Saving Face

by Peter Owen Nelson

Freddie Roach hates shaving, so it was with schadenfreude on Friday morning that he spoke eight words: “I’m going to make Margarito shave his beard.” 

Photo by Will Hart

In Olympic boxing, beards are not permitted, but no clause technically bans beards in chapter 61 on combat sports of the Administrative Rules of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Roach, however, was convinced that “I will win this argument [with the commission].” 

The stratagem was designed to make Margarito expose his chin against his will before he even entered the ring.

That argument over the hairy stalagtite dangling off Margarito’s chin would have taken place at 2 p.m. in the Longhorn Exhibit Hall of the Gaylord Hotel at the rules meeting. Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito would not be present for the meeting, but their teams would be.

Cornermen of the both camps gathered before representatives of the Texas State Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Council (the sanctioning body overseeing the title bout). Roach sat quietly. Margarito’s team of trainer and co-managers cross-examined the commission’s statements about electrolytes as regards to whether Margarito would be permitted to drink Gatorade. When asked if Margarito particularly likes Gatorade after all the fuss, his co-manager Sergio Diaz replied, “I don’t really know.” 

The 8-ounce Reyes gloves to be used were then opened and each corner tested them. No beards were disputed, due to an unexpected man’s upending of Roach’s scheme: Manny Pacquiao.

An hour earlier, Roach exited Pacquiao’s fourth-floor suite after divulging his intent to his fighter.  Pacquiao may have seen the value in distracting his opponent by demanding he deface himself, but the congressman of Sarangani would not comply, telling Roach, “I want him to keep the beard. It’s my target.”

Roach deferred to his fighter, saying, “Whatever he wants. If it makes Manny happy, we’ll keep the target — and hit Saturday all night long.”