Okay - so I'm sitting in a hotel room at the Two Trees Inn at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. The date is March 7, 1994, and I had come with my partner to bring Garing Lane into town for a USA Network main event against former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. The hotel room belonged to Arthur Pelullo, whose company, Banner Promotions, was promoting the fight.
There are a bunch of us in the room, and we're sitting around, watching television. At some point, Pelullo got up to take a phone call. On the other end of the line was Sam Macias, the chairman of the championship committee for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF).
Arthur talks loud enough that he can be heard, over the television, so I really didn't need to eavesdrop on the conversation. And it didn't take long to ascertain that the subject matter of this discussion was how they could manipulate the ratings so that one of Pelullo's fighters - Mississippi welterweight Donald Stokes - could fight for the vacant NABF 147-pound championship - and do so somewhere on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
At that time, Buddy McGirt, who was listed at #1, was not particularly interested in the NABF title, having been pointed to a WBC welterweight title rematch with Pernell Whitaker, a fight which eventually took place in October of that year.
David Gonzalez, a body-puncher from Texas who was rated #2, was just coming off a loss to former Olympic bronze medalist Kenny Gould on November 16, 1993, so obviously he was set to drop in the ranks.
What neither Pelullo nor Macias were aware of as they were talking was that a couple of months before, I had made a deal with Battle Promotions of Michigan, for a "promotional assignment" on Gould, which essentially meant little more than that I had the right to promote shows with the fighter. But inasmuch as I was pursuing promotional opportunities with a casino in Mississippi, I planned to be putting Gould into action on a regular basis.
Well, Gould was positioned, from what I recall, at #7 in the ratings. He had already beaten the #2 guy, and should, by all rights, have moved up. The #1 contender, McGirt, was not going to be available, so simple arithmetic tells me that Gould has to be right in the mix if a potential vacant title is going to be contested for. And that may have, from my perspective, enabled me to promote such a fight at any casino I had a relationship with.
So naturally, as Pelullo and Macias are talking about putting Stokes - who was rated below Gould - in against certain prospective opponents, ALL of whom were unrated, in the process completely leapfrogging Gould, who should probably be in the top three, my blood's starting to boil.
And as this conversation continued, things became more and more surreal. Pelullo was saying things like, "Well, why don't we move this guy down a couple of spots, and this guy down a couple of spots, and then we can stick Donald in at #5. And we can move so-and-so out and put so-and-so into the ratings so he can be Donald's opponent".
As they continued to talk about arbitrarily moving Stokes into the top five, in order to necessitate putting him in the title fight, despite not having fought in almost eight months, it got to the point where I just had to speak up.
So I did - loudly enough that I knew Macias had no choice but to hear me on the other end of the phone line. And that the Pequot Indians could hear me on the other end of the reservation.
I howled - how the hell can you possibly bypass Gould so casually? Don't you have to go by some sort of rules? Why hasn't Gould moved up after beating the #2 contender, who would actually be #1 since McGirt won't fight for the title?
Well, I knew Stokes didn't want to fight Kenny Gould. Stokes wouldn't have beaten Kenny Gould. And the NABF title fight wasn't going to do Pelullo any good unless he could promote it, and have control of the champion in the end. He wouldn't have gotten either of those things with me involved (Note: as it turned out, Stokes, after fighting a dull "tuneup" against opponent David Taylor, went on the shelf for two years and never did fight that NABF title bout that was ready to be handed to him - and in the end, I didn't do very much with Gould either).
But my question for Macias - asked through Pelullo - was, is Kenny Gould, who is rated above Stokes, and ready, willing, and able to fight, going to be included in a contest for the vacant title? And if not, why?
Macias' response, as Pelullo relayed it, was that I should have made the NABF aware of the Gould-Gonzalez fight result. And I should have sent the ring record of Gould into their office, as if the results didn't exist UNLESS I sent them in.
To understand the phony, ridiculous nature of that answer, consider that Gould's win was the main event on the November 16, 1993 edition of USA Network's "Tuesday Night Fights", which just happened to be the not only most popular regularly-scheduled boxing show on television, but one of cable TV's highest-rated sports programs. The NABF presumably worked closely with Fight Fax, and in fact its owner, Ralph Citro, sat on the NABF board. And apparently Gould's record was good enough to get him rated by the NABF at the time. Quite obviously, there was no excuse in the world that they wouldn't have had his record in their hands, or have very easy access to it.
But you see - Macias figured he could say anything he wanted to, since no one was looking over his shoulder.
That is, until now.
As we showed you in Chapter 22, the NABF is still, in substance, getting away with the same kind of nonsense now that they were then - much of it in conjunction with Pelullo.
And I would dearly love for the Association of Boxing Commissions, which, according to the Ali Act, "shall develop and shall approve by a vote of no less than a majority of its member State boxing commissioners, guidelines for objective and consistent written criteria for the ratings of professional boxers", something that is now long overdue, to demonstrate that they're in business for something other than to provide gainful employment for Jack "Death Wish" Kerns.
In fact, I challenge Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the ABC, who aspires for his organization to take a lead when it comes to uniform standards and regulations, to step forward and prove that to me - and anyone who might be reading this - by holding an official inquiry as to how the NABF could possibly manipulate the ratings, with no rhyme or reason, circumventing their own rules, in a way which curiously and consistently appears to benefit the same promoter, over and over and over again - at which time both promoter and sanctioning body would be required to make themselves accountable.
I would suggest the ABC shouldn't be taken even semi-seriously until they're ready to do just that.
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".
According to published reports at the time, Main Events had indicated that promoter Russell Peltz was brought in to mediate the situation, after which a deal was struck.
Patrick English, the attorney representing Main Events, reaffirms that. "Russell Peltz was the licensed promoter with whom Main Events dealt in connection with the Gatti/Ward bout. He was heavily involved in the negotiations and was instrumental in working out the details of the bout."
But was that the way things really went down?
Evidence at our disposal suggests that there was a different set of circumstances involved.
According to a "side" agreement that was executed in conjunction with the fight, Peltz represented himself as Ward's promoter -
"Main Events hereby acknowledges that Peltz has an exclusive promotional agreement with Mickey Ward governing the promotion of professional boxing contests featuring Mickey Ward."
- and was paid on that basis:
"Main Events hereby agrees to pay Peltz a one-time fee of sixty thousand dollars ($60,000) as full compensation for Peltz' release of Ward from his exclusive promotional agreement with Peltz for the sole purpose of allowing Ward to compete in a professional boxing contest against Arturo Gatti to be promoted by Main events currently scheduled to take place on May 18, 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut and to be televised live on the "HBO Boxing After Dark" television series payable upon completion of the bout."
Of course, there was one small problem.
Peltz does not have an exclusive promotional agreement with Mickey Ward.
He doesn't have any agreement at all with Mickey Ward.
None whatsoever. Not now. Not ever.
In fact, NO ONE has a written promotional agreement with Mickey Ward, exclusive or otherwise.
Sal Lonano, the manager of Ward, says he never authorized Peltz to sign anything representing that he had a promotional deal with his fighter, "and I found out about it very late in the game."
Lou DiBella, who was brought aboard by Lonano as Ward's advisor, did not authorize Peltz to sign anything involving Ward either.
Al Valenti, who has in the past helped Lonano promote the fighter in New England, couldn't have authorized Peltz to sign an agreement, because he himself has no contract with the fighter, and thus no official authority.
Now, in all fairness, it should be mentioned that DiBella and Valenti were compensated for their efforts out of Peltz' end. But that only happened AFTER Peltz had made his deal with Main Events, which according to the Ward camp, was without their knowledge. And those individuals (DiBella and Valenti) were paid with the blessing of the manager, Lonano. Russell Peltz, as far as we know anyway, is the only person to get paid off the sweat, blood, and toil of Mickey Ward who had absolutely nothing to do with the fighter. And Lonano did not invite him.
As for Peltz being useful or essential in terms of "smoothing things over" between the warring parties, the general feeling from the Ward camp is that Peltz did not serve any necessary purpose for them, and in fact, probably exacerbated the situation; also, that Peltz' presence was more of a contrivance, to put it mildly.
Given those parameters, why would Peltz have commanded - or expected to command - any money at all in terms of a side payment?
When stripped to its essence, could it be for any other reason than that he felt he was entitled to it for putting Mickey Ward into some fights on ESPN?
And if that's the case, doesn't that transgress the legal "fence", so to speak, given Peltz' position as a "boxing coordinator" for ESPN?
The bottom line is that Peltz made himself a party to a transaction related to this fight - in which he profited - and did so using a false representation.
Could that be in any fighter's interest? Could it possibly be in the public interest? And shouldn't it be stopped?
I would suggest we have several issues at stake here -
* First, how can Ward/Lonano/DiBella be assured that there weren't still other monies accumulated by Peltz in association with this fight? Surely a Federal law that legitimately sought to help fighters - and one that was enforced - would enable them to find this out.
* Second, how can a promoter possibly pay a third party in relation to the appearance of a fighter, and under the pretense of a particular representation, without performing enough due diligence to find out whether that representation is valid? How could the party receiving the money not be required to provide that documentation? If one provision in the Ali Act (Section 13, b-1) reads that, "A promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes......the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match", it would ridiculous to think that it wouldn't apply to boxers a promoter DOESN'T promote, but gets paid in connection with anyway, and why shouldn't this be a matter for commissions in New Jersey (where Main Events is licensed and headquartered), Pennsylvania (where Peltz is licensed and headquartered) and Connecticut (where the fight took place), not to mention the U.S. Attorney, to investigate?
* Third, the idea of Peltz doing this kind of business (i.e., engaging in "side deals") with parties who might also, in the normal course of business, be expected to pitch proposals to him for ESPN shows is deplorable, and would seem to constitute precisely the kind of thing a Federal boxing law should be created to combat; yet, obviously, nothing in the Federal law really addresses it effectively.
* Fourth, if in fact Peltz commanded ONE DIME from ONE FIGHTER just because he gave them exposure on ESPN, it would represent a situation that warrants investigation by the FBI, don't you think?
(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN; also, DiBella Entertainment is a current advertiser on TotalAction.com)
I conducted a somewhat-less-than-scientific survey today. Using the last edition of the
Ring Record Book
, I discovered that from 1900-1986, there were, by my count, 69 draws in championship fights. That's not really an excessive number, but it occurred to me - I'd be willing to bet that in all of them, there were a fair number of fans who left the arena only half satisfied, if satisfied at all.
Can any sports fan feel a sense of complete fulfillment with a draw?
I've always thought one of the problems with the NHL, which has prevented it from gaining more of a widespread audience, particularly on TV, as opposed to the other major team sports, was that there are so many ties, even with the establishment not too long ago of the overtime period.
As for soccer - well, I don't see any explanation for tie games, especially in World Cup matches (I guess I just don't understand). The bottom line is - and Americans may be somewhat unique here - we want to see a winner and a loser if at all possible.
Draws can be particularly annoying in championship boxing; often they produce rematches of fights that were not all that appealing in the first place. And more often than not, in this day and age, they also add the kind of controversy the sport doesn't really need, begging questions about whether results were contrived to produce another "money-maker".
Personally, I don't want to see draws in championship fights. And since we can probably argue that times, and American sports fans' tastes, have changed, maybe we can institute some experiments that can rectify things, at least for those title fights that take place on American soil, just to see how it works.
I want to make it clear from the outset - I DO NOT want to suggest that fighters engage in a 13th round. I'm told by many trainers that it is potentially dangerous for a fighter to "cool down" while scores are being tabulated, then jump back into an extra, and very intense, three minutes of action. And besides, fighters sign contracts for 12 rounds - not 13, 14, 15, or whatever would be required to break a tie. That's what they prepare for, that's what they train for, that's what they get paid for.
Now, I grant that the odds are against any given fight being declared a draw, but it's obviously very possible, since it would take one judge to score it even, with the other two splitting, or two to call it even.
But how possible would it be for TWO sets of judges to do that?
My own suggestion is for the employment of a SUPPLEMENTAL judging panel - something which is not only completely separate from the three judges that are in place for a title fight, but also APPOINTED by the local jurisdiction, rather than the sanctioning body.
Obviously, manpower problems would preclude this system from being in place for all fights, but for championship fights, it shouldn't be a problem, since extra judges are being imported from other areas in most cases anyway.
These supplemental judges can do their job from similar vantage points as their "primary" counterparts, or look at the fight on television - I don't really care how a commission decides to set it up.
They would score the fight just as they always would, using the same basic guidelines as the other judges, with one exception - they wouldn't be allowed to score any rounds even.
In the event a fight is scored a draw by the three primary judges, the verdict of the supplemental judging panel then comes into effect. At this point, the decision is to be determined by the scoring of these judges.
In all likelihood, a winner is going to come out of this system. And you may find out it will serve some residual purposes as well -
While I don't necessarily think it would be a good idea that the scores of the supplemental panel become public if they are not needed (who needs even MORE controversy?), I would think they could be used by commissions to compare performance of judges appointed by sanctioning bodies with those of their own personnel, thus producing a "check and balance" of a sort. This way, should we have a mechanism in place in which the judges are evaluated from time to time by a national panel, as has been proposed, more perspective can be established.
And those scores might also be used as evidence in the event of a grievance filed by a fighter who feels he's been victimized by an egregious decision.
So now you ask, what happens if the second panel also scores the fight even? Well, in that case, maybe you can do one of a few different things:
1) Take an overall composite of the six judges - i.e., if the first three judges had Fighter A winning on one card, with the other two even, while the second group had Fighters A&B both winning a card, and the other had it even, the composite would show that Fighter A was declared the winner by two judges, while Fighter B won with only one judge, thereby making Fighter A the winner (yes, that's radical).
2) Do a review of the original three judges cards, counting up the rounds each fighter won on ALL three cards - who had the most? If there is still no winner, move on to the second set of judges with the same procedure.
3) If all that doesn't work, take a deep breath, and just declare the fight a draw.
It might be worth trying.
The debate is open. I'd be happy to read any suggestions.
Such a notion represents a misinterpretation of the Act.
What not enough people know is that the Ali Act doesn't prohibit rematch clauses, nor does it prohibit so-called "coercive" clauses in contracts. It merely prohibits those coercive provisions that extend themselves beyond one year.
However, if Rahman would have gone ahead and exercised the option of taking an interim fight against someone else, with the intention of then going ahead with the rematch with Lewis, as per the rematch clause (depending on which way you read it), THEN it might have ventured into territory where it would have been in violation of the Ali Act.
That's because the clause was going to bind another party, before the fact, to an obligation where, if the interim challenger would have beaten Rahman, he would have to turn around and fight Lewis for a specific amount of money, for a specific promoter, on a specific network.
While you can have an option on the "immediate" opponent, you can't transfer that option to somebody else. It would appear that if a contract with two fighters bound a third fighter to do something, there would have to be something improper in that.
But that's kind of getting away from my point. That's not why I'm against these mandatory rematch clauses as they relate to title fights.
When any fighter complies with a clause like that, he runs the risk of putting himself in a position where he is going to be forced to violate SOMEBODY'S edict. Whatever he does, he's liable to wind up getting sued.
For instance, look at Rahman's situation. When he beat Lewis, Mike Tyson was the WBC's #1 challenger. The Tua-Byrd winner (as it turned out, Byrd) loomed as the IBF's #1 challenger. Rahman had a rematch with Lewis contracted for. If he chose to fight Lewis voluntarily (i.e., without a court ruling), he could have been sued by Tyson. If he chose to fight Tyson, Lewis could sue him. And if he waited to fight the Tua-Byrd winner, Lewis AND Tyson could sue him. If he had fought Brian Nielsen or David Izon, EVERYBODY could have sued him.
What the rematch clause effectively can do is paint the fighter into a corner where he can not, by definition, avoid one or all of the following:
1) Lawsuits from mandatory challengers
2) Lawsuits from TV networks
3) Actions by sanctioning bodies, which may include stripping the fighter of the title and maybe even litigation.
Therefore, a fighter in the position faces:
a) Heavy expenses to fight litigation on more than one front;
b) Loss of titles he won in the ring;
c) Alienation from TV outlets, of which there are few.
Which, in turn,
-- Jeopardizes him financially in the immediate sense, not to mention his future earning power and bargaining power.
Why should a fighter to compelled to comply with such a clause? And how could any clause, which, by definition, puts a fighter into that unavoidable position, be enforceable?
Just because something is agreed to doesn't necessarily mean it is legal.
Any boxing legislation which is subsequently written, in order to be responsible, needs to include a provision wherein any rematch clause that is entered into, and which concerns obligations related to a championship, shall be unenforceable, if such enforcement mandates that a fighter default on other agreements or obligations that would put his position as a titleholder - and in turn his potential earning power - in jeopardy, or which would put him into a position where he can not move ahead with any plans without sustaining some kind of civil action.
It's all about keeping as much stuff out of the courts as possible, because in the end, all the litigation does not benefit fighters, promoters, or the sport. It just creates a full employment program for lawyers, who have enough money already.
In a tussle that will last even longer, he was also readying himself to take on some of boxing's powers-that-be.
One comforting thought for the fighter was that he was not going into the ring alone. Accompanying him were the principals of an organization called the B.O.C. (Boxers' Organizing Committee), who came to pledge their support in Ouma's quest for rights.
Rights? What rights were those, you might ask?
Well, Ouma came into the fight wearing a tattoo. Not your run-of-the-mill tattoo, mind you, but yes - one of those tattoos that read the name of GoldenPalace.com, an online gambling casino, on his back. And according to those on-high, that was a no-no.
Some weeks before, ESPN had issued an edict that no fighters were to wear these "back ads" in any fight they televised. Since the network couldn't prohibit the fighters from doing this directly because an actual contractual relationship didn't exist, they did the next best thing, threatening the promoter - with whom they DID have a contract - with a $10,000 fine, should any fighter wear a back ad at their event.
Bob Yalen made the point that if Miller was going to provide the paid sponsorship for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights", he felt it was a bad precedent to set to open the door for a fighter to wear, for example, a tattoo bearing the logo of a competitor, such as Budweiser. A perfectly understandable concern. Of course, what was not so understandable to people like the members of the B.O.C. was why Yalen proceeded to lobby other networks like HBO and Showtime, who rely more on subscribers than advertisers, to ban the tattoos as well.
Ouma, a legitimate contender and former member of the Ugandan national team, had signed an exclusive promotional contract last October with Russell Peltz, who also doubles as "boxing coordinator" for ESPN. The rationale of Ouma and his people was based on the salesmanship of Peltz, who told them there would be plenty of ESPN appearances on tap for the fighter if he put his name on the dotted line. Peltz obviously could make this kind of pitch to a potential recruit, because he controlled a large number of dates on the network, either via his own shows or those of other promoters he made deals with.
One of the fights pursuant to that contract was the faceoff with Papillon, which was televised live on ESPN2 and sponsored by Dover Downs in Delaware - one of those pari-mutuel establishments which had met with success after installing slot machines.
Now, before we go any further, let's take time out to explain something - the way it used to be, a promoter wouldn't necessarily have a stake in the career of a fighter he was using on his show - he would just contact managers, negotiate purses in good faith, and make the best matchups he possibly could. But when a promoter signs an exclusive deal with a fighter, and puts himself in a position where - a) he is primarily interested in moving a fighter's career along, and b) he will be negotiating, to an extent, on behalf of that fighter when he is offered a spot on another promoter's card - it's with the understanding that he will be working in the fighter's best interests (at least that's what the fighter thinks).
Well, Ouma was about to put that principle to the test. It was no coincidence that when the B.O.C. got together and decided to take a stand, Ouma was the fighter and the card was going to be one promoted by Peltz.
Before the fight, each member of the B.O.C. signed something called the "Boxers' Emancipation Declaration". It read like this:
"We, the undersigned professional boxers do declare on this 10th day of May, 2002, our emancipation from the chains of bondage that have robbed our efforts and scarred our sport.
In solidarity with our fellow fighters, and with the backing of our union organizing effort, the BOXER’S ORGANIZING COMMITTEE (BOC), we demand that our voice be heard. For too long, in a business built with our blood and struggle, we have been treated as second-class citizens. The BOC has the support of the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers , National Football League Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, National Basketball Players Association, National Hockey League Players Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild and the Teamsters, amongst others.
Just recently, several television executives and promoters, have forbid "temporary tattoos" and threatened to fine and indeed "ban" boxers who have worn them, claiming that it was 'free advertising' and was demeaning to the sport. This was done without consulting boxers.
It was not "free advertising" since fighters were paid directly for renting THEIR backs. In an industry and world where advertising signage has appeared nearly everywhere, it was finally a revenue stream that went directly to boxers, bypassing the established pay structure of the sport. When boxers have little control or awareness of other sponsorship arrangements, we resent this attempt to arbitrarily make decisions that effect our livelihood without consulting us. We recognize the importance of protecting the interests of the television networks, casinos and sponsors., but proper policy should be set by understanding all perspectives.
The tattoo issue is not the only matter of concern to us, and is merely a starting point for a larger union effort to build a better sport, especially with regards to pension, health insurance and fair business practices for boxers.
We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of others who speak on our behalf, whether they be broadcaster, journalist, politician, commissions, sanctioning organization, promoter, manager or other interested party. We ask all to work with us, making policy TOGETHER with mutual respect and understanding.
THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS"
This piece of paper was signed by the fighters who had joined the B.O.C. group - Ouma, former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, former 140-pound champ Zab Judah, former 122-pound champ Bones Adams, ex-middleweight titleholder Vito Antuofermo, and Canadian cruiserweight Dale Brown.
For purposes of this story, the issue I am bringing up here is not whether the B.O.C.'s stand here was right or wrong. The issue I'm exploring here is how the situation was handled by the promoter.
Which, as it turned out, was badly.
There was a lot of shock around ringside when Ouma took off his robe and displayed his tattoo. At that point, there was very little ESPN could do; even though they customarily have some alternative programming "in the can", so to speak, for those occasions, they were already about 2/3 of the way into their show and it simply would have strained credulity to cut away. So the show went on, as did Ouma, who stopped Papillon at the conclusion of eight rounds.
After the fight was over, Peltz was beside himself. He had been screaming, "You'll never get paid" to Ouma's connections during the fight, within earshot of numerous ringside observers, and echoed those feelings after the bout. He then endeavored to have Ouma's purse withheld by Greg Sirb, the Pennsylvania administrator (and national boxing "czar" candidate), who had arranged to have himself installed as the local "regulator", in the absence of any boxing commission in Delaware.
Sirb was perfectly content to carry out that errand, at least for a period of 48 hours, until the whole mess got straightened out.
But when it was established that Ouma had not signed anything in his bout contract, or his promotional contract for that matter, that expressly prohibited him to wear a "back ad" during a fight, there was nothing that could be legally done on Peltz' part to prevent him from getting paid.
Incidentally, Ouma received $15,000 for his main event appearance, despite the fact that Peltz raked in a reported $105,000 in combined revenue and tickets from network TV rights and the Dover Downs site fee (and not including his personal services fee from the network, I presume).
Peltz, nonetheless, wasn't going to take anything lying down; he certainly was not about to eat the "mandatory" $10,000 fine without a protest. "Russell said out loud, and VERY loud, 'He'll (Kassim) never fight on ESPN again'," said Tom Moran, manager of Witherspoon and friend of Ouma, who was present at ringside during the fight. "There were a whole bunch of people who heard him say that."
If you'll indulge me for a moment, let's review his two statements again, directed, more or less, toward HIS fighter, after a WINNING effort in a TITLE fight:
"YOU'LL NEVER GET PAID"
"HE'LL NEVER FIGHT ON ESPN AGAIN"
There are only a couple of thoughts I want to leave you with today -
If, by chance, Peltz were ever asked, in a court of law, to revisit those statements, and explain whether he made them as Kassim Ouma's promoter - and protector of his best interests, or as "boxing coordinator" of ESPN - and protector of ITS best interests - what do you think he would say? What COULD he say?
If Greg Sirb, the man that aspires to be a "boxing czar", with authority to enforce uniform rules across the country, were asked that same question about his favorite promoter, do you think he'd be tongue-tied?
Then ask yourself whether you think Russell Peltz' dual activities amount to anything other than what might be as dangerous a conflict of interest as can possibly be imagined; whether Greg Sirb, who was ready to hold up a purse for absolutely no reason at all, would be disposed in the least to do anything about it, and whether this shouldn't be a matter that is absolutely mandatory for any author of future boxing legislation to consider.
Go ahead - ask yourself.
(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN)
And inasmuch as it can be agreed that false disclosures are indeed contrary to the public interest, I think it might be appropriate to address this matter of considerable concern a bit further, as it applies to reforming the world of professional boxing.
It occurs not just to me, but to anyone who reads the Ali Act with any sense of scrutiny, that the constituency the legislators are primarily concerned about is that of the fighters. And I'm sure a lot of that is well-intentioned. But consumers drive boxing, just like they do any other business-for-profit. And if you're going to propose to put together boxing legislation that has any impact at all, you have to ensure that the public, and not just pro boxers, gets afforded the proper protection from deceptive business practices on the part of promoters.
Yes, I know there are laws governing false advertising in every state. But I think we may have to take a slightly different step here.
What has to be understood is that a boxing promotion must be distinguishable from other products or services. It's not like the sale of a item on display in a supermarket. The "shelf life" of the product is certainly very finite, and the characteristics - the "ingredients", if you will - of the product can very easily and abruptly change at any time during the product cycle.
Let's say I'm promoting a show, and the main event pits Fighter A against Fighter B, with Fighter C versus Fighter D in the semi-main event, and I've sold a healthy number of tickets, bought by people who want to see all four fighters. Then, a couple of days before the fight card is to take place, Fighter B pulls out with an injury, while the next day, for whatever reason, Fighter D doesn't pass his physical at the weigh-in.
Obviously I have stopped printing posters, and I am not producing any new radio spots. But someone may walk into a bar and see my poster, call up TicketMaster, buy a ringside seat, and show up the night of the event, only to see that we have different competitors in place. Am I advertising falsely?
Maybe I am, according to the laws written in some states. But if you look at it from a boxing point of view, it can be demonstrated that these kinds of things are somewhat common in their occurrence, and that they are indeed unforeseen.
The best way to protect myself would be to sign my fighters to bout contracts; with the preliminary approval of the state boxing commission, I can substantiate that I advertised in good faith, and that in fact those performers who appeared in my advertisements were indeed those who were scheduled.
I may not be engaging in any deceptive acts, but I'm still not completely out of the woods, in some places. In the state of Florida, for example, if the fight card changes in any material way, the revised card must be displayed in plain sight at the venue, and even then, the consumer is entitled to a refund if he/she so requests. On the commission's website that is made very clear in the "Information for Promoters" section.
Of course, if I DO NOT take enough care to sign fighters before I put their names and pictures on a poster, then there is no way I could legally guarantee they have agreed to a fight. And it can be argued that I had no right to advertise the appearance of those fighters in the first place.
It follows that if I use a fighter's name to sell tickets, when there is no reasonable expectation established that the fighter (or fighters) would have been on the show, then I AM advertising falsely. This can be extended to include the names of non-participants as well. I don't know about you, but I've gone to fight cards where a special appearance by some celebrity, from the world of boxing or otherwise, was advertised, and the celebrity never showed. It may not be a fighter, but it's still a fight card, and you're still selling tickets to the public, so doesn't a situation like that have to be addressed?
In Georgia, a signed document guaranteeing the appearance of a "celebrity" is required before a promoter can do any advertising or promotion to that effect. Sounds like a pretty good idea to institute everywhere - that is, if you've got some concern for the consumer.
Let's take this a step further - if I know one of my fighters has pulled out of the show, and continue to promote that the fighter will be appearing, whether it be through the press, or through radio advertisements than run well past the time of a "pullout", and at the same time I have the understanding that the fighter was an important, marketable component of my event, then I certainly am misrepresenting my product to the public, aren't I?
Another egregious case of false advertising involves a promoter who puts a fighter's name on a poster, for example, with a record of 15-6, while in reality that fighter might be 2-12. I can almost guarantee you something like this is happening SOMEWHERE in this country. In situations like this the promoter should most certainly know better, and cannot plead ignorance, especially as the records for each fighter must be compiled through the boxing registry - in this case, Fight Fax, and submitted to the commission in order to get fights approved.
I would think the inclusion of blanket regulations covering these scenarios is something any rational piece of boxing legislation should have. If such provisions were included in a Federal bill, it would become the law of the land for ALL boxing commissions, regardless of whether the state boxing laws say, and would serve to supplement the laws that are on the books in each state that apply to false advertising and misrepresentations in marketing.
Of course, false advertising of ANY kind should not be tolerated. After all, a lie is a lie is a lie. So naturally, if, for example, you're advertising a television blackout that does not exist, you should be subject to penalty, at the very least by the boxing commission that has jurisdiction over the event.
Speaking of blackouts, let's now talk about the fiasco where the false announcement of such on the part of SRL Boxing took place in Buffalo, for the April 5 card featuring heavyweight hopeful Joe Mesi, and of laws that are already in place - not necessarily those of the commission specifically but the ones which apply to businesses in the state of New York.
There are two sections of the State of New York General Business Law that serve to protect consumers from deceptive acts and practices.
Sections 349 and 350, Chapter 20, of the law provide that deceptive acts and practices and/or false advertising "in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in this state are hereby declared unlawful."
And it explains that any person injured as a result of misleading advertising "may bring an action in his own name to enjoin such unlawful act or practice."
Moreover, it has been held that plaintiffs need not demonstrate specific dollar injury, or any pecuniary injury at all; nor that the deceptive practice even be intentional or fraudulent in nature. And plaintiffs also do not have to prove any particular degree of reliance on the defendant's deceptive practices and/or false advertising in order to substantiate an action.
I concede that class action lawsuits are probably impractical, since it would not be reasonable to expect large groups of paying customers to a fight could be gathered together without a substantial amount of expense and legwork; however, in interpreting the actions that are allowable under Sections 349 and 350 of New York's General Business Law, EVERYONE who bought a ticket to SRL Boxing's April 5 fight card in Buffalo could conceivably petition for a refund, whether they relied on the false proclamation of a "blackout" or not.
If you registered a complaint about this incident in the state of New York, it would likely be dealt with by the Attorney General's office. You may never get ultimate satisfaction, but just be thankful it won't go through the Inspector General's office, where it would most likely wind up on the "cutting room floor", as they say. That's because it just might have to come across the desk of a certain agent - guy by the name of Jack Mesi.
"SRL Boxing will increase consumer demand for boxing while returning respect and integrity to the sport"
"The Company believes it is the only player in the boxing industry solely dedicated and positioned to positively change the sport of boxing"
"SRL Boxing is dedicated to the integrity of the sport as strongly as it is to the business of the sport"
But since it sounds as if the company is attempting to leverage this with potential investors as another of its "unique selling propositions", I think it's fair to explore SRL Boxing's standards in this regard, don't you?
And keeping in mind that the company, in this ambitious business plan, intended "implementing innovative marketing and promotional methods never before seen in the sport", I can't help but wonder whether one of those promotional methods involved spreading the word of a blackout for the company's April 5 ESPN show from SUNY-Buffalo; a blackout that in fact did not exist from the beginning.
You may remember we did a column not too long ago about this.
I'll say one thing in Leonard's defense - I don't figure him to be the kind of guy who's sitting up in an office dreaming up deceitful and misleading ways to draw paying customers into live events.
As a result, that leaves us no one else to blame other than than Bjorn Rebney, president of SRL Boxing, and Michael "Full Of" Billoni, a PR man for "Team Mesi" who was simultaneously representing the "Buffalo Blast" promotion.
Billoni, who is rumored to have fudged attendance figures when he served as general manager of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons baseball team, must have studied SRL's business plan rather diligently, because apparently he thought it might be a master stroke of "innovative marketing" to send out a press release stating, in effect, that unless you bought a ticket (prices $20-$100) for the April 5 show featuring local heavyweight Joe Mesi in the very, very suspect main event (as it turns out, against puffed-up Keith McKnight), you weren't seeing the show at all, because there was a blackout in effect for Buffalo and its environs.
As we told you in the previous column, that's a NO-NO. We have been told by a promoter who has done ESPN shows in the recent past that there is a standard requirement that the event is offered to the entire ESPN "footprint" - meaning the unauthorized announcement of a blackout is prohibited, though Bob Yalen, the executive in charge of ESPN's boxing programming, asserts that "There is no clause (in the contract), but they should not announce one (a blackout) if there is none."
Indeed. And that was certainly the principle behind Tim Graham's April 5 story in the Buffalo News, where he cited that the SRL company had been advertising falsely about the status of the event, as a way of squeezing out ticket sales that might otherwise not have been there.
In response to Graham's story and our subsequent column, Rebney denied any wrongdoing whatsoever to the website BoxingTalk.net.
Having been caught pretty much red-handed, Rebney, who obviously catches on quickly, went into what can best be termed as "Standard Operating Procedure" for a boxing promoter, which is to say:
* He made the obligatory legal threat - "Let me say that our lawyers are considering taking legal action against the instigators of these rumors."
* He used the "jealousy defense" - "Everytime you have something that goes really good like this promotion did, there is always something or someone to try and pull it down."
* Then, he embellished his story, vehemently denying an accusation that, in fact, had never been made - "They are saying that we promoted this as a title fight, which is absolutely a bold face lie. We never advertised this fight as a championship fight......." (we'll get to this in a minute)
* And of course, no retaliation would be complete without the "power play" - Rebney tried to get Graham fired. No dice there.
But you can't blame a guy for trying, I guess. One rule that's always held true in boxing is that when you sell out a show in an area that NEVER sells out a show, you have a tendency, in the immediate aftermath, to think you can walk on water. It's the kind of arrogance that pervades the business, and inasmuch as the Buffalo News was SRL Boxing's "promotional partner" on this fight card, Rebney must have thought he was standing on some pretty solid ground.
As part of Rebney's education, I suspect that at this point he was introduced to two words that didn't seem to make it into the SRL Boxing business plan - "journalism" and "union".
According to SRL's head man, the announcements of a blackout had nothing at all to do with the level of ticket sales, which far surpassed anything Mesi had been able to do before in his hometown.
Rebney - "We had originally talked to ESPN about having a blackout. When the campaign started the only thing that even mentioned the blackout was on the radio promotion. It was not in any of the print media at all. Then ESPN contacted us and told us that the blackout was not going to be possible and at this time the radio had only ran the promotion for three days. On top of that it was a full 5-1/2 weeks before the event. As soon as ESPN contacted us we pulled the radio promotion. At this point there were only 800 tickets sold, so for anyone to say that the success of this fight is due to the three-day radio promo is absurd."
That's what we call a lie of omission.
Nothing in the print media at all? I just happen to sitting here in front of the press release for that show (which I'd be happy to forward to any interested party), in addition to a story that ran March 31 in the Buffalo News that was NOT written by Tim Graham.
Let me take a DIRECT passage from the release, dated February 27 (indeed, less than five weeks before the show) -
"Mesi will headline a six-bout card. Mesi's opponent and the undercard will be announced by SRL Boxing and ESPN2 soon. The event will be held April 5 at UB's Alumni Arena with the first bell at 7:00 p.m. The fight will be televised live on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. IT WILL BE BLACKED OUT IN THE BUFFALO REGION (I used the caps)."
At the bottom of the release, the contact names listed for the promotion - Mike Billoni and Bjorn Rebney.
Rebney inferred that the blackout news was just a misunderstanding, and that all "blackout promotion" had ended 5-1/2 weeks out from the show, yet according to this line from a story written by Buffalo News reporter Rodney McKissic on March 31 (five days before the show), the promotion was still perpetuating the blackout hoax:
"Because promoters are expecting a capacity crowd, a local blackout could be lifted before Friday, said Michael J. Billoni, the media liaison for Team Mesi and Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing, which is promoting the fight."
Hey - maybe these guys were in the April Fool's spirit. I can empathize (hahaha).
It is important to note that when confronted later by Graham, Billoni did not deny making the quote to McKissic, and McKissic affirms this with us as well.
"The story is just as I wrote it," says McKissic. "I interviewed Mike (Billoni) on March 29 and he told me about the 'blackout' which one of our reporters, Tim Graham, later found out to be not true."
McKissic adds that Billoni was the operative of SRL Boxing who was authorized to deal with the press - "Mike was the media contact for the Buffalo Blast project. I did meet someone from SRL Boxing but I forgot his name and, to be honest, I really didn't need
him. In terms of what I needed for the event, Mike was the point man."
What is so interesting, and so bizarre, about this whole thing, is that McKissic penned a story on Leonard entitled "Leonard Aims for Honesty as Promoter", which appeared in the News on April 2 - after such time as Leonard's organization had done its continuous and systematic lying to the public.
This of course came in the midst of a PR campaign propagated by SRL Boxing and bought into by the Buffalo News (an acknowledged "promotional partner" in the event), in which my belief is that McKissic's editors took advantage of the fact that, prior to this event, he had not written a boxing story since 1988. Quite obviously, there was a reason McKissic was chosen to write most of the pre-fight features in lieu of Graham, one of the best boxing writers in the country. And this is no slight toward McKissic, an excellent reporter, but I don't think it would be unfair to say he might not have had enough recent experience with boxing to cast a critical eye toward what was happening.
Now let's get to another lie.
I don't know of anyone in the press who accused this promotion of trying to falsely peddle a title fight, so Rebney's own INTIMATION of that allegation is a lie in and of itself. Once again, a case of attempting to manufacture and manipulate a situation out of what can best be described as pure arrogance.
The Keith McKnight thing may be somewhat minor, but it's a lie nonetheless, followed up by yet another lie in the way of explanation. Rebney's rationale as to why his promotional materials falsely represented McKnight as a "WBF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion" is that FightFax, the source that they referenced for McKnight's career record, had him listed that way. Not true. FightFax does not do those things. What FightFax does is list every fight for the boxer, and when appropriate, indicates when a title was at stake in a fight. It was clear that the last WBF fight McKnight won was almost three years ago.
I've got a novel idea, in retrospect - if there was any question about McKnight's status, why didn't they just bother to ask McKnight? MAYBE because McKnight told them the truth, or would have? According to the April 5 story by Graham, McKnight said "They're just using it to push ticket sales."
Why couldn't they have contacted the World Boxing Federation? Or more to the point, why DIDN'T they?
Or why didn't they ask their own matchmaker? Ron Katz, who makes the matches for SRL, knew full well that McKnight's last three fights were against notorious losers who had an average age of 44 and a composite record of 26-232-7. I don't care how bad the organization is, those fights are not title fights. I can almost guarantee you ESPN knew that as well. In fact, they had serious reservations about McKnight as an opponent because of his recent ring history.
Yeah, I know - you're a fan and you're sitting there saying to yourself, "Gee, Sugar Ray Leonard was such a great fighter. He was so famous. How could anyone criticize him like this? All I care about is seeing a boxing show. What do I care about this?"
First of all, while we concede that this most likely has very little to do with any idea that might have had its genesis with Sugar Ray Leonard, the fact is that he fronts the company and his name is being used as leverage in marketing and promoting the company's shows. So he bears some responsibility.
Although the techniques are not something that are seen everyday, the overall pattern is not all that unusual - just another group of guys around a promotion who thought they could "sneak one by" in order to get those ticket sales really jumping. And figuring everyone was just too dumb to look. Surprise!
Think about it this way - as the average fan, how would you like for a promoter to tell you the only way you could see a fight was by ponying up $24.95 for pay-per-view, when secretly it was available for viewing on basic cable the entire time? Wouldn't you feel lied to, and just a little bit ripped off? Unless you're being disingenuous about it, of course you would.
What you may NOT know about is that there IS some recourse. We'll talk about that in the next chapter.
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.
Then Ted was then seemingly overmatched against highly regarded light-heavyweight Ray Anderson. On December 11th again in Cleveland, Anderson outboxed Gullick in the early going but as the bout wore on Ted's heavier punches began to take their toll on Anderson. Many felt the longer the fight went that Ted, who was a novice would tire. Instead it was Anderson who seemed spent. Ted just wore him down and stopped Ray in the ninth round of a huge upset. Gullick was now considered a top prospect and he was even featured in Ring Magazine.
Ted started off in 1970 by halting Ollie Wilson in five rounds. Leo Peterson then went in two. Highly regarded Tommy Hicks followed in four. On March 31st Ted was forced to go ten rounds for the first time outpointing the wily Everett Copeland in Youngstown. Ted bounced back to halt Lee Carr in three rounds. On June 24th veteran Chuck Leslie came to Cleveland and used his vast expierence to outbox Ted over ten rounds. One month later Ted suffered another set back losing a decision to fellow prospect Johnny Hudgins in Akron. On August 19th they brought Hudgins back to Cleveland for a rematch, and Ted avenged his loss with a ninth round KO. Ted then closed the year stopping Aaron Eastling in two rounds in Akron.
Ted returned to Cleveland at the start of 1971 and halted Sylvester Dullaire in the fourth. Ted was then put in with the toughest opponent of his career as he met one time title challenger Cleveland "Big Cat" Willaims. On April 28th the "Big Cat" who was known for his punching prowess unleashed a whip like left jab that hammered Ted all night. Cleveland walked away with a one sided decision. To make matters worse in his next fight, Ted was surprisngly halted in three rounds by Terry Daniels. The following year Daniels would challenge Joe Frazier for the heavyweight crown. Ted closed out the year in England fighting to a draw with one of their better heavyweights, Billy Aird.
Then on February 1st 1972 Ted met Earnie Shavers in an all Ohio shootout. Many people still talk about this give and take battle which finally ended in Earnie's favor in the sixth round. On April 10th Ted traveled to Inglewood, CA. To meet unbeaten and highly ranked ex- Olympian George Foreman. Ted was surprisngly effective in the first round and in the first half of round two. Then George turned up the heat and battered Ted to the canvas for the full count late in the second round. Ted's next bout of note was March 20th 1974 when he faced up and coming Duane Bobbick. Ted again went out in two rounds thus finishing him as a legitimate force in the divison.