Movie or Aladdin serving Margarito? Tough

Feb 14, 2006 3:38 AM

Two tough guys from border towns will reopen the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas to the sweet science, and the match borders on inane.

Antonio Margarito, whose promoter, Bob Arum, keeps howling is being avoided by all the top welterweights, won’t be facing one of the better 147-pounders when he meets Manny Gomez on top of a pay-per-view card.

Margarito, a tough guy from Tijuana, should have little trouble dominating the tough journeyman from the streets of Laredo, Texas. But winning as an 11-1 favorite (down from 13-1 on the Internet) on a marginal PPV show will not enhance Margarito’s stature as the WBO welterweight champion.

This means he will not bring much to the negotiating table for desired matches against Carlos Baldomir (the Argentine of ordinary means who took the real welterweight title from Zab Judah); Ricky Hatton (the real junior welterweight champion) or Arturo Gatti.

The only name Arum keeps bringing up is Floyd Mayweather Jr. If one were cynical, one might think the promoter was trying to knock off his often-cantankerous star and gain another Hispanic drawing card.

When Judah lost to Baldomir, threatening his April 8 date with Mayweather, Arum could have smoothly put in Margarito. Instead, Arum explained he couldn’t do that to the Aladdin.

Yeah.

Hey, the Aladdin was the scene of some of my favorite boxing moments. It was in receivership or something, about to be taken over by Wayne Newton. Yes, that Wayne Newton — the guy who used to be Mike Tyson’s next-door neighbor. It was still operating as a hotel. The press for the Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali bout were billeted there, along with the undercard fighters. Yet, the casino was dark.

Some things I’ll never forget about the Aladdin.

”¡ Newton walking through his new property, pulling the handles on slot machines as if to test them.

”¡ Leon Spinks, fighting Bernardo Mercardo on the undercard to determined a mandatory challenger for Holmes, dancing in the wee small hours in a lounge with what looked like powdered sugar under his nose. (Who could resist coffee shop donuts?).

Spinks was also the source of another great Aladdin moment. Earlier, he was lucky to get a draw with Eddie (The Animal) Lopez. One reporter asked him if the result would harm his comeback and Leon said, "A draw? Nobody wins, nobody loses and everybody gets to fight another day." Never heard a better definition.

I digress. Margarito, to a degree, reminds me of Jose Luis Castillo, still Mayweather’s toughest opponent except he is even bigger. He is not as good a boxer as the overgrown lightweight, though, and tends to get nailed regularly with right hands. The thing is, Margarito’s head seems tough enough to do more harm to the hands — especially Gatti’s fragile right.

Against Gomez, getting hit with rights might not matter. True, the challenger has not lost since 1998 so let’s not belittle his 28-10-2 record. Gomez is nicknamed "Shot Gun." It might as well be "Pop Gun." Margarito has vowed to knock him out by the fifth round. That would be impressive except to us cynics wondering who Gomez was anyway!

I don’t think the underdog is worth the 6-1 buy-back price. Gosh, the Net takes more vig than my old Brooklyn candystore did! Although no lines were listed either on the Net or in a couple of Vegas casinos I visited just 10 days before the bout, there might be more interesting action in two other "title" fights on the card.

Brian Villoria, the Hawaiian Punch of Filipino descent, defends his WBC junior flyweight title (108-pound limit) against former title-holder, Jose Antonio Aguirre. Also, "Iron Man" Ivan Calderon defends his WBO strawweight (105-pound limit) against Isaac Bustos. If referring to Calderon’s punching power, this "iron" is softer than the lead in my pencil.

The two undefeated champions should survive, perhaps to eventually meet if Arum can stand to see one of his guys lose to another. Calderon is a purist’s delight, a southpaw technician, who is elusive and quick. But I have seen him wear down and become fatigued. Calderon would never be my selection unless as a major underdog, which he could be against Viloria.

As usual on Arum pay-per-view cards, there is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. This time Junior is rematched with Carlos Molina (8-1-1), the guy who put the "1"on the 23-0-1 record of the Prince.

It sounds like a good night to go to a movie. Although with popcorn, it’s probably not a whole lot cheaper.