Story and photos by Felipe Leon
Early Saturday afternoon, Tijuana, Mexico, gave its final farewell to the in-ring antics of one its most celebrated champions, Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito. The thirty-four year old Margarito, known for a typical Mexican high pressure style, announced his retirement from the ring earlier this year after a career that began at the age of fifteen and spanned seventeen years. Margarito amassed a 38-8 record with twenty-seven wins coming in within the distance. The event was held at the CREA Sports Complex of Tijuana and was attended by a small but enthusiastic crowd.
Juan Carlos Pelayo, the current director for the Tijuana Boxing Commission, opened up the festivities, “Margarito achieved all his success inside the ring after a lot of hard work in and outside the ring. Like any other Mexican, Margarito has suffered a lot, leaving school after junior high and losing his beloved brother, Manuel Margarito, to murder one day prior to his fight with Robert West in 2001.”
Pelayo then went on to offer a brief synopsis of Margarito’s career.
After making his debut in 1994 with a unanimous decision over Jose Trujillo and suffering some early losses in his career, Margarito captured his first word title in 2002 by stopping Antonio Diaz. Margarito held the WBO welterweight strap for five years before losing it to Paul Williams in July ’07 via unanimous decision. Margarito went on to capture the IBF welterweight title by knocking out Kermit Cintron for the second time and then in the biggest win of his career, Miguel Cotto to capture the WBA version in mid ’08. Reaching the heights of popularity after his come from behind win over Cotto, Margarito found himself in a world of controversy in the aftermath his next bout, a knock out loss to Shane Mosley, after it was found out that his then trainer Javier Capetillo used illegal hand wraps prior to the Mosley fight.
After a year suspension, Margarito returned with a win over Robert “Amenaza” Garcia and then suffered an excruciating loss to Manny Pacquiao where his left orbital bone was broken which would lead to his retirement but only after suffering another loss in his rematch against Miguel Cotto late last year in what turned out to be his last bout.
“I know how difficult the decision to retire was for you but I understand since a person’s health is always much more important,” Pelayo stated in closing. “Mexico but especially Tijuana is proud to have you in its ranks as one of the best fighter’s in its history and for this we thank and congratulate you.”
Also present at the ceremony was former WBA and WBO light flyweight champion Giovanni Segura who also took the podium.
“I have had the honor to know Margarito and to train with him,” Segura said. “He is one of the few boxers who has reached such heights of success but has stayed ground, humble. I can tell you there are some boxers out there that haven’t achieved what Tony has and do not act the same. Tony will never say no to an autograph or picture request and is one of the nicest people I have ever met.”
“Margarito has gone through many battles, many highs and lows, and he has not changed. He serves as an example to many, including myself. I know how hard the decision to retire his, I am not there yet and just thinking of it I know how difficult it would be.”
Margarito’s father, Antonio Margarito Sr., also took the microphone briefly to tell a short story of Margarito which drew laughter from the captivated audience. Margarito Sr. described how when Antonio first began training and doing his road work, he would come back home drenched in what the young Margarito would want his father believe was sweat. Knowing better, the elder Margarito decided one day to spy on his saw and discovered that Antonio would wet himself with the neighbor’s hose before entering the home. The father didn’t make an issue of it when Antonio came home but had him work the heavy bag until Antonio was truly covered in sweat. At that point his father announced, “We’ll do this again tomorrow but make sure you wet yourself with the neighbor’s hose again before you come home.”
After several other speakers, it was Margarito’s turn to address the crowd.
“This was a very difficult decision to make. I began boxing at the age of eight to please my father who is such a big fan of the sport,” the affable Margarito said. “I left school at an early age to dedicate myself to the sport and he told me if I was going to do it, try my hardest.”
Margarito then went on to mention that the overwhelming reason for his retirement was the injury he suffered to this right eye in the Pacquiao fight and how it now reacts to punishment. Margarito also made a point to state that he felt the second Cotto fight was stopped to early due to the eye.
Antonio also shared his future plans to promote boxing events along with his long time managers Sergio Diaz and Francisco Espinoza as well as leading the career of his brother in law, super flyweight Hanzel “Tornadito” Martinez who he tells, “don’t strive to be like me but to be better than me.”
In the only mention of the controversy regarding the illegal hand wraps of ‘09 by anybody on the dais, Margarito stressed that, “I was always clean. In my career I just wanted to win but I never wanted to hurt my opponents. “
In closing, Margarito said, “I always fought for Tijuana; I dedicated all my fights to Tijuana and to put the name of my city in lights. I want to give thanks to everybody who helped me along the way. I am closer to my family now, my friends and especially my father. When I first decided to retire, I was truly sad but now I am truly happy. I am not going to box anymore but I am not leaving boxing.”