Nov. 19, 2010


Antonio Margarito is seen on the giant screen as he is interviewed after losing to Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Nov. 13.  (AFP/Getty Images/File/Tom Pennington)


MANILA — Antonio Margarito suffered a crack in his right orbital bone during his fight against Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Nov. 13, but the injury isn’t career-threatening unless the surgery to repair the damage failed to align the break, creating the possibility of a re-fracture.

Dr. Tyrone Reyes, the country’s leading physical and rehabilitation medicine specialist, said the other day if surgery was successful, Margarito should be healed in three to six weeks with the fusion of the fracture by new bone that is regenerated, assuming proper alignment.

Last Tuesday, Margarito underwent a 75-minute procedure at the Dallas Methodist Hospital to repair the bone damage in the face.

His co-manager Sergio Diaz reported that according to doctors, “everything went perfect with no complications of any kind.”

Dr. Reyes said a maxillofacial surgeon or a specialist on facial fractures likely performed the operation.

“The orbital bone is a thin bone and heals quickly,” he said. “The key is alignment to avoid the incidence of a re-fracture. Beyond the facial damage, it’s vital for an ophthalmologist to check on Margarito’s vision. He should be examined for possible eye damage. But assuming the operation was successful and there is no eye damage, Margarito should be able to fight again.”

In his opinion, Dr. Reyes said referee Laurence Cole should have stopped the fight to avoid aggravating Margarito’s injury.

“I saw a risk of permanent injury to the eye and you will want to avoid a situation where there could be unnecessary serious damage,” he added. “Boxing is a sport and like Manny mentioned, it’s not about killing each other in the ring.”

Dr. Reyes noticed that Pacquiao appeared hurt by body shots in the sixth round. “I’ve known Manny to have a high threshold of pain so when he seemed to double up after taking those body shots, he must have really been hurt,” said Dr. Reyes. “Imagine that happened in the sixth round, meaning he endured the pain until the end of the fight.”

Dr. Reyes admired Pacquiao’s show of compassion at the start of the 12th round when he reached out to Margarito.

“It was obvious he held back in the last few rounds,” said Dr. Reyes. “He took pity on Margarito which is rare for a fighter. He didn’t go for the kill on a helpless opponent.”

Dr. Reyes said he would advise Pacquiao to undergo an MRI and ultrasound to check on possible organ damage.

“If there is any organ damage and it’s left undetected, it will definitely cause problems later on,” he said. “During the fight, I saw the liver was more exposed to Margarito’s punches than the kidney but it wouldn’t hurt to have both the liver and kidney checked.”

Dr. Reyes said as head of the medical team of the Philippine delegation to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he saw Muhammad Ali light the cauldron to ignite the flame signifying the start of the Summer Games.

Afflicted by pugilistic Parkinsonism, Ali was only a physical shell of how he once was in the ring. Ali fought longer than he should have.

Boxers should know when to retire because, like Ali, fighting beyond their competitive years could lead to dementia or Parkinson’s syndrome.

Margarito was cut under the right eye in the fourth round and, when the bout ended, his right eye was nearly swollen to a slit and his left eye was badly puffed.

Six stitches were sewn to close the cut under the right eye and three more went through his right eyebrow.

After waking up from surgery, Margarito asked his co-managers Diaz and Francisco Espinoza when he could resume running.

Doctors said Margarito must stay away from contact in the gym for at least 60 days to allow the bone damage to heal.

Former lightheavyweight contender Johnny Persol, who defeated three world champions in his career, was a fighter who suffered a similar injury and had no surgery to repair a blowout fracture of his left orbital bone in losing to Roger Rouse on a knockout in 1964.

The injury led to serious eye trouble and double-vision.

Persol retired at 29 after engaging in 28 pro fights in seven years.

“If you have any eye trouble, think twice about fighting,” said Persol, quoted by Robert Cassidy in The Ring Magazine (December 1994). “All the love you have for the game and all the money aren’t going to replace your vision.”

Diaz’s report that there were no complications in Margarito’s surgery meant he was spared from eye damage.

“With the exception of subdural hematomas or brain hemorrhages, as they are commonly called, eye injuries are the most feared — and most often publicized — plight of professional boxers,” wrote Cassidy. “While cuts in the area of the eye give boxing its gore, it is the damage done behind the eye itself, not around it, that concern doctors. If a fighter escapes a bout with merely a cut eyelid, he is lucky. And in most cases nowadays, the cuts aren’t given a chance to become too severe.”

Margarito’s trainer Robert Garcia came under fire for not throwing in the towel and exposing the fighter to unnecessary punishment.

But Garcia explained that Margarito just wouldn’t think of quitting.

“Tony is just a warrior and that’s why we’re in boxing,” said Garcia.

“It’s a one-on-one situation in the ring. That’s what boxing is, it’s fighting. You don’t go in there if you get hurt and then you’re like, oh, just quit. I did see Margarito’s knees buckle. But when he came to the corner, I saw his reaction by the way he looked at me and the way he talked to me. He wasn’t lost and he wasn’t worried and he was still in the fight. I knew that his heart was still there.”

As a trainer and cornerman, Garcia takes his cue from Margarito who pays his wages.

It wouldn’t be fair to castigate Garcia because he just did what his boss wanted him to do.

The blame for allowing the fight to continue and unnecessarily exposing Margarito to serious injury rests squarely on Cole as referee.

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