At its annual convention in Atlantic City on September 23, the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians (AAPRP) will be giving its "Administrator of the Year" award to the executive director of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), Larry Hazzard. Now, to be honest, I'm writing within a certain context here; after all, the "Physician of the Year" is going to Dr. Michael Schwartz, who is the AAPRP's president. And "The Contender" reality show, which has been cited by some journalists for breaking a few regulations here and there, is named for "Outstanding Contribution to Boxing." But in the case of Hazzard, the award is well-deserved, and not because the AAPRP is giving the honor to a "local" either. Granted - there are hardly that many brilliant candidates out there to choose from, but even if there were, Hazzard would stand out from his colleagues in so many ways.
For one thing, this is not an individual who is likely to cast his eyes upon the atmosphere around him, shrug his shoulders, and say, "Oh well, that's just the way it is." I have seen regulators (like one of Larry's neighbors to the north), assume their offices, announce they were going to institute real changes, and quickly degenerate into "job-saving" mode, which customarily means "do-little" mode. When you have an opportunity - and are in a position - to get something accomplished and choose not to, you are a loser. Hazzard isn't particularly interested in losing; the statement the NJSACB made in pulling out of the Association of Boxing Commissions was more powerful in and of itself than anything uttered at one of the ABC's rather insipid conventions.
He's got his own way of doing things, and even if it may not appear to be right, or if we don't agree with it, there's always the feeling that he's doing what HE feels is best for the sport.
That's all you can ask.
Refreshingly, this is not a political hack but someone who has been known to stand up to those bureaucrats who sit above him on the administrative food chain. And over the last couple of years, he's had to endure a lot of nonsense from that sorry clique indeed.
First, you had the idiot Gerald Gormley, installed as chairman of the NJSACB in a blatant example of both nepotism and pure politics that was extreme even by standards of the corruption-laden Garden State. Gormley, who had no experience in boxing, got the job by way of his brother, a powerful and influential state senator, and with enough hubris to fill the Trump Taj Mahal, decided that getting $80,000 for a no-show job wasn't nearly enough. No - he had to extort an excess of complimentary tickets out of promoters and freebies from Atlantic City casinos - a pattern of behavior that led to his unceremonious removal (go to this story for more).
Then there was the lying, corrupt Governor Jim McGreevey, who, after Hazzard had granted Mike Tyson a license to fight in the state, took it upon himself to blackball Tyson by asking that the former heavyweight champ be banned from any state-owned or operated facility. Tyson didn't wind up fighting in New Jersey after that, but it wasn't because Larry didn't step up and tell McGreevey (who resigned from office amidst scandal) and his successor Richard Codey to get lost.
And in the wake of Gormley's shameful exit from office, there was the full-scale political attempt to insert the unprepared, unqualified Gerry Cooney into the chairmanship of the commission, as a way of insulting Hazzard. Thankfully, that effort was beaten back by exposing what kind of embarrassment Cooney's many conflicts of interests might have become (OK - I had a little something to do with that - click this link for the full story, and be prepared to do some reading).
So there you have it: three overbearing political opponents looking to trample on Hazzard's turf; three individuals who in the end had to stick their tail between their legs (in McGreevey's case please pardon the pun, if you see one) and walk away in disgrace.
And guess who's still standing?
You can give the guy an award on that alone.
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