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Were we too hard on Antonio Margarito?

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Antonio Margarito’s Retirement & Reflecting on his Status

Antonio Margarito retired this week and it seemed like the general tone of the public was “good riddance.” It’s difficult to remember a more reputation-damaging event than when Antonio Margarito got busted loading wraps for his fight with Shane Mosley. Ironically, Mosley retired the same week that Margarito hung ‘em up.

The almost simultaneous retirements provide an interesting parallel and contrast. Margarito’s retirement was met with feeling of vitriol, while Mosley seemed to get a good-natured sendoff. Mosley was caught up tin he whole Balco deal. He took roids unbeknownst to him, as he claims. Margarito claims the same thing. Is there a distinction? I guess it’s an easier task to sneakily rub roid cream on a guy than load plaster onto his wraps without him knowing, but isn’t that splitting hairs?

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Not only that, but as we know from the BALCO case, Mosley actually was “unknowingly” on the juice, as well as the performance enhancing drug EPO, in the second De La Hoya fight. Margarito got caught before anything really happened. And still, the media and fan venom for Margarito far exceeds what has been directed at Mosley. Strange.

Further, why does everyone assume that was a one-time deal for Mosley, while having no qualms about assuming every meaningful Margarito win should have an asterisk next to it? What is the distinction? If a guy uses PED’s, that is cheating. Loading wraps is cheating. Why is the wrap tamperer in this equation more likely to be a repeat offender?

Would you rather fight a guy juicing or a guy loading wraps? The answer is neither. They’re both underhanded and make an already-dangerous sport more treacherous and potentially fatal than it already is. I’m not sure if people are either too hard on Margarito or not hard enough on guys getting caught using.

I can understand the disgust and recrimination of Margarito and how he went from a fan-favorite to a marginalized figure in the sport. But even Mike Tyson was forgiven to some extent. And that’s for cannibalizing another man! There was no path to redemption available for Margarito. There was really nothing he could’ve done.

Fine. But now that Cotto gets to wave a wand and erase his loss to Margarito, can I stop hearing about how Mosley beat Oscar De La Hoya twice? Does Amir Khan get a pass for losing to Lamont Peterson? Does Jan Zaveck’s loss to Andre Berto still count? Does Victor Ortiz get more credit now for beating Berto? I mean, let’s either apply standards evenly or not apply them at all.

[Also Read: Steroid Use in Boxing & Nobody Cares]

I won’t deny that what happened before the Mosley fight makes Margarito a target for skepticism that could spread over his best wins. But he is no Panama Lewis. He didn’t maim anyone. There’s no Billy Collins in this story, but he catches so much hell that there might as well be. And if you count Cotto as a victim for the beating he took, you don’t know that for sure. If you think you can rightfully say that he was loading gloves against Cotto, then all cheaters’ wins should be drawn into equal question and I don’t see that happening. The only constant application of that standard that is in practice is the widespread disregard for Margarito knocking out Cotto.

This is not meant to scrutinize the career of Shane Mosley or to say that Margarito is a swell guy. I more or less look at Sugar Shane’s career at face-value. And he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a class act as far as I’m concerned. But to paint Antonio Margarito in the exact opposite light is a little harsh. When he was still fighting, it was understandable. But now that he called it quits, we have to struggle with how to really perceive the man and the fighter. You want to call him a scumbag and just shake the etch-o-sketch clean on his whole career, go ahead. But then we’re going to be here for a while because he’s not the only one who should be catching flack.

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Scott Levinson has been a rabid boxing fan since his earliest memories. A writer and educator, Scott has been studying the sport's history for over 25 years. He also has extensive knowledge of the game on an international level, as he has closely followed the sport in Europe, Asia, and South America for many years. He is based in the San Diego area, and can be contacted at scottmlevinson@yahoo.com.