With his now trademark dark sunglasses and shaggy hairdo, former three time welterweight champion Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito (38-8, 27KOs) made his first public appearance in his hometown of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, to lend his support to former champ Jackie Nava as she opened up a gym to serve the Tijuana community. Three weeks after his much anticipated rematch with Miguel Cotto, light bruising was visible under the Louis Vuitton shades that have become a staple on the face of the “Tijuana Tornado” after the surgery to repair his right eye following his bout with Manny Pacquiao in which his orbital bone was broken as well as his eye severely damaged.
The effects of that injury reared their ugly heads in his rematch with Cotto since the fight was stopped in the tenth round due to swelling in his right eye.
“The doctor went to my corner, he asked me to tell him how many fingers he was holding up and I told him,” Margarito stated of the events that transpired after the ninth round. “I could see perfectly fine. He said he was going to stop it and I asked him why. He said my eye was too swollen and I told him my eye had been swollen worse before.”
“I asked for one more round but they didn’t want to give it to me. I don’t feel that Cotto beat me. It was a copy of the first fight. I knew that I was losing the fight but in all honesty, I felt my conditioning was great and I felt that I hurt him in that round more than any other.”
As in the previous bout held in 2008, Cotto controlled much of the action for the majority of the fight by boxing and using the ring while Margarito bid his time scoring to the body. The rematch was similar except that Margarito suffered much more as his eye began to swell from the second round on although he didn’t feel that it was any more than other fighters on the same card.
“In the earlier fight, the Brandon fight, they didn’t stop the fight until the end. I think that fighter was more bruised than I was,” the thirty-three year old stated referencing the Brandon Rios-John Murray lightweight battle in which Murray was battered until referee Earl Brown stopped the beating in the eleventh round. “I was throwing punches well, everything was good. I said that if they gave me one more round, I was going to go for the knock out. I think it was the doctor that beat me.”
“I think that when I would catch up to him, he would time me up, I think it was their strategy,” the “Tijuana Tornado” said of the action inside the ring in the rematch. “He was running. At some point he did stop, I think he wanted to feel if I had plaster or not I guess but instead he felt my punch. I think that was their strategy to run and when we were inside, to hold on. He was able to do it for the amount of rounds the fight lasted and I can assure you that if it would have gone on, the same thing that happened in the first fight would have occurred.”
As expected, Margarito’s eye was throughly examined by his own optometrist who gave his right eye a clean bill of health, “My doctor was with me after the fight and checked me in the dressing room. He said my eye was fine and I have an appointment with him in mid-January. It did swell up pretty fast though. I used to apply certain things to my skin to help make it tougher and I think I need to go back to that. Cotto didn’t really hit me with a solid punch for my eye to swell up that way. It was more from grazes. The one that really hit me and made it swell up from a single punch was Manny Pacquiao. I do think its sensitive from the operations but I think that I am ok. I already started to run and I can’t be with out doing some exercise.”
With his rematch ending in an anti-climatic fashion, Margarito mentioned that what might be next for him is an obvious ending to the trilogy.
“I was told that they would like to do a third fight because I think that not even them were happy with the ending and obviously I am not happy with the fight,” Margarito said of the possibility of a third meeting between the two. “I think they were left unsatisfied and we are going to talk to my promoter. Cotto had said that if he didn’t fight in New York, if I wasn’t licensed in New York, that he wouldn’t fight. He said he had signed to fight in New York and the the didn’t want to give me the advantage fighting anywhere else. He felt he had the advantage fighting in New York. They are seeing if there is a possibility to do a return match in May or June. I would love to do it because I didn’t leave satisfied.”
One thing that Margarito feels certain about is the issue of the illegal hand wraps will possibly never disappear as much as he would love to leave it in the past. In his eyes Cotto contradicted himself repeatedly when asked if he believed that Margarito employed illegal wraps in their first bout, “Those doubts they had about the plaster or no plaster, Cotto contradicted himself many times. I believe that he said in one occasion, ‘look at my face’ and he was asked if he felt the same and he said he did. He tried to retract his statements but I think that if they would have given me one or two rounds, the fight would have ended like the first one.”
With the first fight in Las Vegas and the second in New York, Margarito is not too concerned where the third one if it happens takes place. All he is concerned is that it is on an even playing field, something that in New York he doesn’t believe was the case, “That is what they are looking at, the location. He doesn’t want to fight outside of Puerto Rico or New York. I don’t know what Bob is thinking because Cotto is signed with him, maybe the fight will be in Las Vegas. I always said that I hoped they put neutral judges and a neutral referee. The doctor was from New York, they knew, they knew…”
With more than half of his life as a professional boxer, the issues with his eye and losing three out of his last four bouts, it is only natural that Margarito has contemplated retirement. With not many options in his horizon in which he can earn the multi-million paychecks he has grown accustomed to in his most recent wars, Margarito knows that his future in the sport might go hand in hand with the Puerto Rican superstar that he would like to admit.
“It has passed through my mind, retirement, because of the issues with my eye and if I am giving my opponent an advantage but we are going to talk to my promoter and see if he has something good for me and we are going to talk about it,” Margarito said. “I would really like to have a third fight with Cotto if the fight is made and if Cotto accepts. They have mentioned it to me. We are going to see what is going to happen.”
“It’s not that I wouldn’t continue fighting if its not with Cotto, I have to sit down and talk with my promoter,” Margarito stated. “I think we are still good enough for big fights and if its not with Cotto, I am not going to say I would retire, I have to sit down with Top Rank and see what they have planned. If its something good, then I would consider it bit if its not, then I would have to say good bye to boxing. I am committed one hundred percent with my brother in law (super flyweight Hanzel Martinez) who I believe is ascending and I have thought of building a gym and helping young fighters and also of promoting shows which I have began doing in the United States. I want to do some fights here in Tijuana. I would retire from boxing but not from the sport because I would still be a part of it somehow.”
Every blockbuster fight has a story line and in the rematch of Cotto-Margarito II the narrative was shared on the HBO produced “24/7″ series where both fighters traded barbs but Margarito never felt that he crossed the line,” I never insulted him. He called me a criminal and I said, ‘criminal?’ I think everybody knows he beat his family and there is a lot of other things that I didn’t want to mention there. ONe time at a press conference, he was asked to shake my hand and he refused so from then on, he needed to worry about offering me the hand shake because I wasn’t. We never bumped into each other after the fight. While I was at the press conferences, he didn’t want to join the conference while I was there. I don’t know if you saw the referee ask us to touch gloves before we fought and he refused. We never bumped into each other after and we never had words away from the cameras.”
One thing that was mentioned numerous times by boxing media was that Margarito seemed to accept the role of the villain in the saga but as far as he was concerned, he never agreed to wear the black hat despite any remarks he might have made.
“I never accepted it. I only said that at the press conference because he would call me that and I meant it as a joke,” Margarito said with a chuckle about the now infamous line, “make way for the criminal,” he uttered at the final presser before the bout. “I didn’t mean it as a sign that I had accepted the part of the villain. I think he did a good job on ’24/7′ on showing side with his family, his mother, very affectionate but who isn’t like that with their family? He wanted to portray himself as a good person but those who know and I know thousands of things about him, that its not all true and they shouldn’t try to make me look as the villain.”