The wait to hear if we'd be seeing the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto rematch take place at Madison Square Garden, or hell, at all, had my heart beating like I'd gone overboard on Red Bull, had it going harder than it does leading up to big fights.
The media turnout at the Williams St. headquarters of the New York State Athletic Commission on Tuesday afternoon was slim, likely stemming from the fact that there wasn't a free buffet. The folks from Boricua Boxing were there, and SI and Newsday and HBO's 24/7. There was bonding going on as we waited to get into the meeting room, as the commission was running late. (I'm assuming because they were receiving the report from ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Goldstein, who examined Margarito on Monday afternoon. He was the doc chosen by the commission to render a verdict on the fitness of Margarito's right eye, which has been a hot mess.) They had a lot to discuss; Margarito had had an orbital bone fracture, and needed surgery following his Nov. 13, 2010 loss to Manny Pacquiao. He followed that with Jan. 2011 surgery for a detached retina, an injury which he denied this summer, and May 19 surgery to fix a cataract.
We all sat down in the conference room at 3:42, after Melvina Lathan, Judge Edwin Torres and Tom Santino presented the findings of Dr. Goldstein to Margarito's attorneys, Daniel Petrocelli and Daniel Marroso. At 4:02, Lathan, Torres and Santino exited the room, for a closed deliberation session. So we waited, and cracked jokes, and waited, and theorized, and waited, until finally, at 5:45, they came back. The NYSAC attorney, David Mossberg, spoke, as Lathan was suffering from laryngitis. He kicked it to Torres, who tortured us, who tossed it to Santino, who sent it back to Torres, for the verdict. The commission saw that California gave the go-ahead for Margarito to be re-licensed, more than a year after he was busted for trying to use loaded gloves, and saw that ample medical evidence exists which indicates his right eye is good to go, so, Torres, said, they will grant him a license to box.
Hundreds if not thousands of people who'd bought plane tickets for the Dec. 3 fight at MSG breathed a mighty exhale. We can presume maybe the biggest exhale came from promoter Bob Arum, who'd been told on a noon conference call by Cotto that if Margarito didn't get a N.Y. license, Cotto didn't want to do the fight.
I felt for Lathan, who has taken a terrific beating in the press, and was accused, often through anonymous sources, of letting this process slip away from her. Knowing that her budget and staffing is really minimal, I had to feel for her, because I take it at face value that she wanted to make double and triple sure that the fighter's eye was in solid shape to fight. And she listened to the doctors, and signed off on Goldstein's call, and I think some that went overboard in their critique owe her a mea culpa. I have spoken to fighters who tell me they appreciate the extensive attention NYSAC gave to the eye situation, because many commissions are seen as "loose" entities, who pay only minimal attention to such matters.
So we now look ahead to the Dec. 3 card. I confess that I will be a tad nervous about that eye, though I have to think Margarito is the sort who goes into this thing with eyes wide open. This is a man who has announced he's willing to die in the ring. I look forward to the clash, hope his eye holds up, that the testimony from all these experts holds true, and we get the sort of fight which lives up to the back story, which is the very best of any contest taking place in 2011.