"SRL Boxing is dedicated to the integrity of the sport as strongly as it is to the business of the sport"
-- excerpt from business plan, Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing LLC
This past Friday, Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing produced one of its many ESPN2 fight cards in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The show was put together on relatively short notice, only because SRL had originally scheduled the show to be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans in that city went awry, partially due to the Leonard organization's involvement with an alleged fight fixer.
According to a pair of stories that were published last week in the
Myrtle Beach Sun News
, Leonard's company, which has a contract to promote shows on ESPN2 for the next three years, was recruited to provide fight production for a June 7 show by Bobby Mitchell, a South Carolina promoter/matchmaker who is currently under indictment for federal sports bribery (i.e., fight-fixing) and is awaiting trial in U.S. District Court in Nevada.
The story says that Mitchell had become involved with the Myrtle Beach Area Sports Council, an organization formed to promote sports and tourism in the resort community, in an effort to raise funds for the event. The Sports Council turned around and raised $50,000 in fees from both the Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County, within which Myrtle Beach sits.
With an additional $25,000 that was raised in sponsorships, the Sports Council had $125,000 in its coffers, and hired Mitchell to run the event, giving him $75,000 in the way of guarantee money. Mitchell then turned around and gave the money to SRL Boxing.
The event was canceled just a few weeks ago, creating a lot of pissed-off people. Horry County had a clause in its agreement with the Sports Council that entitled it to a refund should a boxing event not take place on June 7, but Myrtle Beach curiously had no such protection, nor did it have a written contract.
Mitchell reportedly tried to get the $75,000 advance payment refunded to him by SRL Boxing, but was rebuffed. There are also the sponsors, already having put money forward on the strength of Leonard's name and Mitchell's word, who are trying to chase their investment down.
As a result, Mitchell and SRL Boxing have hung some people out to dry.
Now there are lawsuits in the works - one being filed by Mitchell against SRL Boxing - for reneging on the agreement to bring the June 7 fight to the city, and possibly another by the Myrtle Beach Area Sports Council against Mitchell. It was not clear as to whether SRL Boxing would be included as a co-defendant in any lawsuits brought by the city of Myrtle Beach. According to John Reyelt, chairman of the Sports Council, his organization is not anxious to do business with Mitchell again.
"We want to either arrange a new fight or get the city's money back," Reyelt said.
As for Mitchell, he told the Sun News that he is still holding out for hope that another fight can be made. "I just hope this didn't leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth," he said.
No - certainly nothing worse than halitosis.
Mitchell would have to get the money back from Leonard in the event another promoter were to become involved. As of now, SRL has shown no inclination to part with the funds, which do not rightfully belong to them. Also, by the time any alternative arrangements can be made, Mitchell may very well have been convicted of the fight fixing charge, which would leave him in a situation where his involvement in a fight card, anywhere in the country, would be in serious jeopardy.
So why won't SRL Boxing refund the $75,000 deposit it was paid? Well, officials from the company were not reached by the
, but TOTAL ACTION has been made aware of potentially serious cash-flow problems in the fledgling company. After SRL's April 5 show in Buffalo, it paid matchmaker/agent Rick Glaser the sum of $200 for arranging for the services of two undercard fighters, but the check was returned due to insufficient funds. And a second check, which indeed cleared, was sent only after a considerable delay.
story was not specific as to the reason for the June 7 fight card's cancellation, we have learned that SRL Boxing, which had no reason not to be aware of Mitchell nefarious history and of the well-documented fix charges, had endeavored to conceal Mitchell's involvement in the promotion to outside parties, and when it appeared that wasn't going to be possible, decided the best course of action would be to pull out of the event.
Sources have also told us that fighters slated to appear on the June 7 card promptly disavowed any association with the show when it was uncovered that Leonard's group was indeed in business with someone who could very well be facing jail time for fixing fights.
It is suspected that one of those fighters was Paul Williams, a middleweight from Aiken, S.C., who has won all 16 of his pro fights, 13 of them by knockout.
Not only is Williams currently under promotional contract to SRL Boxing, but he is also managed by George Peterson, who is the central figure behind the charges that currently have Mitchell facing his Federal trial.
It was Peterson, as the estranged manager of heavyweight Thomas Williams (no relation to Paul) who taped a face-to-face conversation with Williams in which the fighter acquiesced to an upcoming "dive" he was about to take against New York heavyweight Richie Melito, which was to take place on the undercard of the first Holyfield-Ruiz undercard in August of 2000. Williams eventually got knocked out by Melito in the first round. As
TOTAL ACTION reported exclusively almost immediately after that bout
, Peterson, a former law enforcement officer, turned the tape of his conversation with Williams over to the FBI, touching off the investigation.
In August of 2001, Mitchell and Thomas Williams
were both indicted on two counts of federal sports bribery and conspiracy to commit federal sports bribery
. And Peterson obviously is going to be a key government witness against them.
So what's the lesson to be learned here? Well, there are certain jurisdictions in this country where promoters are bonded, or made to put up a letter of credit. The issue is also addressed in Section 109 in the newly proposed United States Boxing Amendments Act of 2002. But the authority is narrow in scope - it customarily covers the promoter's obligations as far as fighters' purses is concerned, but it doesn't cover sponsors and other "investors" who might be duped by a boxing promoter.
Why doesn't it? In this particular case a promoter, or tandem of promoters (Leonard's group and Mitchell) have teamed up to bilk government-related agencies of at least $50,000, and as much as $100,000, with sponsors in the hole for another $25,000. They have done so AS PROMOTERS and in the name of putting together a boxing event, presumably one which would be sanctioned and approved by another government agency (the South Carolina Boxing Commission), but which DID NOT take place.
Any thoughtful legislation aimed at boxing should have foreseen that instances like this have happened before and will happen in the future, and would have given the local governing body (or a national commission, as it were) some authority in regulating the matter, by either taking subsequent action to punish those who have violated the rules, or recommending that specific action be taken on the part of the attorney general pursuant to a non-boxing statute.
The bottom line is, you have a promoter here who is holding money based on a service it did not perform. You couldn't possibly create a scenario where it would be entitled to the cash.
In this particular case, the licensee (which would be SRL Boxing) would be made to sit down and explain its actions, and to hand the money back to the source from which it originated, rather than continue to be allowed to hold the $75,000 for ransom. Then perhaps they should be suspended from doing business - across the board.
Because you have to teach some people what "integrity" really means.
Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.