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Margarito should’ve accepted some responsibility

06
Apr

LOS ANGELES – Antonio Margarito was asked numerous times on Tuesday whether a fighter should bear some responsibility for what goes into his hand wraps even if he’s unaware of it. He wouldn’t answer the question directly, perhaps in part because of a language barrier, until finally he said: “I don’t know.”

Here’s the correct answer: yes.

And it’s too bad he didn’t respond that way because taking at least some responsibility for the illegal pads found in his wraps before he fought Shane Mosley last year would’ve helped repair damage in the eyes of those who suspect he was complicit and eased his way back into the boxing world.

Margarito sat down at a round table to speak with reporters at a news conference at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to formally announce his return to boxing after 15-plus months against Roberto Garcia on May 8 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

The former welterweight titleholder barely had time to get settled when he began fielding hard-ball questions about that strange night at Staples Center and the subsequent loss of his boxing license in California.

The most-important question was whether he should’ve known that his former trainer, Javier Capetillo, inserted hardened knuckle pads into his wraps.

“Everybody keeps saying I should know,” he said through a translator, instantly frustrated. “I didn’t know. I’m telling you I didn’t know. You keep telling me I should know but I don’t. I didn’t know anything. ÔǪ I don’t know what was in there. I still don’t know what was in there. Nobody told me.”

He didn’t answer the question.

“I just put my hands out there and they [the trainers] wrap them. They’ve always done it,” he said when prompted again. “Just stick to the truth. This is what happened. Everybody knows I didn’t go up (into the ring) with anything in my hands. I didn’t know anything that was put in my hands. I put my hands out and they get wrapped. That’s all I did.”

He still didn’t answer the question.

“You don’t have to believe me,” he said when prompted once again. “You can write whatever you want. ÔǪ If you don’t like my answer, don’t write it. ÔǪ I’m sorry I can’t answer the question the way you want me to answer it.”

Is it a fighter’s responsibility to know what goes in his wraps, yes or no?

“I don’t know,” he finally said. “I don’t know.”

Margarito, who doesn’t speak English, might’ve had some trouble fully understanding the questions even though translator Ricardo Jimenez of Top Rank is the best in the business. That’s just a guess.

And, obviously, his frustration is understandable. He had a rough year. He was caught with the illegal pads and then took a terrible beating from Mosley. He lost his license, which kept him from making a living. He has had to contend with misinformation in the wake of the scandal. For example, some people erroneously believe he actually fought Mosley with the illegal pads in his gloves.

And there is widespread speculation that his gloves were loaded against Miguel Cotto even though Nevada – the site of the fight — provides material for the pads on fight night.

Margarito seems to be genuinely baffled by anyone who would suggest he had knowledge of what Capetillo did. His way of proving them wrong, he repeated several times, will be to regain his status as an elite fighter with regulation wraps.

And, to be fair, he later raised a reasonable point when he responded to the question of responsibility one last time. He believes the fact he didn’t reapply for a license anywhere for a full year – more or less adhering to the spirit of his license revocation – speaks as loudly as any words he might've utterd on Tuesday.

“They told me I couldn't fight for a year,” he said. “I accepted that … even though I didn't do anything wrong. I took the year. To me, that's proof of responsibility.”

Still, we never heard the magic words. He never said, “I should’ve known.” Instead, he kept insisting that fighters simply put their blind trust in those who wrap their hands as if this somehow absolves them of all responsibility.

It doesn’t. It’s his body. He must diligently monitor what goes IN it and ON it at all times to protect himself and his career. He failed to do that and then put all the blame on his trainer, who also lost his license and might never work in the U.S. again.

We’ll probably never know whether Margarito knew about the illegal pads. Even if he didn’t know, though, he should’ve at least accepted some of the blame. It would’ve accelerated the healing.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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