NEW YORK - Antonio Margarito was given a boxing license on Tuesday by the New York State Athletic Commission, allowing the Mexican's scheduled showdown with Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto to take place as planned.
Cotto, 36-2 with 29 knockouts, defends his World Boxing Association super welterweight title against Margarito, 38-7 with 27 knockouts, on December 3 at Madison Square Garden in a rematch of Margarito's controversial 2008 victory.
The decision by the three-person panel ended fears the fight might be scrapped because of damage Margarito suffered to his right eye in a loss to Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao last November.
Margarito, who has not fought since losing to Pacquiao, underwent surgery to remove a cataract and install an artificial lens in his eye.
The commission would not assure promoters that Margarito would be allowed to fight until he was examined by a doctor selected by the panel, which was done on Monday. Results of the exam were provided to the commission on Tuesday.
Cotto had earlier threatened not to fight outside New York if the panel ruled Margarito was not fit to fight, saying other states would have followed New York's lead and banned the Mexican.
Instead, the fight is on and Cotto says he will have no qualms about making Margarito's right eye a target in the fight.
"I'm going to use any kind of advantage I feel I have over him, everything I have in the ring," Cotto said. "I'm going to fight like always, with my heart and my soul. I'm going to do my work."
Cotto said the uncertainty over where the fight might be held was not a distraction.
"I just focus on my training camp. The other things around the fight are not about us," Cotto said. "We can fight anywhere and we have our health. We just focus on our work."
Helping Cotto's concentration is the conviction that Margarito had plaster in his handwraps when he inflicted the Puerto Rican hero's first defeat, stopping him in the 11th round in 2008.
In Margarito's next fight, plaster was found in his hand wraps before he faced Shane Mosley and after a re-wrapping, Margarito lost.
Cotto cites similar red coloring on the Mexican's gloves after his fight and the Mosley fight as evidence to convince him that Margarito used plaster against him, which makes him a "criminal" as far as Cotto is concerned.
"Playing with the health of somebody else, attempting to kill -- he used plaster on his wraps, he used a weapon on me -- he has to be treated like a criminal," Cotto said. "In sports we use only our skills and conditioning."
Margarito received a 16-month suspension but that seemed insufficient for Cotto, who has waited three years for a chance to avenge the defeat.
"I've carried my loss like a man for the last three years," Cotto said. "I didn't ask for the people to erase the defeat. That's not the issue. He has to accept what he used and what he did in 2008."