The story of the week is combat sports has turned from any of the actual fights on the IFC, WEC, MFC, UFC or boxing cards into the story of Antonio Margarito and his training partner Brandon Rios making fun of Freddie Roach's Parkinson's disease. The story and the resulting fallout has given us a glimpse into lifecycle of a modern news story and the dark side of both athletes, management and media.
Late Tuesday night a video was published on AOL Fanhouse's boxing page which depicted Antonio Margarito and training partner Brandon Rios mocking the speech and movement patterns of Manny Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach. Roach suffers from Parkinson's Disease, a condition no doubt linked to his very physical time as an amateur and professional boxer. In addition, Margarito's trainer Robert Garcia made light of the controversy surrounding the attempt to load Antonio's gloves prior to the fight with Shane Mosley. I'll rely on Bad Left Hook, the site that was the original to pursue the story aggressively. to give the timeline of their real-time updates from the night/early morning that the video was released:
Update (12:15am EST): You will notice if you attempt to play the video below that it is now "private." The video has apparently been taken down. I don't want to jump to any conclusions about that, and don't know if that decision came from the Margarito camp or the original uploader of the video or what. Nothing I say below has changed, though. It still happened.
Update (12:21am EST): Re-linked the video, but this one has been edited to make it appear as though Margarito is doing a "scared" impression of Roach. Brandon Rios' impression of Roach, which couldn't be covered up or turned into something it's not, has been entirely removed.
Update (12:46pm EST): The edited version, officially uploaded by Elie Seckbach/FanHouse, has also been pulled.
What happened from this point onward is a mess of lies, half-truths and excuses that makes everyone but Roach and Pacquiao look bad. I don't think we need to go into the reasons that the Margarito camp look bad in the original vide so let's look at AOL Fanhouse's role in all of this.
Elie Seckbach, the man who made the original video, is not some nobody. He won a Mark Twain award in 2009 for his work, so there is every reason in the world to hold him to a higher standard as a professional. So with that in mind, the questions to Seckbach become:
- Prod Margarito and his camp into making outlandish statements? He's not responsible for what they said, but he very clearly was trying to get something juicy.
- Once the video was up and started to generate controversy, why was the video than re-edited to make everyone involved look better? How is that any part of Elie's job?
- Why was the edited version then pulled completely? And what is it back up now?
There is a lot of confusion over all of this and Kevin Iole and Steve Cofield discussed the situation in a recent video. Thanks to Fight Opinion for their having transcribed the video:
STEVE COFIELD: "Because I just want to tell people, Fanhouse had it up, my guess is Fanhouse put pressure on the blogger and they may have gotten calls from Camp Margarito and promoters to pull that video down."
KEVIN IOLE: "I can tell you what happened because it was taken, it was taken down by Lem Satterfield who is their boxing editor and he took it down at about 4 in the morning. He had just gotten up to get ready to fly to the airport. He lives in suburban Baltimore to fly to the airport to come to Dallas today. I talked to Lem at length at the press conference and he yanked it, he said he saw it and it disgusted him and he just thought to take it down because of that. So that’s why he took it down. I think he regrets having taken it down now just because you realize there was significant news value to it. My only objection to it was that the ‘reporter’ and I use that in quotes because he certainly is not a real reporter that did the interview, prodded them into it and you know that’s not the role of a journalist to be doing something like that and he was like doing the ‘ol, hey, he said this about you and he said this about you and he was really prodding them into it. It doesn’t excuse them for saying it but the reporter in that case was unprofessional and got them to say that by the way he was interviewing them. If I was in charge and I saw that video, of course I would put that video up and it would stay there. I would have been angry only from the standpoint that my ‘reporter’ would have behaved so abominably the way this ‘reporter’ who did that interview did."
Did you catch that? "it was taken down by Lem Satterfield who is their boxing editor and he took it down at about 4 in the morning." says Iole. Now, Kevin is a good guy and he has ZERO reason to lie about what he was told by Satterfield so I have no doubt Lem said it to him. However, the original, unedited video was pulled no later than 12:15am and was replaced with the edited version no later than 12:21am.
Now the site has re-posted the unedited video with a message that says "Editor's Note: The above video was previously pulled in error. We apologize, and it is now available, in full." I'll leave it up to you all to figure out how a video was pulled, edited to change the story, reposted and pulled again all "in error." It's pretty difficult for me to believe that they accidentally edited the video to make Margarito appear as though he was saying Roach was scared and then completely left out Brandon Rios' more grotesque display.And now we've got the "I didn't know" defense being employed by Margarito and friends, exactly like when he "didn't know" his gloves were being wrapped with a lump of plaster in them. From AOL Fanhouse again:
"Two of my fighters were joking around, making fun of Freddie Roach. We already talked about it. This was nothing to do with the disease that Freddie Roach has. We know that it's something that we don't wish on anybody," said Garcia.
"I would never allow that type of behavior in my gym. We just wanted everyone to know that this is something personal between Team Pacquiao and Team Margarito," said Garcia. "I just want to make that clear."
"And I said, 'You know the disease that Freddie Roach has,'" said Garcia. "He didn't know Freddie Roach had a disease. He thought that it was from those 13 losses that Freddie Roach had as a boxer. It has nothing to do with his disease, I just want to make that clear."
So what Garcia is saying is that Rios believed that Roach did not have a disease, but that he has tremors "from those 13 losses" that Roach suffered in his boxing career. Now without meaning to be combative about this, is Rios an idiot? I think that's a fair question at this point. Does he think you get tremors if you lose over 10 fights and that it isn't anything neurological? Are we supposed to buy that?
So Rios has enough inside knowledge about Roach to know he lost 13 times during his pro career but not that one of the most widely covered men in the sport has Parkinson's? And even if he didn't know it was Parkinson's, it is clear that he thinks Roach has some sort of neurological disorder from his time in the ring. Is it better to make fun of a guy who has an unspecified mental issue than it is one who has Parkinson's?
Look, the bottom line here is that Antonio Margarito's name is beyond saving. He can knock Manny Pacquiao out in two rounds Saturday night and people are simply going to wonder how he cheated. He's now dragging a talented prospect in Brandon Rios down with him. Margarito, Rios and Garcia have made sure that no part of Saturday can potentially be about the redemption of Antonio as a man, it's now about wanting to see Manny Pacquiao make history at his expense. Did it maybe help sell tickets? Sure, but it's a one way ticket for Margarito from here.
And Fanhouse? Look, their boxing coverage is routinely among the best in the sport. Lem Satterfield is one of the best guys working the boxing beat today. Unfortunately their association with Elie Seckbach forced AOL and Satterfield into doing damage control that, in turn, made the entire site look bad. We can't ever take Seckbach seriously as a legitimate member of the media again. Hopefully Fanhouse has it in them to do the right thing, cut ties with someone in Seckbach who hurt their brand and go back to providing outstanding content.