There was a time in recent history when Antonio Margarito was widely considered one of the most avoided men in the sport. A dangerous pressure fighter, the Tijuana Tornado’s aim has always been to charge forward regardless of circumstance, often times taking multiple punches to land just one of his own. For most fighters that strategy is an obvious career-ruiner, however, in perhaps his most impressive ‘gift’, Margarito’s chin was so rock solid that he regularly incorporated his preternatural ability to take unholy amounts of punishment into his fight plans. This is a man so Mexican that even though he was born in California and fought the majority of his career in the United States, he barely speaks a word of English. Here, we take a brief look into some of Antonio Margarito’s most notorious career highlights both inside of the squared circle and out.
Kermit Cintron 1 & 2 – Way back in April of 2005, Antonio Margarito was a young and formidable whirlwind of activity and pressure. Making the fifth defense of his WBO strap on ESPN’s inaugural Pay-Per-View event at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Well known for fighting the full three minutes of each round, Margarito walked the then up-and-coming Puerto Rican knockout machine Kermit “Killer” Cintron down over 5 exciting rounds.
Absorbing nearly every punishing shot that the vicious young Cintron could muster, Margarito would only crack a smile at the effort and continued to press the action. Cintron would battle back but seemed to have his will sapped due to his inability to hurt the Mexican. By the halfway mark of round number five, Tony had his man badly cut over the right eye due to his relentless barrages and non-stop activity; Cintron looked like a defeated fighter not only in the face but also in his body language. Cintron would hit the canvas four times throughout the contest but a short right hook by the stone-faced Mexican convinced the seemingly out-gunned Cintron to retire to his corner in lieu of facing referee, Kenny Bayless’ ten-count. A TKO victory for Margarito (at the time his 23’rd career KO win) and a hug and congratulations were offered up by a sobbing Cintron for his efforts.
Nearly three years to the day later, Antonio Margarito would again meet with the Puerto Rican “Killer”, this time in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the famous Boardwalk Hall. By this time Kermit had improved upon his already stellar ledger, winning all but 2 of his 29 victories by way of impressive knockout – his lone defeat coming at the (in retrospect, conspicuously heavy) hands of the very man he would again oppose. This time Cintron would bring his own championship belt to the fold (a vacant IBF trinket he picked up three fights prior).
Always the slow starter, Margarito marched in at his usual clip, often catching the reversing Cintron with hard shots in the early going. Effectively blocking most of the strong Puerto Rican’s best shots with his face, Tony kept the situation honest with his numerous uppercuts and flurries against the ropes. Cintron fought smart through the third round, although his success seemed limited to his jabs setting up one big power punch while Margarito’s pressure and devastating hooks were defining the action. Antonio Margarito’s brutal shots could often be heard reverberating around the packed arena as a brave Cintron fought the forward-charging Mexican to the best of his ability, his courage found its limits midway through the sixth stanza as a perfect left hook right above the Puerto Rican’s liver put him down for the count (an excited Margarito waved for the younger power puncher to rise and continue the contest). The official particulars read: Antonio Margarito wins by knockout at 1:57 of the sixth round.
Miguel Cotto 1 & 2 – In July of 2008, Tony Margarito, high off his brutal stoppage victory over Kronk trained Kermit Cintron, faced the streaking, undefeated WBA champion Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. An 8-to-5 underdog, Margarito faced a dominant champion whose tangible skills surpassed his own – and it was obvious, at first anyway. Miguel Cotto spent much of the early rounds boxing brilliant. Though fighting backwards, Cotto seemed in complete control, offering the plodding Mexican very little to hit as he slipped and ducked almost all of the incoming all the while landing quick combinations and stunning singular counters. Miguel set up his excellent defense with his exceptional jab, timing the pursuing Mexican and pot-shotting with hard three and four punch salvos before dancing out of range. The few bombs that Margarito did land, however, seemed to momentarily rock the fantastic Miguel Cotto and by the end of the second round Tony was smiling and coming alive at the prospect of being in such an incredible back-and-forth war.
Cotto’s mix of offense and defensive brilliance seemed to dominate the early portion of the fight with Margarito eating nearly all of the crunching shots offered up by the defending WBA champion. In typical Tijuana Tornado fashion, however, the undeniable Margarito continued to walk through Miguel’s best and fired away with his own brand of twisted Mexican justice, occasionally catching the retreating Puerto Rican star against the ropes; now making a much more visible impact with his punches.
When the fifth round began, Miguel Cotto must have been wondering if he had what it would take to turn away the challenge of the iron jawed Mexican. The dynamic Puerto Rican kept to his sharp counter punching and offensive flurries while Margarito employed the same stratagem throughout – apply relentless pressure. By the end of the fifth frame Cotto was doing his best Floyd Mayweather impression, slipping an incredible number of incoming punches from the imposing Margarito.
Midway through the contest a definite momentum shift took place. Miguel Cotto was landing more clean punches, but his face told a different story – towards the end of the seventh round Cotto looked like beaten man, absorbing an inhuman amount of punishment and now only occasionally finding a meaningful home for his still solid counters.
Miguel Cotto’s face bore the tale of the fight. Blood poured from his nose and mouth while the cuts that formed around his eyes worsened, the bruising on his cheekbones and forehead also became more pronounced as the night continued. The epic pressure from the Mexican’s onslaught forced the Puerto Rican superstar to rely mainly on his lateral movement in order to survive. Cotto began to look shaky with every received blow, now laying on the ropes but unable to dodge the enormous amount of punches still coming in his direction.
The 11th round would be the final one the young Boricua would see as an undefeated champion. Margarito walked the counter punching Cotto down and effectively negated his wonderful offense. A series of hard, short punches caused Miguel to stop in his tracks and take a knee…a further punishing barrage caused the battered Cotto to seek the safety offered by a second self-imposed halt in the action. Miguel’s uncle, Evangalista Cotto waved the proverbial white flag (towel) and the excellent referee, Kenny Bayless called it a contest. Blood spilled out of every conceivable orifice of the former champion’s now temporarily disfigured head and Tony Margarito was awarded a TKO victory at 2:05 of round number 11.
At the end of the calendar year 2011, Margarito would again meet with the Puerto Rican icon, Miguel Cotto. This time it would be for Miguel’s WBO Jr. middleweight title. In the lead up to the event there was much conversation about the potential usage of illegal hand-wraps in their initial 2008 meeting; a claim that could not be verified, however, if it looks likes a duck in a Hitler costume and quacks like duck in a Hitler costume…
A focused and motivated Miguel Cotto this time battled his arch-nemesis in the center of the ring for the majority of their return bout in Madison Square Garden, New York City. Margarito would still land his patented body shots but by this time most of the steam was out of his punches; and midway through the contest he was fighting nearly blind (his orbital bone had been broken in his previous outing with Manny Pacquiao) and his right eye soon swelled shut due to Cottos targeting of the bum eye. Although Margarito looked as if he were coming on strong late in the match, only speculation remains for what could have been if the bout had ran its course. The stoppage was inevitable and was called a ring technical decision. Ringside doctors and officials scrutinized Margarito’s eye and the bout was halted in round number 10.
Shane Mosley – In perhaps his most spectacular tale of failure, the decided underdog Mosley challenged the 4-to-1 favorite, Tijuana Tornado in January of 2009 in front of a record breaking crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angles, California for Margarito’s WBA welterweight title (which he annexed from the previously undefeated Miguel Cotto only months prior).
Things would be different this night for Antonio Margarito, though. His infamous pressure tactics weren’t working on Shane Mosley and the one-time lightweight king battered the confused Mexican around the ring with impunity. Margarito seemed out of his depth and offered little by way of resistance. Assembling a swan song of a performance, Shane Mosley looked better than nearly all of his many excellent outings, scoring an incredible TKO victory at 0:43 of round number 9. With that showing, the 37 year old Sugar Shane became the top welterweight in the world not named Floyd Mayweather.
“He’s a former flyweight beating one of the biggest welterweights we ever saw.” – Jim Lamply –
Manny Pacquiao – When Antonio Margarito met with the Pacman at the gigantic Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas at a catch weight of 150 for the vacant 154 pound strap, the consensus among fans was that this fight would serve as revenge for Margarito’s alleged cheating and that Pacquiao would dole enough punishment to the disgraced Mexican that his sins would be absolved. Partly correct in their assessment, Manny Pacquiao blanked the Tijuana Tornado on nearly every score card en route to a lopsided decision victory.
The win didn’t come for free, though, as Tony did manage to land a few painful looking shots to the much smaller Pacquaio’s toned frame. Margarito himself was in incredible shape for this contest but his physique wasn’t enough to persuade the fighting congressman to succumb to his pressures. Pacquiao punished the Tornado around the ring with unbelievable combinations to both the head and abdomen.
Halfway through the match a huge welt formed under Margarito’s right eye…The massive lesion was subsequently exploded by the powerful fists of Manny Pacquiao and the crowd and home viewership got a delicious slow-motion replay of the horrors taking place in the ring. Manny Pacquiao took control of the rest of the fight, often times looking towards referee Laurence Cole to stop the action, but no such graces were allowed. Pacquiao took an obvious and well earned 12 round unanimous decision. It turned out that Pacquiao fractured Margarito’s right orbital bone and the damage was so severe that after the contest, Tony laid in the hospital for three days before the swelling subsided enough for doctors to operate.
Plaster Gate – Shortly before the 2009 Sugar Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito clash at the Staples Center, HBO’s resident elder statesmen Larry “If I were 50 Years Younger” Merchant broke the news to the world: “Minutes ago, the commissioner of boxing, Dean Lohuis, reported to us that an illegal pad was found in Margaritos gloves, something that would harden when wet, and that his hands had to be rewrapped three times…”. Subsequently, the pads in question were found by the California Department of Justice to contain sulfur and calcium, which combine to form plaster of Paris when introduced to oxygen.
Margarito would promulgate to anyone who would listen that he was completely innocent of any wrong-doing while long-time head trainer Javier Capetillo took full blame during the ensuing hearings, claiming that he made a “big mistake” by placing the wrong inserts into Margarito’s gloves and that he [Tony] had no idea what he was doing.
Both Antonio Margarito and his trainer were held responsible, however, and Margarito was summarily suspended from boxing in the United States for one year (a notion that he snubbed, claiming that he could fight in his Native Mexico whenever he wanted) and Capetillo was never again allowed to attend a prize fight in a professional capacity within the United States.
Later in 2009, photos emerged of Antonio Margarito immediately following the first Miguel Cotto fight holding his wrapped fists in the air – showing what appeared to be the very blood-stained wraps he attempted to use prior to the Shane Mosley fight (adding to the already wild speculation that Margarito had used those tampered wraps for some time).
After the California State Athletic Commission rejected Margarito’s attempt to be reinstated, Margarito went to fight under auspices of Texas Commission. He was then allowed to take in huge paydays, first with Manny Pacquiao in Texas and later with Miguel Cotto in New York. The fights would be his last, however, and along with the millions of pesos he secured for those bouts, some would say he equally earned the monumental beat-downs associated with those losses.