Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto 2 - Understanding the Margarito Licensing Situation

Margarito's eye, not the controversial handwraps are at the center of the licensing situation. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

One thing that has been requested has been a little more boxing coverage here at Bloody Elbow, so going forward we'll touch on major boxing events and recap the weekend's action. But your home for the best boxing coverage at SB Nation is still Bad Left Hook, so make sure you keep up with things there as well. We'll be starting our new boxing coverage with a two part feature on the Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto fight, today discussing Margarito's issues acquiring a license for the rematch scheduled for December 3 and tomorrow diving into the incredible marketing of the fight.

The very mention of Antonio Margarito's name is enough to strike up an immediate emotional reaction from most combat fans. Margarito went from on top of the world after defeating Miguel Angel Cotto in a thrilling fight in July of 2008 he got a fight with Shane Mosley in January 2009. During the hand wrapping process for the Mosley fight, Shane's trainer noticed Margarito's wraps had a strange substance on them. The wraps were eventually found to have plaster of paris on them, which would have hardened to give him a dangerous advantage in the bout.

Margarito would have to have his hands re-wraped and would then go on to take a vicious beating at the hands of Mosely in "Sugar" Shane's last great performance.

The end result of the handwrapping controversy was a year suspension of Margarito's boxing license by the state of California and a reputation that will never recover.

Margarito is set to face Cotto in a rematch on December 3 in New York City. Cotto feels that his loss the first time around can't be fully accepted as Margarito may have cheated and Antonio is looking to prove that he didn't cheat the first time and won't need to this time either.

Unfortunately for fight fans excited to see the bout, Margarito has been having trouble acquiring a license from the NYSAC because of a surgically repaired eye.

Some may be wondering why Margarito is even able to apply for a license after the plaster situation. The answer has multiple parts:

  • The blame was put on Margarito's trainer, Javier Capetillo. He claims he simply picked up wraps off a table as he was in a rush and it was not an intentional act. During the hearing with the commission Margarito threw Capetillo under the bus, saying he didn't understand why he would do such a thing.
  • The commission couldn't pin the fault on Margarito, finding that he actually did nothing wrong and may well have been ignorant of the entire situation.
  • Finally, the biggest part of why the suspension wouldn't have held up for over a year. In cases like these, there are standard evidence handling guidelines. It appears that there were serious problems with the chain of custody of the evidence the evening of the Mosley fight. The wraps appear to have changed hands several times during the hours that followed, including spending time with multiple members of Mosley's camp. This prevented further action from being taken, including possible legal action against Margarito and his camp.

So while it's easy to get upset with the fact that Margarito is allowed to fight, it also requires some acknowledgement of the California State Athletic Commission's failures.

More on the current state of Margarito's license after the jump.

November of 2010 saw Margarito return to an American boxing ring for the first time since his suspension to face Manny Pacquiao. Margarito displayed a ton of heart as he took a violent beating at the hands of Pacquiao for twelve rounds.

After the fight it was determined that Margarito suffered a fractured orbital bone which required surgery to fix. He then had to have an additional surgery done to repair the lens of his eye. That second surgery was done by one of the leading experts in the field and he declared the work a success. However, hose two surgeries and the health of Antonio's eye have the NYSAC hesitant to grant a license. Recent shots of Margarito on HBO's 24/7 series show where some of that concern comes from (repaired eye is Margarito's right):


New York held a hearing on Friday which ended with a determination that if a NYSAC chosen doctor cleared Margarito, they would grant the license. This forced Margarito to break camp in Mexico to fly into 

While it is admirable for the NYSAC to look out for the health of a fighter, it's the way which they went about the situation that has many people upset. Back on September 20 one of the most vocal members of the licensing board, Melvina Lathan, appeared at a Top Rank press conference and said the following (via Bad Left Hook):

"Whenever Bob comes to town, he comes to town and really throws out the red carpet. That's what we need in New York. I can't tell you how proud, how happy we are at the commission to have such a beginning of Madison Square Garden, once she has a new facelift that is, that we are going to be the ones to help open it. This is a great show, both shows are going to be a great show (Donaire vs Narvaez on October 22), and we're just really looking forward to these exciting -- both evenings of boxing.

"I have a great crew, which in part helps to maintain and make sure that everything is safe as far as the welfare, the safety of the boxers are concerned. Without that crew and their dedication, the state athletic commission just would not be, and I am very happy to have them on my team. I applaud them myself. Come out to the show, know that everything is going to go well, and best of luck to both participants. Thank you again."

So just two months back one of the people holding out on the license was attending a press conference and assuring the public that the fight would go off without a hitch. That led to great ticket sales to see the fight at Madison Square Garden with fans booking flights and hotels only to be told mere weeks out that the fight may be a no-go.

Steve Kim of Max Boxing suggests that this may have all been a plan by New York to wait until it was too late to move the fight and then force Top Rank to switch out Margarito for a late replacement. This would have kept the big selling fight in the state without allowing the controversial Margarito to fight in the state. Kim explains the flaw in New York's thinking if that were the case:

While the live gate is an important facet of any promotion, with fights like Cotto-Margarito II, it actually pales in comparison to the pay-per-view possibilities. Yeah, the Garden might seat around 20,000 patrons (and, from what I'm told, is scaled for a gate of $3.4 million) but if this card does 300,000 pay-per-view buys, that means right around $7.5 million for the promotion. And while the "Kangaroo Court of Gotham City" believed it may have pushed Top Rank to the point of no return, they were really at the point of no return regarding Cotto-Margarito. See, the real money in this instance is with the pay-per-view. This was not just an ESPN card where the main event participants are interchangeable. With the expenses for marketing, promoting and advertising already paid, you couldn't have suddenly thrown in a Martirosyan or anyone else on the opposite side of the ledger from Cotto. And with this fight's much-talked about first episode of HBO's "24/7" debuting this weekend, it was another step toward the inevitability of this bout.

The fact that the PPV money trumps the live gate means that Top Rank has already lined up alternative venues for the bout, with the leading candidate apparently being the Pepsi Center in Denver.

The fight will be going down regardless of if it happens in New York. For fight fans, that is a good thing. Margarito and Cotto put on one of the better fights of my lifetime the first time around and a rematch really feels "needed" to finish the story. Top Rank also did something unique and put three potentially great fights on the PPV undercard including a rematch of the fight of the year candidate between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak, a Brandon Rios vs. John Murray fight and action fighters Mike Jones and Sebastian Lujan meeting in what could be a great brawl.

New York will hold a hearing today at 3 p.m. ET to announce if Margarito was cleared by their doctor and will be licensed to fight. If not, expect an announcement quickly from Top Rank on the official venue change.

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