As of June 10, Golden Johnson was a free man - free, that is, from a promotional contract with Arthur Pelullo's Banner Promotions.
But there was a price to pay.
And that price just so happened to be Johnson's NABF welterweight title.
Why is that? Good question - not just for us, but for lawmakers who would aspire to write legislation protecting fighters' interests, as well as the United States Attorney's office, the entity that not only has the real authority in enforcing the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act and Professional Boxer Safety Act, but also this country's anti-trust laws.
It seems Johnson, a Texan who currently sports a 22-5-2 record, had contacted Pelullo on May 23, expressing his intention not to re-sign a new promotional deal or any promotional extensions with Banner Promotions, and by sheer coincidence, later that very same day, his manager, Michael Davis, received a fax from Sam Macias, chairman of the championship committee for the North American Boxing Federation, indicating that he would be stripped of his title if he did not make arrangements to fight the highest available contender within 15 days.
Problem is, Johnson had fought the highest rated contender - at least the highest one that was available, Chantel Stanicel - in his last defense, which was on March 15, and had tried to put together a fight with the NABF's #1, Hercules Kyvelos, but according to Davis, "He won't fight Golden".
Pelullo was not bending over backwards to arrange for another title defense for Johnson UNLESS he signed a new promotional agreement. And Davis says he was contacted by ESPN's Russell Peltz, regarded by many to be Pelullo's "unofficial" matchmaker, in an attempt to persuade him to sign the promotional deal.
There was good reason, I suppose, for that. While Pelullo was waiting for his answer, Davis says Johnson had been penciled in to fight on June 28 (this Friday) on ESPN2, against Chicago's Germaine Sanders. It was not a "mandatory" defense against the highest-rated contender, but instead an "optional" defense, one that indeed would have been allowed by the NABF.
In fact, let's put it this way - this story is being written and posted on June 26. As of today, the NABF's "newsletter", which is online at (
), was trumpeting Johnson's fight against Sanders -
"Welterweight - 147# - June 28, 2002
Santa Ana Star Casino, Santa Ana, NM
Bobby Hitz - Banner Promotions, ESPN2
Golden Johnson (22-5-2, 16 KO’s), Witchita Falls, TX, will do battle with Germaine Sanders (21-1, 15 KO’s), Chicago, IL. Johnson starched Chantel Stanciel with a booming overhand right to the head in the eleventh round of a very close fight to win the NABF welterweight title in March 2002. Sanders has never had a fight outside of Illinois but he did win the Illinois State welterweight championship in June 2001."
This would indeed bear out exactly what Davis claimed - that the organization was perfectly content to allow the fight to happen as an "optional" for Johnson. And Johnson was listed as champion in its June ratings.
I guess it would be fair to say that Johnson would have been allowed to make an optional defense, as long as it was Pelullo who was promoting the fight - and the fighter.
But he is not.
And despite the fact that Johnson was willing to take the bout with Sanders, he found himself without a title - or a fight - when he declined to extend his business relationship with Pelullo.
Indeed, according to a press release issued on June 19 by Banner Promotions, as well as information on the ESPN website, the fight that will take place on Friday night in New Mexico is NOT a title defense for Johnson against Sanders, but a bout for the VACANT North American Boxing Federation welterweight crown between Sanders and Teddy Reid.
Reid is currently listed as the #5 contender in the NABF ratings, while Sanders sits at #8.
: * Why now is the #5 contender being allowed to fight the #8 contender for a VACANT title?
* What happened to the consideration that's supposed to be given to the "highest available contender"?
* What happened to Kyvelos, who is #1, Jose Luis Cruz, at #2, Cory Spinks at #3, and Stanicel, who in fact moved up after his loss to Johnson, at #4?
* Why is Reid fighting for a "vacant" title at welterweight, despite having lost his last fight to Ben Tackie on January 25, in an NABF title fight at a lower weight level - 140 pounds?
* How did Reid suddenly move into the NABF's welterweight ratings, ahead of a lot of other fighters, into the convenient #5 slot, despite not winning a fight since the Tackie loss and not having fought in the welterweight division?
The answer to these questions is all too obvious - Teddy Reid just happens to be under a promotional contract to Banner Promotions and Arthur Pelullo.
: * While we're at it, what is Germaine Sanders, who has never fought outside the state of Illinois, who has never registered a victory against a significant foe, and whose first 13 pro opponents had an aggregate record of 52-151-9, doing rated #8 by the NABF and fighting for the vacant championship?
* And why wouldn't sixth-rated Manuel Gomez, seventh-ranked Kermit Cintron, or any of the aforementioned contenders rated above Reid, have a more plausible argument for being involved in a bout for the NABF's vacant title?
These answers are obvious as well - Sanders' services belong to Pelullo's new "promotional partner", Bobby Hitz, which means Banner has "options" on Sanders.
Of course, the NABF's position would be that the higher-rated, more deserving fighters were "not available" to compete for the vacant belt.
Which leads me to another question - if the NABF is going to use that as their "explanation", WHY WASN'T THAT SAME EXPLANATION GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOLDEN JOHNSON?
By now, you know the answer to THAT question - if Johnson was not going to be under contract with Arthur Pelullo and Banner Promotions, nothing he was going to say or do was going to matter.
It's interesting to note that Johnson went one week short of an entire year WITHOUT defending the title he won on March 22 of 2001, and despite being healthy enough to fight two NON-TITLE bouts in the interim, was not forced to relinquish his title, as long as he was contractually tied to Pelullo. This flew in the face of NABF rules, namely Section 6-a, "MANDATORY DEFENSES", which specifies:
"Within six (6) months after winning the championship, each FEDERATION champion shall be required to defend against the highest available contender, and must make a mandatory defense every six months from the anniversary of his winning the championship."
These are the ratings, as they are currently listed for June by the NABF:
Champion: Golden Johnson, TX
WBC Champion: Vernon Forrest, USA
1 Hercules Kyvelos, CAN
2 Jose Luis Cruz, MEX
3 Cory Spinks, MO
4 Chantel Stanciel, MO
5 Teddie Reid, DC
6 Manuel Gomez, MEX
7 Kermit Cintron, PA
8 Germaine Sanders, IL
9 Nick Acevedo, NY
10 Luther Smith, VA
11 Oba Carr, MI
12 Jimmy Lange, VA
13 Johnny Molnar, NY
14 Jeff Resto, NY
15 Ian McKillop, CAN
16 Jeffrey Hill, FL
So now Johnson finds himself having been stripped, after defending his crown just three months ago, against a fighter (Stanicel) who, at this moment, is rated ahead of BOTH contestants who will be battling for the vacant championship on Friday!!!
It would appear that the most important NABF rules are the ones that are NOT written - namely, that fighters can be stripped not only for failure to defend a title, but for failure to renew a promotional deal with Banner Promotions. Could the evidence possibly suggest anything else?
If there's any other explanation, we haven't received one from Sam Macias, chairman of the NABF championship committee, or Claude Jackson, president of the organization, neither of whom responded to our inquiries seeking comment.
Not that any of their explanations would pass the giggle test.
But there's a little thing called the Professional Boxer Safety Act, which, in Section 16, requires not only that sanctioning organizations publish criteria for the rating of boxers and make that information available to the public, but that boxers be offered a thorough explanation of the process, as well as "the rationale or basis for its rating" in the event of a dispute. The same information is required to be sent to the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions.
According to a letter we received from Davis on June 9, "Johnson plans to contact the Texas State Attorney Generals Office, the ABC and senator John McCain to look into the case".
Let's hope so. We'll see who's giggling then.
Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.