sought throughout those twelve savage rounds he can hold his aching head high.
November 16, 2010