- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito's plans for a major fall fight in Las Vegas, be it with Manny Pacquiao or a rematch with Miguel Cotto, the two bouts promoter Top Rank has talked about, were dealt a serious blow Friday when the Nevada State Athletic Commission tabled his application for a boxing license.
After a spirited hearing that lasted nearly two hours, the panel voted 4-1 to table his application, telling Margarito that he must first reapply for a license in California before Nevada will again consider his request. By tabling the application, it was not outright denied. Had the commission formally denied it, Margarito would not have been eligible to apply in Nevada again for a year.
The California State Athletic Commission revoked Margarito's license following his Jan. 24, 2009 ninth-round knockout loss to Shane Mosley in a welterweight championship fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles over a hand-wrapping scandal that erupted in the dressing room in the moments before he was supposed to walk to the ring.
Naazim Richardson, Mosley's trainer, objected to the way Margarito's hands been wrapped and when California officials eventually cut off the wraps to check them, illegal pads coated in a plaster-like substance, which had escaped the notice of the commission inspector who oversaw the wrapping procedure, were discovered in each wrap.
Margarito pleaded ignorance during the California hearing before it voted to revoke his license, as well as that of his trainer Javier Capetillo, who had wrapped his hands. Margarito, who has severed ties with Capetillo, pleaded ignorance again when questioned by Nevada commissioners.
"If I would have noticed there was something irregular or wrong I would have been the first person to say I can't go out and fight," Margarito said through a translator.
A year after the revocation, Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) was eligible to reapply for a license anywhere he wanted. Although he could have fought outside of the United States during the revocation, that likely would have reflected poorly on him when he came back to an American commission for a license. So he sat for more than a year before Mexican officials rubber stamped a license for him and he outpointed Roberto Garcia in a junior middleweight bout on May 8.
But the United States is where the big money fights are and rather than apply for a license in California, where Margarito has a lawsuit pending against the commission in the California Court of Appeals, he applied in Nevada, which is where Top Rank planned for him to fight.
While the Nevada commission could have licensed him, the feeling was that he should first go to California, which is most familiar with his case.
"I think he needs to go to California and clean this matter up," commissioner Raymond "Skip" Avansino said during the hearing. "They should be the first to rule."
Commission chairwoman Pat Lundvall, the lone dissenting vote, argued strongly on Margarito's behalf both for taking a vote and for licensing him.
"I do not think he has a duty legally or morally to go back to California," she said. "It is incumbent upon this commission to act upon the application. ... There is no value in kicking the can down the road."
In the end, Lundvall was outvoted despite her strenuous objection.
"We were hopeful that the commission would rule on the application after hearing our presentation and hearing Antonio answer all of their questions. He did and he did magnificently," David Marroso, Margarito's attorney, told ESPN.com after the hearing. "We're disappointed in their decision to, using their words, kick the can down the road, but we heard their instructions. Antonio, his family, the lawyers and Top Rank will huddle and decide what options we'll pursue.
"We believe he has paid his price. He's taken responsibility. We will assess our options and keep fighting just like he's always done. We will continue to fight. He didn't become Antonio Margarito by just staying down."
"I understand their position, but don't necessarily agree with it," said Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who was at the hearing while Top Rank chairman Bob Arum was in Puerto Rico promoting Saturday's Juan Manuel Lopez-Bernabe Concepcion featherweight title fight. "He has served his punishment in California and is not looking to fight in California, so why apply there for a license?
"The Margarito side doesn't believe the California commission was objective [when the license was revoked] and that they could not get an objective hearing from California now. They were hoping that Nevada would be more objective and see that a commission that Margarito is currently in litigation with would be compromised."
After Marroso made a presentation to the commission, Margarito was questioned at length about his hand wraps, the methods used to wrap his hands and about why he didn't apply in California before coming to Nevada.
"Before the fight, my trainer Javier Capetillo, my former trainer, put a knuckle pad made of gauze on my hand," Margarito said through a translator. "I learned later the knuckle pad had something irregular on the inside but I didn't know that truthfully in the moment. The knuckle pad didn't seem different to ones he had put on my hands before.
"I never felt anything hard or irregular. Everything I felt was that it was a knuckle pad that was normal. In that moment, I was focused on one thing and that was preparing myself to go out to the fight with Mosley."
Margarito said he had many opportunities to take fights out of the country during the time his license was revoked but elected not to out of respect for the American commissions.
"I thought about it and talked to my family and decided not to fight," Margarito said.
He told the commission he had severed ties with Capetillo and that "over the past year I have taken steps, spoken to my new trainer [Robert Garcia] about the wrapping process and about not breaking the rules. I have paid a very high price this past year. ... But I think I've earned the right to come before you and ask respectfully for a license to restore my reputation with the fans.
"I accept responsibility because they are my hands and that is why I have taken steps to make sure this never happens again."
When he was questioned about why he came to Nevada before going to California, Marroso brought up the pending lawsuit and Margarito said he had already served California's punishment.
"I think even today they probably wouldn't give me a license and I don't think that's fair," he said.
Marroso said despite Margarito's uneasy feelings about how he would be treated in California, that might be where they are headed.
"We could take the commission's instructions and proceed to California," he said. "This is not something we expected so it's not something we had thought through. We'll let Antonio digest this. We're going to digest it and huddle and come up with a game plan. It won't be long until the game plan is set and we act on it."
Margarito, 32, could go to California, he could fight again outside the United States or he could apply in another state.
"I think everybody was disappointed," duBoef said. "I think he's being victimized by red tape and a process prohibiting him from making a living. I sat next to his wife and you know she wonders where the next paycheck is coming from and that's very difficult."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
9hPat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler