Margarito loses his second battle
Two battles, two crushing setbacks for Antonio Margarito.
The licenses of the former welterweight champion and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, were revoked for at least one year by the California State Athletic Commission on Tuesday for illegal hand wraps that were discovered shortly before his brutal knockout loss to Shane Mosley on Jan. 24.
Margarito and Capetillo can apply to have their licenses reinstated after one year.
The ruling means that Margarito probably won't fight in the United States during that period because other states generally honor such rulings.
Capetillo admitted in emotional testimony that he made a “big mistake” but insisted he never meant to cheat when he placed an unusually hard, illegal pad inside gauze padding that protects a boxer’s knuckles.
The trainer said he accidentally grabbed the wrong pads when he was wrapping the hands of Margarito, who claimed at the five-hour hearing that he had no idea anyone did anything wrong.
The commissioners didn’t believe them, deciding unanimously (7-0) in separate votes to bar them from competing in California for a year, the longest possible suspension under state law.
Afterward, Margarito, obviously stunned by the ruling, declined to comment. However, his promoter, Bob Arum, was livid over the ruling as it applied to Margarito and didn’t hold back.
He said no evidence presented at the hearing even suggested that Margarito knew he or Capetillo had broken the rules.
“I think this is absolutely draconian,” said Arum, a former attorney himself. “I think what happened is totally against the rule of law. Top Rank [Arum’s company] is telling California to kiss our ass. We won’t be coming back to put on fights in California.
“ÔÇª It’s not the law. You can’t punish someone unless they’ve done something wrong. This is ridiculous.”
Arum said he would appeal the ruling to California courts.
He also said he would try to find a state willing to grant Margarito a license in spite of the ruling or have him fight in Mexico, where Margarito lives. He was scheduled to face Miguel Cotto in a rematch this summer in either Las Vegas or New York, two jurisdictions that likely will honor the ruling.
Arum was asked whether he believes fighting elsewhere might jeopardize his fighter’s chances of reinstatement in a year.
“Who gives a s—,” Arum said.
The most-dramatic moment at an otherwise routine hearing, aside from the announcement of the rulings, was the testimony of Capetillo.
The trainer, who has worked with dozens of accomplished fighters for almost 40 years, was being questioned by his own attorney when he suddenly – and passionately – announced that he’d made a mistake and would accept the consequences.
“I didn’t cheat,” he said through a commission-appointed translator, his voice rising as he spoke in Spanish. “It was a mistake. I did not cheat at anytime. I feel sorry because of Margarito. He didn’t know what was going on. I feel bad but I’m here.
“ÔÇª I didn’t try to do anything wrong. It was a mistake.”
Capetillo said that the pads in question, one of which was used as evidence on Tuesday while the other remains in a laboratory being analyzed, was harder than normal because it’s the type used to protect a fighter’s hands when hitting a rock-hard sand bag.
Margarito felt the pad at the hearing twice, first saying that it seemed to be normal but later acknowledging that, “Yes, I do feel something.” Capetillo was asked how the pads became hard and he said, “I don’t know.”
And after the rulings, Deputy Attorney General Karen Chappelle, showed reporters photographs of the other pad magnified four times normal size. They seemed to reveal a plaster-like substance, which might further support allegations of tampering.
Capetillo said another fighter he trains had thrown the pads into his equipment bag after a workout. The trainer simply reached into the bag and grabbed the wrong pads amid a heated dispute over the manner in which he was applying tape.
The pad was discovered by Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson, who was routinely observing the wrapping of Margarito’s left hand (after the right had already been taped before he arrived). Twice, he complained that the tape was being applied improperly and twice Capetillo was forced by a CSAC official to retape.
Then, when Capetillo was about to slip the pad into wrapped gauze and then apply it to the fighter’s hand, Richardson noticed that it looked odd and reached out to feel it. He found it to be unusually hard, prompting him to cry foul and inspectors to confiscate both pads.
It was around this time, during considerable rancor and a growing number of observers, that he accidentally used the wrong pads.
“There was so much pressure, screaming, yelling, so much chaos. I didn’t realize,” he said.
Two problems, though. One, he didn’t realize twice? The commissioners found that difficult to believe. And, two, one of the illegal pads was already in place on one hand before the commotion started.
Capetillo’s attorney, Jeff Benz, tried to show that Capetillo never acted like a guilty man in the dressing room and that he had no motive to cheat; his fighter was favored to beat Mosley that night in Los Angeles.
The commissioners didn’t buy it.
“I’m having difficulty understanding how a man with your experience could make the same mistake twice even under those circumstances. ÔÇª I’m sorry,” commissioner Christopher Giza said.
Margarito’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, tried to show that his client was unaware of what his trainer was placing into his wraps.
He, too, asked commission inspectors who were in the dressing room whether his client reacted in a guilty or unusual manner when it became clear that there were serious issues regarding the wraps. Each inspector said no under oath.
And Petrocelli repeatedly pointed to a specific moment that he believed demonstrated clearly that his client was innocent, the moment a frustrated Margarito placed his taped right hand (the first hand) in Richardson’s face and said in Spanish, “Here, touch it, feel it. There’s nothing wrong.”
“That’s the last thing anyone would do if he had done something illegal, especially after what happened with the left (hand),” Petrocelli said.
Meanwhile, Chappelle argued that a lack of concrete evidence against Margarito doesn’t mean he was innocent. She compared it to an athlete who tests positive for steroids yet claims he didn’t know what he was putting in his body, perhaps blaming it on a fitness trainer.
Ultimately, she said, the buck stops with the fighter. And the commissioners seemed to agree.
“When you’re the leader of the team, of the people you oversee,” Giza said, “you must bear some responsibility. ÔÇª It’s a good thing (Mosley’s handlers) felt the tapping wasn’t done properly. Can you imagine? It could’ve been career ending for his opponent.”
When the ruling revoking Margarito’s license was announced, a hush fell over the crowd of more than 100 people at the Van Nuys State Building. No one seemed to expect it.
Petrocelli, who gained fame as Fred Goldman’s attorney in the civil suit against O.J. Simpson, shook his head in disbelief.
Afterward, a man who makes his living with words was at a loss for them.
“I’m stunned,” Petrocelli said. “There was absolutely no evidence for them to do this. It’s a tragedy.”