Bernard Fernandez: Margarito's bad 'wrap' soils bout

Posted: November 09, 2010

ON AUG. 31 in this space, I revealed my intention to "boycott" the Nov. 13 Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito bout in Cowboys Stadium so that I might devote my full attention to the Penn State at Ohio State game on the same date.

With the Nittany Lions having won three straight and this past weekend presenting coach Joe Paterno with his 400th career victory, that decision remains firm, despite the fact that North Philadelphia welterweight Mike Jones, in the most important fight of his career to date, has been added to the pay-per-view portion of Pacquiao-Margarito. But it's not just because I think Penn State's next great linebacker, Mike Mauti, vs. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor might make for as much compelling drama as Pacquiao's bid to win the vacant WBC super welterweight title and become the first man to win world titles in eight weight classes that my focus on Saturday will run more toward football.

I still believe - and so does Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs), for that matter - that Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) is not the innocent dupe he professes to be in that hand-wraps scandal, in which a hardened, plasterlike substance was detected in his wraps before he entered the ring for a Jan. 24, 2009, matchup with Shane Mosley in Los Angeles. Sans the loaded wraps - and, really, does anyone really believe he and since-deposed trainer Javier Capetillo didn't get away with using them on prior occasions? - Margarito's sledgehammer power was curiously absent and he was stopped by Mosley in nine rounds.

My feeling then and now is that Margarito, who was handed a 1-year suspension by the California State Athletic Commission, got off light and is undeserving of the hefty purse he is about to receive. Crime, even attempted crime, shouldn't pay so handsomely. But I digress.

A newly elected congressman in his homeland of the Philippines, the 31-year-old Pacquiao is making sounds like he's ready to permanently hang up the gloves in favor of politics. If that turns out to be the case, the Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. megafight that has been on the back burner for what seems like forever might never come off.

Which got me to thinking: If we are seeing the last of "PacMan," what fight of his left unfought will we miss never having witnessed? A go at Mayweather is the obvious candidate, but to my way of thinking there is another "dream" pairing that piques my interest even more. So I turned to Craig Sirulnik, creator of Compufight, whereby computerized matchups of fighters from different eras can be staged.

The showdown I proposed to Sirulnik should be of interest to any true fight fan: Pacquiao vs. the legendary Roberto Duran, prime on prime, at both lightweight (135 pounds) and junior welterweight (140).

We'll get to the results of those two clashes in a bit, but first let's review why I think that, of all the possible matchups in boxing history, Pacquiao-Duran would be near the top of my personal list of must-see events.

Retired Associated Press boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr. recalls the first time he saw Duran, which not coincidentally was the "Hands of Stone's" first ring appearance in the United States, a first-round destruction of Benny Huertas on the Ken Buchanan-Ismael Laguna card in Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13, 1971.

"It was, like, a revelation," Fast Eddie told me. "I remember thinking, 'Good God, who is this guy?' "

We soon were to find out.

"He's the best fighter I've ever written about," Schuyler continued. "In the '70s, he was absolutely unbelievable. He could slip a punch, he could block a punch, he could attack. Just a great, great fighter."

Interestingly, I had a similar epiphany when I saw the then-unknown (at least in America) Pacquiao wrest the IBF super bantamweight championship from South Africa's Lehlohonolo Ledwaba on a sixth-round technical knockout on June 23, 2001, on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya's title-exchanging points nod over WBC super welterweight ruler Javier Castelljo in Las Vegas. Watching Pacquiao systematically dismantle Ledwaba in his first working trip to the United States, I thought, "Jeez, this guy is really, really good. He could be special."

Viewed from the long lens of historical perspective, Duran and Pacquiao are remarkably alike. Both have jet-black hair, an olive hue and the full compendium of boxing skills, including that allimportant finishing instinct. Greatness in boxing is comprised of many things, physically and temperamentally, not the least of which is a trace of necessary professional cruelty.

Sirulnik's emotionless computer didn't offer definitive proof one way or the other as to which of these superb fighters deserves a higher rating on any all-time list. At lightweight, Duran wins by split decision. Five pounds north of that, at junior welterweight, Pacquiao comes away with a split decision. Let the debate begin.

For those interested in trying their hand at fantasy matchmaking, Sirulnik's website is www.compufight.com. E-mail him at info@compufight.com.

'Punisher' promises pain

Big-time boxing returns to Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall on Nov. 20 when Paul "The Punisher" Williams (39-1, 27 KOs) challenges WBC/WBO middleweight champion and fellow southpaw Sergio Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs). In their first, non-title meeting of Dec. 5, 2009, Williams eked out a splitdecision victory, also in Boardwalk Hall, a scrap in which both participants visited the canvas in the first round.

"I'll put a real beating on him this time," Williams vowed. *

Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com

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