Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Updated: February 11, 2:45 PM ET
Margarito, trainer banned in U.S.
By Dan Rafael
The California State Athletic Commission revoked the licenses of former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo on Tuesday, banning them for at least one year for tampering with Margarito's hand wraps before he was to face Shane Mosley on Jan. 24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Voting 7-0 on both motions for revocation, the panel found that they put a plaster-like substance on illegal pads inside Margarito's hand wraps.
Prior to the fight, in which Margarito was knocked out in the ninth round, Mosley's trainer, Naazim Richardson, had objected to the way Margarito's left hand was wrapped. When the wrap was cut off, officials found a suspect bandage wrap inside the knuckle pad that would be placed over Margarito's hands.
Richardson then insisted that the wrap on Margarito's right hand be checked and another identical illegal pad was discovered. Margarito eventually had his hands rewrapped and went on to lose the fight.
The panel rejected Margarito's plea of ignorance -- he told the panel that he just held up his hands to be wrapped -- and Capetillo's insistence that he had simply made a mistake during a hearing that lasted more than five hours in Van Nuys.
Che Guevara, the inspector responsible for supervising Margarito's hand wrapping, testified that he had never seen that sort of pad used before, apparently missing it being slipped into the initial wrap before Richardson's objections.
Another inspector, Mike Bray, said during questioning that he had seen the pads and that they were "moist and dirty looking with a white substance smeared across the pad, like a cast plaster."
The commission has yet to identify the substance on the pads and said it won't know what it is until testing is completed next month.
Capetillo said he accidentally put the wrong inserts into his fighter's hand wraps, reaching for the wrong pads in his equipment bag.
"I committed a big mistake," Capetillo told the panel and the standing room-only crowd. "I don't want this young man [Margarito] to have problems. I'm here to cover any responsibility. I take full responsibility. I committed this innocent mistake."
The revocations mean that neither Margarito nor Capetillo can participate in boxing in the United States for at least one year. After a year, both can reapply for their licenses in California, where they would have to go through another hearing. There is no guarantee either would be relicensed.
"The conduct of both Mr. Margarito and Mr. Capetillo was unacceptable and threatened the health and safety of another licensee," Carrie Lopez, the director of the state's Department of Consumer Affairs, which licenses fighters, told The Associated Press. "Today's action shows that both the Department of Consumer Affairs and the California State Athletic Commission take the issue of boxer safety very seriously, and will move quickly when a licensee's actions threaten the safety of others."
The punishment extends throughout the nation because commissions generally honor suspensions and revocations in other jurisdictions.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Margarito's promoter, was incensed by the ruling and said he would fight it through California state court.
"It's the most bizarre thing I've ever experienced," Arum told ESPN.com. "It's not going to hold up. The commission determined that Antonio knew nothing and did nothing wrong, but that he is head of his team, so he's responsible for the trainer and, therefore, it is appropriate to revoke his license.
"How can you revoke somebody's license when they didn't do anything wrong or attempt to do anything wrong? Capetillo admitted that he made an inadvertent mistake and said Tony knew nothing about it. Margarito is a nice guy and deserves better than this."
During the hearing, Margarito attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who has represented such clients as Fred Goldman of O.J. Simpson civil trial fame and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, had an inspector say that Margarito didn't appear to know what was going on.
Arum said he would fight it in court as well as appeal to the Association of Boxing Commissions, which represents state and tribal boxing commissions.
While trying to have the ruling overturned, Arum said he would set up a fight for Margarito in Mexico. Although other states will respect California's ruling, other countries won't necessarily adhere to it. Fighters banned in America have often found Mexico hospitable.
The ruling means that Margarito's proposed June rematch with Miguel Cotto, whom he knocked out last summer to win the title, is off unless the ruling is reversed.
"We'll figure out a fight for him in Mexico," Arum said. "It will be on one of our pay-per-view shows this summer. I think we'd have the opportunity to do 200,000 or 300,000 buys."
Mosley thought the punishment for Margarito was a little harsh, although he agreed with Capetillo's.
"I just think that Capetillo was the one wrapping his hands and knew what was going on," Mosley told ESPN.com. "He should be penalized. Margarito probably should not be as penalized. Capetillo was the one who did it. Margarito is the fighter and he just probably put his hands out there to be wrapped and ready to fight. Capetillo went to the rules meeting. He's the one who knew how to wrap the hands. He took it upon himself to make the wrap different. It should be mainly Capetillo who gets the brunt of everything."
Arum said he felt like the commission had already made up its mind before the hearing.
"Everyone in that room felt he would walk, but this was preordained. It was 7-0. That's impossible," he said. "If it was being it decided at that time they voted, maybe it's 5-2, 6-1. Not 7-0."
Margarito did receive support from Jorge Ramos, the mayor of his hometown of Tijuana, who extended an invitation to him to fight in the city "anytime."
"We welcome Antonio Margarito with open arms, and want him to know that when he is ready to fight again we want him to come to his hometown," Ramos said in a statement released by Top Rank. "He has been an exemplary athlete and has for many years represented the city of Tijuana with great pride and honor, so it is a natural for us to continue to support him in his career that should not be blemished by a commission that was not presented with evidence of any wrongdoing by our native son."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.