Notes From Bolivian: On Shame, Disgrace And Antonio Margarito

(An illegal Antonio Margarito hand wrap. Photo: California Attorney General’s office)

Boxing fans and followers are still shaken by the failure to make the proposed Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fight. Many blame Mayweather, some blame Manny, and others (like Tim and myself) blame everyone involved.

Yet as the shock subsides and the sport trudges along and attempts to pick up the pieces, the future of the two biggest stars of the sweet science takes shape. Mayweather is close to signing with a “mystery opponent” (could it be The Shockmaster?). Meanwhile, Pacquiao – seemingly the instant the fight with Floyd was pronounced irrevocably dead – signed to fight Joshua Clottey on March 13 at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Texas.

While these consolation fights do little to erase the painful memories of the failed Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations, Pacquiao-Clottey is a pretty damn good-looking fight on paper. Many argued that the tough Ghanaian beat Pacquiao’s last victim, Miguel Cotto, so it will be interesting enough to see how he fares against Manny. He’s a big, strong, tough welterweight. It’s extremely unlikely he beats Manny, in my opinion – a guy with a habitually low work rate is unlikely to seriously challenge a whirling dervish like Pacquiao – but the fight should provide enough action to satiate fans.

I don’t begrudge Top Rank for moving on and making Pacquiao-Clottey. I do, however, seriously begrudge them for the following news item in a recent Dan Rafael blog post: Antonio Margarito, he of the sordid past, could be fighting in Dallas, too.

[Top Rank’s Todd] DuBoef said former welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito would fight on the [Pacqiuao-Clottey] pay-per-view card in the co-feature. Margarito had his license revoked in California for attempting to load his gloves with an illegal substance before facing Shane Mosley in January ’09 and is eligible to ask for his license back after a year, although there is no guarantee he will get it.

However, it is possible Margarito will be licensed in Texas without going to California first. It will be interesting to see what happens on that front.

If he’s licensed, Margarito’s opponent could be Carson Jones (24-7-1, 15 KOs), who thoroughly exposed Tyrone Brunson with a third-round knockout win against the prospect Dec. 4.

I can forgive boxing for not making the fight that everyone in the world wants to see. I’m troubled by the sport’s compulsive self-destructive tendencies, but one of the reasons I fell for boxing initially is because it is something of a misfit sport. Misfits should not be relied upon to follow the dictates of logic or reason. Misfits are less likely to seize the zeitgeist than to moon it and flip it the bird. I will chastise boxing for its failures in this instance, but I will not abandon it.

Many boxing writers (including the TQBR proprietor) referred to the failed Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. negotiations as “shameful.” I agree wholeheartedly. However, shame can be overcome. Shane Mosley managed to overcome the shame of his involvement with PEDs by continuing to fight at a high level against top opponents without using illegal substances. Alex Rodriguez overcame similar shame by admitting his wrongdoing (and winning a World Series championship).

Shame will undoubtedly stain – nobody has forgotten Mosley or A-Rod’s involvement with PEDs, and it will always be a part of their biographies. Nobody (in the United States at least) will forget Monica Lewinsky, either. Shame, however, is just a part of the story, not the story itself. PEDs are not the whole story when it comes to Mosley and A-Rod. Fellatio is not the whole Bill Clinton story. While shame is an integral part of their narratives, there is plenty of room for triumph, as well.

Disgrace exists on an entirely different plane. Disgrace runs deeper than shame and is far more destructive. Disgrace defines an individual or event, superseding any noteworthy accomplishments (unless, apparently, you are Bob Arum or Don King, but I digress). Shame is a misdemeanor; disgrace is a felony. Shame is failing to make the fight that would elevate the sport and reward its fans. Disgrace is shoving the worst kind of cheat down fans’ throats and expecting them to swallow and smile (and pay about $60 for the “privilege”).

Shame is the fallout of Pacquiao-Mayweather. Disgrace is Antonio Margarito on Manny Pacquiao’s next undercard.

I do not want to see Antonio Margarito anywhere near a boxing ring, the same way I would not want to see a convicted pedophile on a playground. Having simply “served his time” does not earn him the right to revisit his previous misdeeds. When Nazim Richardson discovered the elements of Plaster of Paris in Margarito’s hand wraps prior to the Shane Mosley fight last January, the Tijuana Tornado was instantly disgraced. The one-year suspension handed down from the California State Athletic Commission (honored by all boxing commissions in the U.S.) just served as further confirmation of his guilt. Margarito committed a heinous act far worse than mere cheating. In essence, he attempted assault with a deadly weapon and, despite the lack of criminal prosecution or even a criminal investigation (as far as I know), he and trainer Javier Capetillo are criminals in my eyes.

We do not know exactly how many careers and lives Margarito threatened in the name of ill-gotten gain. His career is tarnished in a way that is immutable. Manny and Floyd could fight in September or November or next year and the whole sad spectacle of the failed negotiations would be a mere blip on the boxing radar. Most fans who have written off the sport would quickly get caught up in speculation over the nature of the superfight. Meanwhile, nothing Margarito can do inside a ring will ever erase or even overshadow his past misdeeds. He lives alongside Panama Lewis and Billy Resto and the most notorious cheats in the history of an often sordid sport. Shame can be overcome, but disgrace cannot. When anyone today mentions the name “Panama Lewis” the word “cheat” is never far behind. Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, can look forward to the same notoriety.

Margarito’s actions in the wake of his discovery have earned him no favors. To my knowledge, Margarito has never publicly (or privately) apologized for his crimes, or even acknowledged wrongdoing. He continues to plead innocence, a plea I simply cannot believe, in large part because he continues to associate with Capetillo, the man who loaded his gloves. If I discovered that my trainer had been cheating on my behalf without my knowledge (Margarito’s claim), I would be outraged. Margarito shows up in the ring with Capetillo in Mexico, smiling and supportive. I do not doubt that Capetillo will be involved in Margarito’s training again if Margarito is reinstated, even if Capetillo is banned from being in his corner officially.

Now Margarito is up for reinstatement, a privilege he has not earned. In fact, I believe that Margarito should be banned from the sport for life by the CSAC. Some will say that he deserves a second opportunity; I say he already has one. He has the opportunity to stand up and admit that he made terrible mistakes. He has the opportunity to dissuade other fighters from taking extreme measures to prolong or improve their careers. He has the opportunity to make himself an example for others. He has the opportunity to rehabilitate, to improve his life and the lives of others, and to restore a small sliver of dignity to boxing.

He does not deserve the opportunity to fight for a living again. Sadly, I suspect he will get one. The paragraph in Rafael’s blog about Texas is most troubling, since we are all intimately familiar with the deceitfulness of the Texas State Boxing Commission. Margarito, Capetillo, and Bob Arum (his most fervent defender) disgraced the sport in a way that goes far beyond the petty bitterness and frivolous lawsuits that tarnished Pacquiao-Mayweather. For that, they will be rewarded with a PPV payday.

Loading gloves in boxing is not the same as corking a bat in baseball. The type of cheating Margarito employed was a criminal act that threatened the future of the sport and the lives of its participants. Boxing requires a zero tolerance policy for such cheating that no other sport demands. I’m a true sucker for boxing; even when I resolve not to order lackluster pay-per-view cards, I usually relent because of my addiction to the sport. Despite my disappointment with Mayweather and Pacquiao, I almost certainly would have purchased both of their PPVs, even on the same night, thanks to the magic of DVR. If Margarito is on the undercard, however, I will not purchase the fight. In fact, if Pacquiao-Mayweather is ever made, and Margarito is on that card, I will not purchase the fight. I refuse to ever purchase any fight card featuring Antonio Margarito. I refuse to attend any fight card featuring Margarito. I may watch the non-Margarito fights on YouTube, or tap into the Interwebs to download the fights to burn on DVD, but I refuse to financially support Antonio Margarito as a boxer in any way, shape or form, even if that means avoiding fighters and fights I would like to support.

My personal boycott is not going to influence Arum or Margarito or Capetillo. Many of you will probably think I’m being a little silly. Maybe I am. Sometimes, standing by a belief can sound a little silly, or a little pointless, or even a little self-important. So be it. My cynical adulthood has seen many of my convictions shattered or shaken, but the ones that remain stand firm, strengthened by that which did not break them.

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.