Do not count HBOs poet laureate Larry Merchant among those who think Manny Pacquiao is going to just steamroll Antonio Margarito with the greatest of ease on Nov. 13 in Dallas.
Margarito has a chance, Larry told TSS. You cant dismiss him. Hes about the largest welterweight Ive ever seen. If youre trying to make a case for him winning, you have to talk about his size, and the extra motivation he has to...clean up after himself. His can be a difficult style to overcome. Youre talking about a guy who when he was on the top of his game Floyd Mayweather didnt want any part of. But how far he is from the top of his game can only be seen at that fight.
Mayweather did indeed slither away from Margarito in 2006; he and his people said that was because he needed time to heal up a hand injured against Zab Judah. And that Margarito wasnt a big enough name. And why should Floyd fight a guy with four losses. And why should Floyd take a then career high $8 mill when the fight will be worth more later. In other words, his logic and reasoning had more holes in it than Sarah Palins resume and grasp of reality. We digress, though...
To me, that Margarito and this Margarito are a few years, and a perception gulf, apart. Many folks believe Margarito was aided on the way up with his willingness to scoff at fair play, and used loaded gloves to give his pop an octane boost. We cant prove that, but we do know that hes 32 1/2, a couple years past his athletic prime, and that his inactivity, three fights in three-plus years, with time off for bad behavior, cannot help him against the speedy duelist Pacquiao, who turns 32 in December.
Merchant offers a counter to that theory. In a perverse way, maybe the punishment Margarito took against Mosley (Jan. 2009) and Cotto (July 20008), maybe he needed time off, for his body as well as his mind to be restored.
Manny hasnt fought anybody as big, and relentless, as Margarito. But he has to be the favorite, hes the more versatile fighter. But hell be pressured by something he hasnt had to overcome before, depending on what Margarito has left.
Maybe the Kool Aid has gone to my head..but I think Mannys ability to work angles, and land with the precision of a fencer, will render Margarito as effective as Joshua Clottey was against the Congressman. Will the Mexican land a few bombs, probably. But his lack of hand and foot speed makes Freddie Roach giggle like a schoolgirl. I say Manny stops Margarito, with punches he doesnt see, about six of them in a row, around the tenth.
Merchant will also work the Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis lightweight title crack on Nov. 27. In that one, Merchant leans to the cagier vet, the 37-year-old Marquez. He is a remarkable person in the sport, the analyst told TSS. Very few fighters have gotten so much better, and tougher, as theyve gotten older.
The Aussie is 30 years old, a guy who only turns it up a notch when he sees blood, his own or his foes. Can he handle the ring generalship of Marquez? I say no...Merchant noted that he thought Katsidis wouldve been able to get the better of Joel Casamayor, back in their March 2008 tangle, but we note Casamayor, now 39, hadnt slipped so much then, and was able to exit with a TKO10 win. The scribe-turned-TV presence sees a hell of a fight with the best and second best boxers in that division, with Marquez patience and counterpunching ability perhaps being the difference-maker.
Its a hard run to the 2010 home stretch for Merchant, who will also work the Dec. 11 Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana tiff in Vegas. Khan, just 23, is atop just about everyones list as potential load carrier for the sport when this generation of superstars hang em up. Are we not perhaps laying it on too thick, anointing the Brit Pakistani prematurely, going too gaga too early?
Im not gaga for Khan, Merchant said. But I did think he looked very impressive against Malignaggi (TKO11 win) in May.
I second that; in person, Khans game looks water tight. He is a master at maintaining distance, and his jab is a game changer, a tool he can rely on exclusively, and rack up points round after round.
Theres always the question of what happens when he gets hit, Merchant said, as we all flash back to the Sept. 2008 KO loss to Breidis Prescott. To me, Khan is just about past the point where it is obligatory to reference his iffy chin. Hes won five fights since, tightened up his guard immensely, and cannot be seen as having a built in achilles on his face.
Maybe this fight will answer what happen when he gets hit hard, the HBO caller said. It looks like Maidana is slower, not as big, and it may be that hes not the fighter people thought he was after beating Victor Ortiz in June 2009 (TKO6 win).
I tend to think Maidana is quite overrated, certainly not the second best man at 140 as many think. I see Khan taking rounds from the Argentine handily, and then finishing him off with an uppercut. Check out this video will made Freddie Roach drool and giggle. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39kbF7DE5SI)
Lastly, I asked Larry to assess the darling of TMZ, Floyd Mayweather. Are we watching the saga of a man with too much money, too much free time, too few positive role models, go off the rails? If yes, can he and will he get back on the right path?
Mayweather is Mayweather, Larry said, after one of his signature pauses to ponder. His background speaks for itself. Hes now having the kind of problems hes been charged with before.
Merchant wonders, as do all of us, if the legal woes Floyd faces, stemming from an altercation with his ex, with whom he has children, will actually help push a Manny-Money fight forward, or might retard progress on that front. The history is that you cant keep a bad man down in boxing, said Merchant, referring to the possibility that the authorities in Las Vegas, where Floyd is charged, might be inclined to be less harsh on him than a Joe Blow, seeing as how he injects their economy with oodles and cash every time he gloves up.
Hes been able to skirt and dance around anything serious in the past, Larry continued.
But so did Mike Tyson, I interjected.
Right. But a rape charge in a state (Indiana) you dont live in is a little different than the situation Floyd is in, Merchant smartly reasoned. The guy is a potential rainmaker in Las Vegas, a place that could use a lot of rain.
Talking about Mayweathers situation isnt even speculation, its musing, he said. But the longer Mayweather-Pacquiao doesnt happen, the more likely it is something happens, so it never happens.
Would you pay to see Manny Pacquiao vs Saul Alvarez?