The California State Athletic Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to revoke former boxing welterweight world champion Antonio Margarito's license for one year, and that of his trainer, for having illegal plaster-like substances on his hand wraps before his title fight against Shane Mosley.
Margarito said that he did nothing more than hold up his fists for his trainer to wrap before the fight, but his argument failed to move the commissioners.
"When you're the top dog, you bear some responsibility for your team," Commissioner Dr. Christopher Giza told Margarito.
State inspectors testified that they confiscated two gauze pads that were "firm" and "smeared with a substance" before Margarito made the first defense of his welterweight title against Mosley on Jan. 24 at Staples Center. Mosley won by a ninth-round technical knockout.
The pads, shown in photos to be caked with a white grout-like substance still under analysis by a state lab, were inserted covertly under the knuckle pads atop Margarito's fists, a fact that his trainer, Javier Capetillo, admitted could have injured Mosley.
"Automatically," he said. "It's hard. It's going to hurt."
Margarito, 30, cannot re-apply for his boxing license for one year, a sanction that, because of federal boxing bylaws, will likely keep him from fighting in the U.S. until 2010. Margarito could follow through with his promoter Bob Arum's promise to stage fights this year in Mexico, but Giza said he would frown upon such a decision.
Margarito declined comment after the hearing. But Arum expressed outrage and said he wouldn't stage another boxing card in California during Margarito's suspension. The Margarito-Mosley fight drew more than 20,000 spectators to Staples, with a live gate of about $1.25 million.
"To take a kid who's done nothing wrong and revoke his license for a year: Are you crazy?" Arum said outside the Van Nuys hearing room. "If this was anyone other than a Mexican kid, there'd be a different result. The trainer does something wrong and the fighter who knows nothing suffers the consequences? What kind of nonsense is this?"
Daniel Petrocelli, Margarito's attorney, told the commission, "There is no evidence [Margarito] knew, participated in, or authorized" a plan to cheat, Petrocelli said. "Somebody needs to do something wrong to be punished."
After the ruling, Petrocelli said he might file a lawsuit to appeal the sanction in a state court.
Mosley later issued a statement.
"Capetillo was the one that put the wraps on and knew the rules and knew better," Mosley said. "Maybe Margarito shouldn't be punished as much as Capetillo should be."
Capetillo stunned a large audience at the hearing by acknowledging he had mistakenly placed one hardened pad inside Margarito's right-hand wraps and was about to put another in the fighter's left hand before Mosley's trainer, Nazim Richardson, objected.
State inspector Dean Lohuis testified that he immediately declared the pads illegal, and another inspector, Che Guevara, described the pads as "not hard as a rock, but firm and hard."
Capetillo told his attorney that the pads ended up in his gym bag "by mistake," and should have never been used in Margarito's hand wraps. The trainer explained that another fighter from a Montebello gym where he trains boxers must have errantly tossed his used hand wraps into Capetillo's bag after a workout.
"I committed a big mistake. I don't want this young man to have problems," Capetillo said through an interpreter.
But commissioners were highly skeptical of the claim. June Griffith-Collison asked why both of Margarito's hands were to have the illegal knuckle pad inserts. Margarito, who is from Tijuana, said in testimony that he's a loyal person who has never been in legal trouble. He said he was eager to let inspectors touch and feel his hand wraps on fight night so they'd be sure he wasn't hiding anything. When his attorney asked him whether he needed to cheat to win and required "some concrete in your fists," Margarito said no. "I've never cheated. I've never been in a situation like this before."
But Karen Chappelle, supervising deputy attorney general, urged the commission to hold Margarito responsible.
"These pads had the full intent to be used in a championship bout and the penalty should be revocation," Chappelle said.