Boxer Miguel Cotto glanced at the photo. He’d already seen it and had drawn a conclusion about what it indicates.
Cotto and his advisors say that a photograph recently obtained by The Times represents what his father, Miguel Cotto Sr., calls “overwhelming” evidence that his son’s 2008 opponent Antonio Margarito used illegally hardened hand wraps to help him score a technical knockout over the previously unbeaten Cotto.
Six months after Margarito battered Cotto, a California State Athletic Commission inspector confiscated hardened inserts caked with plaster of Paris in Margarito’s hand wraps before a welterweight title fight against Shane Mosley. Margarito’s wraps were changed before he lost the fight to Mosley.
Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, had their licenses revoked in February by the California commission for using illegal hand wraps, and both can apply for reinstatement early next year. Margarito has since fired Capetillo.
The photo in question was allegedly taken of a jubilant Margarito moments after he bloodied Cotto in an 11th-round TKO triumph in July 2008 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, Cotto will be in the same ring against Manny Pacquiao, amid questions about any lingering effects from his loss to Margarito.
In the photo, Margarito holds his left fist forward and a portion in the hand wrap above his left-hand pinkie knuckle reveals a discolored section. Karen Chappelle, the deputy attorney general who argued that the California State Athletic Commission should revoke Margarito’s boxing license, believed the photo was incriminating and she planned to present it at the hearing.
That request was denied, but the state did present photos of the plaster-covered inserts taken from Margarito before the Mosley bout. One photo showed a red-stained section that would’ve lined up in the same discolored hand-wrap area as in the post-fight Margarito-Cotto photo.
Cotto was the unbeaten (32-0) World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion when he fought Margarito.
But the challenger so thoroughly beat Cotto that he was bleeding from his nose, mouth and ears. “The only people who can tell you for sure if those [inserts] were in there is Margarito and his trainer, but you have the picture now, so people know,” Cotto said.
Margarito’s co-manager, Sergio Diaz, reviewed the photo obtained by The Times and said the discolored portion probably came from red dye in Margarito’s gloves bleeding onto the wraps.
“That color is like the color from the gloves that are on his wrists after a fight,” Diaz said.
Diaz said Margarito denies any wrongdoing in the Cotto fight or the Mosley pre-fight incident.
Diaz believes representatives of the Nevada State Athletic Commission took custody of Margarito’s hand wraps after the Cotto fight.
But Keith Kizer, executive officer of that commission, said Margarito never turned over his hand wraps to Nevada authorities, and wasn’t asked to.
Asked if he believes Margarito beat Cotto with loaded gloves, Cotto’s trainer Joe Santiago said, “There’s no doubt. Look at Miguel’s face after that fight.”
At the California commission hearing, Capetillo testified his fighters use plaster inserts in training to protect their hands and inserts must have accidentally been tossed into his training bag, and wound up in Margarito’s gloves without the fighter’s knowledge.
Margarito testified he merely held up his hands for his trainer to wrap before the Mosley fight.
Dean Lohuis, the former California inspector who pulled the hardened inserts from Margarito’s wraps before the Mosley bout, said: “Those pads were used in more than one fight. . . . The pad was dirty, used and looked like it had been around several times before. I’m convinced it was there against Miguel [Cotto]. . . . You can say it’s circumstantial but in my view . . . it was more likely than not.”
Margarito is working out lightly in Mexico, and Diaz said, “We’re taking steps to getting our license back.”
Bob Arum, who promotes both Cotto and Margarito, said, “The fight everyone would want to see is a Cotto-Margarito rematch.”
But Cotto wants Margarito suspended for life.
“I know Cotto says Antonio won’t make another penny off [him], but if he’s offered a lot of pennies to take the fight, I think he will,” Diaz said.
Times staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.