When Antonio Margarito walks the aisle this Saturday (November 13) to meet Manny Pacquiao, hell be doing so knowing that a significant number of the boxing community feel hes gotten away with a despicable crime.
After serving a one year suspension for attempting to use illegal hand wraps against Shane Mosley, Margarito has had one fight against a non-descript opponent in May. Now, hes getting an opportunity to defeat arguably the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world in Manny Pacquiao. Its not just an excellent payday (Margarito can make over $6 million with good pay-per-view numbers), but a shot at redemption. Should he defeat Pacquiao with clean wraps and no other controversy, it could silence whisperings about the validity of his entire career.
But should he lose, and lose big, it would confirm for many that he was a sham, a pugilist that needed to cheat to level the playing field against elite fighters. It would not only continue to cast doubt on his signature win over Miguel Cotto, but whether any of his wins were without the use of additional firepower in the wraps.
Does triumph await Margarito, or will satisfaction be with those seeking to complete the burial of his career?
AllHipHop.com: Now that camp is over, are there any last-minute tweaks you and Robert Garcia have been making to the game plan?
Antonio Margarito: We were just refining things and correcting little mistakes I was still making. Were at the end of the camp, so it was less sparring, and more one on one in the ring and working on detail work.
AllHipHop.com: What fights of Manny Pacquiao did you watch the most to help you prepare?
Margarito: I saw many fights. I went back to even early in his career when he was dropped by a jab to the body. I just watched those because they were included in the film collection. But I really focused on all the later fights since moving to welterweight.
AllHipHop.com: You tried your hand at a little boxing with your last fight in Mexico against Roberto Garcia. Will we see more of that with Pacquiao, or just straight pressure?
Margarito: It all depends of what type of fight Manny presents. Everyone knows how I fight; I go forward and throw a lot of punches. This time, I will be more of a defensive fighter and try to avoid punches. With my last boxing match in Mexico, my trainer asked me not to finish him up early. They wanted the rounds to prepare me for later fights. I was off for such a long time that I needed the rounds.
AllHipHop.com: Youve only had one fight in a year and a half. Where would you rate your endurance compared to when you were champion in 2008?
Margarito: I feel better than ever. This camp has been great, and stamina is just as good as when I was champion. Im a clean fighter, all I do is fight. I dont have any bad habits like drinking or smoking.
AllHipHop.com: This fight is at 150 pound catchweight. Youve been at the full junior middleweight limit before. Will you stay this time or move back down to welter?
Margarito: No no, my plan is to stay as a super welterweight.
AllHipHop.com: How was your experience with the HBO 24/7 team? Were there any problems or hindrances to your camp?
Margarito: You know what, I was impressed with the 24/7 crew. They worked with me very well when I asked not to film, they wouldnt film. They didnt hamper my camp. Theyve been showing everything thats really happening. Ive seen some of the episodes, and theyre exactly what Im experiencing.
AllHipHop.com: Javier Capetillo was your long-time trainer before the hand wrap scandal. How does his style compare to Robert Garcia?
Margarito: Two completely different styles. Robert Garcia is a former world champion, so he grew up in the gym. Capetillo was more of a military style trainer. He could never tell when youre tired, as opposed to Robert being able to as a former fighter.
I used to keep working hard non-stop when I came from Capetillo. And Robert would be like you need a day off. I would never have that under Capetillo.
AllHipHop.com: Youve maintained that the hand wrap issue was all Capetillos doing. Do you maintain contact with him? Has he ever given you a straight answer on if hes used illegal wraps before with you or other fighters?
Margarito: I havent had any communication with Javier. The last time I really spoke with him is when we both went before the California State Athletic Commission. Before my last fight in Mexico, he did call to say good luck, and afterward to say congratulations.
He did what he did, and I suffered for it. Ive asked him what happened, and all hell say is that it was a big mistake and he made an error. I ask how he could do that with me, and he says dont ask me and Im sorry. I let it go from there. I have to move forward with my career.
AllHipHop.com: Your name really became known on a national level after Floyd Mayweather refused to fight you for $8 million dollars. At that time, he had just split with Bob Arum. You also confronted Mayweather, and he told you that you would eventually get your shot. Do you think it was fear, or the animosity between him and Arum that kept that fight from happening?
Margarito: I really dont know what his reasoning was for not taking the fight with me. It could have been that he saw Im a big Mexican, a fighter that goes forward and throws a lot of punches. Maybe he was too worried to take that chance and lose a fight. Hes a fighter who keeping that [undefeated] zero is very important to him.
AllHipHop.com: On 24/7, you and your team did a joke about your hand wrap suspension. Considering that many people see you as guilty, and the seriousness of that issue, did you consider how that footage may affect your chances of reinstatement with other state boxing commissions?
Margarito: I didnt mean to disrespect anyone by doing that. It was more of something for the 24/7 because we were joking. I was surprised when they came in and put it on my hands. I dont know if you noticed my facial expression when they put it on me, but I just rolled with it.
AllHipHop.com: Who would you put down as your top five favorite boxers of all time?
Margarito: You know what, Ill only give you one, and thats Julio Cesar Chavez. I actually never thought anyone was better than Chavez. Thats a question that Ive never been asked. Ever since I was a child, Ive idolized Chavez. It was because of him that I became a fighter myself.
AllHipHop.com: I know you have to get back to work, so lets wrap up on this note. Who were your most difficult opponents, and who would you classify as the biggest punchers youve faced?
Margarito: The toughest fights Ive been in have been were Antonio Diaz and Miguel Cotto. As far as the strongest punchers, I want to say Alfred Ankamah and Danny Perez.
Antonio Margarito meets Manny Pacquiao this Saturday (November 13) on HBO pay-per-view at 9 PM ET.
Ismael AbduSalaam is a senior staff writer for AllHipHop.com, and the creator of Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, a website specializing in boxing and Hip-Hop coverage.