"Super Welterweight Title Fight" = Super Disappointment
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Maybe it's the travel lag...and/or my general grumpiness.
Because after a seven-day stretch that's included more than 2,000 road miles over four states and two time zones - not to mention a pair of multi-hour plane rides, stays in three hotels and what seemed like 100 hours of convention events - I'm a little short on patience.
So when I began making notes to create this week's column in the lobby of yet another lodging establishment in lovely Macon, Ga. - free wireless coverage at La Quinta Inns & Suites rocks, by the way - I was already on the prowl for someone to tear into.
With that as an objective, boxing rarely disappoints.
And this time around, it's the same-old chorus on a brand-new song.
Much as he did this time last year with news he'd face Miguel Cotto for the WBO welterweight championship, Filipino phenomenon Manny Pacquiao is commandeering headlines this week with the choice of his next title-fight opponent - Antonio Margarito.
According to multiple reports, Pacquiao will meet the disgraced former 147- pound kingpin on Nov. 13 in either Nevada or Mexico, pending Margarito's eventual status in Las Vegas after would-be locker room shenanigans with Shane Mosley 18 months ago.
The debate on whether Margarito should fight at all is still a lively one.
And because no one outside of he and his closest teammates really knows what happened in the back rooms at Staples Center a year ago January, I'll defer to the judgment of the Nevada commission to make a correct call after examining the evidence.
If they say he deserves a license, let him fight here.
If not, let him slink back to Mexico and do it on home turf.
Makes no difference to me. And the show goes on regardless.
Rather, my beef lies with the other machinations Bob Arum and Co. are poised to employ while billing Pacquiao-Margarito a "WBC super welterweight championship" fight.
The fact Arum created any scenario in which the reigning WBO welterweight champion meets a man two fights from elite status ensures a lead SportsCenter placement come mid-November.
The best at 147 is chasing history against a man considered dominant not long ago.
That without question is a good thing.
But like last year when it aimed for Cotto's crown, Team Pacquiao is mandating a dubious catch-weight provision to have the men fight well below the established limit for the division - four pounds, to be exact - which has long been 154 pounds.
Then a reigning welterweight champion, Cotto was contracted to defend at 145.
In competing for a super welter title, Margarito is now being held to 150.
And 12 months later...the taste it leaves is no less bitter.
Especially considering the revived frenzy the bout creates to tag Pacquiao a throwback and label his recent weight-rising dominance superior to Henry Armstrong in the 30s and 40s.
According to multiple reports, Manny Pacquiao will meet Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13.
Only a fool would contend that Manny's not great.
In fact, it takes far less than a genius - whether "Pactard" or "Flomo" - to see he's an all-timer bound for deservedly special treatment at Canastota.
But no matter how many belts he adds, wrong remains wrong.
And if you don't agree, simply take a closer look.
Even if nothing had preceded it at lower weights, Pacquiao's climb to elite status at 130 pounds with his win over Juan Manuel Marquez - albeit a close and controversial one - was evidence enough to prove legitimate pound-for- pound prowess.
Since then, though, it's sometimes gotten a little murky.
While recounting breathless history, remember the title climb to 135 pounds was not made against an incumbent three-belt champ who'd beaten the previous No. 1, but with a more favorable match in David Diaz - then only the WBC claimant - as heavy bag of choice.
A brutal shellacking of Oscar De La Hoya six months later was impressive and rightfully earned Manny kudos. Lest I forget, I chose De La Hoya by easy KO going in and never dreamed an upset would have approached the destruction Pacquiao unleashed.
But the Golden Boy's imprudent weight loss - 145 pounds?!? - casts at least some shadow.
And an oft-unmentioned reality is Oscar's seven-year absence from the division hardly makes any conqueror - even a streaking Pacquiao - an Armstrong-like claimant to the throne.
Had De La Hoya lost to Steve Forbes at 147 a fight earlier, no one would have called the former "Contender" participant the division's new terror. But because he's the "it" guy, anything Manny touches - even a guy whose last win at 147 came in 2001 - turns to gold.
At 140, no plausible denial applies to Pacquiao's blitz of Ricky Hatton, whom he clearly defeated to establish himself as the new top man.
But the subsequent slight rise to meet Cotto at stand-in weight re-opens a can of worms similar to the one following the match with a shrunken Oscar.
And let's not even mention Josh Clottey, shall we?
For those unaware, history shows "Homicide Hank" used no such loopholes.
When he won the featherweight title in 1937, his foe weighed 126. When he copped the welterweight title in 1938, he conceded several pounds and won double-digit rounds on all cards. And when he took the lightweight title just three months later, he weighed 134.
"Fighter of the Decade" laurels notwithstanding, Pac's not approached those feats.
It's not even close.
But it is pretty simple.
If Manny wants to weigh 150 pounds while attempting to claim another title, so be it.
And if Margarito chooses to slim down in competing against him, that's fine, too.
But fudging established rules to orchestrate big events is wrong. And it removes any legitimacy existent when comparing Pacquiao's laudable exploits to Armstrong's legendary ones.
I understand his cash cow status allows leverage and I understand Margarito is free to walk, but it'd sure be nice to hear purists break sweats on tirades over title-bout replicas like they do while likening flimsy imitations to true multi-division trailblazers of decades past.
As for the fight itself, Margarito's got no chance. Plaster or no plaster.
Pacquiao in 8.
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This week's title-fight schedule:
SATURDAY IBF junior bantamweight title - Tepic, Mexico Simphiwe Nongqayi (champion) vs. Alberto Rosas (No. 1 contender) Nongqayi (16-0-1, 6 KO): Second title defense; Third fight in Mexico (2-0, 0 KO) Rosas (31-5, 25 KO): First title fight; Six wins in 11 fights after 25-0 start
Fitzbitz says: "The South African is hardly a dominant champion, but he'll be good enough here." Nongqayi by decision
WBA/WBO lightweight title - Las Vegas, Nev. Juan Manuel Marquez (WBA/WBO champion) vs. Juan Diaz (No. 8 WBA/No. 3 WBO contender) Marquez (50-5-1, 37 KO): First WBA/WBO title defenses; Stopped Diaz in nine rounds in 2009 Diaz (35-3, 17 KO): Twelfth title fight (9-2, 4 KO); Former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion at 135
Fitzbitz says: "Marquez was better last time. He's better this time. Similar result." Marquez by decision
Vacant WBO middleweight title - Las Vegas, Nev. Daniel Jacobs (No. 1 contender) vs. Dmitry Pirog (No. 2 contender) Jacobs (20-0, 17 KO): First title fight; Two fights at or below middleweight limit (2-0, 1 KO) Pirog (16-0, 13 KO): First title fight; First fight in North America
Fitzbitz says: "They say Jacobs is the real deal. I'll believe for now until proven wrong." Jacobs by decision
Last week's picks: 1-1
Overall picks record: 210-73 (74.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.