Rumors started swirling this morning that a license hearing for Antonio Margarito would be set for next week in New York, a strange bit of very important news to come up all of a couple weeks before his scheduled, heavily-promoted, and majorly-hyped rematch with Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden on December 3.
But that is indeed the case, as Jake Donovan of BoxingScene.com reports that a hearing set for November 18 will decide whether or not Margarito will actually be able to fight Cotto on that date:
"We received Mr. Margarito’s official application on October 31," Chris Valens, NYSAC spokesman, informed Boxingscene.com on Thursday afternoon. "A hearing has been scheduled for November 18 to determine if he’s fit to receive a license."
... "We have a meeting next week with the NY Commission and the leading optometrist who did his (Margarito's) eye surgery will testify to them on his behalf to explain what he did," promoter Bob Arum informed Boxingscene.com."
Of course, it's not the eye injured last year against Manny Pacquiao, and this year surgically repaired, that is the only trouble for Margarito (38-7, 27 KO) .
There's that whole hand wraps business.
Just quickly for those who may not know somehow: In January 2009, Antonio Margarito's hand-wraps were found to have a foreign substance on them prior to his fight with Shane Mosley, which Mosley's trainer Naazim Richardson discovered after the California inspector had signed off on the wraps. This turned into a major boxing scandal, and Margarito had his license revoked by California. A year later, California turned down his application for renewal.
After that, Margarito and Top Rank went to Texas, a somewhat lax commission. They approved Margarito. But Texas is the only state under the Association of Boxing Commissions where Margarito is currently allowed to fight.
Now, chances are this will all go through. While it's not a formality in the normal sense, as Donovan notes, it's got to be known by Top Rank that Margarito will be approved. We're talking about a case where the fight has been promoted with a major press conference in the state, which was attended by commission chairperson Melvina Lathan. You'd think if there was any serious concern that Margarito would not be licensed by New York, Lathan and Arum would have said something.
So there's the rub, too, because if this turns out against Margarito and Top Rank, you have to think they would have known that was coming. So in that regard, it could be seen as a bait and switch, and, well, how wouldn't it be?
If Margarito doesn't get a license, where do they go? Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez are on the card at 154 pounds, set to rematch their July 15 Fight of the Year contender. If Margarito can't fight, I imagine Wolak moving up to the main event to face Cotto would be the option. Both are promoted by Top Rank, both will be bringing in passionate fans.
But would HBO sign off for pay-per-view of a Cotto vs Wolak fight? To spend this money on promoting this fight, there would have to have been some assurance that Margarito's license situation would be sorted like business as usual. HBO is sort of a co-promoter here with Top Rank. They have to have known about all of this. They must be confident that Margarito will be licensed.
In the end, I'm sure I've repeated it enough: Margarito will almost surely be licensed. But it's an interesting development because of his stature and notoriety, and the fact that this is a major pay-per-view event all of three weeks away.