By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Quick… someone get Luis Resto on the phone.
And ask the once-wily Puerto Rican, now 56 years old, what he’ll be doing on Saturday night.
If I were him, it would have zero to do with Madison Square Garden.
You know the place. Big building. Midtown Manhattan.
Bills itself as the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
But for Resto, a fringe contender in the 147-154 corridor three decades ago, it’s something else.
The place his career ended.
Make that the place where his career rightfully ended.
Because before we get too far afield, make no mistake.
This is in no way an apologist moan for Resto, who was complicit in the biggest in-ring crime of my generation. A crime that many claim started a downturn that ultimately cost another man – a once-unbeaten kid named Billy Collins – his life.
Anyone who’s paid attention since 1983 knows the story.
Tampered gloves. Vehement denials. Lifetime suspensions.
And eventually, tearful admissions in front of documentary cameras of all-too-painful knowledge.
Resto knew what was going on. Yet he went ahead and did it.
And no matter how you slice it, that made him a sporting criminal of the vilest sort.
So it’s sort of ironic that on Saturday night, a full 28 years, five months and 17 days later… another hoodlum – whose only defense is that his act resulted in no death – gets a chance Resto never did.
Another redemption. Another payday. Another chance to shine.
In the same building where Resto’s spotlight faded.
Rather than being exiled, as Resto was, to begging for tenuous connection to the sport 28 years later, Margarito will be in center ring at Madison Square Garden.
Paycheck in the bank. Title on the line.
Resto’s people removed padding. Margarito’s added what amounted to plaster.
One man goes away forever.
Another hides out for a year and comes back for a second title try in 13 months.
Never mind that veteran fighters, trainers and analysts have insisted there's no way a guy with Margarito's experience – he'd been a pro for 15 years when he met Shane Mosley in 2009 – couldn’t have known something up with the hand wrap done that night by Javier Capetillo.
Because he artfully sold the "who me?" line and because the offense was detected before the fight and not after Mosley had been violated, the two-time champ got the benefit of the doubt when it came to proper punishment for what went on in Los Angeles.
And through the magic of Bob Arum… he’s title material again.
Resto made similar hollow claims, with a less than similar marketing machine.
But regardless of the Top Rank spin, just because Margarito didn't get away with it doesn't mean it wasn't a crime. Just because Bob says it's OK now doesn't mean he’s any less loathsome for doing so. And just because they put it on TV and call it a title fight, doesn’t mean we have to buy in.
Nobody asked me… but I’ll be saving the plane fare, the hotel room and my conscience.
And when I wake up Sunday morning, I’ll be hoping to read that everyone got what they deserved.
Good luck, Miguel.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO super featherweight title – Mt. Claremont, Australia
Will Tomlinson (No. 35 contender) vs. Alan Herrera (No. 49 contender)
Tomlinson (17-0-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Three fights past eight rounds (3-0, 0 KO)
Herrera (26-3, 17 KO): First title fight; Second fight outside Mexico (0-1, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Still on the fringe of the elite, but hometowner gets a belt.” Tomlinson by decision
WBA featherweight title – Mt. Claremont, Australia
Chris John (champion) vs. Stanyslav Merdov (No. 11 contender)
John (45-0-2, 22 KO): Fourteenth title defense; Zero stoppage wins since 2008 (4-0-1)
Merdov (32-7, 24 KO): First title fight; One 12-round fight since 2007 (1-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Indonesian star continues grinding in anonymity.” John by decision
WBC cruiserweight title – Mt. Claremont, Australia
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (champion) vs. Danny Green (No. 15 contender)
Wlodarczyk (45-2-1, 32 KO): Third title defense; Held IBF title (2006-07, zero defenses)
Green (31-4, 27 KO): Tenth title fight (6-3, 4 KO); Held titles at 175 (WBA) and 200 (IBO) pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Ex-champ rebounds in backyard return.” Green in 9
WBA middleweight title – Mannheim, Germany
Felix Sturm (champion) vs. Martin Murray (No. 3 contender)
Sturm (36-2-1, 15 KO): Eleventh title defense; Unbeaten since 2006 (11-0-1, 4 KO)
Murray (23-0, 10 KO): First title fight; Three straight wins by stoppage (12 rounds)
Fitzbitz says: “Like John, Sturm continues to cruise in shadows.” Sturm by decision
IBF bantamweight title – Anaheim, Calif.
Abner Mares (champion) vs. Joseph Agbeko (No. 3 contender)
Mares (22-0-1, 13 KO): First title defense; Beat Agbeko in August (MD 12)
Agbeko (28-3, 22 KO): Seventh title fight; Two reigns as IBF champion (two defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Frenetic body punching makes rematch win more clear.” Mares by decision
WBA/IBO bantamweight titles – Anaheim, Calif.
Anselmo Moreno (WBA champion) vs. Vic Darchinyan (IBO champion)
Moreno (31-1-1, 11 KO): Ninth title defense; First fight in United States
Darchinyan (37-3-1, 27 KO): Second title defense; Held belts at 112, 115 and 118 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Smooth South American champion out-styles caveman Aussie.” Moreno by decision
WBA super welterweight title – New York, N.Y.
Miguel Cotto (champion) vs. Antonio Margarito (No. 4 contender)
Cotto (36-2, 29 KO): Second title defense; Lost to Margarito in 2008 (KO by 11)
Margarito (38-7, 27 KO): Fifteenth title fight; Held IBF, WBA, WBO titles at 147 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Wiser Puerto Rican finishes job started three years ago.” Cotto by decision
WBC featherweight title – Mexico City, Mexico
Jhonny Gonzalez (champion) vs. Roinet Caballero (No. 9 contender)
Gonzalez (50-7, 44 KO): Third title defense; Ten straight wins by stoppage (29 rounds)
Caballero (31-10-1, 22 KO): Second title fight; Second fight outside Panama (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Slugging champion continues impressive resurgence.” Gonzalez in 9
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 3-1
Overall picks record: 267-88 (75.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.