The cover of Sports Illustrated once shrieked "Madman!" with a photograph of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield during their June 28, 1997, heavyweight championship fight in Las Vegas.
Tyson's license to box was revoked, he was reviled by the media and his career seemed in tatters.
Antonio Margarito was caught with a hardened knuckle pad in his hand wraps containing two of the elements that make plaster of Paris before a Jan. 24, 2009, welterweight title fight against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles.
Margarito's license to box was revoked, he was reviled by the media and his career seemed in tatters.
But just a few weeks shy of five years to the day after Tyson bit off the top of Holyfield's ear and spit it onto the canvas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Tyson was the headliner in what to that point would be the richest boxing match in history. His June 8, 2002, championship bout with Lennox Lewis at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tenn., generated $110 million in gross revenue and two million pay-per-view sales, both records at the time.
Margarito only can hope to be so lucky on Saturday, when he meets Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Council super welterweight title before a crowd that could swell to 70,000 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Many Mexican and Mexican-American fans adore Margarito, perhaps like never before, but he is perceived as little more than a cheating, conniving scoundrel by pretty much everyone else.
He isn't going to be named Man of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and his misdeed – should it be his alleged misdeed? – isn't going to be forgiven as easily as Tyson's ear bite. There isn't a worse crime in boxing than trying to load one's gloves.
Margarito is adamant that he knew nothing of the illegal pad being slipped into his wraps by then-trainer Javier Capetillo. It seems difficult to believe that a boxer whose livelihood depends on his hands wouldn't know what was on them. Nearly every boxer who has offered an opinion, including Pacquiao, agrees that Margarito had to know. But to give Margarito every benefit of the doubt, remember that it is often extremely chaotic in the locker room before the match and a fighter is girding for battle as his hands are being wrapped.
It's not inconceivable, though it is unlikely, that Margarito was so zoned out in the tense final moments before a significant bout that he did not notice the illegal pad. He may have noticed it 100 times out of 100 when he was relaxed, prior to a sparring session, but it at least is conceivable he might not have known as he was psyching himself up to fight Mosley.
Clearly, though, not many outside of Margarito's most ardent fans are buying that argument.
He may never fully rehabilitate his reputation, but there are four things he should do in order to mitigate the damage.
1. Apologize and plead for mercy
Margarito never publicly has apologized to the fans, Mosley and promoter Bob Arum for what occurred that night. He can't apologize for something he didn't do, but he did hire Capetillo. While there is at least some doubt Margarito is complicit, there is zero question Capetillo is culpable.
Margarito is the man who hired Capetillo, and Margarito is in charge of his team. If a member of his team makes a mistake, responsibility for it falls on Margarito's shoulders.
In 2002, the Nevada Athletic Commission fined Fernando Vargas a staggering $100,000 and suspended him for nine months after stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, was discovered in his system following a loss to Oscar De La Hoya. Vargas said that his nutritionist, Maz Ali, gave it to him without his consent.
But Vargas accepted the penalty because Ali worked for him and he had hired Ali.
"I don't place blame on anyone except myself,'' Vargas said following the Nov. 20, 2002, hearing in Las Vegas. "At the end of the day, I'm the captain of my ship.'' Capetillo has accepted responsibility. Because Margarito was the boss and the one who hired Capetillo, he needs to apologize and admit responsibility, even if it occurred without his knowledge.
2. Have the wrappings of his hands videotaped every time
When Robert Garcia wraps Margarito's hands on Saturday, it will be the most scrutinized hand wrapping in history. HBO cameras will be in the locker room to document it.
But Margarito presumably is going to continue to fight after the Pacquiao bout, win or lose. He needs to routinely arrange to have himself videotaped getting his hands wrapped every time he fights to prove he's on the up and up.
The person wrapping Margarito's hands should show his hands to the camera before beginning the wrapping to prove he's not cupping anything illegal in some kind of sleight-of-hand attempt.
3. Remove the wrappings in the ring, in public view
He must allow a neutral party to cut the tape off his hands at the end of every fight and in view of the public. That person needs to deliver the wraps to the relevant authorities for them to inspect.
4. Have the wrapping material purchased and delivered by a third party
As one final layer of transparency, neither Margarito nor anyone in his employ should have the authority to buy the gauze and the tape used to wrap his hands. Having a neutral third party do it would remove any lingering doubts.
Margarito never is going to be boxing's most beloved figure. He probably never will be so much as well-liked. But at least if he can follow those four simple steps for the remainder of his career, he'll give the impression that he wants to do the right thing and that he grasps the gravity of the situation.
If he eschews transparency, he'll be telling us all we need to know about his knowledge of the events of Jan. 24, 2009.
- Antonio Margarito
- Mike Tyson