But the next morning, it was Simms who actually suffered the stoppage.
When the fighter showed up at the First Third Bank in Louisville, Kentucky in an attempt to cash the paycheck for his evening's work, he was told that the account it was drawn against - that which belonged to the promoter, Chris Webb Properties Inc. - was completely devoid of cash.
Not that Simms should ever have had to go through that exercise anyway.
"Our contract specified that Travis be paid in cash," says Kurt Emhoff, attorney and advisor to Simms. "After all, this is Kentucky."
The problem is that no one was on hand to protect the fighters - a perplexing situation that unfortunately exists in far too many ABC-member state boxing commissions these days.
Webb, who purportedly is in the real estate business in the Louisville area, could not be reached for comment. Nor could he be reached Saturday morning by George Martinez, president of the NABA, who was written a check for his sanctioning fee. Martinez had never done any business with Webb, and was understandably worried that his check wasn't any good.
Instead, "I got a message that he (Webb) had a problem with his child," Martinez. "So I didn't get to talk to him."
As of Monday, Webb was telling people, through intermediaries, that the purses would be paid by Wednesday, because the venue the fight was being held at (Louisville Gardens) was holding his money. However, he never informed the fighters of that on Friday night.
Standard procedure on a card such as the one in Louisville is to write checks to the participants as per the terms of the contracts they signed, in addition to any expenses that were agreed upon, and have the participant sign the check over in exchange for cash. The money is generally taken out of the evening's receipts, or is taken out of the bank beforehand so that there will be funds to pay the fighters, many of whom had to travel to the event and leave the next morning.
In Kentucky, the promoter posts a bond to secure the tax money due the commission, but there is no assurance that the purses will be paid.
When Martinez asked the "Minister of Maim", Jack Kerns - chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission who also doubles as First Vice-President of the Association of Boxing Commissions - whether there were any measures taken by the commission to ensure that checks wouldn't bounce, and that fighters wouldn't get ripped off, Kerns told him, "No, there isn't anything like that. But maybe it's something we'll have to bring up at the next meeting," then pointed out that the commission itself was protected through its rules and regulations.
In other words, Kerns' posture - and seemingly the prevailing attitude not only at his commission, but the majority of commissions in this country - is that the foremost concern is getting their own money, with the welfare of the fighters strictly an afterthought..
Perhaps foreseeing that his neglect in this matter might lead to some trouble, Kerns, the ABC Vice-President and executive board member, grabbed his fellow Kentucky commissioners and fled the arena immediately after the show concluded. Fighters were in a state of uncertainty as to how or when they were going to get paid, since Webb had long since left as well. Finally, at 1:30 AM, an hour and a half after the last bell had rung, someone named Nicholas Clark showed up and started writing checks, though he had no cash in his possession.
No one was very happy. A number of fighters, including Robinson, said they were under the impression that their checks were going to be endorsed in exchange for a cash payment. Simms was able to reach Webb on his cell phone shortly after receiving his check, and the promoter promised to rectify the situation when Simms got back to the hotel (Caesars Indiana). But even though their rooms were right next to each other, "We never heard from him (Webb) again," according to Simms' wife, Sandra.
The contract Simms signed with the promoter, which included the "cash clause" Emhoff demanded, was required, according to Kentucky Athletic Commission rules and regulations, to be "submitted to the commission for approval not less than five (5) calendar days prior to the date of the proposed show."
But what does it say about the state of boxing regulation in this country if the very agency (the commission) that is empowered by such rules and regulations does not do anything to enforce them?
"One thing is for sure," said Emhoff. "I'll never send a fighter into Kentucky again."
Who could possibly blame him?
Of course, this is a direct reflection on Kerns, whose negligence in the critical area of fighter safety nearly led to the death of Greg Page last March, but evidently produced enough political support to get him elected First Vice-President of the ABC four months later. And this past July, Kerns was retained in his position with the ABC, in order to protect him in a lawsuit that has been filed by Page against him. Not only that, he has been given additional responsibilities by the organization.
To be fair, not every commission runs as slipshod an operation as Kentucky. In Nevada, for example, the commission requires new promoters, who don't have a track record with them, to post all of the purse money with a third party - usually in a casino cashier's cage - and will customarily hold all the checks to be paid to fighters until it is time to issue them.
Of course, as you may have guessed, Webb had done promotions before in Kentucky, and Kerns admitted that everything had not gone smoothly in the past.
"He told me there had been a problem with this guy (Webb) before," said Martinez, "but that he eventually straightened it out."
Why fighters and other participants should have to go through a hassle like this in the first place is a question no one in Kentucky seemingly can answer.
" I mean, what the hell is the purpose of a commission if it can't make sure the fighters get paid?", says matchmaker/agent Johnny Bos, who has been down this road before with people from the ABC.
I can think of one other primary reason - to create as safe an atmosphere as possible for the fighter.
Unfortunately, Kentucky - with ABC vice-president Kerns - fails on both counts.
Invariably, those who are up at the mike promise to 'make this as short as possible' only to go on longer than the 'Root's' mini-series. But that's understandable I guess, after all, many of these folks are receiving a great honor that humbles them.
Fine, but what's really aggravating is when those who are not being honored- and aren't even scheduled to speak- get up there and drone on.
That was the case a couple of weeks ago at the World Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Los Angeles. On that night, names like Lupe Pintor, Mike McCallum and George Foreman would be honored for their vast achievements inside the ring. Larry Merchant of HBO Sports was being inducted for his contributions to the game as a journalist and broadcaster.
Rich Marotta, a boxing analyst for many years, was in charge of introducing Merchant and had finished quickly; but just as he was about to present Merchant with his award, Emanuel Steward, the noted trainer and HBO analyst who works with Merchant on the 'Boxing After Dark' telecasts, cut-in unexpectedly and announced that he wanted to say a few words about his broadcast partner.
Well, he certainly had a lot to say - too bad it was basically about himself. Instead of applauding the accomplishments of the dignified Merchant, he went on to pat his own back for what he had accomplished in the game. He would point out everyone that was on the dais, such as a Ronnie Shields (whom he had trained a long time ago) and tell everyone what he had meant to Shields career or how he and McCallum had worked together at the world famous Kronk Gym. Never mind that McCallum left Kronk in a huff because he felt as though Steward always favored Thomas Hearns over himself.
On and on he went. How long? According to those in attendance it seemed like years, although it was about 20 minutes. Merchant, who was standing to receive his plaque and medal, sat down in the middle of Stewards preamble. Those in the audience were getting restless as they started to bang the tables and hit their glasses with their knives and forks and heckle Steward to get off the mike. Let's put it this way, if this was amateur night at the Apollo, 'Sand Man Simm's' would have shooed him out of their quick, fast and in a hurry.
But what's worse is that he kept going. Someone told me," He must've thought it was applause or something, geez, he kept going on and on. It was disgusting."
Finally, Steward gave up the spotlight for the guy who was actually honored- which was awfully thoughtful of him. So what was the deal with Steward? I mean, he's used to speaking in short time frames, think about it, he only gets 60 seconds to talk to his fighters between rounds, doesn't he? Was he drunk? You never know, this was a social gathering. Hopefully he was and before ripping me for saying that, let me explain. If he was drunk, at least he has an explanation for his actions. If he wasn't: well, his actions look that much worse.
Fortunately, Merchant was his usual classy self in accepting the award, although he was a bit baffled at Steward himself. But they do retain a strong relationship despite his actions. However, I get the feeling that Merchant won't be having him deliver his eulogy when the time comes. Think about it, if he did, by the time he was done, who knows how many others would still be alive?
But I'm not here to just rip Steward, who I have a great deal of respect for and maintain a good relationship with. I'm also here to offer a few solutions to rectify these types of quandaries. Hey, I'm here to solve problems, not just lampoon them.
Limit speeches to rounds- Yup, you heard that right.
If you're introducing somebody you get three minutes, tops. If you're the person receiving the award, depending on your legacy, you get between six and twelve minutes. Sounds harsh, but hey, a four round fighter doesn't get the same respect and prestige as a twelve round main eventer. That's life and that's boxing. All the fighters being hailed get the full allotted 12 minutes (basically four rounds) and guys like Merchant and publicist Bill Kaplan get between six and nine minutes depending on their stature.
And yes, an official timekeeper will be on hand to keep track of these things.
* 10 SECONDS!!!- Now, if you watch boxing, you've heard this a thousand times. As the round winds down, a person next to the timekeeper will pound the mat and give a 10 second warning to the referee and fighters to make sure that the fighting is stopped at the sound of the bell.
Well, if a guy like Kaplan, who's a six minute-man in my book, starts heading into the five-and-half minute mark, a timekeeper that was assigned by the local commission closest to whatever Hall-of-Fame is honoring him will start to look at his official time clock.
And when five minutes and fifty seconds comes, the timekeeper will yell as loudly as he can," 10 SECONDS!!!" while banging on his dinner table. See, I'm fair about this; I like to give fair warning.
* Richard Steele- Ok, if whoever is being honored doesn't get the hint and refuses to follow our rules, we bring in Steele to step in. And he would be the perfect guy; after all, doesn't he stop everything early? He was sure needed a couple of weeks ago.
* Act like boxing fans- This is only a last step measure that should be used only in the most extreme of circumstances; but if all else fails, the crowd must get involved. And in our case, the gathered throng would be boxing fans.
And at this point we would need boxing fans to act, well, like boxing fans. Which means hissing, booing and screaming as loudly as they could at the acting offender. And they would be allowed to throw their napkins at the stage- but nothing more. We can't have plates and glasses being hurled on stage, somebody could get hurt and these things are supposed to be dignified affairs, not the Olympic Auditorium.
If this doesn't do the trick, I don't know what will.
DON'T COUNT OUT TAPIA
I know not many pundits are giving Johnny Tapia a shot against Marco Antonio Barrera this weekend in Las Vegas. They point out that Tapia is a natural jr. bantamweight moving up in weight, or how bad Tapia looked in getting a fortunate decision in his last outing against Manuel Medina, or that Tapia is no spring chicken.
Which is all true, but those are the tangibles. A guy like Tapia is all about the intangibles. There's a reason why his nickname is 'Mi Vida Loca'. He's lived exactly just that, a crazy life. His story has been told a million times but one story bears repeating.
The most amazing of Tapia's stories is the fact that he's been pronounced clinically dead- three times!!! Most guys are only good for one, maybe two. This guy pulled the hat trick. They've counted him out before and his still standing.
Marco Antonio Barrera won't be nearly the toughest fight of his life. I have a feeling this fight will be much more competitive than most think.
This Saturday night, 2000 silver medallist Ricardo Williams gets his first step-up fight as he takes on former IBF jr. welterweight titlist Terron Millett.
Millett is definitely on the downside, but he can still bang a bit and Williams only has seven pro bouts under his belt.
Seven pro bouts and Williams is already fighting ex-titlists on HBO. They sure don't develop prospects like they used to, huh? Back in the day, guys would have at least a dozen or so four-rounders before moving up to the six and eight round bouts, much less co-headline on the games biggest stages.
Yes, times have changed.
Shane Mosley will make his return and debut at 154 on either February 1st or 8th when he takes on Raul Marquez.
Originally, Yory Boy Campas was thought to be the cannon-fodder de jour for Shane, but HBO wasn't too keen on the idea of using Campas who has a well-earned rep as a front-runner prone to quitting when the going gets too tough.
Marquez may get cut up like paper mache, but he won't quit.
Cedric Kushner's Fistful of Dollars promotion on Nov. 30 in Atlantic City might not sit well with boxing's die-hards, but the guys who love Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Goldberg will be the first in line to call Thunderbox pay-per-view.
According to Kushner, the secret to success as a promoter is to take eight unemployed heavyweights, match them together by picking names out of a hat, and then have them fight each other until only one is left standing. That last guy gets to take home a cool $100,000.
It's a pretty simple idea, really. Kushner shows seven three-round fights, provides a little pocket change for seven heavyweights (they get $5,000 per fight) and gives the eventual winner enough money to survive the winter on.
The eight heavyweights include two-time heavyweight champ Tim Witherspoon, fresh off his retirement fight against Lou Savarese in September. The scary thing is, Witherspoon, at 44, has to be one of the favorites to win this thing.
Among the others invited to fight is the well-known and ever-popular Gerald "The Jedi" Nobles, who came up with a novel idea at the press conference held last week promoting the fights.
The clever Nobles, whose record is 20-0 with 16 knockouts, said they could make it a short night and make everything easier by just giving him the check right away instead of letting everyone fight for it.
Most of the other fighters were against the idea.
"I'm gonna be playing Beethoven on these guys,'' Nobles was quoted as saying by Fightnews. "I'm lightening fast and I got a lot of first, second and third round knockouts.''
Of course, the combined record of the fighters he's stopped inside three rounds is something like 72-144-9. They include wins over Caseny Truesdale (7-322) and the always dangerous Exum Speight (9-32-2). Nobles has only beaten three guys with winning records, and those three have a combined record of 36-22-2.
"People are finally going to get a chance to see who Gerald Nobles is,'' he said.
Is he sure that's what he wants?
Next up is Paolo Vidoz of Gorizia, Italy, who slammed home the truth.
"This tournament is crazy,'' he said. "Three fights in one night is very hard.''
Finally, an honest man.
"I want to win the tournament because I need the money. I want to buy land and a farm in Italy.''
I hope this guy wins.
Then there's Ray Austin (17-3-1, 13 KOs) who claimed, "I'm the best man out of all these guys so I know I'm going home with the money.''
He's right. He'll be going home with some money. My guess is $5,000.
How about Anthony "Tony the Tiger" Thompson? He's 17-1 with 9 KOs. Anyone who has the chutzpah to call himself, "Tony the Tiger'' has to be tough.
Finally, there's Jeremy "Half Man, Half Amazing'' Williams, a legitimate heavyweight with a catchy nickname who is probably the big pick to win the Fistful of Dollars.
"For me, this tournament is something to do before Christmas,'' he said, sounding like he was talking about getting his oil changed. "These guys are good guys, but there's nobody at my caliber. That's the plain honest truth.''
One of the alternates chosen is wild man Mitch "Blood" Green, 45, who has fought only once in the last four years, decisioning "tough" Danny Wofford (17-93-2) in March.
"Can I talk?'' Green was quoted as saying at the press conference. "Can I say something? I'm the alternate.''
Word on the street is, Green took the offer after both Ronald McDonald and the Grimace turned it down.
The kind, honest man bought the young ruffian a meal, brought him into the gym and spent the next 10 years grooming him to become champion of the world.
Then, at the pinnacle of his promising career, the kid was stolen by another promoter, a corrupt, unscrupulous man who was responsible for the fighter losing two fights while the kind, honest promoter was busy defending himself on wire fraud charges.
Only in America could a guy like Don King sue a guy like Bob Arum, claiming he stole one of his fighters: Julio Cesar Chavez. That's like Jesse James complaining that someone picked his pocket.
According to King's attorney, Alvin Davis, his client's reputation was "tarnished" when Arum took over as Julio's promoter.
We pause here to allow the laughter to die down....Tarnished reputation? Hey, that's pretty funny, Alvin. Seriously, what was your real argument?
By signing Chavez, Arum apparently blemished King's spotless reputation. Of course, doing hard time in the Big House will take a little shine off your reputation. Killing a man - being convicted of manslaughter - will leave a dull luster on an otherwise clean reputation. Being sued by just about every fighter you ever promoted will usually raise a few questions about your character, put a few nicks in the reputation.
So how do you tarnish a reputation that is already legendary for its absurdity?
Only in America.
According to newspaper reports, King told the jurors in a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale how he found poor Julio living in a rail car, groomed him for more than a decade and paid him $50 million in purses as he won six world championships.
Then Arum and Top Rank took him away and King lost between $14 million and $16 million.
Of course, Chavez was in his mid-30s at the time of the alleged theft and was pretty well finished as a world contender. And in the course of his long fight career with King, it's safe to say Chavez made King a buck or two, paid him back well for pulling him off the streets But I guess that's not the point.
What is the point is this: King and Arum have known each other for more than 25 years and their relationship has been rocky at best. They are the Lockhorns of boxing, Stan taking a wild swing at Laurel. No one peddles the sport better than they do, but there is not much room at the top and neither promoter is willing to clear some space for the other.
At one point in Monday's hearing, Circuit Judge Leroy Moe pleaded with King to control his testimony, which - according to the Associated Press- "often wandered."
"I've cautioned, I've wheedled, I've cajoled, I've sniveled, I've whined, everything I could do short of an order,'' the judge told King. "If I issue an order, I'm going to have to enforce it.''
As for this latest accusation made by King claiming Arum stole his fighter, I keep picturing Hasim Rahman in a hotel room holding a suitcase full of cash shortly after he stopped Lennox Lewis. And Don King is standing in the doorway smiling, telling Hasim to keep his voice down.
If you passed Tapia on the street on a bad day, you’d figure him for either a hopped-up street thug or a hard-case looking for a fist fight.
Tapia fights Marco Antonio Barrera on Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s one of those fights everyone wants to see, even if there are no silly belts at stake. They want to see this match because in a fight game full of big disappointments, tough guys like Tapia and Barrera have seldom let us down. That’s all you can ask of a fighter, but it’s also the least you should expect.
If you’re going to pick a winner, start with age. At 34, Tapia (58-2-2, 28 KOs) is the old man in this matchup, a guy who looks like he spent most of his career running into closed doors and right hands. He’s got one of those tell-tale, flat noses that has been broken more times than a Don King promise.
Tapia has also spent some time as guest of the state, given free room and board for deeds unbecoming of a champion. He never sang in the church choir.
A resident of Albuquerque, N.M., Tapia is like the town he lives in, a little rough around the edges, but easy to like once you get to know it.
He’s been fighting inside the ring since 1988 and fighting outside it all his life. And he's had his share of wars. They take something out of a fighter and they’ve taken something from Tapia.
Still, he has this crazy idea he can lick any man in the room and he’s usually right. A four-time world champion, he recently lost the IBF featherweight title because he failed to take on the mandatory challenger. Instead, he’s fighting one of the best fighters in the world.
Barrera (55-3, 39 KOs) is 27, quiet and a southpaw out of Mexico City. Known as a boxer/puncher (which is what just about every fighter likes to consider himself) he’s at the age where he’s as good as he’s ever going to be, and that’s pretty damn good.
His biggest win was a decision over Erik Morales earlier this year, a rematch of their “fight of the year,” in February 2000, Morales winning a controversial split decision in what was a super-bantamweight title fight.
Barrera also has one of those left hooks to the body that could disable a Lexus.
If there’s a weakness, it might be his chin. It’s been cracked. While Tapia has never been stopped, Barrera had problems with Junior Jones, who knocked him down twice before their fight was stopped in the fifth round when Barrera’s corner climbed into the ring.
The winner? Anyone lucky enough to watch this fight on HBO.
In the interim, Rubio was permitted to fight in California on September 7, 2001, when he kayoed Luis Montes, and in Connecticut (at the Mohegan Sun Casino), when he registered the upset of the previously-unbeaten Bojado.
Rubio's suspension had not been lifted, in fact, until October 10 of this year - one day before he fought Alejandro Jiminez in San Antonio.
Clearly, neither the California commission nor the one in Connecticut had contacted Larry Hazzard's office in New Jersey, as required by federal law, in order to execute the steps necessary to take Rubio off the suspension list. And that was wrong. As Tim Lueckenhoff, the current president of the Association of Boxing Commissions told reporter Andre Courtemache, "The federal law requires that all commissions honor medical suspensions. In this case Rubio should not have been allowed to fight."
That's right, Tim. Non-communication among boxing commissions is a major problem. And I've got news for you - it has happened more often than you realize. Perhaps you want to place a call to Harrisburg and ask one of your colleagues about it. Better yet - let me save you the long distance charges.
Accompany me, if you will, on a trip back in time................
It was an otherwise lazy Sunday morning - April 30 of 2000, to be precise. I had just finished updating the links on "The Fight Page", when I spotted a rather strange e-mail message in my bin.
A commission administrator from Georgia - a man named Tom Mishou - was writing me to discuss a matter that he felt carried some degree of importance.
Mishou had noticed that on the Fox Sunday Night Fight series that evening, a boxer named Santiago Samaniego was being matched against Kenny Ellis, in a fight that was to take place in conjunction with the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Ill.
Mishou communicated to me that Samaniego was at that time suspended by his commission (Georgia) - the result of a TKO loss to Vernon Forrest the previous August in which Samaniego had incurred an eye injury, and that he (Mishou) had not received as much as a courtesy call from the Illinois commission in order to take the fighter off the suspension list, as was required by Federal law.
Not only that, but this was the third time this had happened with Illinois.
And I'll tell you the funny thing about that - I had seen Samaniego's name on at least one America Presents press release during the previous week, and while fishing around the ABC's suspension list, looking for someone else, I had run across Samaniego, with two references next to his name - one for the medical suspension in Georgia, the other for failure to renew a Federal ID card. I was considering putting together a short story on this apparent snafu.
So it was like "deja vu" that Mishou had made his attempt to contact me.
In subsequently chatting with Mishou, and taking a look the Professional Boxer Safety Act of 1996, I found him to be exactly correct. I also found him to be very straight-forward; someone who did things by the book and who knew exactly who to operate, both by law and by protocol.
Recognizing that the sport of boxing had just gone through a ring tragedy with the death of Stephan Johnson, and that there seem to be varying degrees of respect among commissions (generally in relation to how much boxing takes place there), I decided to write a piece that illustrated what seemed to be a spirit of non-cooperation and non-communication among commissions who were supposed to showing a spirit of unity.
The last few lines of my story read like this:
"Now, I have no doubt that Samaniego has renewed his Federal ID card. Renewal is a mere formality, and you simply can't fight without it. But the question is, how does he have the Federal ID card - in effect, a passport to fight, which is administered under the authority of the ABC - if he has the existing suspension on his record, and it has not been erased by an ABC-member commission? It indicates that perhaps someone is asleep at the wheel. And it's an issue I'm going to ask the ABC's Greg Sirb (at that time president of the organization) to answer to. Before the next Stephan Johnson meets an ugly fate."
Well, apparently Greg Sirb didn't feel too comfortable being answerable to ANYONE. And so either he subsequently contacted Larry Hamel of the Chicago Sun-Times, or Hamel contacted him - I don't know, or care, how that chain of events went.
The end result of their communication was a piece by Hamel which appeared in the Sun-Times a few days later, in which he essentially criticized me for the story, inferring that I basically lied in my assessment of the situation.
I can assure anyone who reads the piece with any comprehension whatsoever that this wasn't the case, and that there is very little room for misinterpretation. Unfortunately, Hamel misinterpreted it - completely.
His story contains a quote from Sirb, alleging my story simply wasn't true:
"Illinois correctly followed procedure," Sirb said. "The fighter was not on suspension," followed by Hamel's own ill-informed opinion:
"Sure, it's fashionable to turn over rocks looking for corruption in boxing, but it helps if the facts support the story."
Whether he was directed by Sirb to do so or not, the poor schmuck Hamel, incredibly, sought to blame GEORGIA:
"If there is fault to be assigned, and I question whether any should be, wouldn't it be more appropriate to blame the folks in Georgia for issuing such an ambiguously written condition as "DOC MUST OK LEFT EYE"?
Obviously this guy wasn't too familiar with the ABC's suspension list.
The most interesting thing about all this is that the morning after Samaniego's fight, I went to the suspension list. Sure enough, the name Santiago Samaniego had been taken completely off the list, as though it had never been there in the first place. I immediately called Mishou. He told me he had not officially taken Samaniego off suspension yet, because although he was expecting it, he had not yet received any materials or notification from Illinois that would have led him to do so (he did later that day).
That left me with just one conclusion as to who had done it................
So just a couple of days after Hamel's story, during which time I had numerous talks with Mishou, I fired off the following letter to Sirb:
In my limited conversations with you I have found you to be most amicable and forthcoming. At the same time, though, I feel you were being rather disingenuous in your quotes to Larry Hamel of the Chicago Sun-Times with regard to Santiago Samaniego. I get the impression from these comments that 1) you unilaterally decided Samaniego was off suspension, and 2) that my report was a lie.
Yet in checking with Tom Mishou of Georgia, who is probably the most straightforward person I have met in boxing, he tells me that his jurisdiction still had Samaniego under suspension as of the time of his Sunday fight, citing lack of any notification or consultation with him AS THE SUSPENDING JURISDICTION as per Section 7, 4-B-b-1 of the Professional Boxing (sic) Safety Act of 1996, which is the enabling legislation of the ABC, is it not?
Because Mishou levied the suspension, I would tend to consider his ruling as the ONLY valid one in this case, and if other commissions had not followed the proper procedure WITH HIM, no decisions made by commissions, doctors, your office, or anyone else really means a thing, in terms of the strictest adherence to the Federal law in effect. Unfortunately, Mr. Hamel did not do a very good job of reporting; he felt it not necessary, for some reason, to make an effort to contact Mr. Mishou regarding the suspension HE imposed and STILL had in effect, at least officially on the record.
That having been said, I have some direct questions for you:
-- Do you have the authority to overrule the medical suspensions of your member state commissions unilaterally, and without notification, whether written or verbal, to the suspending commission? In other words, is there some kind of amendment to the governing law that I am not aware of?
-- Do state commissions have the authority to unilaterally lift suspensions imposed by other commissions, without regard to procedures as set forth in the Professional Boxing Safety Act?
-- If medical suspensions on the part of one commission are not followed TO THE LETTER by other commissions, and if such commissions are not compelled to honor them in reciprocal fashion, what purpose is there for the ABC's existence?
-- Did Santiago Samaniego appeal to the ABC for direct action in lifting the suspension, as is provided for in Section 7, 4-B-b-2 of the Professional Boxing Safety Act, and if so.................
What were the "insufficient grounds" under which you overturned his suspension? What "improper purposes" were cited in the Georgia suspension? Why wasn't written notification given?
If so, do you have written notarized documentation of such an appeal? And would you be kind enough to furnish it to me?
My guess is that there was no appeal, since I can't imagine any grounds under which Samaniego could successfully file it. And the appeal, while provided for, is for extraneous circumstances at best.
-- You are quoted in the Hamel article as stating that Illinois "used proper procedures" in clearing Samaniego to fight. Let me quote verbatim from the Professional Boxing Safety Act --
Section 7, 4-B-b-1
"1) for any reason other than those listed in subsection (a) if such commission notifies in writing and consults with the designated official of the suspending State's boxing commission prior to the grant of approval for such individual to participate in that professional boxing match"
Subsection (a) refers to conditions under which a boxer can revoke a suspension. But in cases of suspensions from another state, they STILL must provide this critical notification to the suspending commission. And that certainly is the case in Georgia. I'm sure you have a copy of their regulations on file.
Given these parameters, did Illinois really follow "proper procedure" in allowing Samaniego to fight, not once, not twice, but THREE times? Did Nevada? I can assure you they never contacted the suspending commission, because the suspending commissioner TOLD ME they didn't. And unless Tom Mishou is flat-out lying to me, it's really a cut-and-dried issue, isn't it?
Honestly, I think all of us can agree that Samaniego was physically fit to fight. Samaniego, in this specific instance, was not the big issue. In fact, no one was looking to prevent him from fighting.
I'm more concerned with the bigger picture. When Stephan Johnson was suspended by the Ontario commission, with their own requests for contact from other commissions, were they not ignored? Did Stephan Johnson not pass all the "required" tests in South Carolina and New Jersey, thereby creating the facade that he was in proper physical condition and ready to fight? And did Stephan Johnson not die from ring injuries that could have been avoided had one commission decided to "follow proper procedure" and contact another?
Here's an excerpt from a Toronto Star story, published while Johnson was still fighting for his life:
............."Ontario athletics commissioner Ken Hayashi said yesterday he'd received billing from Johnson for only a CAT scan, so Johnson was still technically suspended when he won fights in South Carolina in August and another in Georgia in October before taking the fateful fight last month in New Jersey.
``South Carolina took the radiologist's report and took him off the suspended list. . . . They should have checked (with Ontario) first,'' Hayashi said. ``And I know I wouldn't have released the suspension based on that report (the CAT scan alone). . . . Basically, any state commission is not supposed to let any fighter fight while he's under medical suspension. That's an American federal law - out of courtesy they would observe our Canadian suspension.''
Added Hayashi: ``Nobody thought to call me. I'm disappointed. (But) with the amount of fights going on, it can happen. I would have advised them not to let him fight. I wouldn't have released my suspension (based) on that radiologist's report alone.''........................
Different injuries? Yes. Greater severity? Certainly. But the same potential cause-and-effect -- no communication, no reciprocation, no respect among boxing commissions that are supposed to be fighting for the same cause - fighter safety. Sure, there was no real danger with Samaniego. But perhaps next time a commission ignores "proper procedure" there will be a more tragic effect. Do we have to wait for that next time to happen?
How many more Stephan Johnsons do we need?
Why can't we, for once, be PRO-active, instead of RE-active? Why should we wait for a tragedy to strike before taking steps to prevent others? Let's take the pre-emptive steps now, and let's make it an item for discussion at your annual meeting in Denver in July.
There's no place in boxing for individual jurisdictions, not to mention an umbrella organization (ABC), who eschew the very rules they have established, for the sake of convenience. And there is no room for apologists after the fact. Sadly, Mr. Hamel did not understand this "greater issue" when he wrote his unfortunate Chicago Sun-Times piece. I'm hoping, for the sake of the sport, that YOU do.
Your prompt response to my direct questions would be greatly appreciated.
And oh by the way, one day after the Samaniego-Ellis fight, which was also one day after my piece on Samaniego ran (not coincidentally, I'm guessing), Tom Mishou informed me that his office FINALLY received the required medical reports to facilitate his rescindment of Samaniego's suspension.
Under different circumstances, it could have been a day too late.
And for the record, I couldn't care less whether Stephon Johnson's fatal injuries had anything to do with a previous ring injury. The NON-COMMUNICATION between these commissions is the material issue to me. The bottom line is that shirking responsibilities can create more situations that put a fighter in peril.
What I found ironic, and at the same time rather pathetic, was that I had to actually school the reigning president of the Association of Boxing Commissions on what the federal law was - even if I did not quite call it by its correct name.
Another thing that is extremely important to note is that when I ask questions like I asked in the letter, I'm not interested in anything but an e-mail response; that way, there can be no mistaking what is asked or answered. Verbatim questions and quotes offer the best protection to BOTH parties - I deal with Bob Yalen of ESPN the same way, since I refuse to yield to the network's requirement that interviews with him be "chaperoned" by one of its PR people.
It is not inconsequential to acknowledge that although I didn't have a particular feeling about him, one way or another, it had been recommended to me that this was the best way to nail Sirb down to a quote that couldn't possibly be denied later.
Well, I've never received an answer to my questions - to this day.
My point to this whole thing is two-fold -- 1) If you're the president of a national organization, even a trade association (the ABC) devoted in some way to the regulation of boxing, it is imperative that you know the federal law, and tragic if you don't; and 2) Not to sound too arrogant about it, but if you're going to contradict me on something like this - in public - it's best to be about one-thousand percent correct.
So I came away from the experience wondering - isn't it odd that there wasn't an awareness of the federal laws concerning boxing, that anyone would circumvent those laws to cover up for a mistake made by others, and that someone would misrepresent proper procedure in talking to a reporter?
And ever since, I'm asking myself if those are the kinds of things we're looking for in a "national boxing czar".
Maybe John McCain or Ken Nahigian can come up with an answer to that.
Also interesting - about 4-1/2 months after all this had happened, I was sitting in a Miami Beach coffee shop, having breakfast with Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada commission. At the outset of our conversation, he mentioned to me that he had just gone through a situation with a tribal commission in Washington where he had to be notified before releasing Roberto Duran to fight. Duran was on an active suspension in Nevada as a result of his August 1998 title bout against William Joppy, and Ratner pointed out that by federal law, he had to give consent for Duran to take part in any contest.
Ding, ding, ding!
Keeping in mind that Nevada was one of the states that had let Samaniego fight while he was suspended by Georgia, I asked Ratner if he now understood the point I was trying to make back on April 30.
He acknowledged he did.
And here's the post-script on Larry Hamel, to give you an idea of what "command" he has over his subject matter -
In a June 1 column, in which he was trying to explain that the Ali Act would actually HURT fighters, Hamel wrote, "The act, which passed both the Senate and the House and has been sent to President Clinton, would place a one-year limit on the length of contracts between promoters and fighters."
Well, anyone who has read what was posted at TotalAction knows that the Ali Act doesn't say that at all - what it says is that "coercive" contracts, i.e., contracts with options, usually as a result of title fights, can not last more than one year.
Just another case of a "boxing writer" who either doesn't know HOW to read, or WHAT to read.
Mercifully, Hamel has been taken off the boxing beat by the Sun-Times.
By the way, Larry, I'm told I turn up some pretty good rocks.
Finally, in perhaps the most ironic twist of all, it was the first week of August and I was looking at a fight schedule, when I noticed that Santiago Samaniego was slated to fight on August 10 in Marseille, France, against welterweight contender Mamadou Thiam. When I poked around a little further I found that Samaniego was, as of that date, under an indefinite suspension in the state of Texas, and an "ID card" suspension in California.
This is what the entry looked like:
Samaniego, Santiago (FL006244) TX 01/21/01 indefinite
Samaniego, Santiago (FL006244) CA 12/07/01 must renew Fed ID card
Well, despite these sanctions, Samaniego wound up having his fight, and in fact, came from behind to knock Thiam out, claiming the WBA "interim" junior middleweight crown.
Naturally, I sat there wondering - did someone illegally erase THAT suspension too, just to spite me?
That's the way Senator John McCain described the situation in the boxing industry in a letter he - or most likely, his "assistant", Ken Nahigian, wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to an October 14 story in the
. The title of the story was "WBA Ratings Practices Anger McCain".
Well, let's see how angry it made him.........
On Wednesday, October 16, the day the WBA conducted the public hearing/press conference on its ratings, McCain was in New York, not once, but twice - first, to appear on Don Imus' morning radio program, then, in the afternoon, returning from Washington to do rehearsals for "Saturday Night Live" (which he hosted this past weekend), and to appear on another TV show.
No doubt some of this travel was done on the public dime.
But McCain was hardly doing much on behalf of taxpayers that day.
For starters, McCain missed a Senate vote on a $355 billion defense spending bill - a bill he had previously been critical of, and which, according to the
, "contained one of the largest defense spending hikes in decades." He just didn't show up.
"They (members of Congress) are supposed to be doing the people's business," said Bill Allison, a spokesman for the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. "It should not be too much to ask a member of Congress who criticizes a bill to show up to vote against it. For him to make remarks and make an issue of something, and then not bother to show up to vote on it, how are his (Senate) colleagues to take him seriously?"
It would have been one thing (at least to us) if McCain had ditched that activity in order to attend the WBA's hearing, at which the very "ratings practices" that supposedly had the Senator so outraged were being discussed. He could have conceivably made the kind of impact you just can't achieve by sending Ken Nahigian around the do your grunt work.
But while in New York, and missing the defense spending vote, neither McCain, nor anyone in his office, bothered to attend the WBA event, which was just a held few blocks away from the NBC Studios, indicating that for "public servants", anger, as a rule, must be subject to any and all commercial considerations.
Perhaps if we could have coordinated McCain's appearance with his current book tour..........
A couple of other guys who are all of a sudden screaming "Ali Act" were also no-shows. Greg Sirb, the "Past President" of the Association of Boxing Commissions, who is a candidate for "national boxing czar", was quoted in a Fightnews article as saying, "This one (the WBA maneuver) is so blatant that when we call them to the table, it's going to be difficult to justify. But at least respond. Otherwise it's blatant disregard for Federal law."
Needless to say, Sirb wasn't "calling anyone to the table" last Wednesday.
Another guy who was missing was Tim Lueckenhoff, current president of the ABC, who was so "concerned" that he wrote his own letter to Ashcroft. Sample quote: " I would request that your office investigates this matter thoroughly and prosecute this matter to the full extent of the law. Violations of this law should not be allowed to continue."
What Lueckenhoff DIDN'T put in that letter was something like "We have also been presented with similar evidence about the North American Boxing Federation in the past, but our colleague Dickie Cole asked us to back off a little. After all, his son wants to be NABF president."
It's a shame; both Sirb and Lueckenhoff could have actually learned a lot about how this business operates - kind of like a "Boxing 101". I wonder if either one of them have interacted in this way with some of the major players who were present. I guess they were a little wary of feeling some resistance, since when you listen to promoters like Don King, Dino Duva, Gary Shaw and Butch Lewis, they're not shy about telling you who they think the REAL promoters are - the networks, who are hardly addressed at all in McCain's legislation.
Should their absence surprise me? Absolutely not. The people they represent, as a whole, couldn't give a damn about improving the sport - getting a job or having a job has always been more important than DOING a job.
Want to know something interesting? On October 2, Lueckenhoff sent off a memo to each of the 54 commissions in the United States (tribal commissions included), along with a copy of the new legislation (McCain's bill) that is presumably supposed to come up for a vote, and was essentially looking to conduct a "straw poll" as to whether the commissions would lend their support behind the bill. Of course, that also was to offer an insight as to whether congressional representatives from the various states would vote for it.
Well, it's not so bad that most of the commissions who responded to Lueckenhoff's survey were against this bill - after all, it is legislation that is largely impotent, and there are plenty of things to object to. It's that, faced with a situation that could have represented a major power play for the ABC and its members, only 26 of the 54 commissions EVEN BOTHERED TO RESPOND, despite having over a week to do so. And even though there were a few minor changes, the bill has not exactly been a secret for the last five months.
Shouldn't that tell you something? NOW will you believe me when I tell you how indifferent these people are?
What you're looking at there is a 48% response rate, meaning more than half the ABC members really didn't care. And when you project the "yes" votes in the straw poll against the full membership, only nine out of 54 commissions, or roughly SEVENTEEN percent, actually support McCain's legislation.
So much for the "moral authority" of the ABC to expound on ANY issue. One would have to wonder, based on the evidence that is available, whether, when you hear a Tim Lueckenhoff or a Greg Sirb making a statement on behalf of the ABC, if they are really speaking for themselves and their own agenda, rather than their membership.
We've mentioned in the previous chapter that Max Kellerman and Teddy Atlas, two vocal critics of sanctioning bodies in general and the WBA specifically, were perfectly welcome to show up at the WBA hearing, but didn't. Kellerman lives in Greenwich Village, Atlas in Staten Island. They could have easily been there, even if it were to chant, "National Commission! National Commission!" But that was not to be.
And once again, as in the case of Kellerman in particular, Sirb and Lueckenhoff had a golden opportunity handed to them. Stand up and take your shots. Introduce the Professional Boxer Safety Act and the Muhammad Ali Act. Detail the violations. Demand answers. Point out what you want to do as a result. Condemn the organization to death. Even grab a little press in the process. Whatever. I'm not even saying they wouldn't have been able to make some very good points, if they wanted to.
Of course, after they did that I would have grabbed the microphone, defined the term "selective prosecution", and asked McCain, Nahigian, Lueckenhoff, Sirb, or whoever else was there on their behalf exactly what they were prepared to do about the NABF or other sanctioning bodies whose transgressions, as per the aforementioned laws, have been made known to them, and which they have ignored, and you know what? They would have been tongue-tied. Absolutely frigging tongue-tied.
And they would have been simply flabbergasted, and I suspect, somewhat disappointed, if they had been there and paying attention to one of the other announcements the WBA made, which I'll be happy to detail in the coming days.
In closing, isn't it funny - if you took any references to Congress or the Senate out of Bill Allison's quote, couldn't it just as easily apply to any of the "boxing reformers" I've just mentioned?
Within the context of boxing, I guess that's what you would call a perfect marriage.
As Michael Katz so aptly put it in one of his columns, "No one person can be the one who decides who is champion, especially one with a commercial interest. Nigel Collins is not the man, either. He knows enough about the game so that if Bob Arum is his rag's biggest advertiser, then Bob Arum's guys become fighter of the year."
When Ring was perpetrating one of the more disgusting and distasteful scandals in the history of the sport, Max Kellerman, the magazine's new "de facto" public relations director, was four years old. And if he had done the slightest bit of homework, he'd have realized that even at that age, he could have gotten into the ratings - if he had passed enough cash into the hands of Johnny Ort, who was editor of the publication at the time.
But we'll explore the magazine's horrible history of fraud in more depth another time.
For now, let me revisit a situation that indeed has some new relevance, within the context of the ESPN/Ring-inspired "Hate the Sanctioning Bodies" effort.
On June 28, Germaine Sanders and Teddy Reid tangled for the vacant North American Boxing Federation welterweight title in Chicago, on an ESPN-televised card.
Somehow, the people who are so "anti-corruption", and so "anti-sanctioning body" at ESPN managed to get through the entire telecast without making reference to the fact that the very fight they were featuring was a product of double-dealing and ratings fraud so reprehensible that it made anything the WBA did look tame by comparison.
As we have already covered in
of "Operation Cleanup", the fighter who should have been in that bout, defending his title, was Golden Johnson, who had won the NABF title IN THE RING (listening, Max?) and defended just three months earlier, yet lost it not by fighting, but by terminating his relationship with a promoter who ESPN, incidentally, was in business with.
He was stripped of his title after declining to sign a new promotional contract with Arthur Pellulo of Banner Promotions, even though he was ready, willing, and able to go through with the championship defense against Sanders.
The NABF would have been concerned only with the fact that Johnson was available - IF it were an honest organization. Instead, these guys decided to perform a little magic, and presto! - all of a sudden Johnson had his title, and a means of financial opportunity, taken away from him. And all of sudden, in one of those great feats of legerdemain, Teddy Reid, coming off a loss in the JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHT division, had not only gotten back into the ratings, vaulting ahead of other fighters for no reason at all, he had done so while moving up to a division he had not competed in before.
You guys want to talk about "Ali Act violations"? I wouldn't for a minute defend the movement of heavyweights in the WBA ratings that has caused all the controversy. But what the NABF did was far more egregious, because it involved STEALING A TITLE, under the most suspicious circumstances imaginable, THEN following it up with more unexplained ratings manipulation.
Where were all the "do-gooders" then? Where were all the people who now suddenly want to talk about the Ali Act? Where were all the people Kellerman have credited with "putting the heat on the sanctioning bodies"?
For that matter, where was Max himself?
On that June 28 show, I seem to have missed his "acerbic commentary and cutting-edge analysis, designed to reach the younger demographic" when it came to an issue that begged to be explored with a little "attitude". Perhaps I took a trip to the men's room at the wrong time.
This act of thievery by the NABF was documented publicly, right here in these pages, IN ADVANCE of the fight.
ESPN's people were aware of it. I know, because I talked to some of them about it, IN ADVANCE.
In the positions Bob Yalen and Russell Peltz occupy at ESPN, they would have been required to know about every development, every step of the way, especially when it regarded changing a featured bout.
Yet, not only was the network all too happy to go along for the ride, IT BANKROLLED this absurdity, knowing full well that it was a product of fraud, deception, and lawlessness.
Because in Bristol, Connecticut, life exists on the basis of 99% commerce and 1% conscience.
Message to Max - the same people who wrote the paycheck for THAT fraud also write YOUR paycheck.
Lesson for Max - if you aspire to be the new Howard Cosell, you need to bring some substance and integrity with you to the rave party.
I'm not saying that Kellerman or Teddy Atlas should rat on their employers. What I AM suggesting, though, is that it's NOT okay to editorialize about the misdeeds of others when your own house is the one that's dirtiest. Because when you do that it takes on the character of having no intellectual honesty whatsoever. Truth be known, they're better off not saying anything at all, and just staying in the "entertainment" business.
All of the ESPN boxing "personalities", without exception - that includes Kellerman, Kenny, Papa, and Atlas - badmouth the sanctioning bodies. Well, at least the major ones - it's pretty safe, since they don't do many WBC, WBA, or IBF fights; after all, their $50,000 rights fee doesn't buy much.
However, it bears mentioning that the "anti-sanctioning body" people, with seemingly very little hesitation at all, regularly pump main events as USBA, NABF, or - don't get me started - IBA title bouts on their website, when listing the "Friday Night Fights" schedule.
And any promoter who was unable to sell a fight to ESPN because it wasn't for a "title", please raise your hand.
Here's the litmus test for sincerity:
Do you think, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, if Teddy Atlas' fighter, Michael Grant, were to secure a bout with John Ruiz or Wladimir Klitschko, that Teddy would look in Grant's eyes during his pre-fight pep talk and tell him he wasn't really fighting for a title? Do you think he'd express to Grant that if he won, his own trainer and confidant wouldn't - indeed, COULDN'T - even consider him a champion?
And do you think he'd advocate that Grant - and by way of percentage, himself - take less money for such a fight because it wasn't being contested for the Ring Magazine "championship belt"?
Answer those questions - if you can stop laughing.
So then, what's the point of this ESPN "soapbox"?
Is it for the sole purpose of pushing a magazine?
Is it because some arrangement has been made with McCain's people to push the Senator's agenda on the air in exchange for the regulation of networks being ignored in the legislation (that's called "foreshadowing", folks)?
Is this an attempt to seize control of the ratings process, like they do everything else, and put it in the hands of one individual who might give them favorable press, or free advertising?
Is it an experiment to see just how much these guys can influence young minds?
Whatever the answers, last Wednesday at the New York Hilton there was a golden opportunity for Kellerman to stand up, be heard, confront the "enemy", interact with some movers and shakers in a free exchange of ideas, perhaps do something do advance the cause of boxing reform, and yes, in keeping with the ESPN theme, provide a little publicity "bump" as he strides into a new talk show the network has handed him.
Here was the big chance to "spit on the WBA" in person, as Kellerman had previously done on television (Wow, what a visual for that "Around the Horn" intro!).
A lot of people who cared about boxing showed up at that event. I, for one, traveled over a thousand miles for it.
Max had about four miles to travel, but I guess he decided there were more important things to do.
I have my own guesses as to why.
First, it's a lot easier to TALK about something than to actually DO anything pro-active about it.
Second, it's much safer pontificating from the controlled environment of a studio in Bristol than it is to match wits with real, live boxing people, face-to-face.
Am I getting warm?
Frankly, I don't care what excuses Kellerman had. He felt the subject was important enough to use several minutes of network time on several different occasions, so he should have felt it important enough to show his face.
On top of everything else, Max was offered - not once, but twice - the opportunity to sit down and interview Gilberto Jesus Mendoza of the WBA, one-on-one, no-holds-barred, without any public relations spinners in the room - just him and Mendoza. The interview could be held on whatever day and at whatever time he wished. Mendoza would have even extended his stay to accommodate him.
Well, to use boxing parlance, Max decided to "get on his bicycle" at the thought of that.
The delicious irony about all this is that even though they didn't have an explanation to its ratings mess that satisfied too many people, the World Boxing Association at least had the public forum in which anyone with a complaint, question, or statement could stand up and be counted. And the executives in attendance sat there, without running, without hiding, but facing up to every tomato that was thrown at them.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the questionable practices at his own network, Bob Yalen, the head of boxing over at ESPN, won't even FIELD questions from anyone without a network public relations man named Dan Quinn present. And even then the best one can hope for is an answer which is somewhat less than direct.
But then, we've come to expect nothing less from the most dangerous, disingenuous alphabet organization of them all.
You know, decide who the real bad-ass is at 160 pounds. Allen isn’t really asking Hopkins for a fight as much as he’s demanding one, throwing in a few insults as incentive, hoping Hopkins will hear the trash talk and decide he’s heard enough.
My favorite jab at Hopkins is this one by Allen which says, “Well, Bernie Boy. I have mowed down everyone in my path to get to you. Money will not stand in the way of our title fight.’’ No wonder he wrote it down in an open letter to Hopkins.
He’d have a hard time saying that with a straight face. I can almost hear Hopkins’ reply. “OK, Allen. I’ve listened to your foolish drivel long enough. Forget about the money. We’re on. You name the time and the place. I’ll be there.’’ My guess is, Hopkins never read the letter or even saw it. But that’s not the point. Since he dismantled Felix Trinidad more than a year ago, Hopkins hasn’t exactly filled his dance card with scary, top contenders. He fought Carl Daniels in a token fight on Feb. 2 of this year, but that’s it. And it’s not like he can’t find anyone to fight. Ask any of 54 or 55 world champions within two weight divisions of Hopkins, and they’ll tell you they’d like to dance a few rounds with The Executioner. Call it a $10 million fox-trot. Allen would love to boogie with Hopkins. “It’s about time you stopped talking and started fighting again,’’ Allen writes. “I know I’m tired of hearing you. I can only assume the media and the few fans you have left can’t wait for someone to shut you up in and out of the ring.’’ I’m not sure of his wording, but I think I understand the message. “You remember the night when you used (referee) Mills Lane to quit in our fight in Las Vegas? Well I do.’’ Allen writes Just to recap, Allen and Hopkins fought to a no contest in August, 1998 after Hopkins was injured when he was shoved out of the ring by Lane, who was trying to break up a clinch. Six months later, Hopkins stopped Allen in seven rounds. “Unfortunately, I let my second opportunity slip by,’’ writes Allen, stating the obvious. “I made mistakes. It will never happen again.’’ Hopkins will probably see to that. According to Allen, the IBF had given Hopkins until Oct. 1 to make the mandatory fight. It's now the middle of October. He didn't do it. “Now, I understand that you may have to fight that well-known WBC contender next,’’ Allen writes. Ah, I love sarcasm. Bernie is scheduled to fight WBC mandatory challenger Morrade Hakkar of France in January and we all know who “Hatchetman” Hakkar is, the sensational French middleweight from Besancon. Remember his unforgettable six-round decision win over tough Eliseo Nogueira last summer in Massy, France? Or how can you forget his epic ninth-round stoppage of Alban Girouard in Bonneval, France just two years ago? No wonder Allen is upset with Hopkins. He’s defending his title against a tongue-twister. “I promise the fans and the media I will not stop until I’ve shut you up for good,’’ he says to Hopkins in closing. “Think of all the goodwill I just created with that guarantee.’’ He signs it, “Sincerely, Robert Allen.’’ What a nice guy.
The root of all this trouble could very well be traced back to the fateful September 12 hearing where the WBA rendered a decision that could - over the course of time -greatly reduce its strength in the United States, then took the action that has, in the minds of many, put it into immediate peril.
At this hearing, in which Kirk Johnson protested his DQ in the July 27 heavyweight title fight against Ruiz, the WBA Appeals Committee ruled against Johnson's motion, citing the appeal as "extemporaneous", which I guess, within this context, meant that it was more or less contrived after the fact and based on nothing more than the Johnson camp's dissatisfaction with the final outcome.
Certainly, the fact that Johnson didn't file a protest, in writing, before the fight took place gave the committee the impression that they were "playing the result". As Tony Cardinale, the attorney/co-manager for Ruiz pointed out, the fact that there was no written protest in advance would seem to constitute "waiver", in which Johnson's people surrendered their right to protest subsequent to the fight. Well, the WBA appeals procedures provide for protests to be filed with the Appeals Committee up to eight business days beyond any fight that would be in question, so we could argue about that a little. Whatever.
My arguments, and motivation, were different than either party at the hearing in that it was more academic in nature. My concerns were with the consistency of the enforcement of rules and how that was going to affect organizations like the WBA within the atmosphere that is brewing in boxing here in the United States; one that may or may not change dramatically over the next year or so.
That's why I addressed the committee at this hearing, which, as it turns out, became part of Johnson's case, since according to the WBA, it had to be entered on behalf of one side or the other.
I had no qualms at all about offering testimony at the hearing, since I think what is being done in the process of compiling this series of stories is activist in nature anyway. And I didn't have any problems speaking for the Johnson side, because I considered it to be a logical extension of the conclusion I had already come to - independently - in previous chapters of "Operation Cleanup".
This is basically what I told them -
Greg Sirb, the director of the Pennsylvania commission and "Past President" of the Association of Boxing Commissions, sent a memorandum to the ABC membership on August 8; he forwarded it my way on August 21, so I figured I had a right to read it and quote it. What it said, as concerned the subject of Kirk Johnson and his protest, was:
"FIRST: the current situation (the appeal of Kirk Johnson) concerning his loss to John Ruiz in Nevada on July 2002. If the WBA does indeed rule in favor of Mr. Johnson that the officials were not 'neutral' (although I have yet to have the term neutral specifically defined) as is according to their rules - then this would put the WBA in direct odds with the federal law - which states all referees and judges must be certified and approved by the local boxing commission.
The Nevada commission, as would any commission, was well within their right to select officials for this and any other match. The problem is that we as commissions are going to continue to have this sort of problem if the WBA and any other organization has in their by-laws/regulations that they indeed must approve officials or that officials must be 'neutral'. The bottom line is that each commission has the backing of federal law to have the final say on the selection of officials. I think each organization should start to take the time to read the federal law and seriously revisit any wording that suggests that they (the organizations) control the authority over the selection of officials because if they don't, then there are going to be many more appeals like the Johnson case. Particularly, if the WBA rules in favor of Johnson.
It is very possible that each time boxer losses (sic) his management team can file an appeal based on the fact that the organization did not follow their (selection of officials) procedures, which as I pointed out is in direct conflict with the federal law!"
In effect, what Sirb was saying was that if the WBA ruled in favor of Johnson, he would have considered that a setback for the ABC; if they ruled against him it would be a victory.
Let me dissect this statement a little further. First of all, the term "neutral", as applies to the World Boxing Association, is defined very clearly in Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's "World Championship Regulations and Rules":
"The officials appointed by the President to act in any Championship fight shall be NEUTRAL, this being understood to mean that they shall not be of the same nationality, residence or origin of the champion or of the challenger."
The idea that the WBA, by having neutral officials for a fight, would be operating in direct conflict with federal law is inaccurate, at the very least. But it is not difficult to figure WHY Sirb feels this way, when you come to the realization that he did not accurately interpret the federal law that is CURRENTLY IN PLACE.
Here is Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, as is contained under the title "JUDGES AND REFEREES":
"No person may arrange, promote, organize, produce, or fight in a professional boxing match unless all referees and judges participating in the match have been certified and approved by the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in the State where the match is held."
What that means is just what it says - CERTIFIED and APPROVED by the boxing commission. That doesn't say SELECTED or APPOINTED. The way this law is written, it seems to automatically contemplate that there is one entity who would be offering the officials for approval, and another entity (the commission) that would actually APPROVE them.
Otherwise, the law would have specifically stated that the boxing commission is solely responsible for SELECTING the officials. Certainly, if the state commissions were to be selecting the officials unilaterally, the term "certified and approved" would not even be included in the language, since it would no doubt be redundant. After all, one must pre-suppose that if an entity were SELECTING the officials, it would be implicit that the entity would have already APPROVED them, wouldn't it?
It is very clear to me that the spirit of the law was not intended so that one party alone would have the authority to appoint officials, at least for championship fights, without input from the other entity. I know this because when I was reading the brand-new legislation that is going to be up for consideration in Congress - the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002 - it took into consideration the involvement and some degree of participation on the part of the sanctioning organizations. Look at Section 115 (c), at least the way it read as of September 12, the day of the hearing:
"(C) SANCTIONING ORGANIZATION TO PROVIDE LIST - A sanctioning organization --
(1) shall provide a list of judges and referees deemed qualified by that organization to a boxing commission; but
(2) may not influence, or attempt to influence, a boxing commission's selection of a judge or referee for a professional boxing match except by providing such a list."
This, at the very least, invites input from the sanctioning bodies, while vesting the final authority in the hands of a local commission. This is not as democratic, or as forward-looking, as the plan that was set forth in
of this series, but it's not necessarily dictatorial.
Like many things, it's open to a fairly wide range of interpretations. For example, one could argue that it means the sanctioning body would provide the list, then the commission would choose FROM that list, without any further suggestion from the sanctioning body, which is okay. Or it could mean that the commission can look at the list, completely ignore the names on it, and name their own officials without anyone having the right to lodge an objection.
Of course it needs to made more explicit. And once again, I stress that for the best solution, go back to
In any event, the wording of that law means nothing because it hasn't passed.
Certainly, though, there is no secret as to the way the leadership of the Association of Boxing Commissions interprets this.
In a memo it gave out to the members at the annual convention in July, entitled "Summary of the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002", this bullet point is made -
* Requires that judges and referees be assigned for each match by the appropriate boxing commission without interference from sanctioning organizations."
Clearly they want the sanctioning bodies to have as little input as possible. And just as clearly, if they had their way they'd put them out of business.
Naturally, if they want to do that, it would help to come up with an alternative. But actually, the legislation that is in place prohibits the ABC from becoming involved with ranking fighters or sanctioning championships.
This is typical of the mentality that pervades the ABC; they're quick to point out a problem, but there's no solution to it that will actually work. Or they want to change something but don't really have a reason for it. They see the forest, but miss the trees. Or else it's the other way around.
Just think about the statement made by Sirb in his memorandum - "The problem is that we as commissions are going to continue to have this sort of problem if the WBA and any other organization has in their by-laws/regulations that they indeed must approve officials or that officials must be 'neutral'."
I wouldn't think I'd hear someone actually OPPOSED to neutrality, but I guess that's what I'm hearing. And I'm going to assume this reflects the general attitude among the people who in leadership roles at the ABC. I really don't understand what the argument AGAINST neutrality is. I will take issue - strongly - with the sanctioning bodies on many things, but to me, this is one of the rules that makes sense - not necessarily because you're going to, by definition, get better officials or officials that are fairer. But you're removing the possibility that there might be nationalistic considerations involved. And quite simply, by taking enough care that the judges or referee for a fight are NOT from the same country as one contestant or the other, you are removing another thing that one side or the other can bellyache about after the fight is over.
It's probably fair to say that while I do not necessarily stand up alongside the sanctioning bodies, I still stand up for the rule - the principle.
And I thought I could expect that regardless of any rules, or interpretation of them, that may have existed on the part of state commissions, the WBA would have made a statement for THEIR own basic principles - the ones they seem to have taken the trouble to put down in writing.
I figured they'd have though that since they had spent the effort to make neutrality a part of their rules, they would have decided it was important enough to stand up for.
And if they were going to stand up for it, they had to stand up for Kirk Johnson, didn't they?
Well, they didn't.
They provided the ABC people - the people would like to usher them out the door - with the victory they craved.
What they did was fuel suspicion that somewhere, there may have been an inclination to prejudice Johnson before and during the fight with Ruiz. Could you blame Johnson's people for having that kind of paranoia, given the subsequent events?
And as I sit here, I just can't help but think that if those guys would have listened to what I was saying - if they had given Johnson any relief; any road map whatsoever by which to earn himself another opportunity for a title shot, they might not be embroiled in the situation they find themselves in now. That's because some factions in the organization would not have felt compelled to punish him, or to acquiesce to outside parties who for some reason thought it necessary to do that.