Last February, Mexican native Antonio Margarito was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission after an investigation uncovered “plaster-like” material on his handwraps moments before a championship bout with future hall of fame American Sugar Shane Mosley.
In a fight in which he was widely considered the favorite, Margarito’s performance was characterized by curiously ineffectual punching and ended in a barrage of devastating lefts and rights which rendered him helpless against the ropes in the ninth.
The state commission declared that he be eligible to reapply for his license after one year, pending a formal reevaluation by the board, making this coming February a critical month for Tony Margarito, the CSAC and perhaps the boxing community overall. As precedent, suspensions of other world class fighters provide a yardstick with which to measure the handling of this most recent incident.
When a beaten and unstable Mike Tyson did the unthinkable and removed a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear, the State of Nevada suspended him for a year. When a desperate and battered Zab Judah nearly incited a riot during a bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Nevada State Athletic Commission reprimanded him accordingly. But it has been argued that the scope and design of the crime committed by Antonio Margarito is grossly more profound than the aforementioned examples.
The skeptic need only revisit the 1983 junior middleweight championship between Irish Danny Collins and Luis Resto for evidence. When an investigation revealed foul play, The New York State Athletic Commission, recognizing the severity of the infraction, permanently banned Resto and the infamous Panama Lewis from boxing. Additionally, both men later served time in prison as a result.
Antonio Margarito’s crime is eerily similar to that against Danny Collins and while there is no direct evidence of cheating prior to the Mosley bout, only the most rigid naiveté would entertain the notion of his behavior as an isolated incident. In any event, proof of one such offense is sufficient to prescribe the proper course of action.
Margarito’s crime was committed with deliberation and clarity of vision. He didn’t lapse in a desperate moment or lash out for fear of an eminent thrashing at the hands of a superior fighter. When warriors would labor a lifetime to reach the peak of their potential, cowards hide bricks in their gloves and impersonate champions. When glory is born from toil and uncommon courage, the lie is an inexcusable, grotesque facsimile. In our most brutal sport, where brave men have relinquished their lives for a glimpse of greatness, the likes of Antonio Margarito are a stain on the spirit of a famed and proud history.
His alleged ignorance regarding the substance on his handwraps is absurdly unworthy of intelligent consideration. Javier Capetillo’s excuses ring empty and for naught since Margarito could no more be oblivious to a foreign substance stuffed between his knuckles than he could leave his hands on the table and walk away. If Naazim Richardson’s account of “bricked up gauze” reiterates the obviousness of the truth, then Tony Margarito’s repeated denial of wrongdoing only magnifies the depth of his corruption.
If the ramifications of his fraud are to be properly interpreted, then by his own admission, Antonio Margarito is unfit as a boxer. As such, all that remains is to formalize his admission with the unanimous decree of the commission. Antonio Margarito and Javier Capetillo should be banned from boxing for life and, if at all possible, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the attempted assault of Shane Mosley.
As an aside, athletic commissions exist to protect athletes and maintain the dignity of sport. If there is validity in the report, then it is unfortunate that Margarito and Capetillo’s deception was not discovered by the appropriate members of the commission. As such, authorities would do well to ensure that such an oversight does not occur in the future.