Williams, Trout and Pendarvis Play “Pac-Man” By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 25, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
In a few weeks, Antonio Margarito faces Manny Pacquiao, considered the best active prizefighter in the world. The “Pac-Man” is a sublime mix of speed, power, quickness, dexterity, and accuracy. It's never an easy task finding the appropriate sparring mates in preparing for a southpaw; it's an even more difficult chore when it comes to finding boxers who can replicate the noted congressman.
To paraphrase Larry Merchant, it's not like Manny Pacquiaos just grow in the rice paddies in the Philippines.
With that in mind, as Margarito received the assignment to face Pacquiao on November 13th during the summer, his brain trust came up with a mental list of just who would give Margarito the look he would need in the gym and would accept such a job. It's usually a thankless task, only accepted by young fighters in need of such experience or old pros who, quite frankly, need the money.
The casting call was on for fast southpaws with the ability to throw quick combinations, who could also move quickly on their feet. And the more diminutive, the better, as to give Margarito the feel of facing an opponent who was that much shorter than he was. With that, the trio of Ricardo Williams, Austin Trout (pictured above) and Cleotis Pendarvis has provided the bulk of sparring for Margarito at the Oxnard Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California, where Margarito has made this training camp.
On Monday, October 18th, Margarito went a brisk 12 rounds.
First up was Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis, a welterweight from Los Angeles, who has a professional mark of 10-3-2 with 4 KOs to his credit. Pendarvis is 24 years old and his number is always on the Rolodex of established fighters when they are matched with left-handed fighters. He is a boxer well-known throughout the Southern California boxing circles.
Pendarvis says of sparring the “Tijuana Tornado,” "He applies a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. And right along with the pressure, he throws a lot of punches. So it's something else dealing with him in that ring." Like the other sparring partners, he has success in the first round before that pressure he talks about mounts in the subsequent heats. "Exactly. If you're not on shape, you're not going to be able to last 12 rounds."
But in this instance, each sparring partner is asked to go no more than three or four rounds before being rotated out. The directive is clear- do not hold back on Margarito. The same level of energy and explosion that is possessed by Pacquiao may not be matched by one person over the course of the sparring session but the hope is that a collective effort by several people can provide a reasonable facsimile.
"I've never told them to hold back," said Margarito's trainer, Robert Garcia. "Hey, if they are able to hurt him, then go ahead and hurt him. They gotta come in there and bring their best."
However, in light of what took place before his lopsided loss to Shane Mosley, where illegal pads were found in his hand wrappings, the question has to be asked: Does Margarito still hit hard or was his thudding power the result of illicit means?
Pendarvis says, "He has real good punching power. I think all that Margarito has to do is just keep on coming forward in this fight and apply the pressure and Pacquiao will feel his power. I mean, the situation with Shane; that happened a year ago. That was just a misunderstanding. Things happen in this game."
Next up was Trout, who is no stranger to Margarito, as he served as one of Margarito’s sparring partners in preparation for Paul Williams in 2007. Asked about this version of Margarito versus the one he faced before, Trout answered, "In the Paul Williams camp, he was just a real strong, in-shape tough fighter and that was very evident. Now, he's more a sharper fighter, I feel, in my personal experience."
But what about any difference in punching power?
"He still hits hard; he's still strong," said Trout, who is 21-0 (13) and will be fighting for the vacant WBA junior middleweight title on December 4th versus Rigoberto Alvarez. "There's just more method to his madness then there was before." That being said, in light of the past allegations (which resulted in Margarito losing his boxing license for over a year), did he have any reservations in coming back to work with him? "Yeah, it crossed my mind," he admitted. "But then again, I looked at it; if he did, then I got one helluva chin because I took it, I ate it, and I came back the next day for some more."
According to Margarito's manager, Sergio Diaz, boxers were very receptive to working with them for this camp.
"I thought it was going to be a lot harder but, no, fighters actually we're calling me offering their help," Diaz said. "Southpaws in that weight, that height, it was going to be something difficult but we had a lot of southpaws giving us calls, offering their help."
Maybe it's the economy but work is work. And it's a rite of passage for many boxers to go through the rigors of a training camp in helping marquee fighters’ prep for big bouts.
The final three rounds of this day were the responsibility of one Ricardo Williams, 16-2 (9), the former 2000 Olympic silver medalist, who is in the process of rebuilding his career and life after serving time in federal prison for drug trafficking earlier this decade.
"It's a great all-around experience. You don't get to spar with world championship boxers often like this," he told Maxboxing. "Especially being able to help for a fight like Pacquiao. It's just an honor to be able to be called in as a sparring partner for Pacquiao."
When you spar with Margarito, it's a physically grueling experience, one where you will hit and be hit. But this is no game of light tag. Every session is one that is hard and arduous.
"The way it looks is the way it is," says Williams, laughing. "It's tough but he's getting ready for a fight that can change his whole life. It's probably one of the biggest fights in his career so he's going to make it through and we're here to make it tough. We're not here to be friends. We can be friends after we help him. But right now, we're here to help."
He says of Margarito, "He's a smart pressure fighter. He puts pressure on you but he knows what shots to throw and he knows how to protect himself. He's not reckless." So did Williams ever question if he wanted to aid Margarito, given his sordid history? "Nah, there was no hesitation on my part," he answered. "I mean, just being around him, seeing what type of person he is. Everybody is entitled to a mistake; he said it was a mistake; it was a mistake. I haven't seen any illegal hand wraps used since I've been here so I didn't have any complaints."
A familiar pattern develops during these 12 innings of sparring (two of which were boxed with a young fighter by the name of Kareem “Casey” Carlos Martinez, with Trout going four stanzas and Williams and Pendarvis going three each); the first round was usually when the sparring partners had the most success against the slow-starting Mexican. But as Margarito gets his hands moving and ups the pressure, he still exhibits his trademark left uppercut and body attack. He has never been a one-punch knockout artist; his success is predicated on steadily grinding away at an opponent with a two-fisted attack that chips away at his opponents resolve. On the flipside, he still doesn't utilize a stiff jab from the outside (making him easy to time); he can be easily outmaneuvered from the perimeter and when it comes to slipping punches. He isn't Wilfredo Benitez, to say the least.
But that doesn't make Margarito an easy mark. In fact, every sparring partner in this camp has called it the toughest work that they have ever engaged in. "Definitely, he's the toughest work so far," said Trout, who has been in there with Shane Mosley, Kelly Pavlik and Sergio Mora. Pendarvis states, "I would say him and Shane Mosley. Physically, those are the two toughest I've ever sparred."
So does Margarito- who is about a seven-to-one 'dog- have any shot against the Filipino whirlwind?
"Most definitely I give him a shot," said Trout. "I don't know what the odds are talking about but I'll take it." Pendarvis says, "I give him a 50-50 chance. I think it could go either way. I don't think Manny Pacquiao is just totally on another level from Margarito. I feel Manny fought a lot of guys that wasn't there- they weren't there in their prime. So I feel this guy right here, he's one of the hardest workers in the game. So we just have to see how it works out. I think it's up for grabs."
Williams will put his money where his mouth is.
"Oh, yeah, most definitely, most definitely, especially with the guys around here helping him. I give him a real good shot. Seven-to-one odds, I'm going to place my bets."
What else do you expect them to say? After all, it would be bad politics to say otherwise and besides, they still have to face this guy in the ring for a couple of more weeks. This much is clear, though; Team Margarito is happy with the work of this threesome.
"I'm very happy right now," said Garcia, who also trains the likes of Brandon Rios. "We got guys that throw a lot of punches. We got some really strong fighters that can take a good punch and can throw a hard punch. We got slick ones, those that hold, move around. We got everything. So a little bit of all four, it's going to help us a lot."
Yeah, as Chris Rock said long ago, you shouldn't get all that much credit for doing what you're supposed to do but I have to say, I really think Mercito Gesta was impressive in dismantling Ivan Valle in two rounds on Friday night. In 2010, he was matched judiciously against the likes of Valle, Oscar Meza and Genaro Trazancos and he has developed steadily.
I don't know if he's quite ready to challenge the 135-pound elite but he is certainly getting there.
In 2010, we started to see more of Gesta- who does have some Pacquiaoesque traits- and like just about everybody else, I want to see a lot more in the upcoming future.