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Antonio Margarito decisions Jorge Paez Jr in 10

By Jim Dower: Former IBF/WBA/WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito (39-8, 27 KOs) made his return to the ring on Saturday night after four years in retirement and he was able to squeak by 28-year-old Jorge Paez Jr. (39-8-2, 23 Kos) by a narrow 10 round unanimous decision at the Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

The final judges’ scores were 95-94, 97-93 and 96-93. Not surprisingly, Margarito was knocked down in the 6th round by Paez Jr. after getting hit with a big shot. To Margarito’s credit, he got back up and fought back and had Paez Jr. ready to go in the 10th round.

The good news is Margarito’s surgically repaired right eye held together and didn’t swell shut like it had in his last fight five years ago in 2011 in getting stopped by Miguel Cotto. That was the big question about the Margarito-Paez Jr. fight. Fans, as well as his promoter Bob Arum, were able to see that Margarito’s eye didn’t swell up badly. That’s really the main positive comes out of this fight. Margarito’s performance tonight clearly wasn’t good enough to suggest that he’d be able to beat any of the top contenders in the 147lb division. Even if his promoter Bob Arum looked to pull one of the bottom feeders in as an opponent, it’s not likely that Margarito would win. He’s too slow and his punches don’t have the snap and the thudding power that they had many years ago.

Margarito’s lack of hand speed tonight wasn’t enough of a problem to keep him from winning a narrow decision against a journeyman level fighter in Paez Jr. However, if Arum puts Margarito with anyone decent, I see him losing and losing badly.

Arum said this week that if Margarito looked good in this fight, he would put him in a bigger fight in the United States. Given that Arum likes to match his fighters together rather than match them with the fighters from other promoters, it wouldn’t be surprising if Arum matches Margarito against newly crowned WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in his next fight. I don’t know what the World Boxing Organization would think about a move like that because they don’t have Margarito ranked in their top 15 right now, and it would look really bad if they sanctioned a fight between Vargas and Margarito at this point. If Arum is looking for a good money fight for Margarito, I don’t know that a fight against Vargas would do the job. You can’t sell a fight between Margarito and Vargas to the boxing public. But Arum might be more interested in making a bigger name for Vargas by feeding Margarito to him in an easy fight for Vargas. By putting Vargas in with Margarito, Arum would be increasing the popularity of Vargas. I don’t know how much popularity he can get off of a win over a ring rusty fighter like Margarito, but it would be a move that Arum might be thinking of making. If Vargas were to beat Margarito, then Arum could match Vargas with Tim Bradley or someone like Terence Crawford or Ruslan Provodnikov.

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