Antonio Margarito - Boxing’s Poster Boy for a Double Standard
By Ralph Rimpell, Doghouse Boxing (July 20, 2009) Photo © German Villasenor  
On September 29, 2001 Felix “Tito” Trinidad was set to face Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world at Madison Square Garden in New York. Before the actual fight took place, a member of Hopkins camp protested regarding Trinidad hand wraps. It was alleged by the Hopkins camp that Trinidad had too much padding and tape on his hands and that he dipped his hands in ice water with the padding and tape. When the hand wraps dried, it would become as hard as a cast. The Trinidad camp argued they had always wrapped his hands in this manner. The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), agreeing with the Hopkins camp, ordered the Trinidad camp to re-wrap Trinidad’s hands. If I’m not mistaken, Trinidad’s hands had to be re-wrapped two more times until the NYSAC and the Hopkins camp were satisfied they were legally wrapped. Trinidad became so upset that he even threatened to pull out of the fight. Once Trinidad hand wraps were given the OK, he went out and fought Bernard Hopkins and lost by knockout. This was his first career loss.

Nobody, not even Trinidad’s critics, made much noise about this.

If I remember correctly, his gloves were not confiscated for examination, his hand wraps and padding were not sent to a laboratory, no one questioned his past victories, and he did not have to appear before the NYASC for a disciplinary hearing. For those of us who truly follow boxing, up until that time he defeated quality opposition and former world champions such as Fernando Vargas, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Yory Boy Campos, Hector Camacho, Oba Carr, and Maurice Blocker. The question should arise then: Was Trinidad illegally wrapping his hands prior to the Hopkins fight? Only Trinidad’s camp knows the answer to that.

On September 13, 2003 Shane Mosley defeated Oscar De La Hoya for the second time by unanimous decision. During an investigation of the pharmaceutical company BALCO, it has been alleged that Shane Mosley was provided with performance enhancing substances in the past, namely steroids. There is an allegation that he may have been on steroids when he defeated De La Hoya in the rematch. The question then is: How long had he been taking steroids if he was supplied by BALCO? Had he been taking steroids since the beginning of his boxing career? After he became champion? Only Mosley knows the answer to that.

On September 14, 2002, Fernando Vargas loss by TKO to Oscar De La Hoya in a high profile junior middle weight unification match. After the fight, Vargas tested positive for steroids. Anyone familiar with Fernando Vargas knows he has always had difficulty making the 154lbs weight limit. That was obvious when he attended boxing matches as a spectator. It was rumored that during his career, in between fights, he would walk around as high as 200lbs. He would slim down to 154lbs for the weigh in 24hrs before the fight and then rehydrate himself for fight night. When he fought De La Hoya he came into the ring at 170lbs. Did the steroids give him an advantage in strength and size? Prior to his fight with De la Hoya; did he also use illegal steroids? Shouldn’t all his victories prior to him being caught cheating be questioned? I raise these three examples not to discredit these three great fighters, Trinidad, Mosley and Vargas, but rather to point out there is a double standard in boxing when it comes to Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito 37-6 (27).

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Margarito controversy, in the same manner there was an objection to how Trinidad’s hands were wrapped, by the same person (Nazim Richardson) 8 years ago, so it was at the Staples Center before Margarito was set to face Mosley. Richardson complained there was too much padding and powder on Margarito’s hands and it was too hard. The padding and tape were confiscated by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). His hands had to be re-wrapped. Margarito went on to lose miserably by knockout at the hands of Mosley. His gloves were also confiscated by the CSAC. There was an outcry by Margarito’s critics. There was speculation that he tried to have “loaded gloves’ to cheat his way to victory against Mosley. Boxing critics also argued he had defeated the more talented Miguel Cotto with “loaded gloves” as well. Boxing critics believed he had been doing this his entire career. So what did the CSAC do? They immediately suspended him and his trainer and ordered them to appear at hearing scheduled for Feb 8, 2009. Margarito and his camp denied wrong doing. Margarito’s gloves were X-rayed, he was tested for illegal substances, and his hand padding was tested by several laboratories. The gloves came back clean as well as his urine. At the hearing to determine his fate, according to, CSAC Inspector Che Guevara testified at Margarito’s hearing that, “his hand wraps was not hard as a rock, but firm and hard.” Laboratory investigation concluded that he had used a dangerous powder substance in his hand wraps. As a result he and his trainer were suspended from fighting anywhere in the USA for 1 year. Almost every boxing writer has had something negative to say about Margarito and rightly so. This is the fighter who turned professional at the age of 15 fighting grown men. He did not have an amateur career. He learned on the job and won three world titles (WBO, IBF, and WBA). After he defeated Cotto, it appeared that he overcame the odds and silenced his critics for the time being if not forever. Boxing critics condemned Margarito after the Mosley fight. They dismissed his previous victories. Critics said he could have seriously hurt Kermit Cintron, Mosley, etc. by using “loaded gloves”. OK, no problem, let’s be fair.

Let’s take a quick look at Trinidad. His punching power was truly awesome. However, those of us who followed his career knew he had a “suspect chin”. In his fights against Carr, Campos, Stephens, Reid and Vargas, Trinidad was knocked down and sometimes almost out on his feet. These were world title fights. He rallied in spectacular fashion to defeat his opponents. Why not question those victories? As for Mosley, he stands an unimposing 5’9”. He began his career as a lightweight and has surprisingly carried his punching power as high as 154lbs. If he had been using illegal steroids, couldn’t he have inflicted serious injury to his opponents? Don’t steroids give an unfair advantage in strength and speed to the one using it? Why not question his victories before the De La Hoya fights? What about Fernando Vargas? If Vargas walks around at about 200lbs in between fights and is able to make the 154lb and is not weakened in strength because of steroids, doesn’t that give him an unfair strength advantage against his opponents. Is it fair and safe that an opponent should risk his life unknowingly against a fighter who is on steroids? Shouldn’t all of Vargas’s victories be questioned as well?

I am in no way making excuses for Margarito, but rather pointing out that he has not been given the benefit of the doubt like his aforementioned peers. I don’t recall Trinidad ever defending his actions the night he had to re-wrap his hands and then lost to Hopkins. Mosley denied ever taking steroids but BALCO has accused him of lying. The two parties are currently in litigation to determine who is telling the truth. Regarding Vargas, he stated he simply thought he was taking vitamins during training camp when he tested positive for steroids and was subsequently suspended. The point is these three fighters were all given a pass and allowed to move forward with their careers. Margarito’s trainer has accepted responsibility for the illegal hand wraps. Most people in boxing continue to look upon Margarito with scorn. Why not give Margarito the benefit of the doubt like his peers? Let’s face it, for whatever reason, many in boxing dislike Margarito. My guess is because he is a limited fighter with a lot of heart that can defeat anyone in his weight class on any given night. Margarito must come back to boxing once his suspension is over and rematch with Cintron, Mosley, and Cotto. He must defeat them convincingly in order to restore his good name. Even if that were to happen, knowing my boxing colleagues like I do, they will still find a reason to be critical of him. They will always refer to the hand wrap controversy and he will forever remain the poster boy for a double standard in boxing.

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