By Robert Morales
Richard Schaefer chose his words carefully. He said he understood completely why Bob Arum went to bat for Antonio Margarito the way he did after Margarito was caught with illegal hand wraps prior to his Jan. 24 loss to "Sugar" Shane Mosley in Los Angeles.
Schaefer intimated that Golden Boy Promotions, of which he is CEO and Mosley is a partner, would have done the same thing for one of its fighters.
Schaefer even suggested during a telephone conversation Tuesday that Margarito's trainer, Javier Capetillo, was likely more to blame than Margarito for the plaster-like inserts that were found in Margarito's wraps.
At the same time, Schaefer did not seem to have a problem with Margarito getting the same punishment as Capetillo. Both had their licenses revoked by the California State Athletic Commission a week ago Tuesday for a minimum of one year - which basically means Margarito won't be able to fight in the U.S. for at least one year. To be clear, the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act contains a rule that states no commission can allow a fighter to compete in its jurisdiction while under suspension in another.
Revocation is not mentioned in the rule, but Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission said he understood that rule to cover revocations as well.
A fighter's hands are lethal weapons, Schaefer said, making this highly scrutinized incident ultra serious.
"If you have these weapons that are your hands, I think it is the fighter's responsibility to make sure that he knows what's in those weapons," Schaefer said. "It's like if somebody hands you a gun and you pull the trigger and you say, 'I didn't put the bullet in. I didn't know it was loaded.' Well, where does that put you?
"So I think ... for the commission, it was really, I think, pretty clear cut. That's why there was a unanimous vote. They felt if they let this one go, does that then send the message to other athletes that, you know, 'I'm going to go and do that in California and I'm going to blame it on the trainer and I didn't know?' What does that do?"
Wright, Williams Add Their Two Cents
Count Winky Wright and Paul Williams among the many fighters who believe that Margarito should have known he had something other than the norm in his wraps. Wright and Williams were at the ESPN Zone in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday for a news conference formally announcing their middleweight fight April 11 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
When we asked Wright for his thoughts on the matter, he didn't mince words.
"In my opinion, I think that if I had something hard on my hands, then I would know it," Wright said. The hardened inserts in Margarito's knuckle wraps were 1 inch wide by 4 inches long. "I can't say about him, but I would know that."
Williams took Margarito's welterweight belt via decision in July 2007 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. He echoed Wright's sentiment.
"Of course, you'll know," Williams said. "I mean, you could feel the difference if you have something in there. You could feel the difference of the hardness and stuff."
To Fight or Not To Fight
In the process of backing up his fighter as well as blasting the California commission for its "draconian" way of doing business, Arum has made it known that he intends to have Margarito fight in Mexico during the next year.
We asked Kizer if Margarito would be hurting his chances of getting licensed in Nevada in a year if he did fight in Mexico. Keep in mind that Arum has also said he will never again promote a fight in California. And Las Vegas is where most of the money is, anyway.
Kizer was somewhat non-committal. He said it would be hard to tell.
But Schaefer and another longtime promoter, Dan Goossen, said that it would be in Margarito's best interests not to fight at all. Not in Mexico, not in Timbuktu.
Schaefer said that Capetillo may have a difficult time ever getting another license here. But he said that if Margarito stays out of the ring for a year, he has a very good chance of getting his license back in the U.S.
"If he is remorseful and says, 'I really didn't know and I accept my suspension and I didn't fight for a year and that's how I make my living,' I think there is a good chance they are going to give him the license," Schaefer said. "But if he continues to go and fight somewhere else and continues to go on as if nothing happened, then, you know, that might add fuel to the fire."
Heavyweight James Toney is promoted by Goossen. He has been busted twice for steroids - once in New York, once in California. Goossen said he was the first one to stand up for Toney in trying to keep his discipline to a minimum. But he said that once the punishment was doled out, he and Toney went with the program.
"I don't think I would ignore it 100 percent and disregard it as something that has no bearing on my future," Goossen said. The feeling here is that Arum and Margarito should think long and hard about this. If Margarito's license had not been revoked, he probably would not have fought more than twice in the next year anyway. His record is proof of that. The last time he fought more than twice in a year was 2000, when he fought four times.
Every other year since, Margarito has fought two times. In other words, if he stays idle, he misses out on the rematch he would have had in June with Miguel Cotto. But perhaps not much else.
Arum can tentatively schedule Margarito's next fight for March of 2010, let's say. If Margarito gets his license renewed next February, they're all set. If for some reason he doesn't, at least Arum would have a month to do something to save the event with some kind of a backup fight.
It's not the ideal situation, but if Margarito can miss one fight without suffering tremendous financial fallout, he should do that. If he fights once or twice in Mexico and makes any kind of decent money at all, can't you just see the commissions here thinking that Margarito turned his nose up at his punishment, that he really didn't suffer any consequences?
Oh, yeah. That's very possible. If Margarito fights in Mexico during the next year, he may never again fight in the U.S.
Goossen Looking For One Good Opponent
It's no secret that negotiations for a fight between heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye have hit a snag. Klitschko has said that he might have to fight Chris Arreola or someone else if things don't change.
Goossen, who promotes Arreola, would love that. But he's not holding his breath.
"I'm not here sitting on pins and needles," Goossen said. "We've got an April 11 date that we're looking to follow through on and what we don't want to do is sit here and be used as a negotiating tool for anyone. We were interested in the fight before they ended up choosing to go with Haye rather than Arreola.
"If there is serious interest in actually fighting Arreola, I prefer not to do it through the Internet. They have had no problem calling us before when they were reaching out. I will listen to anything. But I don't want to disrupt anything we are trying to do with Chris."
The problem is, Goossen is not sure what he is going to do with Arreola regarding April 11. Arreola is tentatively scheduled to fight in the semi-main event to Wright-Williams at Mandalay Bay.
Yet, less than two months from the fight, Arreola is minus an opponent. And HBO, which will televise the event, is waiting.
"I just hung up with (HBO executive) Kery (Davis) half an hour ago," Goossen said Tuesday about 6 p.m. West Coast time. "It's very thin out there. We're just trying to find someone that is a former champion, a former contender, anything that gives us a little name value."
Goossen said some of the names that have been thrown around are former champions Hasim Rahman and Sergei Liakhovich, contender Ray Austin, former contender Jameel McCline and journeyman Michael Grant.
"That's what we're faced with," Goossen said.
What about Toney? Goossen was asked. He said he told HBO's Davis that he would not want to use that fight to open up the television portion of a card in Las Vegas. He said it was better suited for a main event type of fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"I believe Arreola and Toney could sell out Staples Center," Goossen said. Arreola is originally from Los Angeles and lives in Riverside, Calif., about 45 miles from L.A. And Toney has lived in L.A. for more than a decade.
One thing's for sure, Goossen said, Arreola's time is coming. He is ranked as high as No. 2 by one governing body and Goossen figures he soon will be a mandatory challenger.
"If the Klitschkos come to us, we're going to listen," Goossen said. "And the great thing about it, Chris is a star on his own now and we're looking to make his path rather than fill in anyone else's path. We're not an afterthought, we're someone that is highly ranked and will be a mandatory within the next nine to 12 months. If it's there, we'll look at it. And if it's not, we're fine doing what were doing."
Schaefer Now in Charge
Haye is co-promoted by his company, Hayemaker Promotions, and Golden Boy. Up until now, Haye's manager/trainer, Adam Booth, has done most of the negotiating for the fight with Klitschko. Booth is also a partner in Hayemaker Promotions. But Schaefer told us Wednesday that he has been given permission to take control of the talks.
"They gave me full power to negotiate, so I'm talking to everybody," Schaefer said. "Yesterday they gave me the authorization to negotiate. And I usually get big fights done."
Well, Almost Always
Until Williams stepped up to the plate, Schaefer was having difficulty getting a fight for Wright, who is co-promoted by Winky Promotions and Golden Boy. Wright has not fought since July 2007, when he lost a decision to Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas.
At the beginning of Wednesday's news conference, Schaefer was a bit steamed at some of the stuff that has been written about Wright, who has been cast by some as a fighter who has priced himself out of too many fights.
"Winky Wright was willing to fight Kelly Pavlik in Youngstown or anywhere in the world," Schaefer said. "He was willing to fight Felix Sturm in Germany or anywhere in the world. He was willing to fight Arthur Abraham in Germany or anywhere in the world.
"He was willing to fight (a rematch with) Jermain Taylor anywhere. I think I have built up some credibility. These were reasonable deals. Those fights didn't happen because the fighters were scared."
Prior to the beginning of Wednesday's proceedings, we asked Wright point-blank why he has not fought in nearly two years.
"Nobody wants to fight," he said. "Everybody's talking and a lot of people started saying that Winky's asking for too much and Winky's doing this. It's a lie. You know what I'm saying? You never get to hear my side of the story. It's not that I'm asking for too much, they just don't want to fight. They're trying to look for a way not to fight me. And that's what they're coming up with."
Schaefer was asked specifically if he spoke with Arum, Pavlik's promoter, about a fight between Wright and Pavlik. Schaefer said that he did. He was asked what happened.
"At the last minute they made a U-turn to (Bernard) Hopkins," Schaefer said.
And a wrong turn it was, as Hopkins dominated Pavlik last October in Atlantic City.
Schaefer did say, however, that he expects Pavlik will fight Wright at some point.
"I do believe that Kelly Pavlik is that fighter who will fight anyone," Schaefer said.
Wright Still Peeved about Hopkins Fight
Wright lost to Hopkins by four, six and six points on the scorecards. When Wright was asked Wednesday if, at age 37, he has given any thought to retirement, he said what happened in the Hopkins fight is one good reason why he would not consider that at this point in time.
"I don't want to walk away now because I feel cheated from my last fight with Hopkins, with all the holding and head-butting and the referee not doing anything about it," Wright said.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, and BoxingScene.com
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