by Robert Morales
Antonio Margarito was riding in a car Friday in New York City on his way to the weigh-in for his rematch against Miguel Cotto tonight at Madison Square Garden (on HBO pay-per-view). Cotto's junior middleweight belt will be on the line.
But there is a lot more at stake than that, such as Margarito's reputation that became badly tainted because of what happened prior to his fight against "Sugar" Shane Mosley in January 2009, six months after Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round in July 2008 at in Las Vegas.
Margarito was caught with illegal hand wraps, was forced to re-wrap and then was stopped by Mosley in the ninth round at Staples Center. Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, had their licenses revoked and neither has been allowed to get another license in California.
In the aftermath, several fighters who had been beaten by Margarito wondered if he had juiced his wraps against them. The material found in Margarito's wraps ahead of the Mosley fight were some of the ingredients that could make up plaster of Paris. Theoretically, it would get harder as the fight progressed.
One fighter who immediately jumped on that accusatory bandwagon was Cotto, even though the only small bit of evidence is a photo that shows some kind of splitting apart of Margarito's left-hand wrap after his victory.
That doesn't seem like nearly enough to convict Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs). Yet, Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) has tried to do just that.
"I can't let that bother me anymore," Margarito said. "I'm aware he has been talking and talking and talking. And HBO has been instigating this on 24/7."
The Nevada State Athletic Commission inspector for that fight was Jack Lazzarotto, who said during a 2009 interview he felt Margarito's wraps as they were being applied, as well as just before the gloves were put on, and they were clean.
Keith Kizer, executive director of that commission, reiterated Friday he has no doubt Lazzarotto followed the correct process of checking the wraps to the letter.
"All I can tell you is, we have all looked into it," Kizer said. "And to this day there is no evidence whatsoever."
Not that Kizer was sticking up for Margarito.
"I don't feel bad at all for Margarito," Kizer said. "Let's assume he never did it before. I still don't feel bad that people think he did. He brought this on himself."
Kizer said what bothers him is some think the commissions in New York, New Jersey and Nevada could have missed something in Margarito's wraps. Those were the three commissions under which Margarito fought his three previous fights before Mosley.