Another sport, another cheat
Antonio Margarito put an illegal substance in his wraps against Shane Mosley
Margarito's ban comes just days after Alex Rodriguez admitted using steroids
One thing's for sure in Margarito's case: this will taint the rest of his career
One week, two cheaters. Rarely have the days of professional sports ever been darker.
Much like Alex Rodriguez's admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs was a body blow to Major League Baseball, the California State Athletic Commission's decision to revoke Antonio Margarito's boxing license was a right cross to a sport that has taken far too many punches. In a decisive 7-0 vote, the commission brushed off Margarito's cries of innocence and dismissed his trainer's, Javier Capetillo's, attempts to take the blame for placing an illegal substance in Margarito's hand wraps before his welterweight title fight against Shane Mosley on Jan. 24. The decision, which will be honored by every U.S. commission, effectively bans Margarito from competing stateside for one year.
In my opinion, it should be even longer.
Just like the rest of the world has laughed off A-Rod's claims that he didn't know what kind of steroids he was taking, no one with an IQ over 30 is buying Margarito's defense that he didn't feel or notice his trainer slipping what he called "insert" that was caked with a hard, grout-like substance inside his tape.
"That's hard for me to believe," said Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward. "Something that hard, you are going to feel it in your wraps."
Nor is anyone believing Capetillo's assertion that placing the hard substance in Margarito's wraps was an accident.
"I don't buy that at all," said Steward. "Whatever [Capetillo] did, he did on purpose."
And while Margarito has had some high-profile supporters say they don't believe he cheated in the past (Steward, who was in Kermit Cintron's corner for his knockout loss to Margarito last year, says he does not believe anything illegal was used in the fight; Keith Kizer, the Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, insists Margarito's hands were clean in his July, 2008 win over Miguel Cotto), it's certainly possible that Margarito laced his wraps in prior bouts. Maybe he didn't do it against Cintron or in his electrifying win over Cotto last summer, but speculation and the possibility of him cheating previously will always loom.
It's a shame, really, because, like Rodriguez, Margarito was at the pinnacle of his profession. The win over Cotto clearly established Margarito as the top welterweight in the world and moved him into the discussion for boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter. The manner in which he beat Cotto -- surviving a brutal assault before finishing Cotto with a bloody onslaught -- had won Margarito the hearts of boxing fans and may have even created a few along the way.
Now we are left wondering if Margarito's career has been created, at least in part, with the assistance of performance-enhancing instruments.
Margarito's attorney says he will look into filing a lawsuit appealing the commission's decision in state court. Good luck there. With a preponderance of evidence against Margarito, and his trainer admitting to using the illegal pad, the former welterweight champ will likely get laughed out of the courtroom. Margarito can petition the Association of Boxing Commissioners to have the reciprocity removed from the ruling, which would keep the California ban in place but allow Margarito to be licensed in other states. But the A.B.C. rarely meddles with state suspensions, particularly those that involve unsportsmanlike conduct. (Zab Judah, who was suspended for a year by Nevada for his role in an April 2006 melee during his fight with Floyd Mayweather, had his request to fight in other states denied.)
Margarito's next move is probably back to Mexico, a country he has not fought in since 1999. Foreign countries are not beholden to U.S. laws, and Mexico would likely allow Margarito, a national icon, to fight. But while Margarito was eyeing big name opponents like Cotto and Mayweather for later this year, he will likely have to settle for C- and D-List fighters -- as well as significantly smaller purses -- in Mexico.
Margarito, 30, can and probably will fight again in the U.S. in 2010. Though most boxing commissions will likely require Margarito to attend a hearing and explain his actions before re-licensing him, history indicates commissions adhere to a forgive-and-forget policy: In Nevada, both Judah and Mike Tyson were re-licensed after having theirs' revoked. Margarito may even be able to help himself by doing what A-Rod (sort of) did: admit his mistake and try to move on.
"Our commission would probably look more favorably on a fighter who has done his time and fessed up to what he did," said Kizer. "I think they would look more positively than on one who has stuck to his same story."
Whether Margarito makes it back or not, his career will undoubtedly never be the same. He will face constant criticism for what happened in that locker room and he will have his name inextricably linked with cheating for the rest of his life.
"He will be tainted by this forever," said Steward. "This sends a signal to everyone that doing underhanded things will not be tolerated."
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