By Thomas Hauser
It’s now official. Antonio Margarito has been licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and will fight Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium on November 13th. There will be a lot gnashing of teeth about Margarito’s transgressions between now and fight time. Let’s look at where things stand.
Last year, the California State Athletic Commission revoked Margarito’s license after illegal inserts were found in his knucklepads prior to his January 24, 2009, fight against Shane Mosley. On August 18, 2010, the CSAC denied Margarito’s request for reinstatement of his license by a 5-1 vote.
If Margarito knew that his knucklepads contained illegal inserts, a lifetime ban from boxing would be warranted.
The statements made by members of the California State Athletic Commission make it clear that they think Margarito knew his handwraps were loaded. Just as obviously, they can’t prove it. Nor has the state attorney general’s office seriously tried to prove it with any sort of in-depth investigation.
Instead, California has asked Margarito to supply the proof by expressing “remorse” for taking part in a scheme to load his gloves and promising that he’ll never do it again because he has been “rehabilitated.” The problem with this line of thinking is that Margarito says he didn’t know that his knucklepads contained illegal inserts.
In other words, the California State Athletic Commission has updated Joseph Heller’s classic World War II novel, Catch-22. In that book, crew members at a United States Army air force base would be exempt from life-threatening combat missions if they were insane. All they had to do was ask to be grounded. But as Heller explained, “There was one catch. That was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask. And as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”
Hence, the California State Athletic Commission’s own “Catch-22.” If Margarito is innocent, then there is nothing to express remorse for and no need for rehabilitation. But absent remorse and rehabilitation, the CSAC won’t give him a license. And if Margarito is guilty, then he has previously perjured himself in addition to having committed an offense that merits more than a one-year suspension.
The California State Athletic Commission also chastised Margarito and his new trainer, Robert Garcia, for violating an obscure California rule that requires a "sparring permit.” Margarito sparred in California in preparation for a May 8, 2010, fight in Mexico without having such a permit. The problem with the CSAC’s position on this issue is that hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters (including Manny Pacquiao) spar in California without a permit.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the Association of Boxing Commissions, 45 boxers fought during the past twelve months while on medical suspension or without the required federal identification card. That’s a clear violation of federal and state law. SEVENTEEN of these boxers fought in California under the auspices of the California State Athletic Commission. That’s the worst record of compliance of any state in the country.
California should stop trying to dictate how the rest of the country conducts business and get its own house in order.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His most recent book (a novel entitled Waiting for Carver Boyd) was published last month by JR Books. Hauser says that Waiting for Carver Boyd is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”