By Jake Donovan
Representatives at Top Rank were pleased – relatively speaking – with the verdict from Friday’s meeting held by the New York State Athletic Commission regarding the license status for Antonio Margarito.
A 45-minute discussion amongst the panel revealed that the commission wants its recommended physician to examine Margarito and also review testimony from two of the leading ophthalmologists in the country during Wednesday’s closed-doors hearing before making an official ruling.
At stake in Margarito getting a license is his already scheduled December 3 grudge rematch with longtime rival Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. The fight is roughly 1,500 tickets away from being a sellout, but everyone’s plans are on hold until the NYSAC makes an official decision.
As rough as it sounds, it certainly beats the alternative, which was to relocate the fight to a state where Margarito is already licensed for the sake of saving the show, which also includes an undercard loaded with action fights.
“It’s better than being denied, that’s for sure,” said Bob Arum upon hearing the news that the commission’s final decision wasn’t so final after all.
It’s been a crazy stretch for the Hall-of-Fame promoter and the rest of the folks at Top Rank. After covering ground of more than 20,000 miles to promote last weekend’s third chapter in the memorable rivalry between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, the soon-to-be 80-year old promoter has traveled to New York and Texas in the past week to cover hearings, press conferences and a fight.
Plans were already in place for Arum to be in Houston for the finishing touches on the promotion for this weekend’s middleweight title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Peter Manfredo Jr. The bout headlines a nine-fight card at Reliant Arena in Houston, airing live on HBO’s Boxing After Dark, along with the exclusive replay of Pacquiao-Marquez III (Saturday, 10:30PM ET/PT).
His travel itinerary was altered due to Wednesday’s hearing in New York to obtain testimony from ophthalmologists regarding Margarito’s eye surgery following last November’s battering at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. The bout was the last time that Margarito has stepped foot in the ring, taking off most of 2011 before agreeing to terms for a rematch with Cotto.
Margarito handed Cotto his first loss in their July ’08 thriller, which was stopped in the 11th round. The troubled Mexican endured an embarrassing scandal in the moments before his nine-round shellacking against Shane Mosley just six months later, when it was discovered that his handwraps were doctored.
The fallout resulted in a one-year ban from fighting anywhere in the United States, along with a lifetime suspension issued to then-trainer Javier Capetillo. The incident became an issue with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who held a hearing last summer only to table the application until Margarito agreed to appear in front of the California panel, since they issued the initial suspension.
It also served as a roadblock for Margarito fight in Texas last March, as the commission was urged by Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, to strongly consider all factors before blindly defaulting to a license renewal. The series of events resulted in his planned bout with Carson Jones hitting the scrap heap.
Margarito then took his act to Mexico, scoring a 10-round decision over Roberto Garcia last May in what represents his last win as his record stands at 38-7 (27KO).
However, his in-limbo standing with the New York State Athletic Commission has nothing to do with the aforementioned scandal, but more so concerns over his health.
Top Rank representatives understand the precautionary measures being taken and are far more confident than they were a day or two ago that justice will ultimately prevail.
“Bring it on,” stated Lee Samuels, publicist for Top Rank, when informed of the NYSAC’s decision to request a medical exam. “We have absolutely nothing to hide. We’re confident that the commission doctor will find Margarito fit to fight.”
Backup plans have already been discussed in the wake of previous suggestions that Margarito’s license would be denied. The strongest rumors suggested an unspecified location in Texas hosting the show, which will air live on HBO pay-per-view. Colorado and Mississippi were also mentioned as alternate locations, since Margarito is licensed in both states.
For now, everything remains in place until the New York commission decides one way or another.
“No matter the outcome, we’re doing everything in our power to save the show,” Arum insists. “The show must and will go on, as planned on December 3.”
Such efforts mean that a trio of can’t miss televised undercard fights – Pawel Wolak-Delvin Rodriguez II, Brandon Rios-John Murray and Mike Jones-Sebastian Lujan – remain on as planned, which in turn means that none of the fighters have to break camp for a huge opportunity just two weeks away.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]