Saturday, January 2, 2010

Inglorious Plasterers

A Look at the Laws and Loopholes That Allow Antonio Margarito and Trainer Javier Capetillo to Avoid Going Back Before the California State Athletic Commission to Reapply For Their Licenses

[revised from its original version]

January 24, 2010 marked the one-year anniversary of Antonio Margarito’s contribution to boxing infamy. Yes, it has now been over a year since former welterweight champion Margarito was caught with a Plaster of Paris-like substance on his hand wraps before his “WBA Super World welterweight title” fight with “Sugar” Shane Mosley and subsequently had his license revoked. Under the Rules of the California State Athletic Commission (the “CSAC Rules”), Margarito and his trainer Javier Capetillo, who also had his license revoked for his role in wrapping Margarito’s hands, may now re-apply for their licenses, though there is no guarantee that California will give them another chance to ply their craft in the Golden State. Rather than returning to California, therefore, it has been widely reported that Margarito may instead seek licensing in Texas for a bout with Carson Jones on the undercard of the March 13, 2010 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey. If this offends your sensibilities as a boxing fan you might ask: What are the laws, regulations, and guidelines that allow for Margarito to obtain a boxing license without another dance with the CSAC? The answer follows.

California’s Law on the Re-Application for a Boxing License


In some industries, the revocation of one’s professional license in a given state would mean that a person was barred from participating in his chosen occupation for several years, or indefinitely, nationwide. Not so in boxing, and not so in California. Under CSAC Rule 399, a professional boxer who has had his license revoked can reapply for a license a year after said revocation. However, the reapplication process guarantees only that a boxer will get another opportunity to go before the CSAC to explain himself. It does not guarantee that he will be granted a new license. This uncertainty is what has spurred the talk that Margarito will simply take his professional credentials elsewhere and apply for a license to box in Texas.

Texas’ Administrative Rule on the Recognition of Another State’s Suspension of a Boxer

The licensing of professional boxers in Texas is governed by 16 Texas Administrative Code , Chapter 61, also known as the “Combative Sports Administrative Rules.” Under Combative Sports Administrative Rule 16.30(e), the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation “may recognize and enforce disciplinary sanctions, disqualification, or medical suspensions imposed by other combative sport authorities.” The use of the term “may” instead of “shall” in Combative Sports Administrative Rule 16.30(e) indicates that it is in the Executive Director’s discretion whether or not to recognize and enforce the disciplinary sanctions or medical suspensions imposed by another athletic commission. Despite this open-ended language, it should be noted that the federally enacted Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act mandates that individual boxing commissions establish procedures whereby a boxer suspended for “unsportsmanlike conduct or other inappropriate behavior consistent with generally accepted methods of competition in a professional boxing match” is permitted to box. The Act deems the term “suspension” to include a revocation of one’s boxing license. As discussed more below, it is also important to note that the revocation period is over, so what Texas allows itself to do with a given suspension during its duration is no longer at issue.

The Association of Boxing Commission’s Guideline on Out-of-State Suspensions

Under the Regulatory Guidelines of the Association of Boxing Commissions (the “ABC”), the quasi-governing body of professional boxing in North America, “[a]ll medical and administrative suspensions placed on contestants by other athletic commissions will be recognized by the supervising Commission.” Like Texas’ employment of the term “may,” the ABC’s use of the word “will” does not create a strong mandate that one state athletic commission must recognize the suspension of another. It should also be noted that the ABC’s Regulatory Guidelines are silent on how to handle the revocation of a license by another state athletic commission, though the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act has that issue covered, as noted above.

How The Above Regulations and Guidelines Work Together to Margarito’s Advantage

The fact that Margarito is now allowed to reapply for his license in California is all some people need to hear in order to justify his applying for a license anywhere else in the United States. Did the crime, did the time. As indicated above, however, even if he was still being sanctioned by California, there is nothing in the explicit text of Texas’ Combative Sports Administrative Rules, or the ABC’s Guidelines, that would summarily disallow another athletic commission from issuing Margarito a license, though the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act looms over each to compel recognition of such sanctions.

In fairness, many of the athletic commissions do their part to recognize the suspensions and sanctions of other states and disallow the boxers subject to them to come into their arenas. Some of the bigger commissions, such as those in Nevada, New York, and New Jersey, zealously provide reciprocal recognition to the suspensions and sanctions of other states, and may continue to disallow certain boxers from competing in their jurisdictions even after their suspension periods, depending on the reason for a given suspension or sanction. But in the absence of a uniform national mandate on sanctions and suspensions, as demonstrated by Texas’ Rules even in the face of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act’s provisions, there may always a commission somewhere that would license individuals such as Margarito and Capetillo, regardless of whether or not boxing’s inglorious plasterers were still facing sanctions in California and regardless of prospective challenges under federal law.

***

For more of the author’s coverage on the Margarito hand wrap affair, please see “Hands of Steal?” at http://sportsjudge.blogspot.com/2009/02/number-one-contender-hands-of-steal.html and “That’s a Wrap” at http://sportsjudge.blogspot.com/2009/02/number-one-contender-thats-wrap.html.


Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq. is an attorney at the New York law firm of Heidell, Pittoni, Murphy & Bach, LLP. He is also a New York State licensed boxing manager and the Chairman of the Sports Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. He can be e-mailed at haberman.paul@gmail.com. ©




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