Although a venue has yet to be finalized, promoter Bob Arum revealed earlier today that Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao will indeed face former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito on November 13 for the vacant WBC jr. middleweight title. Speaking to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Arum explained that, ultimately, he decided on Margarito because fans will look at it as a more competitive matchup as opposed to a rematch with Cotto, who Pacquiao soundly defeated last November via 12th round TKO. The question is was it Pacquiao who made that decision or Bob Arum?
"Cotto was beaten and even with [Hall of Fame trainer] Emanuel Steward now with him, I don't think people believe that it's enough to make a difference and I'm not sure they would buy it as competitive," Arum stated. "But putting aside the controversy about the wraps, the one thing you know for sure with a Margarito fight is that it will be a hell of a fight for however long it lasts." Putting aside the controversy about the wraps, however, may not be quite as easy as it sounds. After all, it seems like just yesterday when trainer Naazim Richardson caught Margarito with a hardened substance in his handwraps moments before his 9th round TKO loss to Shane Mosley. After serving a year-long suspension from the sport, Margarito made a successful return to the ring this past May, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Robert Garcia, but it was a performancee that looked to be far-removed from the days when people referred to him as "The Most Feared Welterweight in the World."
Regardless, the news of Margarito being chosen as Pacquiao's next opponent should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. Members of Margarito's camp have been saying for months that, according to what they were told, it would be Margarito, not Cotto, who was next in line to face Pacquiao if a fight with Mayweather did not come to fruition. Not to metion, given that Cotto already holds one of the jr. middleweight titles, it became a no-brainer for Arum to push for a Pacquiao-Margarito showdown the minute that Margarito was instilled as the #1 contender for the vacant WBC title. As a promoter, it makes much more sense for Arum to have two jr. middleweight champions as opposed to one, and what better way to make that a reality than to have two Top Rank fighters, Pacquiao and Margarito, fight for the title? That being said, one has to wonder, did Manny Pacquiao truly select Margarito as his next opponent, or was this a decision made by Arum for the benefit of his own promotional company.
ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael would later reveal on tonight's broadcast of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights that although several reports suggest that Arum is leaning towards Margarito, the Filipino superstar has yet to make a decision, according to his adviser, Michael Koncz. "I spoke, before the show, with Michael Koncz, who is the adviser for Manny Pacquiao, and he said although that is Bob's preference, until he presents him with an actual deal, with money, the venue and all the particulars, and until Michael then takes it back to the Philippines and sits with Manny and talks to him about it in person, there is no deal just yet," Rafael would explain. "But the reason why that probably is the case is because you have Bob Arum on the side also talking about Miguel Cotto's fight. I thought I'd talk to Lou DiBella before the show tonight, that's the promoter for Andre Berto, and there are conversations right now taking place between Bob and Lou about a fall fight between Miguel Cotto and Andre Berto."
It looks like Bob Arum is a busy man these days as he continues to position his pawns on the boxing chessboard. Just last week, during his 3AM ET conference call, Arum was adamant about letting Pacquiao make his own decision regarding his next opponent. "I have to discuss with Manny who he prefers then get everything put together. It will be Manny's decision. I do not have a preference," Arum would stress. "I want Manny to decide. He is a very intelligent guy and knows what the considerations are and whomever he selects is who we will go after and make the fight." Having already begun discussions with Lou DiBella regarding Andre Berto's availability, however, hasn't Arum practically eliminated Miguel Cotto as a potential choice for Pacquiao?
Nevertheless, Pacquiao has never been one to turn down a fight with anyone placed in front of him, so it appears as though it will in fact be Margarito on November 13. The bout will likely take place in Las Vegas, provided Margarito can get a license in Nevada after his lengthy suspension, or in Monterrey, Mexico, and will be televised on HBO Pay-Per-View. Should Pacquiao win, he'll earn another title in an unprecedented 8th division.