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Antonio Margarito isn't taking the most ethical route to try to get back into the boxing business. Then again, what would you expect from a guy who tried to fight one of the most significant bouts of his career with a plaster-like substance furtively tucked into his hand wraps?
Thanks largely to the diligence of trainer Naazim Richardson, Margarito was caught with an illegal knuckle pad in his hand wraps minutes before he was to fight Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Margarito's boxing license was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission on Feb. 10. His trainer, Javier Capetillo, was given the same punishment. Other states recognized California's suspension and thus Margarito's ban effectively became national.
More than a year has passed and now Margarito plans to fight again. He has a tentative fight slated for March 13 in Arlington, Texas, against Carson Jones on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium. Margarito is going to bypass California, which originally penalized him, and plead for his license in Texas.
Unethical as it may be, it's all legal according to the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions.
I will never buy another ticket to a card Margarito is fighting on again. I will never spend a cent on a pay-per-view broadcast that includes Margarito.
What he did was despicable, heinous and potentially criminal. Worse, he's never expressed a smidgen of remorse. He has steadfastly remained silent, though he denied vehemently knowing anything about the illegal knuckle pad.
That, of course, is preposterous. He knew. He had to have known. Professional athletes at his caliber are very persnickety about their equipment and can recognize minute differences. I will never forget watching a minor league hockey player insist to a representative from a stick company that one of the new sticks in a batch he was given was three grams heavier than the others.
The representative insisted they were all the same. The sticks were placed on a scale and one was three grams heavier than the others.
The knuckle pad that the commission seized would have added weight to his wraps and he without question would have been able to tell the difference. It also had a substance that appeared to be dried blood on it, suggesting it had been used before.
Margarito threw Capetillo under the bus and laid all of the blame on a trainer he had claimed to love like a father.
He never once apologized to Mosley or to the boxing community. He was willing to do anything to be able to continue to fight.
The repercussions of Margarito's actions were immense. Promoter Bob Arum vehemently sided with Margarito, which nearly cost Arum a close 10-year relationship with Miguel Cotto. Six months before the Mosley fight, Margarito brutally battered Cotto and handed him his first defeat in a fight in Las Vegas.
After the illegal pad was discovered prior to the fight with Mosley, Cotto began to suspect that Margarito had the same inserts in his gloves when they fought at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Boxers die every year from head trauma despite the fact their opponents' gloves and hand wraps are legal. It's a dangerous business. It's worse when someone actually inserts a rock-like substance into his hand wraps and turns a boxing glove into a club.
You'd have to be naïve to believe Margarito and Capetillo had never tried the trick before. His knockout ratio would tell you that.
Nearly every boxer sees his knockout ratio dip significantly when he begins fighting world-class competition. Prior to his first world title bout, Mike Tyson had a knockout ratio of 92.6 percent. He was 27-0 with 25 knockouts prior to challenging Trevor Berbick for the heavyweight belt in 1986. Including the Berbick fight, Tyson fought 31 times since, going 23-6 with two no contests and 19 knockouts, a knockout ratio of 61.3 percent.
There is no sane person alive who would suggest that Margarito is a better puncher at welterweight than Tyson was at heavyweight. Yet Margarito's knockout percent improved as he began fighting world-class opposition while Tyson's dropped more than 30 points.
Margarito was 25-3 with 17 knockouts before his first title shot, a 60.7 knockout percentage. From the time since he fought his first championship bout until the Mosley fight, he went 12-3 with a no-contest and 10 knockouts. Shockingly, perhaps, his knockout ratio improved to 62.5 percent as he began fighting significantly better competition.
It's strange, unless you suspect he may have had a little extra help.
Margarito's sleaziness aside, though, none of it matters. Prior to the Mosley fight, there were zero complaints about his hand wraps. I'll believe for the rest of my life, no matter what he says, that he had the plaster-like substance in his wraps when he fought Cotto.
Yet, no one, not even Cotto, made a peep about his wraps after that fight. Nor did they say anything after any of his 42 fights prior to the bout with Cotto.
And it's important to note that, unlike Luis Resto against Billy Collins in 1983, Margarito did not wear the illegal knuckle pad into the ring against Mosley. Eric Drath's brilliant documentary, "Assault in the Ring," chronicled the story of how trainer Panama Lewis removed the padding from Resto's gloves prior to his fight with Collins at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Though Resto served a prison term for the incident, he spent 25 years denying what Lewis had done until he confessed to Drath in the documentary.
There have been many comparisons drawn between the Resto-Lewis-Collins incident and the Margarito-Capetillo-Mosley one. Yet there is one significant difference: Margarito fought Mosley with legal wraps and gloves.
And so, as revolting as it will be to see him back in the ring, it's clear the man deserves his license again.
He served his punishment. He did not, as Arum threatened he would, fight in Mexico while under the California suspension. He did the crime and he served the time.
Margarito is now trained by the classy former world champion Roberto Garcia. There's never been a taint of controversy surrounding Garcia, who is an honest, ethical man. Garcia will play by the rules.
Margarito, of course, will be subject to extreme scrutiny unlike any other boxer. His hand wrappings will become an event. More people will now watch tape and gauze being placed on his hands than watched many of his early fights.
He should also have his wraps inspected in the ring by a commission representative following every one of his bouts from this point forward, just to be extra careful.
It will be nauseating to watch him, but there is no justification for denying him his license. He served the penalty California assessed. The rules allow him to apply for a license wherever he chooses. He is not required to return to California, now or ever. A boxing license is a privilege, and no one has the right to one, but Margarito fulfills all requirements for one and should be given it when he applies in Texas.
If he were a real man, an ethical man, he would have applied in California and apologized to Mosley, his promoter, the commission, HBO and anyone else who was negatively affected by the incident.
No one said, however, one has to be a nice guy or a classy guy or an ethical guy to be a boxer.
Margarito is none of those, but he is a someone who can fulfill the Texas requirements for a boxing license.
As a result, as sickening as it is, he should be licensed when he applies.