California Denying Antonio Margarito A License Is A Victory For Principle (However Temporary)

The California State Athletic Commission on Wednesday made the right decision by ruling, 5-1, against restoring the boxing license of junior middleweight Antonio Margarito. In explaining their vote, members of the commission argued that Margarito hadn’t shown enough contrition for or taken adequate steps to correct what happened the night in 2008 when illegal wraps were discovered in his glove; that there should be a zero tolerance standard on safety in the boxing ring; and questioned what he was thinking in seeking a license elsewhere before returning to the commission that punished him.

It was the right decision for all those reasons, but most especially because, under the rule in California — and it’s a good rule — the boxer is held to “strict liability” for his equipment and what he puts in his body, even if he claims that his trainer was the one who was to blame. As one commissioner said in explaining his vote: “You can delegate authority, but you can’t delegate responsibility.” And, as another commissioner said earlier in the hearing, a mere one-year license revocation could send the wrong message that loading one’s gloves is worth the risk of getting caught because if one doesn’t get caught, cheating in that way could lead to a win that would pave a fighter’s career path with gold.

But I’d be surprised if it affects whether Margarito fights in America again, as it should per the usual standard of one state honoring another’s rulings. Texas is the preferred location for Margarito’s fight with Manny Pacquiao, wherein Margarito will make more money than he ever has. Promoter Bob Arum said he expects Texas to provide a license, and last week came reports that Margarito’s team had been “assured” that he would receive a license. Maybe Arum’s wrong, and maybe the unnamed source who said Margarito was “assured” of receiving a license is unreliable. But all signs point to the likelihood that, no matter what California did, Texas was going to be on board for the fight.

So there was probably no justice done Wednesday, in reality. But what California’s commission did is, at minimum, a victory for principle. And that’s worth something.

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.