By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Three years later, Antonio Margarito maintains his innocence.
The infamous former welterweight champion recognizes that skeptics think his hand-wraps might’ve been doctored before his July 2008 victory over Miguel Cotto. “The Tijuana Tornado” also realizes that he’ll never be able to sway those that think he must’ve done illegal things in other fights before he was caught wearing illegal hand-wraps prior to a January 2009 fight against Shane Mosley in Los Angeles.
“I can’t change the opinions of anybody,” Margarito said. “Everybody has the right to their opinion. I’m telling you I’ve always fought clean. I’m going to show [it] in this fight against Cotto, and after I beat him everybody’s going to see that. But everybody has a right to an opinion.”
Puerto Rico’s Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) did his best after a press conference to promote their Dec. 3 rematch at Madison Square Garden to temper his opinion.
“The only people who can tell you if they used [illegal wraps against me] are him or anyone on his team,” Cotto said. “But I’ve been the whole way a man. I never said anything about it. I never made any kind of excuses about it. I just accepted my defeat like a true defeat, and just kept working to be a better Miguel Cotto than before the loss [to Margarito].”
Cotto would prefer settling everything in the ring, rather than speculating about what Margarito might’ve done.
“Did you ever hear anything come out of my mouth about his hand wraps?,” Cotto said. “No, because the thing with Margarito in 2008 is a chapter that was closed in my book. This is another chapter, a new one.”
Bob Arum, whose company promotes Cotto and Margarito, has staunchly supported Mexico’s Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs, 1 NC), who was suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission following the Mosley controversy. Arum admits, though, that a second bout between Cotto and Margarito is necessary to address any discrepancy over the legitimacy of Margartio’s 11th-round TKO win in Las Vegas.
“I think this will wipe away any of the controversy,” Arum said. “Now, the Nevada Commission swears to me, because that’s where they fought, that Margarito’s gloves were clean for that fight. Whether that’s true or not true, I wouldn’t know.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.