By Jake Donovan
December 3 marks the highly anticipated rematch between 154 lb. titlist Miguel Cotto and bitter rival Antonio Margarito, which is scheduled to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
However, it’s another date that may prove to be among the most important in Margarito’s career – the day he is officially licensed by the New York State Athletic Commission.
The former welterweight has not yet been approved for a license, with a pending hearing to determine whether or not he will be able to throw down in the world’s most famous arena early next month.
“We received Mr. Margarito’s official application on October 31,” Chris Valens, NYSAC spokesman, informed Boxingscene.com on Thursday afternoon. “A hearing has been scheduled for November 18 to determine if he’s fit to receive a license.”
Such matters are normally a formality, as it’s not uncommon to wait until close to fight date to be approved for a license. The idea is to get as much time out of it as possible, which makes little sense to apply too far in advance, with most big-name fighters today rarely making more than 2-3 ring appearances per year.
As anyone in the industry will tell you, the case of Margarito is anything but a formality. Still, his handlers don’t seem too concerned about getting him approved in time for a license.
"We have a meeting next week with the NY Commission and the leading optometrist who did his (Margarito's) eye surgery will testify to them on his behalf to explain what he did," promoter Bob Arum informed Boxingscene.com.
While the eye surgery – which took place earlier this year – is covered, that still leaves a bit of unfinished business in the eyes of several commissions.
The former welterweight champion was placed on suspension in Februray ’09 for the California State Athletic Commission based on the events that took place one month prior in the moments leading up to his showdown with Shane Mosley. Margarito was caught with loaded handwraps prior to the bout, and was held accountable for his corner’s actions.
His trainer at the time, Javier Capetillo, received a lifetime suspension from anywhere in the United States, while Margarito’s ban was set for one year, but not subject to automatic reinstatement. Margarito’s efforts to receive a boxing license proved to be problematic. He would eventually receive a license in the state of Texas, which hosted his fight against Manny Pacquiao one year ago.
Ironically, it the Texas commission was actually the first to show Margarito the door, rejecting his request earlier in the year. The move came after being urged by Association of Boxing Commission head honco Tim Lueckenhoff to not issue a license automatically and instead make the fighter appear before a committee and properly plead his case.
The action resulted in Margarito being removed from his undercard slot in support of Manny Pacquiao’s decision win over Joshua Clottey in the first ever boxing event to be held at the revamped Cowboys Stadium. Instead, his return to the ring came in his native Mexico, where he outpointed Roberto Garcia for his lone win since stopping Cotto in 11 rounds more than three years ago.
His appearance in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission later in the year resulted in the courtroom version of a no-contest. The committee tabled the application and insisted he first plead his case to the California commission, since they issued the suspension. He did just that, but was denied a license by the committee.
The decision didn’t necessarily blacklist him from all commissions, but Margarito and his handlers instead returned to the Lone Star State. His case was re-heard and he was granted a license ahead of what became a career-altering beating against Pacquiao one year ago.
Texas remains the only state to date in which Margarito has been approved to fight under ABC supervision.
Obviously, they hope to double that total in time for next month’s rematch with Cotto, which remains a hot seller at the box office and boasts arguably the best pay-per-view undercard of recent memory, from a competitive and action standpoint.
Arum is confident that the commission will see things in their favor, and that his past won’t come back to haunt him come judgment time.
"The hand wraps are not an issue," Arum insists.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]