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Sunday, November 27, 2011
Finding humor in Margarito license mess

By Dan Rafael

Your random thoughts ...

• The last-minute, circus-like way that the New York State Athletic Commission handled the Antonio Margarito licensing situation, including forcing him to break camp in Mexico for an exam of his surgically repaired right eye less than two weeks before his Dec. 3 rematch with Miguel Cotto, at least lent itself to some good humor. On Twitter, the Fight Freaks offered some impressive, witty lines, including:

-- Can't Margarito just use some of that plaster to protect his eye?
-- Is the fight being sanctioned by the WB See?
-- Who sanctioned the exam? The Eye BF?
-- Will Margarito's camp have the doctor's gloves examined prior to the exam?
-- So is this a diamond eye exam or an interim eye exam?
-- Do they charge a sanctioning fee per eye or one fee for both of them?

At least the NYSAC, which should never have allowed the licensing to be drawn out to the 11th hour, came to its senses and licensed Margarito. But it doesn't excuse the fact that it created the mess by waiting until less than two weeks before the fight to handle the situation instead of doing it months ago.

• Speaking of Cotto-Margarito II, how freaking good was the first episode last week of HBO's "24/7 Cotto/Margarito"? Perhaps the single best episode in the history of the series. If you missed it, make sure you watch a replay. The opening few minutes set the stage for an enthralling half-hour as Cotto, for the first time that I have heard, said plainly that he believed Margarito wore loaded hand wraps in their first fight and called him a "criminal."

• I get asked all the time about the best atmospheres of fights I've covered. There have been so many great ones, but a few jump to mind immediately: Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Ricky Hatton at the MGM in Las Vegas (hands down the best, so far), Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward III at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and Felix Trinidad-William Joppy and Cotto-Zab Judah, both of which were held at Madison Square Garden. I am quite certain I will have another to add to the list after next week because I fully expect that Cotto-Margarito II at the Garden promises an incredible atmosphere. There will be 20,000 (mostly Puerto Rican Cotto fans) rocking the joint. I cannot wait.

• With HBO losing the Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto rematch to Showtime, it looks HBO will aim to kick off its new season with a possible Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight in late January or February. One possible opponent for Chavez is Andy Lee, according to Lou DiBella, Lee's promoter. DiBella told me that Top Rank's Bob Arum, Chavez's promoter, has called him about possibly making that fight. DiBella said he and Arum are planning to meet in New York next week when Arum is in town promoting Cotto-Margarito II. As for my thoughts on Chavez-Lee? Thumbs up. I like that fight.

• If David Lemieux rebounds to defeat Joachim Alcine on Dec. 10, another fight I'd like to see is Lemieux eventually challenging Chavez Jr. for his middleweight belt.

• Although Showtime bought Ortiz-Berto II, it is highly unusual that it's the only fight on the 2012 calendar for HBO or Showtime thus far. I know both networks are going through major changes at the top, with Stephen Espinoza having just started running Showtime Sports and Ken Hershman not due to take over the vacant job at HBO Sports until Jan. 9, but it's still unusual.

• Reflecting on the Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to mention a few things I'm thankful for in terms of boxing: Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather. I want to see them fight each other as much as the next guy, but even apart, they are the biggest boxing stars in a sport that needs as many as it can get. … YouTube.com. Unable to watch many of the fights that go untelevised in the United States? YouTube is your friend. Usually within 24 hours of the fight being over, somebody somewhere on the planet has posted the video. … Heavyweight champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Some say their dominance is bad for boxing. I couldn't disagree more. I enjoy domination. If you want them out of boxing, the solution is simple: Find someone to beat them. Besides, they're true professionals, always show up in shape and are class people, which is something boxing could use more of. … Guys who come to rumble, such as Cotto, Brandon Rios, Jorge Arce, Tavoris Cloud, James Kirkland, Alfredo Angulo, Marcos Maidana, Erik Morales, Michael Katsidis and Giovani Segura. … The fans in Montreal and throughout Quebec. They turn out to support their fighters like nobody else, which is why fighters such as Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal wield impressive economic clout and fill up arenas north of the border.

• Congrats to Kathy Duva and her crew at Main Events for landing a deal for NBC Sports Network to buy fights from the promoter next year. Hopefully, Main Events will put the approximately $100,000 per-show license fee toward legitimate fights that will provide action and are meaningful. She should be able to accomplish exactly that with a budget double that of Showtime's "ShoBox," which regularly gives us very good fights. It's important for boxing that Duva does not fail.

• This is one of the weakest years I can remember when it comes to legitimate candidates for fighter of the year. Usually, there's an obvious choice, or even two. Not this year.

• Although it hasn't been announced yet, HBO and broadcaster Jim Lampley, the network's voice of boxing and a future International Boxing Hall of Famer, are developing a boxing studio show that Lampley will host and is supposed to begin in the first half of 2012. You can count on news from around boxing and discussion about the latest issues in the sport. It's set to begin as a quarterly program but could expand. This has been a long time coming. Despite a massive involvement in boxing, it has always perplexed me why HBO didn't support its coverage with this sort of show. Considering HBO has skin in the game, it's about time it backs it up with -- knowing Lampley -- what I expect to be intelligent boxing discourse.

• In light of the fact that Joel Casamayor tested positive for marijuana after his one-sided drubbing at the hands of junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., I guess we now know why he needed two trips to the scale to make weight. Probably had the munchies.

• This is much cooler than going down to Target or hitting JCPenney for a new pair of shorts, but also a lot more expensive. At a recently concluded auction filled with numerous pieces of incredible sports memorabilia, an unidentified buyer bought the trunks that Muhammad Ali wore in his first fight with Joe Frazier for $173,102. Hey, at least they are signed in three places by Ali.

• DVD pick of the week: Last Tuesday, I recalled one of the most significant anniversaries in boxing history by breaking out my DVD of a fight from 25 years ago -- Nov. 22, 1986 -- at the Las Vegas Hilton. That was when Mike Tyson destroyed Trevor Berbick on an ultra-memorable second-round knockout to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history and fulfilled the prediction of his late trainer and mentor, Cus D'Amato. Tyson was just 20 years, 4 months and 22 days old when he steamrolled Berbick to advance to 28-0 with 26 knockouts. The knockout was sweet. Berbick survived a knockdown in the opening moments of the second round before Tyson landed the title-winning left hook. The shot resulted in essentially three knockdowns: Berbick dropped from the punch, beat the count but fell again because he was disoriented; he then tried to get up again before falling across the ring, completely out of it, as referee Mills Lane called it off. That prompted then HBO announcer Barry Tompkins to rightfully proclaim, "And we have a new era in boxing!"