Conventional wisdom and sports betting odds are overwhelmingly in favor of Manny Pacquiao in his fight against disgraced former WBO, IBF and WBA Welterweight champion, the "Tijuana Tornado" Antonio Margarito.
Ask any Filipino and he will give you ample reassurance that "Pacman" will not only win easily against his naturally larger opponent but also give him the beating of his life.
Ask any Mexican and I wouldn't be surprised if more than half of them predict Margarito losing, and coming from such a proud boxing nation, that's surprising. But after seeing Pacquiao demolish Mexican legend one after another, from Erik Morales to Juan Manuel Marquez, and continue his meteoric rise to the top of professional boxing (and have a similarly meteoric rise in weight class), even his most ardent critics have had to acknowledge his brilliance.
As he went up in weight, the story was always the same.
David Diaz at lightweight was supposed to be too big for him. Pacquiao knocked him out in the ninth. Turns out Diaz was too slow and lumbering.
Oscar De La Hoya, even at a catchweight, was supposed to be too big for him. Pacquiao forced him to quit after the eighth. Turns out De La Hoya was too old and washed up to bother the Filipino pugilist.
Ricky Hatton, at light welterweight, was too big and strong for him. He was knocked out in the second and forced to retire, at least indefinitely. Turns out Hatton's fight with Mayweather had rendered him a shell of his former self.
Then came a resurgent Miguel Cotto whose only loss was against Margarito, who many suspect had plaster of Paris in his gloves that fight. Cotto resorted to running away in the last few rounds, prompting the referee to call the fight. Turns out Cotto never really recovered from the Mayweather fightl.
Josh Clottey, though, wasn't even considered a threat and proved it during his fight, where he showed persistent defense and seemed devoid of desire to win.
So now, after all those victories, people expect history to repeat itself and Pacquiao to take care of business against Margarito. And no one would be surprised if he won. In fact, they see it as almost as inevitable as anything else in boxing.
But there are many reasons why Pacquiao could have a torrid time against Margarito this Saturday, November 13. After all, he will be facing a hungry fighter eager to reclaim his stake as one of boxing's best and put his disgraceful scandal behind him. And it's never a good idea to underestimate a former champion.
So here are 10 reasons why Manny Pacquiao could stumble, falter or even worse, lose against Antonio Margarito.
One important trait that is shared by leaders and great men alike is the ability to bounce back from adversity and the drive to succeed after a failure.
There is no doubt that the plaster of Paris incident surrounding the Mosley-Margarito fight has stained the latter's reputation, regardless of whether he knew what was happening or not. If nothing else, he will always be guilty by association and this incident will follow him for the rest of his career. After all, putting rock-like substances into a boxer's gloves is akin to giving him a lethal weapon to kill his opponent.
To this day, Margarito still professes his innocence, and truly, the only people who know what happened are him and his former trainer, Javier Capetillo, the person responsible for wrapping his hands during that infamous night.
Regardless of whether he is guilty or not, it is clear that he is out for redemption and wants to prove himself to the boxing community. He is hungry, angry and motivated, and no doubt, he will be looking to punish his smaller opponent. After having his reputation tarnished and becoming the face of cheating in boxing, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And those types of fighters are the most dangerous kind.
Anyone who watches boxing and has seen Antonio Margarito fight knows that he has no defense. Like the late Edwin Valero, he doesn't even pretend or bother to defend properly, focusing instead on attacking. And attacking. And attacking some more.
Defending is just not part of his game.
And though this style of fighting is exciting and draws a lot of fans, especially among his proud Mexican compatriots, it can be a deadly style because of all the damage these types of fighters take consistently.
Unlike the calculating Cotto, who uses his stiff jabs to set up bigger hits, or Joshua Clottey, who defended his way all 12 rounds, Margarito is about as one-dimensional as they get. It's both his greatest weapon and most glaring weakness. And it proved to be his weakness against an equally attack-minded, but stronger and better prepared 'Sugar' Shane Mosley.
But what that means for Margarito's opponents, and Pacquiao in particular, is that Margarito is going to keep a constant stream of punches coming his way, and the fight could quickly devolve into a slugging match in the middle of ring. And in most slugging matches, the bigger stronger guy wins.
As Roach puts it, “It’ll be a lot better than the Clottey fight because everyone knows Margarito throws punches."
But that also probably means Pacquiao is going to be challenged and get hit significantly more than his previous fights.
Although I'm sure Pacquiao is going to come out with all guns ablazing to try to knock out his much larger opponent, he will find it a much tougher task than most of his recent knockout wins. And unlike his fight against Clottey, it won't be because of his defense, as he really has none.
But as an all-out attack boxer, there is one thing he needed to have in order to be successful—a tough chin, especially because he gets hit so much.
And judging by his record, Margarito has undoubtedly one of the toughest chins in boxing, only surrendering one knockout loss to the aforementioned Shane Mosley in a match where Margarito wasn't in his best condition and was probably negatively affected by the whole plaster of Paris incident.
It's pretty plain to see in most of his matches, it's his ability to take punishment while dishing out more punishment to his opponents and essentially outlasting everyone in slugging matches.
That implies two things: 1) that Margarito can hit hard (although according to some critics, that's because of his "rock-hard" gloves), and 2) that Margarito can take a lot of hits and still stand tall.
And as long as he's still standing tall towards the end of the fight, he still has a puncher's chance against Pacquiao, as he showed against Cotto a few fights ago.
Manny Pacquiao started his boxing career as a young boy of 16 at light flyweight—108 lbs.—before winning his first World title at Flyweight—112lbs.
Antonio Margarito has been fighting at welterweight and above for most of his career.
Pacquiao is 5′ 6½″ with a 67" wingspan. Margarito is 5'11" with a 73" wingspan.
There is a reason why boxing has weight classes. And that reason is that people who are taller and heavier have a distinct size and strength advantage over their opponents. And at the highest level of boxing, a person's height and weight will make a huge difference during the course of 12 rounds.
In fact, when Pacquiao was given the chance to fight against 6'2" Paul Williams (presumably at welterweight or light middleweight), he declined, stating that the American was too tall and long for him.
But for some inexplicable reason—maybe because he already faced and beat 5'10" De La Hoya—Pacquiao was willing and confident about facing the "Tijuana Tornado."
No matter what, that longer reach will affect any fighter on any level. It all depends on how much someone is affected. But those 6" of reach could prove telling in the fight as Pacquiao tries to hit his much bigger and taller opponent.
Moreover, Pacquiao aims to fight at an even 148 lbs for this fight, potentially going up against a 154 lbs Margarito. And in boxing, that added six pounds pack quite some power.
In any other situation, Margarito would be heavily favored against the much lighter and smaller Pacquiao, but hype and the latter's history has blinded people. But for those who can still see past all the hype, it boils down to a little guy against a big guy, and in most cases, the big guy wins.
Pacquiao is a small man. At 5′ 6½″ and around 148 lbs, the average American is both taller and heavier than this Filipino icon.
Pound-for-pound, he may be the most impressive boxer in the world, and he rightly holds that title in the Ring magazine and among boxing writers and enthusiasts everywhere.
But just as it would be completely ludicrous to suggest putting Pacquiao in heavyweight to fight the Klitschkos, it's clear that though he has climbed up the weight classes pretty easily, accumulating muscle while maintaining his famous speed, he will hit a ceiling soon, if not already.
After initially trying to put on more muscle and become bulkier, Pacquiao changed his mind.
Commenting on the possibility of bulking up, he said, “I wanted to get big but it was difficult afterwards. I couldn’t even move. We tried to gain weight because Margarito is bigger. But it turned out to be a bad move”
At some point, Pacquiao is not going to be able to put on muscle without sacrificing his speed. When that happens, he becomes less effective as a boxer, and loses the edge he has against all of his opponents.
If he were to bulk up to 200 lbs, there's no way he could maintain the same blinding hand speed and quickness that's become his trademark since he started boxing.
Since he's decided to stay light against a bigger and stronger Margarito, it appears that he may have hit his ceiling at a lower weight class. And that's a worrying thing for all his fans because Margarito could bludgeon him to submission with his longer reach and superior power.
Unlike his previous fights against De La Hoya, Hatton, et al., Manny Pacquiao is very evidently not training as seriously for this fight.
His strength and conditioning trainer, Alex Ariza, summed it up perfectly by comparing him to Rocky Balboa in Rocky III, who lost to Clubber Lang (played by the inimitable Mr. T): "Sylvester Stallone was training in a hotel and media was all around and cameras. He was fighting Clubber Lang and he went in there and got destroyed."
Between meeting the president of the Philippines, singing "Imagine" with Will Ferrell on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and campaigning for various senators and governors prior to the November 2 elections all around the United States, there have been a barrage of distractions and roadblocks to a smooth training camp.
Even with trainer Freddy Roach's assurance that Pacquiao will train harder than his opponent and show the fruits of his labor, it is clear that this training camp is not like the intense training camps of previous fights. In fact, Roach graded this training camp with a "B", calling it the "worst training camp ever."
But against Margarito, a "B" effort might not be enough.
There is an old adage that goes "Pride comes before a fall."
There is no doubt that Pacquiao has been on an unprecedented and amazing run of form during the last few years, and he has looked near unstoppable against his opponents. It seems that good form has gotten to him a little bit.
Judging by how seriously he is taking his training and how worried trainer Freddie Roach is—not very seriously and not very worried—it's pretty evident that these two don't regard Margarito that highly. And after the series of beatings that Pacquiao has given his opponents lately, it's not surprising at all to find them so confident going into this fight.
Pacquiao even goes so far as to call Margarito "just a body puncher" while Roach claims that Pacquiao "will beat him to the punch every time" because Margarito "is very slow."
But there is a very thin line between confidence and overconfidence, and Pacquiao is straddling that line very closely.
And as much as PacFans—what Manny Pacquiao's horde of followers so affectionately refer to themselves — want to believe that he's Superman, he's not. He's only human. And humans experience weakness and can lose against stronger opponents, especially if they don't prepare well enough.
Overconfidence and hubris has been a key factor in the fall of many great dynasties—mythical, fictional, real and sports-related—and if Pacquiao doesn't take this fight seriously, he could risk incurring a small stain on his legacy with a loss to Margarito.
Though neither boxer can claim home-court in Texas since one fighter is from Mexico and the other is Filipino, there will be a distinct Latin flavor in Texas.
A large percentage of the population in states bordering Central and South America receive a large influx of immigrants from south of the border. And many of these immigrants are Mexican.
Texas has already proven itself a great home-court for Mexican-American fighters like Rocky Juarez and Juan Diaz, in many cases, swaying the judge's opinions, and more often than not, giving ample encouragement to their hometown heroes.
Now Margarito is not American, much less Texan. But he is wildly popular in the Mexican communities within and outside of Mexico, including many of those in the United States. Texas is no different.
Although many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans think or feel that Pacquiao will have a distinct advantage over their countryman, they will no doubt be in unison supporting Margarito against the man often described as a "Mexi-cutioner." And they will make their voices heard loud and clear as they rally themselves around a figure representing their country and heritage in Margarito.
And just like Ali when he rallied the people of what was Zaire in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle against a much more heavily favored George Foreman, if Margarito can bring the crowd and the people over to his side, gather morale and use that encouragement to spur him on, it could turn out to be a magical thing as he fights for supremacy.
At this point in his career, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Pacquiao has had his fair share of fights and is probably winding his career down with the last few fights that he can squeeze in between his duties as a Filipino congressman.
At age 31, he's no longer the young upstart carving a name for himself, nor is he in the middle of his career. These days, he's quite the rare commodity, only fighting once or twice a year, and he's quite selective about his opponents.
With that said, there's no doubt in anyone's mind who Pacquiao wanted to fight this November. And his name wasn't Antonio Margarito.
As if Margarito needed any more fuel to his fire—he will be fighting in front of many of his "people," fighting to regain his honor and fighting to prove his critics wrong—there's the whole issue of him being a second choice opponent. If not for a certain other boxer declining to fight for the rest of this year, Margarito wouldn't even be in the picture.
And the whole world knows it. You can bet that Margarito knows it too.
Anyone who has ever been overlooked in a race, or labeled a loser before the fight started will tell you how much that perceived insult motivates them. In fact, many athletes use that imaginary slight to force them to train harder and, in some cases, eventually become the best in their respective sports.
Just ask Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps.
And as in any sport, that extra motivation, running that extra mile, doing that extra set of lifts, and working that extra hour or two can make the difference in the end. As the huge underdog who is being largely underestimated and insulted by his opponent, Margarito has all the ingredients to pull an upset.
It should be no surprise to anyone at all who Pacquiao's first choice opponent was—Floyd Mayweather Jr.
After all that they've been through, it seemed like only a question of when, and not if, the fight would happen.
After all, there's so much bad blood (pun intended) between Pacquiao and Mayweather that it would be a travesty not to see the fight.
Between the question of who is truly the pound-for-pound best active boxer, to accusations of performance enhancing drugs, to the disagreements on the fight venue, weight class, blood testing and later, whether negotiations occurred, this story was scripted to finish with a fight. But so far, it hasn't. And Pacquiao will be thinking about it for days, weeks and maybe even years, especially if it never happens.
So ironically, Mayweather could be one of the biggest factors in Pacquiao's fight against Margarito.
In some sense, Margarito doesn't really need to get in the Filipino fighter's head because someone's already occupying it.
Boxing is a very short-sighted sport; it's one where "what have you done for me lately?" and "who's next?" are very common questions. And so it should stay.
But often times, boxers look too far ahead and miss the short term in their quest for the long term goal. If Pacquiao puts so much thought and energy into his mythical GOAT fight against Mayweather, he might miss the battering ram named Margarito charging at him full speed.
Everyone knows Pacquiao's goal is to eventually fight Mayweather and settle once and for all this long and tedious debate of who deserves to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. But if he falls against Margarito, that fight will probably not happen, and it will all be for naught.
The scary thing is that there's a very real possibility that could happen.