MEXICO -- After two weeks of intense sparring, former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito promised that fans will be convinced he still has a long career ahead of him entering his March 5 return from a four-year retirement.
Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs), who said his body has responded to the training and his power is still there, will face Jorge Paez Jr. in a 10-round junior middleweight fight at Mexico City Arena.
"The Tijuana Tornado" told ESPN that he returned to boxing because he wants to rejoin the sport's elite and that he's nobody's stepping stone. Margarito, who turns 38 in March, reiterated that the injury he suffered to his eye against Manny Pacquiao in 2010 has not been a problem in his workouts.
"Now that I have two weeks sparring, to be honest, I wondered how my body was going to respond," Margarito said. "The truth is, I feel that it has responded pretty well. It's not the same to train and hit the bag as it is to do intense sparring. I feel very happy and very motivated.
"I can tell you that I'm already at 160 to 162 pounds. Before, a month before my fights I was 17 pounds heavier on average."
Margarito, who hasn't fought since December 2011 when he lost a rematch against Miguel Cotto, admitted that his career is riding on this fight against Paez (39-7-2, 23 KOs). He not only needs to win, he also needs to shine against an opponent who Margarito believes is good but who has also left much to be desired in comparison with the opportunities he has received.
"[Paez] is a good fighter, he's talented, but [he] has lost great opportunities and I'm going for a spectacular win," Margarito said. "I want to make it clear that I'm a fighter who can give more, and that's what I want -- people wanting to see more from me. I've been training very hard and I feel very motivated to give them a great fight in the Mexico City Arena and raise my hand at the end as the winner."
Should Margarito win, he said he will continue pursuing great fighters, whether it's a third fight with Cotto or an all-Mexico showdown with Canelo Alvarez.
"I know Cotto has said no, but I'll go on insisting, and I would like to fight against Canelo," Margarito said. "I thought he'd knock out Cotto and he couldn't, so I think he doesn't have the power. If it's not against them, I'm ready for the other champions because I know I have the hunger and the strength to become the world champion again."