N.Y. may not license Antonio Margarito
The rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is scheduled for Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The fight, a major HBO PPV event, was announced with fanfare -- with New York State Athletic Commission chairwoman Melvina Lathan in attendance. A three-city media tour followed and the fight is nearly sold out. However, the fight could be forced to move to another venue if the New York commission denies Margarito a license on medical grounds, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com Wednesday night.
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The New York commission, which denied Margarito's original application for a license after he applied for one on Oct. 31 because of the serious eye injury he suffered last year, held a three-hour-plus closed hearing on Wednesday in Manhattan at the request of Top Rank and Margarito after the initial license denial. The health of Margarito's right eye was the central topic of conversation.
During the hearing, which Arum attended, the commission heard testimony from the commission eye specialist, a doctor from its medical advisory board and two doctors who support Margarito's application, including his eye surgeon.
"Worst-case scenario is that they deny the license, and if they do, we have five other venues as backups," said Arum, who declined to name the other venues. "But we are still going Dec. 3. We're doing the fight. We have a license (for Margarito) from a few states. You play the hand that you're dealt. I'm not going to get myself worried about it. Hopefully, the commission does the right thing and grants the license."
In addition to a badly-broken orbital bone in his face, Margarito suffered a serious eye injury during a one-sided decision loss to Manny Pacquiao last Nov. 13 and has not fought since.
As a result of the beating Margarito took, he developed a large cataract in his right eye. Margarito and his team at first considered the injury to be career ending. However, he eventually had cataract surgery and an artificial lens was placed in his eye by Dr. Alan Crandall in Salt Lake City this past spring.
The New York commission is considering whether to license Margarito despite the eye problems. Normally, the sort of injury and surgery that Margarito had disqualifies a fighter from being licensed in New York.
The three-person commission, Lathan, Edwin Torres and Thomas Santino, are scheduled to vote on Margarito's license at a public hearing on Friday.
According to the commission, the decision to license Margarito "will be based on evidence and testimony presented" during Wednesday's hearing.
Margarito has been training in Mexico, but the eye has been a concern. He missed a day of training in late October to make a trip to Utah to see his doctor and have his eye examined, according to a source with knowledge of the trip.
Margarito's licensing issues in New York have nothing to do with the hand-wrapping scandal that saw him have his license revoked in California for trying to enter the ring with loaded hand wraps for a January 2009 fight with Shane Mosley.
Margarito sat out for 16 months and although California denied Margarito's application to be re-licensed and Nevada refused to rule on an application, he was eventually licensed in Texas and fought Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium a year ago. According to sources, New York had assured Top Rank that the hand wrap scandal would not be an issue in licensing Margarito. A medical issue, however, is a different story.
In July, Sergio Diaz, Margarito's co-manager, told ESPN.com that Crandall told Margarito that the eye problem "was very fixable and not a career-ending injury. Antonio had pretty much accepted the fact that he would have surgery and have to retire. But they did this different kind of surgery that day, a half-hour surgery. They removed the cataract and put in a new lens. His vision is a whole lot better and will continue to get better."
Diaz further said Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) was due to have a second laser surgery a couple of weeks later but that "Antonio is going to be fine. He has been released to continue his career."
Arum said that Crandall testified via video conference during Wednesday's hearing and that the other doctors were present, but that the commission members never asked any questions -- just listened to the testimony.
"It was a different kind of hearing. Nobody asked any questions," Arum said. "The commission wanted to play it close to the vest so they never asked a question. But whatever it is, it is. We'll see Friday."
Before saying he would move the card to another state if Margarito was not licensed, Arum considered bringing in Vanes Martirosyan as a replacement for Margarito. Martirosyan, a 2004 U.S. Olympian and undefeated contender promoted by Top Rank, was told he might get the call and has been preparing for a possible fight.
But Arum said that was no longer under consideration.
"That option is off the table," Arum said.
Margarito and Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) first met in 2008 in what turned out to be a tremendous action-filled fight. Mexico's Margarito came on strong in the later rounds and stopped Puerto Rico's Cotto in the 11th round of a bloody battle, taking his welterweight belt at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Because Margarito was caught trying to fight Mosley with loaded hand wraps in his next fight, and had administered significant facial damage to Cotto in the later rounds, many suspected he had gotten away with wearing illegal hand wraps, making the Dec. 3 fight a much-anticipated grudge rematch.
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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