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No Margarito return on Pacquiao card
Top Rank has scrapped its plan for disgraced former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito to make his comeback March 13 as the co-feature on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey pay-per-view undercard at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Last month, Top Rank signed Carson Jones to a contract to face Margarito in a planned 10-round bout at 155 pounds, pending Margarito being licensed in Texas. That fight has been canceled, Jones manager Bobby Dobbs told ESPN.com.
"[Top Rank] said the fight is off. It's dead. I didn't ask exactly why," said Dobbs, who said Top Rank told him not worry about Margarito being licensed when they signed the contract. "I don't know if Texas made a public announcement or just told Top Rank, but Margarito isn't going to get a license and he's not going to fight Carson at this time. I don't care about the specifics of why, I just know he's not fighting.
"We're heartbroken. Carson has been training for five week for the fight and didn't even get any training expenses for it," Dobbs said. "He was trying to get in the best possible shape for a fight that isn't going to happen now."
Although Top Rank did not mention Margarito, it announced on Friday that Humberto Soto and David Diaz would meet for a vacant lightweight belt in the March 13 co-feature.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef said the company had no comment regarding the change in plans or on Margarito.
Before the new fight was announced, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com that he would put Soto-Diaz on the card "if it looks like we're having problems" with Margarito's license. Arum also said before Soto-Diaz was announced that if Margarito wasn't licensed in Texas, he would likely make his comeback on a May 8 pay-per-view card Top Rank is planning in Mexico, which is under no obligation to recognize punishments handed out by regulators in the United States.
However, if Margarito fights in Mexico while under a revocation in the U.S., it could severely impact his ability to be relicensed in America, because regulators would not look kindly on a fighter who went around a U.S. revocation.
In one of boxing's most significant scandals in recent years, Margarito (37-6, 27 KOs) had his license revoked by the California State Athletic Commission last February for attempting to fight Shane Mosley with illegal pads coated in a plaster-like substance that were placed inside his hand wraps.
Mosley trainer Naazim Richardson objected to how Margarito's hands had been wrapped. And when the commission cut off his gloves minutes before he was to walk to the ring for the Jan. 24, 2009 fight, the illegal inserts, which had escaped notice of the commission inspector overseeing the hand-wrapping process, were discovered.
Margarito's hands were re-wrapped and Mosley dominated him before knocking him out in the ninth round to win a welterweight championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
At a hearing a few weeks later, the California commission voted 7-0 to revoke the licenses of Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo. Margarito pleaded ignorance and Capetillo said the illegal pads must have been used by accident, but few believed either explanation.
The vote effectively barred Margarito and Capetillo from boxing in the United States, because commissions honor revocations and suspensions doled out by other jurisdictions. Both were eligible to reapply for licenses after one year, which Margarito did in Texas in advance of the possible March 13 fight.
The Association of Boxing Commissions, a national non-profit organization that represents state and Native American tribal boxing commissions, acknowledged in a Jan. 29 letter to Texas regulator Dickie Cole of the state's combative sports division, which is overseen by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, that Texas was within its rights to license Margarito now that the terms of his revocation has expired.
However, in the letter from ABC president Tim Lueckenhoff, he added that there should be a public hearing regarding Margarito's request for a license in Texas and that the "the ABC Board of Directors also opined that Mr. Margarito should not be licensed at this time due to the seriousness of the violations surrounding the revocation of Mr. Margarito's license by the CSAC."
Margarito could not be reached for comment.
Although Top Rank no longer plans to put Margarito on the Pacquiao-Clottey card, his license application is still pending in Texas, Susan Stanford, the public information office for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, told ESPN.com.
"The status of Mr. Margarito's application is that it is still under review," Stanford said. "That means we are reviewing it to see if it's complete or not, and if we need more information.
"He is revoked in the state of California. We will review the application and the applicable state and federal laws. In this case, the federal law with the Muhammad Ali Act is that all regulating states will honor suspensions and revocations in other regulating states."
Stanford said Texas made no assurances to Top Rank or anyone else that Margarito would be licensed if he applied.
"That was their prerogative to file the application," she said, adding that his past behavior in California would be taken into consideration when his application is reviewed.
Dobbs said Top Rank promised him that if Margarito-Jones didn't happen because of a licensing issue, that it would at least give Jones a spot on the untelevised undercard against another opponent. However, Dobbs said Top Rank is now balking at that promise.
Jones (24-7-1, 15 KOs), who notched an upset third-round knockout victory against previously unbeaten Tyrone Brunson on Dec. 4, was due to make a career-high $50,000 purse to fight Margarito.
"Now, we'll just see what's out there," Dobbs said. "He's in great shape and we have nowhere to go. I'm hoping one of these miracle phone calls come through like happens in boxing and we get something."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.
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