The decision whether to reinstate Antonio Margarito to boxing in the U.S. becomes a much more interesting issue now that Manny Pacquiao has decided to fight him.
"There are a number of states who'd license Margarito," the fighters' promoter, Bob Arum, said Saturday, after determining with Pacquiao's management Friday that Margarito would be the alternate foe Nov. 13 to a failed bid to stage the sport's super-fight, Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Twice-former welterweight world champion Margarito (38-6, 27 knockouts) hasn't fought in the U.S. since January 2009, when California authorities seized plaster-covered inserts from inside both of his hand wraps before Margarito lost to Shane Mosley at Staples Center. The California State Athletic Commission revoked the licenses of Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, at a February 2009 hearing, and it has yet to reinstate him.
Nevada considered Margarito's request this month — Margarito, 32, has fired Capetillo and has maintained that he did not know the inserts were inside his wraps — but the state tabled its decision and requested that he return to California for an official reinstatement or denial. Margarito's request could be heard in California next month.
However, Arum said some national boxing commissioners expressed interest at an Assn. of Boxing Commissions meeting this month in licensing Margarito with or without California's blessing.
The front-running options behind Nevada to pursue the fight are Texas, which staged a lucrative Pacquiao fight against Joshua Clottey in front of more than 50,000 at Cowboys Stadium in March, and New Jersey, which, like Nevada, is certainly interested in bringing a big crowd and wealthy gamblers to its state.
"We're confident we'll get him licensed here," Arum said.
If that doesn't happen, Arum said he has negotiated with representatives in Abu Dhabi and Monterrey, Mexico, which has a 22,000-seat arena and would allow Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs) to skirt a steep 30% federal tax in the U.S.
Rival promoter Dan Goossen has said Pacquiao's reputation would be diminished by taking a fight in Mexico against a banned Margarito "like thieves in the night."
"It's not running out of the country, it's a good economic deal," Arum said. "Manny's not a fugitive."
Economics clearly played a factor in Pacquiao's decision to fight Margarito instead of taking on a rematch against world junior-middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao handily defeated by 12th-round technical knockout in November. Cotto rallied under new trainer Emanuel Steward to win the junior-middleweight belt, but Arum said that fight remains a viable option should Mayweather continue to decline to accept a Pacquiao bout next year.
"We can't hold our breath; there's something very weird going on with that guy," Arum said of Mayweather.
The selling points of a Margarito bout, to be televised by HBO pay-per-view, will begin with the drama of his reinstatement bid, a lively point of debate. The bout has historical significance as Pacquiao seeks a record seventh world weight division title at junior middleweight, 154 pounds, with the vacant World Boxing Council belt up for grabs. Pacquiao will be a clear favorite against the slower Margarito, who returned to the ring in May and won a unanimous decision over Roberto Garcia in Mexico.
Arum said Pacquiao will begin training Sept. 13 in the Philippines with his Los Angeles-based trainer, Freddie Roach, and the two will return to their Hollywood gym by October.