Capetillo breaks silence, apologizes for hand-wrap scandal
Javier Capetillo (far right) celebrates with Antonio Margarito in happier times. Capetillo has kept a low profile since their hand-wrap scandal rocked the boxing world in early 2009, but the controversial trainer broke his silence to criticize Margarito's co-manager Sergio Diaz (far left), the media and Freddie Roach, but also to apologize for the incident. Photo / Ed Mulholland-Fightwireimages.com
Much has been written about Antonio Margarito’s hand-wrap scandal during the build up to the former welterweight titleholder’s showdown with Manny Pacquiao on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.
The incident, which occurred before Margarito was knocked out by Shane Mosley last January, has been a hot-button issue within the boxing community and major storyline of the event since it was announced.
However, the man who was at the center of the hand-wrap controversy, Margarito’s former trainer Javier Capetillo, has not been heard from since a hearing at which California officials revoked Margarito's license in February of last year.
Capetillo held his tongue for more than a year and half as he was vilified in the media and beyond. But the 60-year-old trainer broke his silence on Tuesday. The boxing pariah, who continues to train fighters at the Azteca Boxing Club in Bell, Calif., but is forbidden to work their corners in the U.S., had a lot on his mind.
In an exclusive interview with RingTV.com, Capetillo discussed his former fighter’s chances in the Pacquiao fight and his frustration with the media, Margarito’s managers and Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach. He also expressed his hope that the boxing world will one day forgive him.
Capetillo has been estranged from Margarito since the commission hearing that resulted in the revocation of their licenses, but it’s evident that he misses his former prize pupil, with whom he shared a father-and-son relationship.
When asked who he thought would win Saturday’s big fight, he didn’t hesitate to back Margarito.
“Margarito’s going to win,” he said through interpreter Ricardo Mota, who runs the Azteca Boxing Club and manages one of Capetillo’s fighters, RING junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura. “I say this because I know that Tony is in great shape. I know him very well as a person and a fighter, and I can tell you that he’s ready for this fight.
“He started his camp in El Monte (Calif.), an area where I take my fighters to run (on Mt. Baldy), and I saw him running in the mountains. He was there at 4:30 in the morning just like when I was training him. He was chopping wood, he was doing everything that I ever taught him about preparing for a fight, and I know that his new trainer Robert Garcia has done a good job in this camp by the way his body looks. My God, he looks like the Incredible Hulk.”
Capetillo would not answer when asked whether he spoke to Margarito when their paths crossed during the mountain run. He said he doesn’t want to go on record about their relationship since their trainer-fighter split.
“I know that Margarito cannot be associated with me because of what happened,” he said. “If we do speak, that’s something I have to keep to myself because I don’t want the media and the public to come down on him for what I did.
“But I’ll say this, despite what he’s said on TV, I know he still respects me, and I have no sore feelings toward him. I know he did what he had to do once my license was taken. I don’t blame him for moving on. I still think of him like my son, and my love for him is not going to go away because we were separated. None of this was his fault. I’m responsible for everything that happened because I’m the one who wrapped his hands. It was my mistake.”
Although Capetillo said he deserved the California commission’s punishment, he still feels that Margarito’s management team, headed by Sergio Diaz and Francisco Espinoza, could have supported him more during and after the hearing.
“What bothers me about them is that they feel fine with blaming everything on me, and they take no responsibility,” Capetillo said. “I heard some comments that Sergio made on (HBO’s) 24/7 about how he saw the gauze fall out from Margarito’s wraps before the Mosley fight. That was a lie. He wasn’t even back there [in the dressing room]. And if he was, and he did see something, why didn’t he say anything?
“I think as managers they should have taken some of the responsibility, and they should have stood by me. I gave them my first champion (115-pound beltholder Julio Cesar Borboa). I trained Margarito to a world title. I trained him for almost 10 years. We had 14 title fights, we made eight title defenses. I think I deserved some loyalty from them, and I think they are ungrateful for all the work I did.”
Many fans believe that Capetillo should be grateful that he’s able to work at all following his license revocation. Some think he should be rotting in jail right now. He agrees that he’s lucky, but says that losing his star fighter and not being able to work the corners of his other fighters has been punishment enough.
“I feel blessed by God to have two world champions with Giovani Segura and (IBF lightweight titleholder) Miguel Vazquez, but my suspension prevents me in sharing in their success, and that hurts,” he said. “I’ve been a trainer for 40 years. This is all I do. It’s all I know. My fighters are my life. I sacrifice with them. I bust my ass with them in the gym, and when I’m not able to work their biggest fights, it breaks my heart.
“I saw Giovani win the biggest fight of his career (when he stopped Ivan Calderon in August) but I could not share in his moment of glory. I wasn’t allowed near the ring. I had to watch Miguel win his world title from the audience. It’s affected me so much.”
So have suspicions that he loaded Margarito’s wraps for major fights prior to the Mosley bout. Many fans and members of the media believe Margarito had inserts in his wraps for his rematch with Kermit Cintron in April of 2008 and for the most impressive victory of his career, his 11th-round stoppage of Miguel Cotto in July of 2008.
Roach, who has been outspoken on this subject, says he can tell from watching videos which fights Margarito’s hands were illegally wrapped. Basically, the veteran trainer believes Margarito’s recent knockouts (against Cotto, Cintron, and Golden Johnson) were the result of foul play. Bouts in which Margarito was taken the distance (against Paul Williams, Joshua Clottey, and Roberto Garcia) were likely fought with legal hand wraps, according to Roach.
Capetillo has heard all of the allegations, including Roach’s belief that Margarito had loaded wraps for a sparring session with Rashad Holloway during the Mosley camp, and he thinks it’s time the famous trainer take a break from his conspiracy theories.
“I respect Freddie Roach,” Capetillo said. “He’s a great trainer, but someone needs to tell him to stop being an a__hole. I thought he was a friend before the Mosley fight. He was always friendly, but since the incident, all he’s done is run his mouth.
“He and these boxing writers all sound like idiots with their suspicions. I’ve read where some think that I’ve been illegally wrapping Margarito’s hands all the way back to the Sergio Martinez fight, and I wasn’t even training Tony back then. They think Tony cheated to beat Kermit Cintron? Give me a break! All you have to do is mad dog and rush Cintron, and he gets scared. Tony beat him by being Tony.
“He beat Miguel Cotto because he has the style to beat Cotto. He’ll wear Cotto down and stop him every time they fight. It has to do with styles, not punching power. The same can be said about the Williams fight. That fight went the distance because of styles. It had nothing to do with hand wraps. But if I was someone who needed to load my fighter’s gloves for him to win, as Roach says, wouldn’t I do it for that fight, against a 6-foot-2 giant with a 32-0 record? I think Freddie knows we didn’t cheat in any of those fights. What he’s doing now is selling the controversy. He’s selling it to the media, the media is running with it and the public is buying it.
“The media loves Freddie and they love controversy, but I have to live with the consequences of their words. Fans in Puerto Rico tried to hit me with bottles before the Segura-Calderon fight. People were cursing at me the whole time I was there. We had a great fight in front of us, but all the media wanted to talk about before the fight was the hand-wrap scandal.”
Capetillo hopes a victory over Pacquiao will at least remove some of the scandal from Margarito’s name.
“It upsets me when people call him a cheater,” he said. “Tony has never fought with anything illegal in his gloves. He won’t have anything in his gloves on Saturday, they’ll make sure of that, and he’ll beat Pacquiao. We’ll see if the media gives him his due. They’ll probably be in shock, but they shouldn’t be. Styles make fights, and this one is almost as perfect for Tony as the Cotto fight. I think Pacquiao’s almost as open for the uppercut as Cotto was and nobody can take Margarito’s uppercuts for an entire fight.
“I have nothing bad to say about Pacquiao, he’s a hell of a fighter, but he’s going to be in there with a lion on Saturday.”
Capetillo said Team Pacquiao did Margarito a favor by fighting over 147 pounds.
“The weight limit of 150 pounds is a big advantage for Tony,” he said. “Things couldn’t have worked out better for him in this fight. He started camp near fighting weight, he’s had a good camp and he won’t have to drain down to welterweight. People think he’s a shot fighter because of the Mosley fight, but his weight was a problem for that entire camp. He put on a lot of weight, not just water pounds but muscle, after he beat Cotto. He had to chop 20 pounds before he left Mexico to begin his camp for Mosley, and then he dropped another 30 in camp. He kept dropping weight and dropping weight until he had nothing.
“To make matters worse he had back problems during that camp. It was so bad he would take days off from training, but then he would gain back whatever weight he lost the previous week. He was 16 pounds over (the welterweight limit) one week before the fight, and the closer we got to the weight, the sicker he got from dehydration. Four or five days out from the fight it was like he had the flu. He was shrinking before our eyes.”
There is speculation within the boxing community that Capetillo knew his fighter had no shot of beating Mosley going into the fight, which is why he resorted to loading his fighter’s hand wraps with used training gauze that had been hardened by traces of a plaster-like substance, as well as sweat and blood.
Capetillo admits that he was worried in the days leading into the fight but denies that his makeshift wrap inserts were premeditated.
“I started panicking the week of the fight,” he said. “I knew we were in deep s__t, and we couldn’t tell anyone. It was too late to pull out of the fight. But I want to make it clear that I did not plan what happened. Maybe I was feeling the pressure of the fight and not paying attention to what I was doing when I reached into my bag and grabbed the training gauze, but I didn’t do it on purpose.
“I made a mistake. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I just screwed up, and I did it in front of Mosley’s trainer and the commissioners. I was just under a lot of pressure because I knew we shouldn’t have taken the fight, I knew Tony was in trouble and I knew that I had put him in that position. I wrapped Tony’s hands four times in front of Mosley’s trainer and the commissioners and two representatives from Golden Boy (Promotions) after they found the gauze. I admitted then that I made a mistake
“I confessed to the commission after the fight. I took responsibility for my actions and I think I’ve been punished as if Tony had fought with the gauze.”
Capetillo said that he thanks God every day that Margarito did not fight with the gauze inserts.
“I’ve trained fighters in L.A. for 30 years, I’ve known Shane Mosley since he was a little kid,” he said. “I would never want to hurt him. I would never want one of my fighters to seriously hurt any fighter. I live in their world. I know how they suffer in this sport. I know how they sacrifice. I know what they go through to make it to the top. I know that they get screwed over by promoters and managers. I respect fighters more than anyone.”
Capetillo said the criminal image that has hounded him since the incident is a constant source of shame.
“I wish the Mosley fight was a nightmare that I could wake up from because I feel horrible about it,” he said. “I feel bad for the shame I’ve brought my family in Mexico. I feel bad for letting my fighter down and for letting his fans down. To them, and to the entire sport of boxing, I want to say I’m sorry. I want to apologize to everybody.
“I’ve always been a hard-working man who helped make champions through hard work and dedication to the sport, not by cheating. All I can do now is continue to train my fighters and hope that in time I can prove to the fans and to boxing that I’m an honest trainer.”