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The state of California, which is in severe financial straits, held a six-hour hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday that cost thousands of dollars to conduct to decide whether to give Antonio Margarito a boxing license, when Margarito never planned to fight in California, and the California State Athletic Commission had previously made it clear it never wanted him to box in its jurisdiction again.
California dumped thousands of dollars and cost Margarito significant sums in attorneys' fees and travel expenses, essentially in order to deny him a license and let him apply in Texas. It would have been a wiser civic move to take the money and dump it from the 30th floor of a downtown Los Angeles building, where it might have benefitted some of its financially struggling residents.
Margarito, who had been discovered with a hardened insert in his hand wraps only moments before a Jan. 24, 2009, fight against Shane Mosley at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, is hopeful he'll fight Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Top Rank, Margarito's promotional company, has been desperately seeking a venue to license Margarito. Nevada shooed away Margarito last month, urging him to reapply first in California. Then, earlier this month, when Top Rank chairman Bob Arum made clear his desire to bring the Pacquiao-Margarito fight to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada State Athletic Commission members made clear their uneasiness with licensing Margarito.
That prompted Arum to pull the request and zero in on Texas. Before Margarito could apply for a license in Texas, however, the Association of Boxing Commissions strongly suggested that Margarito apply in California first. It was a ludicrous decision by the ABC since each state has the right to license fighters according to its own requirements.
ABC vice president Greg Sirb defended the decision, insisting it had been the body's policy since the late 1990s, when Mike Tyson was seeking a license after having bitten Evander Holyfield in a 1997 bout in Las Vegas.
"Margarito's issue was with the suspending state, no one else," Sirb said. "That state knows the facts of this case better than anyone. I give Margarito credit for doing it. He stood up there and took it. Now, every state knows the facts, because they have been laid out perfectly. He's now free to go where he wants [to request a license]."
But given the ABC's recommendation, both California and Margarito went forward with what in essence was a sham hearing. Much of Wednesday's hearing focused on whether Margarito was truly remorseful for having had the illegal pad in his right hand or whether he was just saying what he had to say to be licensed.
Karen Chappelle, the California deputy attorney general representing the athletic commission, made a point of proving that Margarito was sparring illegally in California. Unlicensed boxers in California need a sparring permit, and Chappelle got Margarito and his new trainer, Robert Garcia, to admit he sparred in the state earlier this year without having one.
Chappelle was simply trying to prove that Margarito was just paying lip service to the commission when he said he was following all of its rules vigorously in light of the hand-wrap issue. Margarito has always insisted that he didn't know the illegal pad was included and blamed it on his then-trainer, Javier Capetillo.
At the original Feb. 11, 2009, hearing in which Margarito's license was revoked, two commission inspectors testified that they didn't think Margarito knew. Inspector Che Guevara, who was there to supervise Capetillo's wrapping of Margarito's hands, said that when there was a question about the legality of the wraps, Margarito offered to allow the hand to be inspected.
Guevara testified that Margarito offered his right hand and said to him, "There's nothing in it. Go ahead. Touch it." Dean Lohuis, who was the chief inspector that night, testified that Margarito "offered no resistance or tried to hide anything" when he was asked to allow the wraps on his right hand to be inspected.
The point is not to make Margarito look like a saint. He's not. I believe he probably knew, but believing he knew and proving he knew are two vastly different things. And given that the independent witnesses testified that Margarito didn't appear to be hiding anything, that evidence would suggest he did not know his hand had been illegally wrapped.
He's filed his paperwork in Texas, and Arum said Friday that he expects Margarito to be granted a license there next week, without a hearing.
But the controversy wouldn't end. On Thursday, a day after the California denial, Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya called a conference call and made an impassioned plea on behalf of Marquez for a third fight with Pacquiao. De La Hoya, though, said he had not spoken to Arum or Top Rank president Todd duBoef about making the fight since Marquez' July 31 win over Juan Diaz in Las Vegas.
"Marquez has the strongest case in getting that fight with Pacquiao," De La Hoya said. "Listen, if I have to make that call to Todd duBoef, then I will, and I will ask him again, 'Will you fight Marquez again?' I'll be more than happy to talk to Todd again."
De La Hoya also said on the call that he believed Margarito should have been banned for life for tampering with his gloves.
"If anybody in any way tampers with anything having to do with the fists or the gloves, you know what? They should be banned for life," De La Hoya said. "That's my stance and that's my position. There are no ifs, ands or buts, like, 'Oh, I've learned from my mistakes.' Well, what if you would have killed somebody, so you should fight again because you learned from your mistakes? That's total nonsense, and my stance will always be that. You do not mess with somebody's life up inside of that ring."
Upon hearing that, Arum issued a challenge to De La Hoya. He said he would gladly take a third Marquez fight with Pacquiao at some point once Marquez wins a fight at welterweight. He said Pacquiao has proven himself at welterweight with dominant wins over Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey and that Marquez had not, getting routed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his only welterweight appearance. Arum noted that Marquez weighed 133 pounds against Diaz.
He said if Marquez defeats a welterweight, he'd be amenable to a May rematch assuming a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight never happens.
Arum, though, pointed out that Golden Boy still has a piece of Pacquiao and will be entitled to 25 percent of the profits from Pacquiao's side from the Margarito fight.
"Given that Oscar is saying Margarito should be banned for life, ask him if he'll accept the profits from the fight," Arum said. "If he does not, I will guarantee that I will donate the entire amount to charity."
Golden Boy isn't waiting to hear from Top Rank on whether it will move off Margarito and offer Marquez the Pacquiao fight. It has a hold on Dec. 4 for a pay-per-view fight between Marquez and Amir Khan.
Best prospect ever?
Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is considered by many the best amateur boxer ever, will fight on a Top Rank-televised card on Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico, against Jose Angel Beranza. Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist while living in Cuba, is 5-0 as a pro and has wowed his new trainer, Ronnie Shields.
"He's one of the best fighters I've ever seen. Ever," said Shields, who is not often prone to hyperbole. "He reminds me of Floyd Mayweather. He's that good. He has everything – offense, defense, knowledge. He had so many amateur fights [reportedly 475] that there is nothing he hasn't seen. Any style that's out there, he's seen it and knows how to deal with it.
"I would have no reservations about putting him in right now with [World Boxing Association featherweight champion Yuriorkis] Gamboa or [World Boxing Organization featherweight champion] Juan Manuel Lopez. He's ready for those guys right now."
Lopez fight postponed
The highly anticipated Sept. 18 fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas between Lopez and Rafael Marquez has been postponed because Marquez injured his right thumb when he closed a car door on it and was advised by his doctor to rest it for several weeks.
A Top Rank spokesman said Friday that he expected the fight would be rescheduled within four weeks and would remain on Showtime. Spokesman Lee Samuels said the possibility exists that the fight might move across Las Vegas Boulevard from the MGM Grand to the Mandalay Bay Events Center, depending upon the date it gets from Showtime.
"I'm very disappointed, but I know that these things happen in boxing," Lopez said in a statement released by Top Rank. "I hope the fight gets rescheduled soon and look forward to fighting Rafael Marquez."
Bradley-Alexander fight drawing near
There is some good news in the big fight department. Promoters Don King and Gary Shaw have agreed on terms of a deal for Devon Alexander to fight Timothy Bradley on Jan. 29 on HBO.
That is one of the biggest fights which could be made in boxing. The fighters haven't signed off on the bout yet, but that should come soon.
If Marquez does indeed go forward with the Khan fight on Dec. 4, it would make sense for the winners to meet sometime in the spring of 2011.
- Antonio Margarito
- Manny Pacquiao