Boxing is often a great and wondrous sport that has helped save numerous young men from lives on the street and made productive citizens out of them.
And then there are days like Thursday, when being around the sport makes one become nauseous. Antonio Margarito, who on Jan. 24, 2009, attempted to get into a ring before a record crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with an illegal knuckle pad in his right hand wrap to fight Shane Mosley, is once again an active boxer.
Loading one’s gloves, or removing the stuffing from one’s gloves, is the most grievous sin a boxer can commit. Regardless, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation gave Margarito a license to box on Thursday without so much as asking him a solitary question, paving the way for Margarito to receive a likely seven-figure payday to meet pound-for-pound champion Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Please hold the bucket for me while I vomit.
Bob Arum and Top Rank, Margarito’s promotional company, are going to earn millions of dollars by profiting off Margarito’s macabre celebrity. They’ll promote a pay-per-view match as good vs. evil, hero vs. villain, knowing that many will buy the fight hoping to see Margarito get his comeuppance against the best fighter in the world.
HBO, which accepted an Emmy last year for broadcasting Eric Drath’s brilliant documentary “Assault in the Ring,” about a case in which trainer Panama Lewis and boxer Luis Resto removed the stuffing from Resto’s gloves and casted his hand wraps, is going to distribute this train wreck.
Oh, the irony of HBO winning the Emmy for the very subject that it’s now going to hype and market with a documentary preview series. Where is HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg to speak out and decline to broadcast this despicable event? Greenburg has uttered nary a peep because he knows Arum would distribute it himself if HBO balked and Greenburg doesn’t want to risk losing HBO’s cut of the pie.
California revoked the licenses of Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo last year after discovery of the hand wraps. Capetillo, who still trains fighters every day at the Azteca Boxing Club in Bell, Calif., just east of Los Angeles, is essentially banned from boxing for life in the U.S. He admitted that he put the illegal pad inside of Margarito’s hand wraps.
But Margarito fingered Capetillo as the culprit and denied being aware of the illegal pad. California could not prove Margarito knew the wrappings were illegal with clear and convincing evidence. I believe with all my heart he knew, but no one has come forward to say that Margarito was a willing participant in the scheme and two inspectors for the California State Athletic Commission testified at his disciplinary hearing that he did not appear to know.
One, long-time chief inspector Dean Lohuis, testified that Margarito offered his right hand to be examined when Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson protested that something was amiss with the wraps.
Because it couldn’t be proven conclusively that he knew, there are no legal reasons to deny him. But ethically, morally and in the best interests of boxing, Texas’ decision to grant Margarito a license is a farce and an affront to every tenet of fair play known to man.
Pacquiao is going to accept upward of $15 million of what is blood money to fight Margarito. When negotiations for a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. ended in July with no agreement, Arum presented Pacquiao with two options: fight Miguel Cotto or fight Margarito.
Pacquiao chose to fight Margarito. From a business standpoint, it was the right move. But it proves that Pacquiao’s ethics are as questionable as Margarito’s. Why allow Margarito, who, I might add, was completely torn apart by Mosley after the advantage was removed from his wraps, to make that kind of money? When you sleep with dogs, you get fleas and Philippines congressman Pacquiao is flea-infested at the moment.
Never was there a thought of doing the right thing, of setting a good example for the people in his boxing-mad country and refusing to fight an obvious cheater. Instead, Pacquiao grabbed for the money and didn’t care if he rewarded Margarito handsomely in the process. Pacquiao is as despicable as the rest of the bunch.
Margarito is a pariah in a sport filled with rogues at every level. Talk to fighters off the record and almost to a man, they’ll tell you that it is impossible for Margarito not to have known something was in his wraps. I have yet to speak to a boxer who has believed Margarito’s denials.
Margarito has gotten off extraordinarily light. Lewis and Resto went to jail after a New York jury convicted them of removing the stuffing from Resto’s gloves before a 1983 fight with Billy Collins. Resto never boxed again after ending Collins’ career with a bludgeoning that damaged his eye sight and sent him into a dark depression. Collins died in a car accident some nine months later, never again the same person he was before the fight.
Nearly 25 years later, Resto admitted to Drath that not only did he know that Lewis had removed the stuffing from his gloves but also that the two of them had soaked his hands in plaster of Paris, essentially turning his wrappings into casts.
Margarito did not wear the illegal hand wraps into the ring, as Resto did. And nor did he go to jail. He was treated with kid gloves, considering the heinousness of the offense. He was off for 15 months after California revoked his license until returning on May 8 to fight journeyman Roberto Garcia in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
So, you ask, what ultimately was Margarito’s true penalty? How about one fight? How does that sit? Does that make your stomach even a bit queasy?
If it doesn’t, it should.
Most high-earning boxers, like Mayweather, Mosley, Pacquiao and, yes, Margarito, fight twice a year. And guess what? Until his punishment forced him into just one fight in 2009, that’s exactly what Margarito had been doing.
Since 2001, Margarito fought twice every year through 2008. He only fought once in 2009, against Mosley, because of the penalty, but he fought Garcia on May 8 and will meet Pacquiao on Nov. 13. So he lost one fight for committing the biggest sin a boxer can commit.
Boxing is filled with men who work hard, do the right thing, have success and still have difficulty landing a big fight. Margarito, a guy who could have severely hurt Mosley had he not been caught, is essentially being paroled and placed into the biggest fight of the year.
It’s sick. It’s disgusting.
Sadly, it’s boxing.