Judge Jeopardizes Mayweather-Gatti

BY David Mayo ON February 07, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Floyd Mayweather vs. Arturo Gatti fight never was expected to take place in Mayweather's hometown, although that's exactly where the first damaging blow - and perhaps a negotiational knockout - was landed in a downtown courtroom Monday.

The judge who accepted Mayweather's no-contest plea, resulting in the pound-for-pound star's fifth assault conviction in less than three years, delayed sentencing until March 11.

That judicial maneuver shocked all parties involved in Gatti-Mayweather talks.

Mayweather, who crept in beneath the radar in a typical low-profile plea by a high-profile defendant avoiding scrutiny, got out of 61st District Court before media learned he appeared. He did not return a telephone message seeking comment. Neither did his attorney Todd Perkins or his adviser Alan Haymon.

But a sentencing delay of more than a month, after Mayweather altered his not guilty plea under pressure to settle the case so as to avoid interfering with the proposed June 11 Gatti fight, was not part of anyone's plan.

Except for Judge Michael Christensen.

Christensen was utterly indifferent to the big-money implications of the timing of his sentencing. Bear in mind, Mayweather could have resolved this case December 16, the day he failed to appear for trial in Christensen's court. Eleven days later Mayweather did appear, with new attorney Perkins in tow. But Christensen, who had handled the case since charges were filed last March, was not available that day. A different judge rescheduled the trial and accepted Mayweather's guilty plea to contempt of court.

Monday was the first time Christensen eyeballed Mayweather since the latter no-showed on the former two months ago.

The judge informed the boxer that he was willing to work around professional schedules previously, but not anymore, and that March 11 was his first available sentencing opportunity - the day Mayweather could receive up to 93 days in jail, since there remains absolutely no plea arrangement, prosecutor Blair Lachman reiterated Monday.

Last week, Bob Arum said Pat English had established a weekend deadline for resolution of the legal situation.

English said no, Mayweather actually missed the deadline when the fight could not be announced January 29, after Gatti's win over James Leija, and Main Events simply was hanging in limbo in an effort to salvage the deal.

English also asserted that when Top Rank and Main Events struck a tentative agreement last October for the fight, one of the conditions was that Mayweather had to resolve his two pending legal charges in such fashion that they would not interfere with the promotion.

Trial on the most serious charge Mayweather faces, felony domestic battery, is scheduled August 1 in Las Vegas, and would not interfere with the fight.

But when Mayweather skipped his December assault trial here, the misdemeanor charge suddenly took on much greater meaning.

And when the judge decided to let 32 days pass before pronouncing sentence, the impact became even more significant.

If Mayweather were to begin serving a maximum sentence on March 11, he would be released June 12, one day after the proposed Gatti fight date.

Arum, upon learning the news, did what just about everyone involved in this negotiation seems to find himself doing. He cursed. Then he declined comment.

That's how astonishing it was: Bob Arum didn't want to talk about it.

"We are stunned and are in complete befuddlement about what has happened," said English, attorney for Main Events. "Arturo will be in the ring June 11, whether Mayweather is or not."

Timing of Mayweather's two pending legal cases creates grave questions regarding when he might step into a ring against anyone.

If Mayweather receives anything close to the 93-day maximum here, there is a strong possibility he could not fight before his felony trial in Las Vegas, where a conviction carries a mandatory Nevada state prison sentence of one to five years.

Although the alleged victim in the felony case recanted her accusation at a preliminary hearing last year, Mayweather still was ordered to stand trial in connection with the alleged December 27, 2003 incident.

Nine days before that alleged incident, Mayweather was in a Grand Rapids bar, The Radio Tavern, where former middle-school classmate William Morris was working as a bouncer. As Morris worked to quell an argument between a man and woman, he said several people began punching him. He believes seven to nine people assaulted him, including one who broke a bottle over his head.

After he was knocked to the floor, Morris said his former schoolmate, and one of the best professional fighters on earth, kicked him.

Mayweather's first two convictions came as part of a March 28, 2002 plea bargain at Las Vegas Justice Court. In exchange for guilty pleas to two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery in separate 2001 incidents, three other charges were dropped.

Mayweather's six-month sentence was suspended.

Mayweather also was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery, for punching two women in a nightclub at the Luxor, in a non-jury trial June 10, 2004 at Las Vegas Justice Court. Mayweather's one year sentence for that August 2003 incident was likewise suspended.

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