Antonio Margarito And His Trainer Are Suspended Over Hand Wraps — But Only Pending The Outcome Of An Investigation

The California State Athletic Commission has temporarily suspended welterweight (147 lbs.) Antonio Margarito and his trainer over those controversial hand wraps that were discovered before Margarito went on to fight and lose to Shane Mosley this weekend. The press release is here. By my read, it looks to be fairly standard procedure for state commissions to do this. But it doesn’t answer some questions.

Why a temporary suspension until Feb. 10? I know the hearing is on that date, but there’s no way Margarito was going to fight before then, so I’m not sure how this would “protect the public welfare.” Should this be taken as a sign that they’ve decided SOMETHING illegal was going on, and it’s now just a question of what? The release cites state code that points in that direction, and says, definitively, a “foreign substance was found” in Margarito’s gloves. How long does it take to determine whether something is plaster or some other substance? Apparently, it takes more than four days, total, which is how much time has transpired since the “foreign substance” was discovered, as of this writing. And is this really just “standard procedure,” as one of Margarito’s managers suggested it might be? In a web search, I haven’t been able to find any temporary suspensions in California other than this one, but Nevada has often enacted temporary suspensions because of allegations against an athlete.

Whatever the answers — which we’re unlikely to get given the commission’s intent not to offer any comment until Feb. 10 — the reaction of Bob Arum, Margarito’s promoter, is priceless.

“We’re absolutely confident he’s going to be exonerated,” Arum told The Times. “He’s not a cheater, he wouldn’t know anything about cheating.”

Asked if he maintained that same position about trainer [Javier] Capetillo, Arum said, “That, I don’t know.”

Sounds to me like Bob’s throwing the trainer under the bus.

Which gets to a compelling discussion I was having in an old post with commenter KT. The discussion centered on this: What if it could be definitively established that Margarito was duped somehow by his team and had nothing to do with any decision to cheat? (Read the whole comment and reply for more, but I came down in the direction of “Margarito should still be punished, although maybe less severely.”)

It gets even more interesting: A lawyer for Main Events, former promoter of twice-felled Margarito foe Kermit Cintron, and manager for once-defeated Margarito foe Joshua Clottey is going to consider pushing for investigations in other states pending the California test results. A lot of folk in the boxing world had been keeping quiet about this, so it’s a shift to see the silence breaking.

Past opponents of Margarito are watching the outcome of the commission investigation with interest. Attorney Pat English, who represents former Kermit Cintron promoter Main Events and Vinny Scolpino, the manager of Joshua Clottey, sent a letter to the commission on Tuesday to alert the panel of their interest.

“We have seen many allegations in this sport and will form no conclusions until the wraps are tested,” English wrote. “However, if they test positive for an illegal substance a logical question will be whether the illegal substance was used in other bouts, and we will ask the commissions of the other states where Margarito fought to make appropriate inquiries.”

English asked the commission to forward any test results related to the case.

Which is especially fascinating given that the Nevada commission’s
executive director made a blanket statement ruling out Margarito/trainer wrongdoing for the Miguel Cotto bout. Arum also told the Times it was impossible to do anything in Nevada like what’s been alleged of Margarito for the Mosley fight, since they intently supervise hand wraps and limit the kinds of gauze that can be used, which is a bit of a backhanded slap at the California commission, isn’t it? And considering Cotto’s interest in this matter, it’s interesting that Arum has ruled
out cheating in a bout that involved two of his fighters. Not to mention Clottey’s interest.

The good news on my end is that I’ll have time to finish my own gauze-stiffening experiment. One explanation from the Margarito team is that the gauze hardened because it had been balled up and humid for a couple weeks. My cat and I will be watching closely to see if the gauze I purchased hardens under similar conditions.


About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.