- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Antonio Margarito, who won three welterweight world titles and was involved in several action-packed fights -- but who also became one of boxing's most reviled figures after being caught trying to fight Shane Mosley with loaded hand wraps -- announced his retirement on Thursday.
"After 22 years of full dedication to the profession I love, I have made the decision to announce my retirement from boxing," Margarito, 34, said in a statement addressed to "family, friends and fans."
"After much thought and extended conversations with my family and team, we have all agreed that the time to hang up my gloves and begin a new chapter in life has arrived," Margarito continued. "I always told my family and team that I would walk away from boxing when I felt I could no longer compete at the level I believed I needed to be, in order to be successful. Although the passion and drive are still there, I have to accept that my time to walk away has arrived."
In the end, Mexico's Margarito -- known by many as "The Tijuana Tornado" for his relentless pressure style -- retired because his body was breaking down.
Margarito, who took a severe beating from Miguel Cotto in a 10th-round knockout loss in their grudge rematch in December, had been scheduled to return May 26 on a Top Rank card in a middleweight bout against Abel Perry.
However, Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs) withdrew from the fight because of an Achilles injury, hoping to instead be ready for the fight in July. But Margarito felt he would not be ready and walked away, even though a victory would have set him up for a possible big-money fight against middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the fall.
"We are so delighted in playing a significant role in Antonio Margarito's career considering the (hand-wrap) incident which happened to him in California," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "We were able to continue to get fights for Antonio, which has insured his financial security.
"We wish him good luck in retirement."
Margarito leaves boxing with a tainted legacy. For several years, he was considered the most avoided fighter in the sport, unable to land a fight with a name opponent because of the significant danger he posed for little reward.
Then, after being engulfed in the hand-wrap scandal in 2009, many questioned if he had regularly fought with loaded wraps and was derisively called "Margacheato" by many.
He won his first welterweight belt by stopping Antonio Diaz in the 10th round in 2002 -- two years after Margarito scored a seventh-round knockout of a novice Sergio Martinez, years before he became middleweight world champion.
Margarito made seven title defenses, including a second-round knockout victory against former titlist Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis, a decision against Joshua Clottey and a fifth-round knockout of Kermit Cintron. Clottey and Cintron both went on to win titles.
Margarito lost his belt to Paul Williams on a decision in 2007 in a hellacious fight, but two bouts later he met Cintron, who had won a world title, in a rematch. Margarito knocked Cintron out again, this time in the sixth round, to win another title.
Finally, Margarito landed a major pay-per-view fight. He gave up his title in order to challenge Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto for his version of the 147-pound crown. They met in July 2008 in a classic Mexico versus Puerto Rico rivalry that lived up to all of the pre-fight expectations for a slugfest. In one of the fights of the year, Cotto raced to a big lead, but the relentless Margarito pressed forward against a tiring Cotto and stopped him in the 11th round to take his belt in what would be the biggest win of his career.
It was all downhill from there.
In January 2009, he was set to defend against former champ and heavy underdog Mosley at the sold-out Staples Center in Los Angeles. But shortly before Margarito was due to walk to the ring, Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson objected to the way Margarito's left hand was wrapped. When his wrap was removed an illegal knuckle pad coated with a plaster-like substance was discovered. Then one was also found in the other hand.
Margarito's hands were re-wrapped and Mosley wound up doing a number on Margarito. He thrashed Margarito, who had a reputation for an indestructible chin, stunningly knocking him out in the ninth round to win the title.
Suddenly, questions surrounded Margarito's past wins. Margarito denied any knowledge of the illegal wraps and blamed trainer Javier Capetillo, who said he had accidentally placed the wrong pads in Margarito's hand wraps. The California State Athletic Commission revoked both of their licenses and said Margarito was responsible for his team, regardless of his knowledge of its actions.
Throughout the hand-wrap scandal and calls for Arum to severe ties with Margarito, Arum stuck with him and earned the fighter's gratitude.
"I want to thank my promoters, Bob Arum, (company president) Todd duBoef and everyone at Top Rank," Margarito said. "I am proud to say that I began and ended my career with a great promotional company. As a non-privileged child, I had dreams. I dreamt of giving my family a better life. I dreamt of owning a car, owning a home, traveling the world, and helping others in need. Bob, I thank you for helping me fulfill those dreams."
Margarito served a 16-month suspension before returning to fight in May 2010 in Mexico, where he was welcomed, despite not being licensed in the United States.
Margarito severed ties to Capetillo, who had been a father figure to him, linked up with Oxnard, Calif., trainer Robert Garcia and outpointed Roberto Garcia.
It would be Margarito's final victory, assuming the retirement sticks.
Texas granted Margarito a license and he signed to face Manny Pacquiao for a vacant junior middleweight belt at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in November 2010. Pacquiao laid waste to Margarito. Although Margarito went the distance -- many believe a compassionate Pacquiao held back in the later rounds -- he wound up with a broken orbital bone and a severe cataract in his right eye.
After a year off and multiple eye surgeries, Margarito was cleared to fight and Arum put together a rematch with Cotto, who believed Margarito had handed him his first defeat by wearing loaded gloves.
Although the bitter grudge match had been set for months to take place at New York's Madison Square Garden, the bout was almost moved because the New York State Athletic Commission waited until about two weeks before the fight to license Margarito after multiple hearings over the health of his eye.
Finally, Cotto, in front of an adoring, mostly Puerto Rican crowd, avenged his defeat on Dec. 3, pummeling Margarito's surgically repaired right eye until it was swollen closed and the fight was called off at the start of the 10th round.
Margarito didn't dwell on the one-sided losses to Pacquiao and Cotto that ended his career just days after two other notable fighters from his era -- Mosley and Winky Wright -- also announced their retirements.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank (wife) Michelle and my family for their support, encouragement, and most of all, their love," Margarito said. "Not only did they give me their unconditional love and support during the good times, their love and support grew larger during the times that I was at my lowest.
"I also want to thank my team, Sergio Diaz Jr. and Francisco Espinosa. They are not only my management, they are my family. For 16 years, they guided my career and did what was best for me. To my trainers, without your drive and motivation, I would not have had the success. You were an integral part of my career. I thank you for your dedication. Finally, I want to thank all of my fans for their love and loyal support. Without you, there would be no Antonio Margarito."
Margarito said he intends to stay involved in boxing in some fashion, though he did not specify how.
"I leave the cuts, bruises, and sweat, but I'm not leaving the sport," he said. "I will continue in the sport that gave me so much. Now, however, it is time for me to give back to the sport."