By Chris Robinson
If you speak with North Philadelphia’s Naazim Richardson, he will tell you that Antonio Margarito has embraced the villain role bestowed upon him in recent years. Strangely enough, it’s Richardson who has played a big part towards the perception of Margarito changing.
Known best for his work with light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, Richardson took on the role of head trainer for five-time champion Shane Mosley in late 2008 as he prepared for a January 24th fight with Antonio Margarito. Margarito was coming off of his biggest win as a professional, having stopped then-WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto months earlier with a thrilling, come-from-behind TKO, and the Tijuana fighter was a clear favorite heading into the contest.
But the fight didn’t play out as expected, as Mosley pulled out what will likely be his last great performance as he pelted Margarito with power shots at will, registering a 9th round TKO of his inside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Adding to the demoralization, Margarito would be suspended by the California State Athletic Commission following his loss after it was discovered in his dressing room before the bout that he had plaster-coated inserts in his hand wraps.
Richardson had made it his custom to always check the opponent of his fighter’s wraps prior to entering the ring and noticed something peculiar about the way that Javier Capetillo, then trainer of Margarito, was conducting his business. Richardson asked for the inserts to be inspected and the rest is history.
Margarito would endure a lot of backlash from the media and has gone just 1-1 following his suspension, with his last fight being a brutal decision loss to Manny Pacquiao last November that left him with a damaged right eye and a broken orbital bone. But there is still a lot of intrigue with Margarito as he heads into his rematch this Saturday night with Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York, set to be televised by HBO pay-per-view.
Cotto-Margarito II figures to be a thrilling match no matter how it plays out and with so much drama still surrounding Margarito these days, I found it fitting to get Richardson’s take on matters.
This is what Naazim had to say about Cotto’s mindset heading into the rematch, the extremes that Margarito goes through during his fights, the moment he discovered the tampered hand wraps in Margarito’s dressing room, and more…
The motivation of both men…
“It’s an interesting rematch because Cotto is not like the average guy who got knocked out. Cotto doesn’t feel like he was knocked out, he doesn’t feel like he was stopped legitimately. So he has a motivation and Margarito is motivated because he wants to prove that he’s the better athlete and that he’s not injured from the Pacquiao stuff. It’s one of those kind of things. It’s going to be competitive fight and with the motivation that Cotto has, I could maybe see him pulling a twelve-round decision out.”
Who has taken more punishment heading into the rematch…
“The most punishment has to be Margarito, because of the operations and what-not on his eye, so he’s taken the most punishment. You got to realize, he took a lot of punishment in the Cotto fight himself. And then to come back and he’s had rough goings with Paul Williams, Shane Mosley, and Pacquiao.”
The extremes that Margarito goes through…
“You know, how people would go through the extremes that Margarito is going through? How many fighters can continue to go through those extremes? Because very few have proven themselves in rough periods in the same kind of performance he did, with his eye swollen like that with Pacquiao.”
His reason for checking Margarito’s wraps prior to the Mosley bout…
“I checked the hand wraps of my fighter’s opponents. It’s just something I do. I feel that it’s something that has to be done because a lot of fighters I raised up in the sport are family. I got a lot of nephews and cousins, my sons got raised in boxing. So maybe that’s where that overprotective thing came from. It’s just a natural part of the way I do things.”
A sport becoming fatal…
“Well first I was upset because, like I said, I am overprotective of my athletes. And I was upset. I was like ‘I can’t believe this dude’. I feel our sport is rough enough. If you cross the boundaries in our sport it becomes fatal. My thing is, our sport can go from being brutal to becoming fatal. And we have fighters die in the ring. And to this day we don’t know if somebody had something with illegal substances.”
Embracing the role of the bad boy…Tags: Miguel Cotto , Naazim Richardson , Antonio Margarito , Cotto vs Margarito , Cotto-Margarito
“It’s almost like he has embraced that role of the bad boy. He kept taking on these villain-like qualities, with the Cotto thing. And it embarrassed me too, because anything that’s an embarrassment to boxing is an embarrassment to all of us. We can’t separate ourselves from the sport when something negative happens and something goes wrong. When an ear gets bitten and all that stuff, we all know we got tired of hearing that. Everybody you know, you mentioned you are involved in boxing [and someone asks] ‘Do you train fighters? You don’t teach them to bite guy’s ears off do you?’. We got so tired of hearing that. It’s bad looking on all of us when something like that happens.”