by Paul Magno
Guilt was never the issue.
The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) had established Antonio Margarito’s guilt for wearing illegally altered hand wraps during his initial hearing in February of 2009. Overturning the decision of the commission is to be handled via the appeals process, something already initiated by Margarito and his people.
The purpose of yesterday’s hearing between the CSAC and the three-time former welterweight champ was to establish whether Antonio Margarito, if reinstated, would no longer present a safety concern for future opponents. They wanted to hear proof of Margarito’s rehabilitation during the period of his license revocation and the steps taken to ensure that nothing similar would happen again.
Instead, Margarito prefaced almost every response to a commission question with a thinly-veiled denial. A lot of phrases like, “If I had known…” were sprinkled throughout Margarito’s testimony, but all of that was irrelevant to the purpose of the hearing. As a matter of fact, it probably worked against the fighter as it made him appear to be clueless regarding the nature of his license revocation and/or unwilling to really take responsibility for the violations.
State Attorney General, Karen Chappelle, hit hard with several instances of Margarito defying the commission’s initial ruling, proving that he had never accepted the punishment and was, therefore, still a public safety threat.
The case presented against Margarito was far different from the one spun by his attorney, Daniel M. Petrocelli, who created the image of a repentant, thoughtful, non-English speaking fighter who had learned a tough lesson the hard way.
In the end, the commission ruled 5-1 to uphold the license revocation and agreed to hear another petition for reinstatement in a year’s time. Several members of the commission expressed their belief that Margarito was indeed being sincere, but that he had done little to rehabilitate himself and was still shaky regarding commission rules.
In my opinion, the decision was fair and just considering “The Tijuana Tornado’s” actions over the last eighteen months.
Margarito’s contempt for the revocation of his license was at the crux of the initial CSAC hearing and it was also the deciding factor in yesterday’s decision.During the 18-months following the CSAC’s ruling, Margarito has all but given the commission the finger.
He violated the spirit of the revocation by fighting in Mexico (and let’s not even mention that he openly mocked the hand wrap scandal during that event by repeatedly holding his wrapped fists up and mugging to the camera.)
Margarito and his promoter, Bob Arum, would then go on to sign for a fight with Manny Pacquiao with no concern for the CSAC ruling. They would even try to back-door a reinstatement by going to Nevada for a permit rather than deal directly with the California commission.
Then, during Wednesday’s hearing, it was also brought to the commission’s attention that not only did Margarito violate a little-known rule requiring California fighters to be licensed in order to spar, but he also entered into a professional training agreement with new trainer Robert Garcia, also something prohibited for non-licensed fighters according to state regulation.
In short, after a year and a half of punishment, Margarito could still not be counted on to obey the rules and, really, has never taken the revocation to heart. He was only bothering with the CSAC in an effort to salvage his multi-million dollar fight with Manny Pacquiao and because other state commissions will likely look to California before considering issuance of a license to fight.
Margarito’s real attitude became clear when it was later revealed that his people had just applied for a license to the Texas state commission while he was in front of the CSAC, claiming to be a good boy and feigning respect for the authority of the commission.
There’s no doubt that Margarito and his crew will find a state willing to play host to the Pacquiao fight. Times are tough and the fight is too much of a money-maker, but let’s not confuse a business decision with the right decision.
And let’s not confuse a licensed fighter with one who deserves to be fighting.