The saga of where the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight will take place has now reached the level of surreal, with Cotto saying on a media teleconference Tuesday that if the fight isn't in New York, he won't fight.
Poor promoter Bob Arum sounded like he was about to have a heart attack when Cotto said that.
"I signed for this for New York," Cotto said when asked for his opinion about the possibility that the fight could be moved because of Margarito's licensing problem in New York. "I didn't sign this fight for somewhere else. I'm going to fight in New York. I'm not going to fight in another place. I'm not going to present myself in any other state. New York State. If New York says and the medical people from the commission say that Margarito is not able to fight because of his eye, any commission has to respect that."
Arum seemed at a loss for words, which is rare. He said he didn't know why we were even having the call before the New York State Athletic Commission took a vote Tuesday afternoon on Margarito's license.
Perhaps Arum forgot that it was his company that scheduled the call.
Anyway, later on the call a writer from Puerto Rico asked Cotto about the venue again. Cotto this time answered in Spanish, which was translated by Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez.
Cotto, who would have massive backing from what will be a sellout crowd filled mostly with his Puerto Rican fans, reiterated his stance:
"When I signed for this fight with the company [Top Rank] and Margarito, the fight was to be in New York City and that's where the fight should be. It's not a question of giving [Margarito] an advantage [if it is somewhere else]. I signed to fight in New York City and that's where it should be."
At that point, Arum was clearly agitated and immediately ordered publicist Fred Sternburg to end the call. Then the line went dead.
Whether Cotto -- due to make a minimum of $5 million for the fight to Margarito's $2.5 million -- actually backs out if New York doesn't grant the license, remains to be seen. But for bombshells, it was about as big and bizarre as anything I have heard on any of the many hundreds of such calls I have participated in.
Cotto, of course, is scheduled to defend his junior middleweight title in a rematch against Margarito on Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York. If only it were that simple.
If you've followed this at all, you know that the NYSAC has not given Margarito a license yet because he suffered a serious eye injury in his one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao last November.
Margarito suffered a broken orbital bone and developed a cataract. He eventually had cataract surgery and an artificial lens implant, two procedures that normally disqualify a fighter from being licensed in New York.
Top Rank was making plans to move the fight in the event New York denies Margarito's license, likely to the Pepsi Center in Denver -- although other venues have also been discussed, including Phoenix, Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas, and Biloxi and Southaven, Miss.
In last Wednesday's hearing to discuss the license, Margarito and Top Rank presented their experts, including the renowned doctor who operated on Margarito, who said Margarito should be licensed. On Friday, rather than voting, the commission ordered Margarito to see an expert it selected. So he broke camp in the mountains outside of Mexico City and flew to New York on Sunday night.
He spent Monday undergoing two exams. One was conducted by an expert selected by Top Rank, Dr. Kenneth Rosenthal, who is the president of the New York Intraocular Lens Implant Society. According to Top Rank's Carl Moretti, who was with Margarito at the appointment, Rosenthal's opinion was that Margarito was "fit to fight and it was like a travesty if he wouldn't be cleared to fight."
Top Rank made the appointment with Rosenthal just to have yet another opinion available for the commission.
After that exam, Margarito saw the expert the commission selected, Dr. Michael Goldstein, who was supposed to write a report on his findings and present them to the commission, which will vote Tuesday afternoon.
The three-member commission -- chairwoman Melvina Lathan, Edwin Torres and Thomas Santino -- will need to vote in favor of granting Margarito a license or, apparently, Cotto won't fight.
And the saga continues.