Antonio Margarito addresses hand-wraps scandal, future
In the lobby of the Gaylord Texan Hotel, mingling with fans near a bar area, boxer Antonio Margarito officially emerged from his virtual hiding Thursday night, more than a year after the California State Athletic Commission revoked his boxing license for nearly taking plaster-loaded gloves into the ring.
"I've never stopped training, and now I can start working little by little to get my title back soon," Margarito told The Times. "I'm going to show in my next fight and from every fight from now on that I didn't do those things with my [hand] wraps that people said I did."
Margarito, scheduled to fight Carson Jones in a super-welterweight bout May 8 in Mexico, has united with Oxnard trainer Robert Garcia, and said he's followed strict instructions by his managers to stop all dialogue with former trainer Javier Capetillo, who in February 2009 told the California commission that he accidentally inserted the plaster-hardened pieces atop the knuckle areas of both of Margarito's hands.
It was opposing trainer Naazim Richardson who successfully urged state inspectors to look at the wraps closer, and they confiscated the inserts minutes before Margarito was to step into the Staples Center ring to defend his world welterweight title against Pomona's Shane Mosley. Mosley dominated Margarito, scoring a ninth-round technical knockout.
Margarito has been banned from boxing since, and his promoters and managers dropped their attempts to have him reinstated in Texas so he could fight on the undercard of Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey world welterweight title bout at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
"That was the plan, to fight here, but it didn't come true," Margarito said. "I don't know why."
Texas authorities told The Times on Thursday that Margarito's application for reinstatement came to them incomplete. The national Assn. of Boxing Commissions and the California commission had said publicly it was too soon for Margarito to return, given the gravity of his violation.
Attempts to reach Margarito for comment until Thursday have been denied by Margarito's attorneys and management.
Yet, Margarito responded to speculation that perhaps he had fought with loaded gloves in the summer of 2008, when he battered then-unbeaten welterweight champ Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Photos that emerged appeared to serve as proof to the Cotto camp that Margarito had used the same type of inserts confiscated before he went into the ring against Mosley.
"No, no," Margarito said, denying that his gloves were loaded. "There was always someone from the [Nevada] commission watching the wraps."
Margarito said, to this day, he's uncertain that there were plaster inserts in his wraps before the Mosley bout. He said he "doesn't believe" Capetillo intended to cheat.
"I didn't see any difference when they took the wraps away, but then everyone, including the Mosley camp, had their hands on them, and one came back dirty and one was clean," Margarito said. "I don't know what would've happened if they hadn't [unwrapped] my hands. I can tell you that was never my intention to do that, and I've never seen it happen before.
"Honestly, I don't even know why I'd have something like that in my hands. I think I could've broke my hand so easily with that."
At the commission hearing, Margarito explained he merely raised his hands up for Capetillo to wrap and didn't closely observe the process.
"Obviously, I feel bad about anything that could have happened, but one thing I want to make clear is that I never saw the wrap again after it came off my hands, and I don't know what happened to it" before a state lab found the inserts were caked with plaster, Margarito said.
And then, Margarito talked of his future.
He said he wants to watch Pacquiao fight closely Saturday because "I'm definitely here to help make that fight, I want that fight to happen. Everyone in Mexico wants to see me fight Pacquiao."
Pacquiao has earned the nickname "Mexicutioner" with his victories over Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya. Margarito could be a legitimate alternate fight if promoters fail again to arrange a mega-fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Interestingly, Cotto also arrived at the same Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine, Texas, on Thursday. Margarito said he welcomes a rematch and the opportunity to clear his reputation.
"One more? Anytime with Cotto," Margarito said.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: Antonio Margarito celebrates after defeating Miguel Cotto in July of 2008. Credit: HBO