Manny Pacquiao takes jab at Antonio Margarito

Manny Pacquiao’s promoter had just finished railing at those who continue to doubt the honesty of boxer Antonio Margarito, some 18 months after California revoked Margarito’s license for nearly taking gloves loaded with plaster inserts into a January 2009 bout at Staples Center against Shane Mosley.

“Antonio Margarito did not know those illegal hand wraps were there, and there’s not one shred of proof he did,” promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday at an event in a packed Beverly Hills Hotel ballroom to promote Margarito’s fight against Pacquiao on Nov. 13 in Texas.

Yet, when Pacquiao was asked about the Margarito scandal, the Filipino star grinned devilishly and said, “Of course, I believe [Margarito] knew, he’s the one who wraps his hands,” Pacquiao said. “My belief is, you know that.”

Last week, Texas officials issued a boxing license to Margarito, clearing the way for the Pacquiao bout at Cowboys Stadium.

Pacquiao said he will designate someone on fight night to closely watch Margarito’s hand wrapping before the bout for the vacant World Boxing Council super-welterweight title.

Robert Garcia, Margarito’s new trainer, said, “I’ll wrap those hands right in front of Manny Pacquiao himself if he wants to come watch.”

Said Margarito: “I don’t care what anybody says. This is the present now. Let’s get ready to fight.”

Thus, the hero and villain roles are already cast.

The intrigue also includes whether Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 knockouts) can claim a record eighth world division title against Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs), a relentless former welterweight champion who is nearly five inches taller.

In addition, Margarito’s antihero status and Mexican fight fans’ interest in seeing whether the Tijuana native can upset the Filipino superstar could drive sales for the bout. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is making available 70,000 seats for the fight.

Pacquiao-Margarito could become the biggest boxing match in the U.S. since 63,000 watched Muhammad Ali–Leon Spinks II in 1978 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

“It’s unfair to not give him one more chance,” Pacquiao said of Margarito. “He made a mistake.”

MGM Grand’s sports book established Pacquiao as a 6-1 favorite.

The fight will also be Pacquiao’s first since winning a congressional seat in the Philippines, and it’s a replacement bout after another failed negotiation to have him fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I’m disappointed, but let’s move on and forget about [Mayweather]. I’ve achieved all I want in boxing,” Pacquiao said.

Arum said he didn’t “know how the mantle as congressman will affect Manny until we see him fight.”