By Paul Rubin
Mexican welterweight boxer Antonio Margarito's surprising 11th-round TKO stoppage of previously unbeaten Puerto Rican champ Miguel Cotto was one of the more stirring sporting events we've witnessed in a while (at least since gimpy-legged Tiger Woods limped to victory in the U.S. Open over a wonderful journeyman named Rocco Mediate last month).
That's Margarito on the left, pounding Cotto late in the Vegas bout, which certainly will be a huge contender for Fight of the Year.
We watched the pay-per-view event on a large screen from a front-row seat at a popular west Phoenix bar in which English was not the first language of, say, 90 percent of the patrons.
We have attended fights there before, and always enjoyed the "festive atmosphere" — translation: watch yourself at all times — at the joint. Actually, it's a pretty friendly place, especially if the Mexican kicks butt against the Puerto Rican, which happened on Saturday night.
Attendance at the large bar (it's actually two bars in one, one karaoke-themed and the other that often features a live band) for the fight was decent, a few hundred people who had paid $20 to get in.
But several regulars told us that business overall at the bar and at many other Latino-oriented businesses on the west side and all over the Valley palpably has hit the skids in recent months.
The explanation for this anecdotal decline, according to everyone with whom we spoke is one word, spit out like an expletive: ARPAIO.
According to our barroom jibber-jabberers, a whole bunch of folks who would have been spending a whole bunch of money at this joint and elsewhere have returned to Mexico or relocated to other states.
One guy who hasn't fled the local immigration gendarmes told us that his family near Hermosillo, Mexico, desperately needs him to stay at his decent-paying carpentry gig here as long as possible, so he's taking his chances. That fellow said (very rough translation here) that he's counting on the sheriff to take a 10-count against opponent Dan Saban in the election about three months down the road.
We told him (this was before the fight) that underdog Margarito had a much better chance to beat Cotto than Saban has to beat the still-politically formidable Arpaio. Then again, Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog against Mike Tyson in their February 1990 heavyweight title fight in Tokyo.
Result: Douglas by TKO in the 10th round.