Antonio Margarito announces comeback fight

Scandal-stained Antonio Margarito returned to boxing’s bright lights Tuesday, announcing a May 8 comeback bout and fighting through a barrage of tough questions about the plaster-caked inserts he nearly took into his welterweight world title loss last year at Staples Center.

“I didn’t know, I don’t know anything about what happened,” Margarito told reporters surrounding him at a Los Angeles hotel. “I put my hands up there, and they wrapped them.”

But couldn’t a fighter tell if hardened pads were put atop the knuckles of his hands, as they were before being confiscated in the minutes preceding Margarito’s defeat to Shane Mosley? And shouldn’t Margarito (37-6, 27 knockouts) first try to get his license reinstated here in California, where it remains revoked, instead of taking a junior-middleweight, 10-round pay-per-view bout in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where no license is required?

The questioning visibly frustrated Margarito, 32, who at one point complained, “I don’t know what you guys want from me. You don’t have to believe me. I’ll prove it to everyone. I’ll show you guys.”

After upsetting then-unbeaten Miguel Cotto in a technical knockout in July 2008, Margarito stood as the most popular Mexican fighter in the U.S., routinely drawing loud ovations at public appearances.

Tuesday was the formal beginning of his image rehabilitation tour.

Backed by a legal team and promoter Bob Arum, Margarito is poised to participate in major fights should he return impressively in the May 8 bout against Roberto Garcia (28-2, 21 KOs). Arum said Margarito is the main option for Manny Pacquiao if talks to resurrect a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout fail again.

A crowd estimated at 20,000 is expected for Margarito’s fight in Mexico, and Arum said interest in the boxer could generate as many as 200,000 pay-per-view buys.

Margarito’s comeback bout is in Mexico “because he needs to fight,” Arum said. The plan is for Margarito to then reapply for a boxing license in the U.S. by repeating that the boxer knew nothing about an intent to load the gloves.

“That’s the evidence,” Arum said, “and there’s no evidence contrary to that.”

However, the controversy has damaged Margarito. Fight fans have taken to calling him “Marga-Cheato” and former opponents Cotto and Kermit Cintron have speculated their losses were the result of loaded gloves.

“Now, every opponent can say that,” Margarito said. “I didn’t cheat anybody.”

At the California State Athletic Commission hearing in February 2009, where the licenses of Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo were revoked, the trainer told commission members he must have accidentally inserted the hardened pads in Margarito’s hand wraps without the fighter’s knowledge.

Margarito said Tuesday that he fired Capetillo “for what he did to me.”

“We want to get the fans back who we lost,” said Sergio Diaz, Margarito’s co-manager. “Tony knows you only do that by working hard. He’s motivated to show people he’s always been clean.”