Suspend Antonio Margarito If The Cheating Allegations Are True [Updated]

Plasterofparis.jpgI’m not trying to get all Nancy Grace up in here, convicting someone before they are proven guilty. I want to emphasize upfront that we need a fuller investigation of the allegations against welterweight (147 lbs.) Antonio Margarito that his team tried to artificially load his glove before Saturday night’s bout with Shane Mosley.

But the allegations are as serious as serious can be. And if they prove true, Margarito and everyone involved should be punished severely.

Here’s what we know, and here are the potential ramifications:

HBO’s Larry Merchant said, as Mosley-Margarito began:

Just minutes ago, the commissioner of boxing, Dean Lohuis, reported to us that an illegal pad was found in Margarito’s gloves, something that would harden when wet, and that his hands had to be rewrapped three times.

At least one more outlet, Yahoo, has the same California commission official on the record, albeit in a pair of statements that are somewhat unspecific (all of the rest of the quotes here are from Yahoo, except where noted):

Dean Lohuis, the interim co-executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, said an illegal substance was found in Margarito’s hand wraps.

Dean Lohuis, the co-interim executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, said the piece was apparently slipped in underneath the legal tape that was already placed on Margarito’s hands by trainer Javier Capetillo.

From Mosley’s promoter, we have a statement that the California commission is investigating:

“It was a plaster-like substance,” said Golden Boy Promotions attorney Stephen Espinoza. “It was bagged up by the commission and taken as evidence.”

Mosley trainer Nazim Richardson is the one who protested the wrap, and this is his version of the story (Richardson, by the way, was one of the people who protested Felix Trinidad’s hand wrap before his fight with Bernard Hopkins, although the issue there was gauze and tape; so Richardson’s brilliance was not only in giving Mosley a winning strategy, but in being sharp enough to recognize some potential cheating by his opponent):

Richardson would not surrender the pieces until Mosley’s attorney Judd Burstein arrived in the dressing room. At that point, they were placed in a box, sealed and signed, and given to Lohuis.

“When he put the wrapping on, I asked if I could feel it and when I felt it, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is too hard,’ ” Richardson said. “When the commission flipped the [tape] over, a little block of gauze-like plaster fell out. I said, ‘Unwrap the other hand,’ and they were saying, ‘Oh, oh, the other hand is good.’ I asked the commissioner, ‘What if I unwrap the other hand at the end of the fight and it falls out of there, too?’

“He made them unwrap it. And when they unwrapped the other hand, another one fell out. It was wet with a little plaster on it.”

A second member of the Mosley camp added some detail, per the Los Angeles Times:

Mosley’s doctor, Robert Olvera, likened the material to the type of plaster used to make casts.

“It gets hard and mobile,” said Olvera, who said he scratched the pad and “flakes of plaster of Paris” came off.

Here’s what Margarito’s promoter said:

Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who promotes Margarito, said he was told the wrap was simply gauze that was balled up by the knuckles. DuBoef said that when Richardson objected, Margarito’s camp was happy to comply and rewrap.

What we have here are two parties to the fight — Mosley’s camp and the California commission — asserting that, at minimum, an illegal substance that was wet and would harden, was found in Margarito’s gloves. A third party — Margarito’s camp — is suggesting in a roundabout way that if anything improper happened, it was innocent and cleared up quickly.

It is my hope that a fuller investigation is conducted, per Golden Boy’s lawyer.

Here’s one reason why:

billycollins.jpgIf you aren’t familiar with the story of Billy Collins, Jr., I suggest you read up on it here. The short of it is that Luis Resto and his trainer Panama Lewis removed padding from his gloves a fight with Collins, and subsequently Resto came forward with the claim that his gloves were also filled with plaster of Paris (the substance in the very top photograph). Collins took a serious beating and was never the same, and before long, he was dead in a car crash that some believe was a suicide. Resto and Lewis did jail time, and Resto was banned from the sport.

You don’t have to go back very far to find another instance of a boxer being banned for life for using a “hardening” substance: Edward Mpofu, in November. He got caught after the fact, just like Resto.

Obviously, this kind of thing is illegal because it gives a competitive advantage and because of its capacity to do serious damage to a boxer’s life.

That brings me to one of the most potentially offensive aspects of this in Margarito’s case: If he did it this time, it stands to reason he probably did it before. That casts a shadow over a career of accomplishments.

But most importantly, we don’t know now whether Cotto has recovered from the serious beating Margarito gave him; we aren’t likely to find out in Cotto’s return bout in February against unknown Michael Jennings whether he’s recovered from that beating; and it may be a while before we ever know.

And if the answer is that Cotto isn’t the same, and the new allegations against Margarito prove true, there will be a strong chance that Margarito ruined Cotto’s career because he cheated.

As serious as it gets.

Well after the fact, barring whistleblowers coming forward or several people being squeezed by investigating officials, it may be too late to find out whether Margarito used these tactics before. I’d contemplated making the headline of this post “Ban Antonio Margarito If The Cheating Allegations Are True.” If it turns out that he did use the tactics before, he should indeed be banned.

What we have right now, though, is a question of whether Margarito TRIED to cheat. And in questions of illegal behavior, you get a greater punishment for committing the act and a lesser punishment for trying to commit the act. Thus Margarito, if he did indeed try to cheat, should serve a multi-year suspension, he should be fined, AND his boxing license should be revoked so that he will have to jump through all kinds of hurdles to get it back. The pertinent California reg (by my reading) is here. It will be up to the commission to decide whether to suspend, fine or revoke the boxing license of Margarito. And if the commission does suspend Margarito, other jurisdictions should honor that sanction, as is customary but not always the case.

This shouldn’t be swept under the rug. It must be investigated fully, and if the investigation incriminates Margarito, he should be punished heavily. That ain’t a revolutionary declaration. But there has to be pressure on everyone to do what’s right.

[Update: Good news. At the end of this L.A. Times piece is a crucial sentence: “The California State Athletic Commission will begin ‘investigating’ the contents of Margarito’s hand wraps Monday in Sacramento, commission offici
al William Douglas said Sunday.” Next, let’s hope it’s a thorough investigation with appropriate punishment if anything is discovered. Margarito probably brought in some good tax revenue Saturday night, and while I have no reason to suspect that could affect its decision on whether to suspend Margarito and prevent any additional Margarito-generated revenue from coming in to the state anytime soon, it’s a worry that I’d have for any situation like this.]

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.