Former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito was licensed to box by Texas regulators on Thursday, paving the way for him to meet pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao for a vacant junior middleweight belt.
Margarito's application for a license in Texas was approved despite California denying him a license on a 5-1 vote earlier this month. Margarito's license was revoked in the wake of his January 2009 knockout loss to Shane Mosley in which Margarito's hand wraps were found to be illegal before the fight.
Margarito and Pacquiao will meet Nov. 13 on HBO PPV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. It will be Pacquiao's second consecutive fight at Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys, but against a far more controversial opponent than Joshua Clottey, whom Pacquiao easily outpointed there on March 13 in defense of his welterweight belt on the arena's first boxing card.
"After a thorough review of his application it was determined Mr. Margarito met the requirements of the Texas Combative Sports Act and Rules," William Kuntz, the executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, said in a statement.
Texas received the completed application on Monday and acted quickly.
"I want to thank the state of Texas for granting me a boxing license which enables me to continue my passion for the sport of boxing in the United States," Margarito said in a statement. "I have dedicated my life to giving the fans of the sport entertainment and excitement. On Nov. 13, this great opportunity will ultimately be fulfilled when I battle Manny Pacquiao."
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, on vacation in France, was happy with the news.
"For me, it was like a terrible nightmare, this whole thing, and now the sun is shining," Arum told ESPN.com. "I really believe that it will be a very competitive fight. One guy is much bigger and stronger [Margarito] and the other guy [Pacquiao] is quicker and hits with both hands. It will be a fascinating fight to watch."
If Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs), who will be fighting for the first time since being elected to a congressional seat in the Philippines, wins, he will collect a title in a record-extending eighth weight class. He has already won titles at welterweight, junior welterweight, lightweight, junior lightweight, featherweight, junior featherweight and flyweight.
Margarito's license was revoked in California after a the knockout loss to Mosley at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Before the fight, illegal inserts coated in a plaster-like substance were discovered in Margarito's hand wraps. His hands were rewrapped and he lost the fight (and his title) on a ninth-round knockout. A couple of weeks later, Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo, who had wrapped his hands, had their licenses revoked.
Margarito, who has severed ties with Capetillo, his longtime father figure, has insisted that he was unaware of anything illegal being placed into his hand wraps. Capetillo took the blame but said the illegal pads were in the wraps by accident.
Margarito, 32, went before the California commission on Aug. 18 in an effort to be relicensed. He was allowed to reapply after the one-year revocation period had expired. But California regulators did not believe Margarito's story that he did not know what was in his wraps and denied his application.
However, by appearing before the California commission, Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) fulfilled a request by the Association of Boxing Commissions, which oversees and interprets rules for state commissions, that he seek to be relicensed there before appealing to other states.
Likewise, commissions were urged by the ABC to wait for Margarito's California appearance before considering his application.
Despite the denial in California, other states were free to license him after the hearing. The ABC issued a letter reiterating to state commissions that Margarito had fulfilled his obligation once he went before the California commission.
Texas licensed him without the need for a hearing. All it took was Margarito's completed application, proper medical paperwork and the $20 fee.
"I was never a big fan of the ABC, but they were totally honorable and very responsible in this whole situation," Arum said. "They made us go back to California, which to me didn't make sense. But we did it because they requested it and then they issued a letter saying any state was free to license him. I really believed that once we followed the ABC road map that we were going to be OK."
Kuntz said before Texas granted the license, it reviewed Margarito's Texas application form, the California order revoking his license, the transcript of Margarito's license revocation hearing before the California State Athletic Commission last year, his Aug. 18 license application hearing in California and the ABC letter to members saying they could consider licensing him.
"Based on the review of the above information I have authorized the issuance of a license to Mr. Margarito," Kuntz said.
A denial in one state followed by the granting of a license in another is not unprecedented. In one of the most high-profile cases in boxing history, Mike Tyson was denied a license in Nevada before being licensed in Tennessee to challenge Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship in 2002.
Arum said Top Rank is planning a media tour to promote the fight beginning Tuesday in Los Angeles followed by a stop in New York on Wednesday and one in Dallas on Friday.
The fight will be Margarito's first since he outpointed Roberto Garcia in May in his home country of Mexico, where he waited to fight until after the license revocation period in California had expired.
Pacquiao's fight with Clottey drew a crowd of 50,994, one of the largest in U.S. history. Arum believes the fight with Margarito will draw an even bigger crowd.
"I think the crowd will be much bigger and Jerry [Jones] thinks it will also," Arum said. "The last fight was not during football season. This one is, and we have all the Dallas Cowboys assets they use during the season to help this time. We have a lot of stuff that we didn't have for the Clottey fight. With Margarito being Hispanic, and this is North Texas, which has a huge Hispanic population, that will make this even bigger."
Jones said: "This is a good one because we know Margarito -- with our fan base, in our area -- if we do the fight, then it'll be a big draw."
Arum said he expects Margarito to sign the contract over the weekend and for Pacquiao, who is scheduled to arrive in the United States from the Philippines on Monday, to sign then.
Arum said the undercard could include the return of former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik in his first bout since he lost the title to Sergio Martinez in April.
Also ticketed for the undercard is junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux, the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist who recently signed with Top Rank, as well as welterweight prospect Mike Jones of Philadelphia.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com; follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.