By Jason Pribila: There is a natural lull between the end of the NFL Season (Super Bowl) and Opening Day of Major League Baseball for both American sports fans and writers. In order to help male sports fans get through this period of withdrawal, Sports Illustrated created its annual Swimsuit Edition in 1964. Though many have argued what it had to do with sports, no one could question the importance of making the bikini a staple in beach apparel.
This year, however, no such lull existed. Sports pages have been filled by the latest wave of “cheaters”. Alex Rodriguez aka “A-Roid” got the most attention when he admitted taking steroids during his 2001-2003 stint with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez is the youngest player to ever hit 500 HRs, and was previously embraced as a clean-alternative to chase down Barry Bonds’ career home run record. The NFL found itself looking out the window of their own glass house, when it was reported that former All-Pro defensive lineman, Dana Stubblefield, was co-operating with federal authorities regarding steroid use and distribution in the sport. Although these stories hurt the individuals involved, they have been common among America’s two most popular sports. It was the boxing news regarding Antonio Margarito
’s loaded hand wraps that not only shocked fans, but also reminded us that cheating has become an International Pastime.
The A-Rod news was so big that it got the attention of President Obama, who echoed the most common theme when discussing steroids in sports. He was concerned about the message being sent to children, and hoped they realized that taking shortcuts could tarnish an entire career.
In the case of Margarito, I do not feel that we need to worry about the message being sent to children, simply because children are not watching boxing. The days of fathers and sons watching "Friday Night Fights" or “Wide World of Sports” are long gone, mainly because there is no longer any interest from network television regarding the sweet science. Getting the youth of today interested in boxing is the only way to ensure the sport’s growth; incidents like Margarito’s foul play will only set the sport further back from making positive strides.
The goal of getting boxing back on network television is the goal of every major promoter in the sport, however each will admit it is an uphill battle. Top Rank’s Bob Arum was shopping Hatton-Pacquiao to Showtime, with the hopes that their parent company, CBS, would become involved with the promotion.
A bigger problem is that boxing is also losing the interest of newspapers. Basically an editor will green-light a reporter to cover any fight that he/she is able to drive to. Flights and hotel accomodations for an east coast reporter to cover a fight taking place on the West Coast have gone the way of the 15-round title fight; and when the biggest story of the year involves a champion trying to load his gloves, who could blame them?
I gave Team Margarito the benefit of the doubt when news first broke about a “plaster-like” pad being removed from his wraps a half hour before entering the ring against Mosley. However, after the hearing in front of the California State Athletic Commission, the question of Margarito’s guilt has been answered. The questions about everything else he accomplished remain unanswered and will haunt Margarito for whatever remains of his career and beyond.
Even the most loyal of Margarito’s supporters have to have doubts after hearing the lack of a defense presented by himself and his trainer Javier Capetillo (who also had his boxing license revoked for at least a year).
Capetillo tried to take full responsibility and blame for the incident. He testified that during the confusion and excitement caused when Mosley’s trainer Nazim Richardson questioned the way Margarito’s hands were taped, he grabbed the wrong pads from his bag, and he never intended to cheat.
The problem with that story is that one of Margarito’s hands was already taped. No confusion, no accusations, yet still an illegal pad was already in place.
As for Margarito, he plead ignorance. He neither felt nor knew of anything illegal being placed in his wraps. This defense sparked great debate among fighters and journalists, many of which (including Miguel Cotto) did not believe Margarito.
I have never had my hands taped, but I did once get my ankles taped before a football game. Although my thoughts were on my assignments for the evening, there was still dialogue between myself and the trainer. The only other comparison that I could come up with was when I would put money in my sock on the playground. Although I was much more focused on playing with my friends, I was fully aware the money was present.
If Margarito was unaware that his pads were loaded on January 24th, how could he be sure that they were not loaded in his previous fights? He and Capetillo have worked together for ten years, and although Mosley was a risk, Margarito was a solid betting favorite. Also, Margarito already won the lottery when he defeated Miguel Cotto in July of 2007, he was the A-side of this promotion, and he was already slated for a Cotto rematch, win or lose. Why risk everything now? Unless this was something that they had gotten away with previously.