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Margarito the coward

It's been my favorite story of the new year in boxing. Antonio Margarito, who has spent over two years saying that no one wants to fight him, that everyone is ducking him because he's too dangerous for the big name fighters to risk their reputations, is now unabashedly ducking Paul Williams.

Simply put, it's amusing, and it's the purest form of boxing grandstanding. As long as you're coming up, everyone is your target, and you'll fight anybody. The same goes for Margarito's case, where the story was that he was unfairly ignored in his division. But once you're on top, which Margarito is at this point, it's a whole different story. And at the core of it, turnabout is fair play. But, really, who thought they'd see Margarito ducking Williams?

You can all put your hands down. I did, too.

Paul Williams is lethal. He's 25 years old with a 32-0 record, he's a southpaw with power, and he's a freak at 147, standing 6-foot-1. So it's not a surprise that Margarito and his camp want nothing to do with the American contender, because for once, they have a money fight in place with Miguel Cotto. And the mandatories are never as mandatory as they seem. Boxers hand over titles like a hot potato, and Margarito seems comfortable just giving his WBO welterweight championship away, settling for a fight in June against Cotto at Madison Square Garden, providing Cotto gets past Oktay Urkal, which he will.

Most of the shame from the situation is at the expense of Williams, who had a very good shot of beating Margarito and in fact seemed to be the potential favorite, at least among boxing fans. Williams could have scored a defining victory over a good fighter, and now instead will likely have to settle for a vacant title fight. Meanwhile, Margarito may wind up on the undercard of the March 3 card in Puerto Rico headlined by Cotto/Urkal.

Of the two mandatories that were to set up the Cotto/Margarito showdown, Margarito's fight with Williams was the one that was worth looking forward to: A strong champion and a legitimately dangerous challenger, a fight that could have gone either way, and would have provided some actual intrigue. We're now stuck with Cotto fighting Urkal, who is the level of a gatekeeper, and Margarito just stepping away. Personally, this makes Cotto/Margarito a little less intriguing as well, because I'll wonder if Margarito should even be in there, or if it should be Paul Williams instead in a battle of undefeated welterweights to unify titles. We'll never know.