By Keith Idec
The New York State Athletic Commission ended a highly controversial ordeal Tuesday by granting Antonio Margarito a boxing license.
Licensing Margarito will allow Margarito’s rematch against Miguel Cotto to proceed as planned Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden. It also averted a potential promotional disaster for Top Rank Inc., which represents Cotto and Margarito.
Top Rank has already sold more than 18,000 tickets to the event in New York. And earlier Tuesday, Cotto added another twist to this strange situation by telling reporters on a conference call that he wouldn’t fight Margarito on Dec. 3 anywhere other than Madison Square Garden. Top Rank had planned to move the HBO Pay-Per-View card headlined by the Cotto-Margarito rematch to Pepsi Center in Denver if the NYSAC denied Margarito a license.
“I didn’t sign for this fight for somewhere else,” Cotto said. “I’m [not] going to fight in another place, just in New York. I’m not going to present myself in any other state, [to] any other commission besides the New York State Athletic Commission.”
Cotto continued by reasoning, “If the medical people from the [New York] commission say Margarito is not able to fight because of his eyes, everybody has to respect it. The athletic commissions in the U.S. have to respect it. I’m not going to fight anywhere else.”
Bob Arum declined on the same conference call to say what would’ve happened if Cotto refused to fight Margarito again anywhere other than Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t know why we’re on this conference call, when we haven’t heard from the New York [State] Athletic Commission,” Arum said. “All of this will be discussed if and when New York doesn’t allow the fight to be held. I don’t want to start on contractual issues or anything like that. This conference call is really inappropriate at this time.”
That’s all a moot point now because the three-member NYSAC announced during another hearing that it decided to issue Mexico’s Margarito a license, despite previous concerns about his surgically repaired right eye. Margarito submitted to a NYSAC-approved exam Monday in Manhattan and returned to Mexico on Monday night to resume training camp.
Several renowned eye specialists had already deemed Margarito fit to fight, including Dr. Alan S. Crandall, who performed cataract surgery on Margarito six months ago. Crandall, a world-renowned cataract and glaucoma specialist, was one of two eye experts that testified in favor of licensing Margarito at a closed-door NYSAC hearing Wednesday.
Top Rank also had Margarito examined Monday morning in Great Neck, N.Y., by Dr. Kenneth J. Rosenthal, another respected specialist who serves as president of the New York Intraocular Lens Implant Society (Margarito also had an artificial lens implanted in his right eye).
But it was the examination of another eye expert, Manhattan’s Dr. Michael T. Goldstein, on which the NYSAC ultimately based its decision. The NYSAC asked Friday during a hearing for Margarito to come to New York for that independent test.
According to NYSAC chairwoman Melvina Lathan, the commission rejected Margarito’s initial license application Oct. 31 because it didn’t have sufficient information to declare Margarito fit to fight.
Now that they cleared the final hurdle to fight at Madison Square Garden, Cotto intends to target Margarito’s right eye.
“I’m going to use any kind of advantage that I feel that I have over him,” Cotto said. “I’m going to fight like always, with my heart, my soul, and everything.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.