Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines celebrates in the ring after defeating Joshua Clottey of Ghana during the WBO welterweight title fight at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao defeated Clottey by unanimous decision.
Pacquiao said he just doesn't believe his next opponent was unaware he was wearing illegal hand wraps before a fight nearly two years ago. Though he agrees Margarito deserves a second chance in boxing, Pacquiao isn't buying Margarito's defense and the passionate arguments of Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters.
"Of course, I believe he knew," Pacquiao said. "He's the one who wraps his hands. He's just making some alibi for some reason. What do you think? My belief is you (would) know that."
During an otherwise genial get-together Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, boxing's pound-for-pound champion said he wants somebody watching Margarito's hands getting wrapped before they meet in Texas, which is hosting the bout partly because Margarito still is banned from the ring in Nevada and California.
"My concern is that we have somebody in the dressing room, someone else watching him," Pacquiao said.
The Philippines' newly minted congressman will fight for a title in his eighth weight class when he meets Margarito on Nov. 13 in a bout at Cowboys Stadium, which could be filled with more than 70,000 fans. Although the bout is for the vacant WBC 154-pound title, they will meet at a 151-pound catch weight.
Wearing a canary-yellow polo shirt and demonstrating an increased ease with the media responsibilities of a superstar, Pacquiao took his position just moments after Arum launched another passionate defense of Margarito, who was denied a license to fight by the California state commission on Aug. 18.
"Antonio Margarito did not know that those hand wraps were illegal, and there was something bad in those wraps," Arum said. "(There's) not one shred of proof. ... There was a revocation. He served his time, and thank God, the people in the Texas boxing commission, who reviewed all the testimony, agreed with that conclusion."
But Arum's decision to match his best fighter against his most notorious has been met with widespread criticism, and not just because of his suspension in the Western states.
One reason was evident when the fighters exchanged handshakes and stood together. Both cracked up when they attempted the usual staredown pose, with Pacquiao laughing as he craned his neck to look up at Margarito, who's about 5 inches taller.
Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs) has won 12 straight fights, including a one-sided decision over Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium in March. Although Pacquiao has redefined the importance of weight classes during his near-unprecented rise, the matchup is undeniably dangerous.
Pacquiao's hand-wrap observers will make sure it isn't even more perilous to fight Margarito, whose promising career was derailed when trained Javier Capetillo was caught packing his wraps with a substance resembling plaster before Margarito's loss to Sugar Shane Mosley in Los Angeles in January 2009.
"They're welcome to watch the wraps," Margarito said through a translator. "I'm going to prepare myself the best I can to give a great fight. I always stay in the gym, learning and training."
Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) has a significant size advantage and a remarkable ability to take a punch, but he also has fought just once since his loss to Mosley, winning a tuneup bout in Mexico in May.
Margarito has been fairly defiant about his role in the scandal, which led to Capetillo's banishment from the sport and Margarito's inability to resume his career in California or Nevada, which generally respects another state's suspension.
California's state athletic commission voted 5-1 to deny a license for Margarito, and Nevada's more respected commission tabled a vote on Margarito's reinstatement. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation granted a license to Margarito last week after a three-day review.
Arum hailed the decision, as did the WBC. Executive secretary Mauricio Sulaiman triumphantly held up a 154-pound belt with a Cowboys star and a Top Rank logo affixed to it Tuesday.
The disgraced boxer is "a true Mexican who has paid his dues, and deserves to make his life for himself and his kids," Sulaiman said of Margarito, who has no children.
Holding the fight in Texas deprives Las Vegas of a much-needed eight-figure payday in ticket sales, hotel bookings and gambling revenue from the thousands of fans who follow Pacquiao. Arum lives in Las Vegas, but hasn't hesitated to stage Pacquiao's two recent fights in Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' palace.
"I was surprised we even got one vote from the California commission," Arum said. "They've made it clear what they think, and I'm not sure anything can change their minds. It's a shame, but it's the economic reality that the best place for this fight is Dallas."
Pacquiao's legislative responsibilities won't prevent him from spending a month training in Hollywood with Freddie Roach before the fight. He promised a more entertaining bout than his one-sided match with Clottey, whose frightened effort included few punches.
"This fight will be the exact opposite to my last fight," Pacquiao said. "This guy likes to throw a lot of punches. I like his style, because it's great for me."