- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Disgraced former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito isn't doing much talking about doctored hand wraps, license revocations or anything else to do with the scandal that engulfed him and former trainer Javier Capetillo last year.
Margarito would rather move on and get back in the ring, which he will do in a scheduled 10-round junior middleweight bout against Roberto Garcia of Texas in the main event of Top Rank's "Latin Fury 14" on Saturday night (9 ET, Top Rank PPV, $39.95) at Aguascalientes, Mexico. Besides the bouts on the pay-per-view card, Top Rank is offering the untelevised undercard for free beginning at 7 p.m. ET on its website at www.TopRank.com/TRLiveStream.
"I have been working in the gym for over one year but it is not the same as getting into the ring and fighting before a crowd and without headgear," said Margarito, who has steadfastly denied knowledge of what was in his wraps, blaming Capetillo. "Saturday night can't come soon enough for me."
Of course, Margarito and his team would like to distance themselves from the unseemly incident that occurred just before he entered the ring to defend his welterweight title against Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, 2009, before more than 20,000 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Mosley's trainer, Naazim Richardson, objected to the way one of Margarito's hands had been wrapped. When the gloves was cut off to be examined by the California commission inspector, an illegal pad coated in a plaster-like substance was discovered. Then another one was found in the other hand wrap.
Margarito's hands were re-wrapped and the fight went ahead. Mosley dominated Margarito and knocked him out in the ninth round for the upset. A few weeks later, Margarito and Capetillo had their licenses revoked by California regulators, meaning neither could participate in boxing in the United States for at least a year.
Margarito (37-6, 27 KOs) could have fought outside the United States during his revocation, but decided to wait and honor the punishment. After the year was up in February, Margarito was free to apply for a license in any state. Top Rank attempted to get Margarito licensed in order for him to fight on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard in Texas on March 13, but didn't follow though because of the red tape involved and short time frame.
Instead, Margarito's comeback will take place he will welcomed with open arms, Mexico.
"I am anxious to fight in Mexico, the first time in 11 years," said Margarito, who cut ties with Capetillo and is now being trained by former world titleholder Robert Garcia, who is not related to his opponent. "I want to thank the fans who have always supported me. I feel good and I am ready to get back to work. It's been a long time away from the ring and I am very happy to be back."
Margarito may still face hurdles getting licensed in the United States, but his lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said last month in a teleconference with reporters that Margarito had served his punishment and wanted to move on.
"He sat on the sidelines, and now he wants to move forward," Petrocelli said. "And most importantly, he wants to remove this cloud over what has been a completely unblemished reputation throughout his career. He has been a model citizen in the boxing community. He has been a role model, and this has been a horrendous experience for him, and he wants to clear his reputation and move forward."
Margarito, who has never taken responsibility for what was in his hand wraps or apologized for the incident, said he is focusing on the fight and not the past.
"I am really looking forward to this fight like it was my first," he said. "I am still very hungry and still have a lot to accomplish in my career. This fight Saturday against Garcia is very important because I want to come back and give the fans a great fight."
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he is supporting Margarito because he's served his punishment and he doesn't believe Margarito knew what was in his wraps.
"I'm supporting him because I believe he's gotten a really bad shake from everybody from people who haven't followed this as closely as I have," Arum said. "I truly believe he didn't know anything about what was in the gloves, absolutely zero. The inspector supported that [at the hearing].
"The punishment he got was based on him being the captain of the ship, not that he had any knowledge of what was in the gloves. He served his time of the one-year period. He didn't go to Mexico and fighting during it. Now it's time to allow this guy back into the ring to fight."
Garcia (28-2, 21 KOs) hasn't let the scandal go to waste, using it to taunt Margarito.
"The difference between Margarito and me is simple. I can fight in the U.S. and he can't," said Garcia, who trained for the fight with Freddie Roach, although co-trainer Eric Brown will be in the corner with him Saturday. "This is my championship fight. I have worked very hard to get to this point and will not let this great opportunity pass by. I have come to win this fight and that is what I will do on."
Said Brown, "I promise Margarito is going to get his ass kicked. I promise you that."
The confidence of Garcia and his team comes from Margarito's long layoff. They don't believe he will be sharp.
"Margarito has been off too long and is not going to win this one," said Julio Marines, Garcia's manager. "Look at what happened to Mosley (against Floyd Mayweather last week) -- off way too long. He paid the price. Sorry, but that's what will happen to Margarito too. Ring rust, that kind of stuff. I know in my heart Roberto Garcia will win on Saturday night."
Arum said he is not sure what to expect from Margarito.
"Do I know whether he has anything left or not? I have no idea," Arum said. "Garcia [the trainer] says he looks terrific in the gym. I have not seen him train. But Garcia is a no nonsense guy. He would have told me, 'Hey, he looks rusty.' But he has been very bullish.
"I would like to see the old Margarito, a free-punching tornado. That's what endeared him to people. Whether that returns or not, who the hell knows?"
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito is ready to step back into the ring and leave behind an embarrassing one-year suspension for being caught with illegal hand wraps before a fight against Shane Mosley.