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By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Nov 23, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Photo: Antonio Margarito
When it was all said and done, after much debate and consternation, the December 3rd bout between Antonio Margarito and WBA junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto- the grudge match of the year- will take place at the very same venue where it was scheduled from the very beginning, the famed and newly renovated Madison Square Garden. For about a week or so, it seemed as if the New York State Athletic Commission was intent on putting the kibosh on this fight, with concerns over the condition of Margarito's right eye, which went through multiple surgeries in the wake of his bout last November versus Manny Pacquiao.
On Tuesday afternoon, after Margarito was flown in from Mexico to undergo examinations from a doctor selected by the NYSAC on Monday, he was given the green light to face Cotto in their jurisdiction.
Of this ordeal, where Top Rank was left in limbo and forced to make contingency plans, including possibly staging the fight in Denver or Phoenix, a beleaguered yet relieved Bob Arum told Maxboxing, “It's been terrible. It's been very, very hard. Hard on everybody and we've lost a lot of time that we could've devoted to promoting. But people tell me that THIS was the promotion what happened and it's been better than what else we could’ve been doing. I don't know, probably so. It's a big fight. [HBO’s] ‘24/7’ was incredible. The next ‘24/7’ is going to be like the most amazing one that they have ever had but it's just a strain on all of us, a strain on Antonio, flying him in from Mexico on a Sunday, putting him through two eye examinations on Monday. 
“But he's a trooper,” the promoter continued. “I'm grateful to him and I know he's grateful to us because we not only stood by him through thick and thin, the California thing and now the eye thing. But more importantly, we got him the best treatment for his eye, which is the most important thing with Dr. [Alan] Crandall at the Moran Eye Institute and we're very fond of ‘Tony.’”
Hours before the NYSAC made its decision, Cotto caused a bit of a stir by stating to reporters that it was Big Apple-or-bust as it related to staging this fight. Yeah, it kinda caught Arum by surprise. “If I knew he was going to make a statement like that, you think I would've had a conference call?!”
The question must be asked: Is Margarito's eye fit to fight?
“Let me tell you,” explained Arum. “The people who treated the eye, operated on it, the man [Dr. Crandall] who operated on it is the leading cataract surgeon in the world- not just in the United States- in the world. Recognized by every other doctor as being that and he got himself involved in this and he was the one that certified that Margarito was fit to fight and then there was the leading sports ophthalmologist [Dr. Rolando Toyos] who reviewed everything and agreed. Then there was Dr. [Kenneth] Rosenthal [of NYU, who was contacted by Top Rank] yesterday, who's the leading ophthalmologist in New York, in the whole state. He's the president [of the New York Intraocular Lens Implant Society] and he reviewed everything. And then Dr. [Michael] Goldstein, who is a leading ophthalmologist and was selected by New York, he reviewed everything. They went point-by-point with him and his conclusion was he is fit to fight.”
Arum added, “What I could never understand is why this wasn't done before we started, the announcement of the fight, the press conference? If they had any questions, why didn't they say, ‘Bob, take it easy, no press conference. Get the eye test.’? Even if they turned him down, we would've gone to another state.”
While pulling up the tent stakes and moving this show to another state may have salvaged the card, it would have come at quite a cost to Top Rank. According to the veteran promoter, “just in out-of-pocket costs, probably $1.5 million because you can't tell the hotel, ‘Hey, wait a second. Ain't no fight because we can't pass an eye test.’ So you're on the hook for hotel rooms because this time of year, there's a real crush. All the expenses, a plane for Margarito back and forth, easily a million-and-a-half, plus we already had close to $3 million in at the gate in New York. So even if we would've gone to some other place to do the fight, we would've taken in just a fraction of that. So the loss probably would've been as much as $5 million.”
Arum watched the proceedings at the NYSAC on a live stream at the Top Rank offices. The long, drawn-out manner in which things were handled frustrated the viewing public (It was something that was talked about quite humorously on Twitter in the early afternoon). “I have more experience with this because I'm a lawyer and I know that when they go into deliberation, they were going to come out with a written opinion, one way or the other,” said Arum, a graduate of Harvard Law School who once worked in the Attorney General's office during the Kennedy Administration. “I figured that they were debating the language that they would use in the written opinion because neither guy who spoke spoke extemporaneously.”
As for any legal action Top Rank may have considered versus the NYSAC if given the thumbs down, he says, “We never crossed that bridge and it's very, very difficult to sue a state agency. Very difficult. There's a lot of legal doctrines that prevent those kinds of suits from coming down. The courts give these agencies extremely wide discretion for findings of malice, which certainly nobody was alleging.”
Can Arum now say he's seen it all?

“No, because next year, I'll see more. That's what makes it fun to be a promoter. Nothing is ever the same, things happen all the time,” said Arum, chuckling. For him, this is old hat and after Muhammad Ali vs. George Chuvalo, everything else is easy by comparison.
“The first fight that I did, we got chased out of the country,” recalled Arum of his attempts to stage Ali versus Ernie Terrell, which ended up seeing Chuvalo face “The Greatest” instead in March of 1966. “I had one pair of shoes. I wore them out. I'll never forget; I had a hole in my shoe and then going to Toronto and then the Ontario Parliament voting on whether to allow them to fight- and we won by one vote. And Harold Ballard, the co-owner of the Maple Leafs and the Maple Leafs Garden, he was confronted by ‘Connie’ Smythe, who said that if you allow this guy [Ali] into the building, ‘I'm going to prevent it.’ And so Ballard had to buy [Smythe] out of the team and the building.
“THAT'S real pressure.”
Sergio Diaz, who has co-managed Margarito for much of his career, insists that his client is at no more risk than any other boxer who steps into the ring.
“He is absolutely ready to go. We would not put Antonio in any situation that he would not want to be in and in any situation that any doctor would not allow him to be in. We've gone to the best doctors around. We've been with Dr. Alan Crandall, who did the cataract surgery. We also went with Dr. Thomas Chiu, who was another of the surgeons. They both said he could continue on with his career. Because, let me tell you; if they were to tell us, ‘Y’ know what? You cannot continue with this career,’ we would not look for anybody else or any commissions to get him licenses to fight,” Diaz insisted.
“Because a big concern of ours, as well as [Margarito’s], is his health. At one time, he had already retired. He said, ‘I'm going to retire. I'm going to have surgery and I can no longer fight,’ but that's when we saw Dr. Crandall, who we went to just for the surgery preparing for retirement. Dr. Crandall said, ‘No, this is a simple surgery and he can definitely continue with his career.’”
Diaz zigzagged across the country as he went with Margarito to New York and back to the West Coast. He says that his boxer, now in Tijuana, is not suffering from any jet lag.
“I spoke to Antonio this morning [Tuesday] to see how he was doing and he said, ‘Sergio, I'm feeling great. I'm so motivated. I'm reading what Cotto's saying. He won’t fight outside of New York. That only tells me he's looking to get out of the fight. I'll fight Cotto anywhere. If we had to go to Puerto Rico, I will go fight him in Puerto Rico.’ So he sounded really upbeat. He's really motivated and I can't even tell if he's tired or not. The way he was speaking, he's not tired. I just finished talking to him right now. He said he just finished doing 12 good rounds.”
Word is that certain members of the Association of Boxing Commissions put a lot of heat on New York to have Margarito's license denied. The theory is that they wanted to flex their muscles and get a payback on Arum, who took Margarito last year to Texas after getting turned away by Nevada. This was nothing more than a vendetta against a fighter and his promoter. Regardless, it's another example of why I've never been completely sold on the idea of a national or federal commission. While it sounds good in theory, what if the wrong people are put in charge of such a body? And I'm strongly in favor of states’ rights.
Sorry, but boxing doesn't need three or four people who think they rule boxing. Besides, who regulates the regulators?
As for the issue of whether or not anyone who has an optical lens put in his eye should be fighting, well, I remember many years ago when Sugar Ray Leonard retired because it was believed that anyone with a detached retina should not be boxing. Well, nowadays, you have had a multitude of fighters who have suffered a similar injury and went on to fight with the aid of modern medical advances. Who's to say this isn't the case here?
Yeah, I know; Margarito's right eye doesn't look the same but I'll take the words and expertise of noted physicians who were willing to stake their professional reputations on the line by signing off on his health.
Got this email a few days ago...
Hey Steve. I'm surprised you didn't have more words for the best single episode in 24/7 history. I thought for sure you'd say that Margarito was channeling the pre-prison Carlito Brigante (, or that you'd quote the Simpsons and say that Antonio had crossed the line from everyday villainy to cartoonish SUPER villainy, or that if he lost to Cotto, Margarito could fight Mayorga in a rare heel vs. heel matchup like when the Four Horsemen faced The Freebirds. Maybe in your next column.

But anyway, is this 24/7 going to be shown on other networks the way the Pacquiao-Marquez one was? THIS is the kind of build-up that needs to be shown to the general public. I showed three different non-boxing-fan friends of mine the clip of Cotto and his Mom talking about Miguel Sr, followed by Margarito, cloaked in shadow like Darth Maul, callously asking why Cotto "cries so much," and now ALL THREE of them are coming over to my place to watch the fight. Before that five-minute clip from 24/7, these people thought Cotto-Margarito was something they'd order with their flautas at Chevy's; now they want to watch Darth Tony get the Sith kicked out of him by Cotto. Please give this memo to HBO: give the 24/7 treatment to lesser-known action fighters in intriguing matchups with stories behind them, instead of wasting time showing how many more useless people Manny Pacquiao has added to his entourage or what new and creative way Floyd Mayweather can make a jackass of himself. Seriously, do those two even NEED 24/7 to sell PPVs anymore? Keep up the great work. 

Jim, I couldn't have said it any better. And yes, that was one of the most- if not, by far- compelling episodes of “24/7” that I can recall. And I have a feeling with all the stuff that took place the past few days that the second chapter will be just as interesting. This will be one of the most electric nights in recent boxing memory. There is no need for any contrived storylines or controversies here. These two guys flat out don't like each other and the Puerto Ricans want revenge.

This won’t be for the faint of heart.

[Editor’s note: And how can you go wrong crossing boxing with “Star Wars” and Fabulous Freebirds references? I love you, Jim.]

Also from Today by Steve: Victor Ortiz vs Andre Berto II in 2012 and Boxing Nuggets on Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander, Antonio DeMarco and Jorge Linares

More of Steve Kim's recent work is linked below his contact information.

I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at
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