Antonio Margarito denied boxing license
The California State Athletic Commission on Wednesday denied former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito a boxing license on a 5-1 vote after a nearly six-hour hearing in Los Angeles.
Margarito was seeking a license from the commission that revoked his license in February 2009 following his knockout loss to Shane Mosley the previous month.
The denial throws into question Margarito's proposed fall fight against Manny Pacquiao, which would be for a vacant junior middleweight belt.
In the dressing room before Margarito faced Mosley at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, illegal inserts were discovered in each of his hand wraps after Mosley's trainer, Naazim Richardson, objected to the way his hands had been wrapped. The wraps were cut off and the illegal pads, which were coated in a plaster-like substance, were discovered. Margarito's hands were re-wrapped. The fight went off with Mosley knocking Margarito out in the ninth round to win the title.
California's denial means Margarito cannot reapply there for at least one year. However, now that he has asked California regulators for a license, other commissions in the United States can make the decision on their own about whether he should be granted a license.
Earlier this summer, Margarito applied to the Nevada commission for a license, but it tabled the request and said he should first go back to California before it would consider his application. The Association of Boxing Commissions, which oversees state commissions nationwide, suggested he do the same thing.
Margarito is expected to ask Texas for a license in the hopes of being granted one in order to fight Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in an HBO PPV fight on Nov. 13. HBO had a camera at the hearing to record it for potential use in the "24/7" reality series it is planning for the build-up to the fight.
Asked for a reaction to California's ruling at practice on Wednesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, "I'm aware of it but have no comment."
Although states typically uphold rulings in other states on licensing issues, that is not always the case. Mike Tyson, for example, was denied a license in Nevada in 2002 before he fought Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight title. After the denial, Tyson was licensed in Tennessee and the fight took place.
Bob Arum's Top Rank, which promotes Margarito and Pacquiao, anticipated a denial in California, issuing a statement immediately after the hearing ended.
"Top Rank has complied with the wishes of the ABC and other states. Top Rank will soon make an announcement about Antonio Margarito," Top Rank's statement read.
Arum, on a cruise, was unavailable for comment.
Margarito's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, who gained fame for winning a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Ronald Goldman's family against O.J. Simpson and for representing former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, was disappointed with the decision.
"We are very disappointed in the ruling," Petrocelli told ESPN.com. "We thought the evidence was indisputable and that the license should have been granted. Almost to a person, the commission expressed the view that Tony was honest and sincere and the chairman [John Frierson] voted to grant the license, and [Frierson] is only one of two commissioners who were on the commission for the revocation hearing.
"The government tried unsuccessfully to convince the commission that Tony knew about the wraps and they failed because there has never been such a finding either today, or at the previous hearing. They want to see another year go by for Tony. I thought that was unreasonable."
The commission never found Margarito knew about the illegal inserts, instead holding Margarito accountable because he is the head of his team.
"I would like first to ask for another chance," Margarito said through a translator during his testimony. "Guarantee this will never happen again. Had I known that there was something illegal in my wrapping, I would not have stepped into the ring. I am glad it was discovered before [the fight]."
Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) told the commission the same thing he said during his license revocation hearing last year -- that he knew nothing about the illegal pads, which trainer Javier Capetillo took the blame for. Capetillo's license was also revoked.
"I think anything in the wrapping that is illegal would be an unfair advantage," Margarito said. "All I am saying is I did not know. I am being completely honest with you and all of the boxing world. That's why I broke my relationship with Capetillo. It was hard but that's what I had to do. They are my hands and whatever is on them, I am responsible."
"If it's going to take him coming back one day and saying, 'I did it, I did it,' he will never have a license because that's not what happened and that is not the evidence of the case," Petrocelli said. "He took his punishment for being the captain of the ship when someone on the ship did something wrong. He can't admit to knowing because it's not true. He'd be lying and you might not even believe that. He's not about to say it, not now, not ever."
Margarito, 32, severed his relationship with Capetillo, a father figure to him, not long after the revocation and last fall hired Robert Garcia to train him for his comeback fight. Margarito defeated Roberto Garcia (no relation) in Mexico in May, but purposely waited to fight him until after the one-year revocation period in California had expired.
Petrocelli argued that Margarito waited as a show of respect to the commission even though he could have fought outside the United States and made "hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars" because he supports so many people in his extended family.
Arguing on behalf of the commission, deputy attorney general Karen Chappelle, who also argued against Margarito when his license was revoked, hammered Margarito for not apologizing or showing adequate remorse or rehabilitation in seeking a new license.
"A boxer like Mr. Margarito makes a living with his fists," she said. "He knows what is in the wrappings that go on his fists. His fists are his livelihood. His fists are weapons."
Petrocelli argued against that, saying that the hiring of Garcia as the new trainer showed Margarito was serious, and Garcia, a former world champion and a well-respected trainer, appeared at the hearing to testify on Margarito's behalf.
"You have to be clean. It will never happen again because now I am on top of it," Margarito said, adding that he pays close attention every time Garcia wraps his hands. "I didn't know then. Now I am completely involved in it. I am on top of the wrapping and everything else."
Chappelle tried to discredit Margarito's efforts to strictly follow California's rules, as he said he would, by citing an obscure rule that Margarito and his team were unaware of. If somebody who is unlicensed by California wants to spar, he needs a "sparring permit." Margarito sparred in California in preparation for his fight with Roberto Garcia without having a permit.
Chappelle said that showed that Margarito was not on top of things because he broke that rule.
"I did not know I had to have a permit for sparring," Margarito said. "Had I known that, I would not have done it."
Petrocelli argued that the rule did not apply to Margarito because he was sparring for a fight that did not take place in California.
"You're the CEO of your enterprise. Your attorneys work for you, your trainer works for you," commissioner Gene Hernandez said to Margarito before the vote. "Use them as a resource, but like when you get a drivers license, you need to know all the rules of the road."
"This was a sordid incident in California history," Chappelle said during her closing remarks. "This commission should send a message with its decision. It strains credulity that he didn't know anything about the illegal hand wraps. He still comes before you unwilling to admit any wrongdoing. He says he's sorry because he didn't know what his trainer did. Who stood to benefit from winning that fight? It was Mr. Margarito, not the trainer. ... He hasn't demonstrated any remorse. He has failed to meet his very heavy burden."
All but one of the commissioners agreed.
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn. Information from ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins was used in this report.
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