For the time being, let me be the instructor, since there appears to be a misunderstanding of the fundamental principles at work.
The case brings up the very legitimate question as to whether a promoter has anything in the way of a "fiduciary duty" to a fighter.
I notice the issue was addressed in Monday's Boston Herald story, where it mentions that Ruiz' people charged King with " 'wanton, willful, and malicious breaches' of his fiduciary duties by deliberately hampering the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion's negotiations for a lucrative November defense against former champion Mike Tyson." The story was written by a responsible reporter, George Kimball, so I can only assume there was nothing lost in the translation between the Ruiz camp and Kimball regarding the precise language. And through that language, there seems to be an assumption that there indeed IS a fiduciary duty on the part of King toward Ruiz.
But really, King has one overriding obligation to Ruiz - to deliver a specified number of fights at a fee that is (a) subject to negotiation, and (b) not below a pre-determined minimum price..
It is not necessarily to "advise" Ruiz, or to act in the fighter's best interests, at least to where it is to the exclusion of his own, or even to the exclusion of other heavyweights he may do business with.
Ruiz' lawyer and co-manager, Tony Cardinale, has a fiduciary duty to the fighter.
Norman Stone, the other co-manager, has a fiduciary duty to the fighter.
Don King does NOT have a fiduciary duty to the fighter. He simply has a CONTRACTUAL relationship with him.
King is not Ruiz' manager - in fact, in many ways, his function is actually AT ODDS with that of the managers of Ruiz.
You see, the obligation of Stone and Cardinale is to secure, for their fighter, the best price possible with the promoter, who happens to be King. That creates, by definition, an adversarial relationship - not in the sense that they are enemies, but hopefully - ideally - in the healthiest sense possible, in that they are both negotiating in good faith with each other, with each having objectives that are not necessarily mutually inclusive of each other.
For example, if King wants Ruiz to fight "Fighter X", and offers $1 million to Ruiz, and Stone and Cardinale come back and they want $2 million, they will negotiate back and forth over the figure, until a deal is made in which both parties are satisfied. The less Ruiz takes, the more money King will make, at least theoretically. Likewise, the more money Ruiz is able to negotiate for himself, the LESS money King will make.
I haven't seen Ruiz' contract, so I honestly don't know if there are notations in there that spell out an obligation on King's part "to act in Ruiz' best interests", as is the claim. I'd be a little surprised if it goes very far beyond a reference to "good faith negotiations". But I'm reasonably certain that there's something in the deal granting King "exclusive worldwide rights" to promote Ruiz' fights.
What that means is that unless there is a situation that is mandated by a sanctioning body, King has a considerable voice regarding who John Ruiz fights, by virtue of the obligations he has contracted to fulfill in the promotional agreement, and those rights Ruiz has in turn granted to King.
Mike Tyson is the #12-rated contender by the WBA, which means he is not 'mandatory' by any stretch. Mike Tyson has been knocked out in his last fight, as we know. It can be perceived that Mike Tyson is "damaged goods", by virtue of that knockout loss. That he might come with too high a price tag relative to his pay-per-view value is entirely possible. And to top it off, Mike Tyson is suing Don King, for up to $100 million.
Whether Tyson actually has a valid case or not is immaterial to this discussion.
The fact is, Don King does not really have to promote a John Ruiz-Mike Tyson fight if he doesn't want to. Don King does not have to release Ruiz to take this fight, even though it may very well be in the best interests of Ruiz from an immediate financial perspective. He does not have to do it because he is not the "advocate" for Ruiz; the promoter-fighter dynamic has to include a convergence - or better yet, an accommodation - of interests, meaning that there have to be objectives served for both parties involved, not just one.
Why should Don King agree to give Tyson something that he is not necessarily entitled to, if Tyson is not willing to make concessions on his end that are going to serve any of King's interests?
If John Ruiz fought Mike Tyson and lost, King could be left with (a) a promotional property (Ruiz) whose career would be worth a lot less on the open market than it was before; and (b) a $100 million lawsuit that he would still have to defend himself against.
All arising out of a "voluntary" defense of a title.
Under the circumstances, is it not perfectly reasonable to expect that King - or ANY promoter, for that matter - would take steps to protect himself in this situation?
Is it not perfectly reasonable that King would ask, or even REQUIRE, that Tyson drop his lawsuit in exchange for receiving a title shot that could quite possibly give him much more future earning power - a shot King does not necessarily have to grant - as part of a settlement of the conflict with Tyson? I mean, look around - lawsuits are settled EVERY DAY on the basis of considerations that each side will give the other. The consideration King would give Tyson includes the opportunity to fight for a world title and justify future multi-million-dollar paydays, which, if Tyson were to get lucky, might actually approach or exceed the amount he is looking for out of the King lawsuit.
Furthermore, is it not perfectly reasonable that King would ask Tyson to sign a promotional agreement, or options on prospective title defenses - so long as the term of such an agreement would not exceed one year? Only in the event that it ventures outside that scope would it indeed be a violation of the Ali Act's provision against "coercive contracts". If King is asking that Tyson, for example, sign a five-fight deal that would last for more than a year, then such a deal would likely be in violation of the Ali Act. But if King were willing to show some flexibility in this regard, such a demand could easily be adjusted so as to make it compliant with Federal law.
Is King preventing Ruiz from advancing his career, or maximizing his earnings? Maybe, maybe not. It's really a matter of conjecture, since several factors have to come into play. Regardless, maximizing Ruiz' earnings is not necessarily King's obligation. That is the job of Ruiz' managers. The extent of King's real obligation is to fulfill the terms laid out in the promotional contract.
Should King have Ruiz' best interests at heart? Sure, inasmuch as the better Ruiz does, the more valuable a commodity he would be for King. But as long as he has not blatantly operated CONTRARY to Ruiz' best interests throughout the period of his agreement, which I don't think he has, he might just be on solid ground
No, I'm not sure Ruiz has a strong case, if whoever is reviewing it is not pre-disposed to discriminate against King because of his reputation.
"If the contract contains a specific clause that would cause them (DKP) to have to make a fight with Tyson, then so be it," says Lou DiBella, president of DiBella Entertainment. "If it doesn't, don't vilify Don King for simply operating within the rules. Believe me, I didn't think I'd be defending Don King. But in this case, I have to."
If Ruiz did indeed win, though, it would have a tremendous effect on the validity of the "standard" promotional contract, and the way this business is conducted between promoters and fighters. Of course, that doesn't necessarily have to be a BAD thing. But it would more or less re-define the role of a promoter, and I would imagine some of the laws governing boxing would have to be rewritten.
Please note - while I take an opposing view to that of Ruiz here, I'm not arguing TOO HARD against him, because of course, as with most things, there's another side to this coin. That'll come next.
And it's quite possible that the appeal will be denied, on the basis of some language that would seem to be unusually ambiguous.
Johnson's issue, as you know, revolves around the lack of "neutrality" among officials for Johnson's WBA heavyweight title fight against John Ruiz on July 27.
Section 20 of the WBA's Championship Regulations may deal specifically with that issue; then again, it may not.
According to Rule 20.1, it would appear as if the Nevada state regulations, which allow the commission to name the officials without input from any other party, would take precedence:
"No provision contained in these regulations shall prevail over the legislation that rules in the territory of a member commission in case it is incompatible or contrary to its application. Without prejudice that a previous agreement with the commission where the fight will take place states otherwise."
However, in the next paragraph - Rule 20.2 - there is language that would appear to be somewhat contradictory:
"In order to make compliance of the foregoing article effective, all applications for sanction of a World Championship fight shall be accompanied by a signed declaration by the promoter and the respective boxers, undertaking that the Regulations and Rules of World Championships of the Association will govern the fight."
Since there was no "signed declaration by the promoter and the respective boxers", there would be no effective compliance with local rules (according to 20.2), and therefore, confusion as to exactly what IS the proper protocol.
I'm no lawyer, but I have run this rule by several attorneys, and they really can't give me a definitive answer as to what it means.
I think I know what it's SUPPOSED to mean - that should there be a signed declaration stating WBA rules are in effect when there is NOT a conflict between the WBA and the local jurisdiction. But this is still not made crystal clear.
To compound matters, according to Gilberto J. Mendoza, Executive Director of the WBA, the custom is for his organization to have an agreement with the local jurisdictions on officials, wherein the commission would name the referee and one judge, and the sanctioning body will name the other two judges.
Nevada functions differently than other commissions regarding this practice; sometimes they bend a little, sometimes they don't. But it has been up to its discretion.
"We faxed the proposed officials for Ruiz-Johnson bout to Nevada Athletic Commission on three different dates - June 21, 2002 (twice), on July 3rd and July 4th, listing our judges available," says Mendoza. "On July 9, we received a fax from Nevada Athletic Commission acknowledging the receipt of our previous communications indicating that they were considering the selection of Stanley Christodoulou for the heavyweight bout."
Of course, Christodoulou was not available for the Ruiz-Johnson fight, since he was already officiating at a WBA minimumweight title fight between Noel Arambulet and Keitaro Hoshino in Japan. And no other foreign official was substituted for Christodoulou, nor considered later.
Over the last couple of years the WBA has not gotten everything it has wanted out of Nevada.
In 2000, there were eleven championship fights held in Nevada under the WBA banner. Out of 22 WBA judges who would have theoretically been inserted as per the "gentleman's agreement" that may have existed, only eleven ultimately were.
In 2001, there were ten WBA title fights in Nevada. And the WBA only got seven out of a possible 20 judges.
And so, while I'm sitting here wondering whether the WBA will, in the end, use the customary non-enforcement of its rules as a defense in the Johnson case, I'm also saying to myself that, if they are, then (a) why there is a "neutrality" rule at all?, and (b) will this rule have a force and effect ANYWHERE in the world? And if it is intended to apply, should it not be rewritten, so that all parties can be completely clear on what is going to govern a title fight?
I would think it's better to take all the possible objections out of play BEFORE the fact. Am I right?
After all, common sense would seem to dictate this course of action, given the fact that under Kerns' watch, many of the Federal laws ABC members would aspire to uphold were violated.
But as we have illustrated time and again throughout the course of this book, common sense isn't running rampant these days in the ABC.
When all was said and done, Jack Kerns wasn't really asked to do ANYTHING by the ABC.
And so Kerns still remains a Vice-President and member of the Board for an association that holds itself out as an agent of positive change in the regulation of boxing.
According to one commissioner who was keeping tabs on the situation, "The feeling Jack had is that if he stepped down, it would hurt his lawsuit in Kentucky. It would be as if it were an admission of guilt."
The lawsuit he's talking about is the action that has been brought forth by the wife of former heavyweight champ Greg Page, who was nearly killed last March, quite possibly a result of Kerns' gross and illegal negligence in the area of boxing safety measures, which may even border on the criminal (don't let me rehash it here - just read
"Horse Manure Isn't the Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky"
in our Special Reports section if you're not familiar with it).
Of course, the Page situation was exacerbated by the arrogant manner in which the state of Kentucky acted after the fact, as neither Kerns, commission director Nancy Black, nor the state's attorney general's office have been forthcoming with the truth at any time in the last 17 months.
The reaction of the ABC with regard to the disposition of the Kerns matter is insulting - and I'm being charitable when I say that.
What they don't seem to grasp in that organization is that it is NOT up to Jack Kerns to tell the ABC whether HE'S stepping down; it is up to the ABC to tell HIM whether he can stick around.
Making Kerns look more credible for the sake of his lawsuit should not be the ABC's responsibility. By allowing him to stay on in a position that is supposed to mean something in the organization, the ABC is, in effect, contributing to the facade of respectability Kerns is trying to create. Therefore, they are aiding in his defense, and giving tacit approval of his actions, which have been demonstrated to be dangerous for fighters and contrary to the best interests of the sport.
So maybe these guys just don't care.
If they did, they might have availed themselves of procedures in place to remedy these types of situations.
According to Section 5.4 of the ABC's Constitution, "Removal of Officers/Directors":
"Any Officer or Director may be removed from his/her position by a majority vote of the Board of Directors. Any action shall be ratified by a majority vote of the membership attending the next meeting."
That means that they could have taken a positive step forward for boxing reform at any time they deemed necessary.
That means that in July of 2001, three months after Greg Sirb had appeared on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program and made the following statement - "You know, obviously, some mistakes were made in Kentucky. With the doctor being at ringside, that's one thing. But not having the proper resuscitation equipment at ringside, that's a big problem. That's a big problem" - he could have stepped forward and objected to Kerns' election to the Board.
That means that during the fall of 2001 - after our series of stories on the impropriety of Kerns, his commission's executive director, Nancy Black, and the rest of the Kentucky regulatory apparatus in connection with Page, facts that have never been disputed - newly-elected ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff could have held a vote to recall Kerns from the Board.
None of that was ever explored.
And apparently it was not done in Miami, when the entire Board of Directors and the lion's share of ABC membership were present. On the agenda at that meeting were a lot of things, including considerable discussion of the proposed McCain boxing legislation, which is ineffectual at best; tattoo ads on fighters; an officials seminar, which may or may not make anyone judge a fight any better; an excellent medical presentation, with lessons no commission will wind up heeding; a confirmation that the ABC doesn't have any insurance for supervisors who travel to states without commissions (something we reported in Chapter 39), and about six hours of lunch.
But, even though there was ample opportunity, there wasn't ONE MINUTE dedicated to a procedure that would have advanced the ABC's message more than all of the aforementioned issues COMBINED - getting rid of an element that has brought considerable shame to the organization.
And save for a couple of commissioners I've talked to, there hasn't been the slightest bit of outrage about it.
That's sad, and pathetic.
To compound the absurdity, Ken Nahigian, John McCain's "right-hand man" with respect to the boxing legislation, was there, speaking for about 30 minutes, and not ONE WORD came out his mouth about the hypocrisy of having a misfit like Kerns involved on an executive level with this "boxing reform" group - a reaffirmation that Nahigian is just as hollow as the rest of them.
When is anyone with some balls going to step up to the table?
You know, over the course of time, I'm sure I'll line up on the same side as the ABC on a number of issues - that kind of thing is unavoidable. And I maintain friendships with some of its members.
But I don't want to hear any more bullshit lines about how this organization is operating "for the good of boxing". They can save that nonsense for someone much more gullible.
Until such time as they are prepared to do the RIGHT thing and get rid of the albatross that continues to eat away at any credibility it may have, I can't fully support, believe, or trust the ABC.
It turned out to be a ridiculous farce, if what we are using as the standard is a fight's level of competitiveness.
But then again, one can only speculate as to what the boxing standards of ESPN are these days, certainly as long as boxing "coordinator" Russell Peltz is in its fold.
If watching one fighter get pounded at will and completely outclassed - by a fighter who himself is quite limited - strikes your fancy, then you probably enjoyed that fight a great deal.
If you were looking for a matchup where the "opponent" had at least a glimmer of hope of winning the fight, you were sadly disappointed.
How Jensen has found his way into the ring with Stewart in the first place would seem a curiosity to the naked eye, although when one looks below the surface, the slight of hand is easily uncovered.
Quite simply, it's this - the show was being promoted by Peltz; Stewart is Peltz' fighter, and Peltz more or less controls the product that is placed on ESPN, the network that employs him in his "coordinator" capacity, in what is one of the more outrageous conflicts of interest in the history of televised boxing.
You know, funny things have a way of taking place in this business, and at ESPN, they're getting downright hilarious at this stuff. Interestingly, just a few weeks ago, Peltz' line was that he considered Jensen unworthy of a preliminary slot in a fight that was not even part of ESPN2's main telecast, and therefore wouldn't allow the fight to be made.
Matchmaker/agent Johnny Bos certainly had a hard time figuring it out.
Bos had asked Peltz about inserting Jensen as a six-round opponent for his fighter, Paul Malignaggi, a veteran of just eight pro bouts, on the show that ESPN2 televised from West Virginia on July 26. Peltz did not want to approve the fight. According to Bos, Peltz told him "I couldn't guarantee that. This guy (Jensen) is a human punching bag."
Of course, when the shoe's on the other foot, the dynamics of a situation can change quite a bit. Now Jensen's a main event-level fighter - as far as Peltz is concerned - who was worthy of this ten-rounder against Stewart, a fighter who went into last night's fight with a 29-1-2 record.
"You didn't think I was going to get my fighter beat, did you?" is what Bos claims Peltz told him, in explaining the curious pairing.
Jensen is game - no doubt about that. He's gone the distance with Juan Diaz and Miguel Figueroa. But "fair game" might be the more accurate description. A skilled professional fighter, he is not. Going into the bout with Stewart, there was virtually no shot for him to win, and more importantly, very little chance that he would put forth a truly competitive effort.
Certainly, when one takes a look at the fighter's resume, there is hardly any evidence to support his presence in an ESPN co-main. Jensen, who is a so-so 12-4-1 with five knockouts, has beaten only one fighter with a winning record. The composite record of the fighters he has defeated is a paltry 57-93-6. In his last outing, he won a five-round technical decision over Robert Howard, a fighter with a 5-14 mark who had lost four fights in a row. As recently as July of 2001, he scored a one-round TKO over Joseph Sanchez, who according to the online record-keeping source Boxrec.com, had never been in a professional fight.
In fact, Jensen's best results to date might actually have been a six-round draw and a disqualification win against 42-year-old Benji Marquez, a fighter who, until a run of three wins against stiffs in Colorado, had lost 12 of his previous 13 fights over the course of five years. And the shining moment of his career came last September 23, when he used a head butt to knock former lightweight champ Steve Johnston to the canvas, only to be punched silly about a minute later.
Jensen, who is wide-open defensively, was certainly punched silly by Stewart - nailed time and again by clean power shots until he went down for good in the third round. Had he possessed a better chin, there's no telling how much damage could have been inflicted in the fight. That's a scary thought, inasmuch as two fighters (Bobby Tomasello and Beetheaven Scottland) have died as a result of their appearance on ESPN's fight series in the last couple of years.
Perhaps the saving grace is that a vastly inferior fighter - like Jensen - usually gets taken out rather quickly.
Even as they have lowered their rights fees to $52,000 per show, is a match with a lesser light such as Jensen the kind of product we are to expect from a company that refers to itself as "The Worldwide Leader in Sports"?
The answer, I suppose, is "yes", but only when it specifically furthers someone's agenda.
What you have here is another instructive example of what can go so horribly wrong with boxing. The network is in the position where its primary objective, ideally, is to put together quality programming for its viewers. That would theoretically be attained by staging the most competitive fights possible.
But as the promoter of Michael Stewart, Russell Peltz' objective is somewhat different. His aim is not to put his fighter in the most competitive fight possible, but in fact, to put him into a bout with THE LEAST RISK POSSIBLE, in the interest of furthering the fighter's career, something that is perfectly logical, in that the further his fighter goes, the more it will benefit HIM.
Since Peltz is the one who customarily assumes the role of "quality control", deciding which fights are acceptable for broadcast on the network, there would seem to be no real impediment to him being extra "careful" when it comes to putting his own fighter into an ESPN-televised fight. While the argument can be made that he has indeed put some of his fighters into tough fights, just as often, he has not.
The fact that Peltz is serving the interests of himself and his fighter on the one hand, and the network on the other, would seem to define the concept of "conflict of interest".
As a result of this conflict, the public can get a product that is substandard, almost by design. And to compound the problem, fighters with whom Peltz is involved - whether that involvement is "out front" or hidden - have appeared in featured bouts on an alarming number of ESPN shows.
"If this wasn't Russell Peltz' show - if this was someone else's, he would never permit this bout to take place," says one prominent promoter, who has done some business with Peltz. "That's what's so frustrating about watching this whole thing happen. What's going on over there is laughable."
One midwestern matchmaker told us, "It looks like Russell is trying to play an endgame here.It looks like he wants to squeeze every fight and every fighter out of this deal before the whole thing's over for him. It's really quite pathetic."
You know, the nickname for Peltz' fighter, Michael Stewart, is "No Joke".
It's unfortunate we can't say the same for some of the ESPN fights we've seen.
(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN)
Johnson's people, who are seeking an immediate rematch, are also claiming that this lack of neutrality resulted in the appointment of Joe Cortez as the referee for the fight, and allege that "errors were committed by Mr. Cortez, some of them using bad judgment and some which clearly violated the written rules." They also claim that they lodged protests about Cortez before the fight, to no avail.
Since the first story, suggesting this course of action, appeared a couple of days ago in TOTAL ACTION, I have received a minimal amount of negative feedback. Most of it filled two general categories:
"Why would we want to see this fight again?",
"Johnson has no right to anything. He didn't complain BEFORE the fight."
I'll be happy to address both of these objections.
First of all, as much of a consumer advocate as I like to think I am, this whole thing is not about whether the fight was bad, or whether YOU, the fan, want to see John Ruiz fight Kirk Johnson again. This is about a certain form of "justice" one side is seeking in this matter, as per its own perception of events. Whatever comes down as the final ruling on the Johnson appeal, the marketplace will take care of the situation, as it usually does. If the fight has no "appeal" (pardon the pun), it will sink; if enough people want to see a rematch, it will swim.
We'll get to the other objection in a few minutes.
With this appeal having been filed, the WBA now finds itself in a very interesting situation. It's both a quandary, and an opportunity, at the same time. I say that because the timing of this thing is such that it is bound to have some far-reaching effects on the way the sport is regulated on a championship level.
There's a potentially explosive situation brewing out there. Last week at the convention of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) in Miami, one hot topic of discussion was the conflict that occurred between the Indiana Commission and the World Boxing Council when it came to the selection of officials for the Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley fight; a battle in which Indiana commissioner Jake Hall was supported by the ABC, and by us too, I might add.
Deliberation on this issue got ugly, culminating in an exchange of insults between WBC officials and ABC attorneys. When all was said and done, a decision was reached on the recommendation that was to be made for inclusion into the proposed Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002 - it wasn't the compromise proposal suggested by yours truly in Chapter 41 of "Operation Cleanup", but instead a provision which "requires that judges and referees be assigned for each match by the appropriate boxing commission WITHOUT the interference from sanctioning organizations."
Translated, this means that war has been declared - between the sanctioning organizations on one side, and the ABC, and/or the United States Boxing Administration (if Senator McCain's bill eventually passes) on the other.
Believe me, there is going to be a tremendous amount of resistance on the part of the sanctioning bodies, who want to preserve, at least to some extent, their methods of appointing officials and implementing championship rules and regulations.
The first battleground could very well be Nevada, the only state, at least as of now, which takes sole and exclusive responsibility unto itself to name officials for world championship fights.
This exclusivity is what, in effect, precluded the WBA from implementing the aforementioned "neutrality" rule in its Championship Regulations - even partially.
I say "partially", because in recent years the WBA has had great difficulty negotiating an entirely neutral set of officials for title fights here in the United States - something on which it has had no problem getting cooperation in virtually every other country in the world. The best they're usually able to do is get two neutral judges out of three ("neutral", as per their definition in Rule 16.2). For the Ruiz-Johnson fight, they got none of that from Nevada.
This brings me around to answering the second objection I referred to earlier --
"Johnson has no right to anything. He didn't complain BEFORE the fight."
There's something to be said for this, and no doubt any opposing forces would use it as a principal argument. Let me explain the difficulty with that argument, though:
To start with, Johnson's people assert that they DID protest to Nevada AND the WBA about Cortez, and claim to have some sort of documentation to back that up.
Aside from that, though........
By virtue of its posture in this matter, Nevada was, for the most part, inflexible. As I explained in the preceding chapter, Marc Ratner told me the best he has prepared to do was to supply one international judge, and that judge (Stanley Christodoulou) was unavailable. Therefore, there were going to be four Nevada officials - no ifs, ands, or buts.
What that meant, virtually by definition, was that no protest, formal or otherwise, that was going to be made on the part of Kirk Johnson, was going to bring about a favorable result for him. There was not, under any circumstances, going to be anything other than Nevada officials in the fight; not that Ratner was breaking any of his own rules there - it happens to be part of his own regulations. However, the effect of this inflexibility was that Johnson could not avail himself of any kind of "due process" that might come with a protest, at least anything that wasn't going to be dismissed summarily, with the Nevada commission. That left him only an appeal to the WBA - after the fact.
Yeah, I know what many of you must be saying - "Well, if he didn't like the officials, he should have never gotten into the ring."
If you don't mind, allow me to clue you in as to how the boxing world REALLY works -
Never mind Johnson's status as the mandatory challenger - that kind of thing can be changed in an instant by an organization that is so motivated. Stripped of any opportunity to file a formal protest that would have brought about anything in the way of a positive result, Kirk Johnson's alternatives pretty much came down to these -
1) To go ahead with the fight, with a team of officials that not only shared the same country of origin, but also the same state of residence, as his opponent; or
2) Pull out of the fight on "principle", while in the process - losing a payday, possibly defaulting on a bonus, risking a blackball by the major television outlets, probably incurring more than one lawsuit (which costs money to contest, whether you're right or wrong), and quite possibly blowing his mandatory position as #1 challenger.
Not particularly appetizing.
If I had a fighter in that situation, I doubt I would have chosen Alternative #2. And I don't know too many other people in boxing who would either.
But there is something I can say with a relative degree of certainty - the WBA had better be very careful in the way it handles this matter.
If the WBA were to disallow Kirk Johnson's appeal - which, remember, is being made on the basis of the violation (or non-enforcement) of the "neutrality" rule - it will, in effect, be disavowing its own rule, declaring that it is, for all intents and purposes, moot, and unenforceable anywhere. Clearly it doesn't want to do that.
If the WBA were to turn down the appeal on the basis that its rule has effect everywhere BUT Nevada, it would be tantamount to saying that it is unenforceable in any state that will not allow it to be enforced, even partially. Anyone want to venture a guess as to how quickly all 43 states with boxing commissions might line up behind Nevada, with the encouragement of the ABC, if the WBA ruled in that manner?
Obviously they don't want to do that either.
Neither do these people want to give Johnson some kind of relief, then turn around and amend the rule on "neutrality" to make Nevada an exception to it, because that would more or less be opening the door for other states, who might wish to adopt a similar policy to Nevada's in the future.
The opportunity here exists in what may be the WBA's desire to make a statement, relative to the posture the ABC has adopted - that if need be, it is prepared to act independently of a ruling made by a local jurisdiction, if it feels such a ruling can serve to "right a wrong", or if the involuntary omission of one of its rules may have legitimately had an impact on either the quality of the supervision of the fight, or the result itself.
Of course, such a practice can have a deleterious effect, if it is abused. So any organization - whether it's the WBA, the WBC, or the IBF - had better be sure they are indeed rectifying a injurious situation caused by factors that were out of their control, or else they're not going to have a leg to stand on with the public.
One thing that's important to remember - these parties are not going into a court of law for this process. This ruling will be made by the WBA and the WBA alone, and it will be made with a keen eye toward what is in the WBA's best interests.
And at the end of the day, the WBA and Kirk Johnson may just find that their interests are quite consistent with each other.
If you don't mind, we're going to take that controversy to a whole different level entirely.
Forget, for a moment, about whether you thought the blows landed by Johnson were really low, to the extent that the result of the fight should have been determined by them. Forget about whether referee Joe Cortez exercised sound judgment in the penalties he imposed for those low blows. Forget about the fact that Ruiz himself may have been guilty of at least one intentional foul, yet was not penalized by Cortez.
Let's put all that aside, for the time being.
What we're about to reveal here may change the very face of this dispute.
Until he was contacted by TOTAL ACTION on Monday (in the process of preparing this story for publication), Johnson's co-manager, Ken Lillian, was prepared to file protests with the WBA and the Nevada commission on the premise that at least three, and possibly all four, of the low blows that were cited by Cortez, including the one that ended the fight, were calls of a highly questionable nature.
"Kirk was hitting Ruiz with good body shots that were called low blows," contends Lillian.
A judgment call, to be sure.
But for purposes of this story - and this series - I'd like to bring up an issue that has heretofore NOT been explored, but which may indeed be larger, because it concerns not just this fight, but hundreds of fights that will take place in the near future.
It's the subject of the conflict that exists between state commissions, sanctioning organizations and professional fighters regarding championship rules.
The question is - which rules can take precedence, and what should be done when there is some reasonable doubt as to which rules should apply?
This question stems out of the fact that the World Boxing Association, which sanctioned the fight, seemingly didn't follow its own regulations governing championship bouts.
Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's "World Championship Regulations and Rules", covering "Officials", states,
"The officials appointed by the President to act in any Championship fight shall be
, this being understood to mean that they shall not be of the same nationality, residence or origin of the champion or of the challenger."
In other words, if, say, one fighter were from America and the other were from Canada, NO officials could be from EITHER country.
Such a rule makes some sense, considering that this practice of "neutrality" in the selection of officials is followed in virtually every other country in the world.
It is important to note that nothing in the WBA regulations provides for an exception to this rule, even under extraneous circumstances ( and we were unable to secure comment from WBA officials in connection with this story).
According to his official website, John Ruiz was born in Methuen, Massachusetts. He is a citizen of the United States. Kirk Johnson trains in the U.S., but there are a lot of foreign fighters who do that. The fact is, Johnson is officially a resident of Nova Scotia and a citizen (not to mention a native) of Canada. He is in the U.S. on a "celebrity visa", which allows him to ply his trade here in the States.
It's readily apparent the fighters are from two different countries. Therefore, Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's Championship Regulations should have taken effect.
Clearly there is an inherent conflict with the Nevada rules and regulations.
Chapter 467, Paragraph 214 of the Nevada Administrative Code mandates that "the commission will select and approve all ring officials."
According to Paragraph 219, "A majority of the commission will select the referee for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events."
And finally, Paragraph 225 states, "A majority of the commission will select the judges for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events."
It seems the WBA did not seek the enforcement of its own regulations here, and did not exactly press the issue. Of course, there are reasons for that.
Marc Ratner, director of the Nevada commission, asserts that having all neutral officials for the fight ("neutral" being defined as from neither the country of the champion or challenger) was not going to be a possibility.
"We would have given them one international judge", he said, "but we were going to have two Nevada judges and a Nevada referee."
Ratner refers to Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa as a judge he would have cheerfully included. But Christodoulou was in Japan, and not available for that fight.
According to Ratner, Johnson's camp did not submit anything in the way of protest prior to the fight.
"They (Johnson's camp) were very happy with all Nevada officials," says Ratner. "And they indicated they would have been happy with Christodoulou too."
Even though law may exist in Nevada to provide for this set of circumstances, and indeed such law was implemented, does this necessarily mean that Kirk Johnson does not have a legitimate grounds for an appeal with the World Boxing Association, an organization which should, by rights, be able to make its own ruling on the fight that is independent of whatever was done in Nevada - perhaps not as regards the verdict itself (a disqualification), but in terms of what might provide relief in the immediate future?
And even though it seems Nevada's rules concerning officials wound up applying here, does that mean that its regulations necessarily usurp those of the sanctioning body, by law, or merely that Nevada has a certain amount of "leverage" with the sanctioning bodies by virtue of its juxtaposition to the casino industry, which provides the site fees needed to put on major fights? In other words, do they name their own officials, without any interference, because it's RIGHT, or because they have the ability to do it and get away with it?
It may seem like a small point to some, but actually, there is a degree of significance to it that is not inconsequential.
It could mean the difference between Johnson's camp being able to successfully appeal the process and not being able to.
There appears to be nothing in writing to indicate that the WBA arbitrarily conceded all of its own championship regulations in favor of those used in Nevada. And according to Lillian, as well as Gary Johnson, Kirk's father and advisor, they were not presented with the alternative of having three "neutral" judges and a "neutral" referee. That assertion makes sense, in light of what Ratner has told us.
Appeals can be filed when one party feels a WBA regulation has been violated. We can reasonably conclude a couple of things --
1) That there has indeed been a violation, or at the very least, a non-enforcement, of the WBA rules; and
2) That there is no document signed by the Johnson camp in which it waived its rights and protections under the WBA rules - certainly this answers a question that would be addressed in civil court, if that's what it came down to.
Let's elaborate on this a little more. Consider that Ruiz is now a Las Vegas resident, something that is well-documented by now - he'd been referred to as such by many pre-fight newspaper stories and also by HBO's announcers during the pre-fight introductions. Cortez, the referee, is, like Ruiz, an American of Puerto Rican extraction.
Doesn't this go one step further in violatiing the spirit of "neutrality"?
After all, if this fight had been held in Toronto's Air Canada Centre, and judges from Montreal, Halifax, and Edmonton been named, with a referee from Vancouver, would Ruiz' people have stood still for it? I doubt I'd even have to call Tony Cardinale, a square guy who is Ruiz' lawyer and co-manager, to get the answer to that one.
We have discovered that if an appeal is going to be made to the WBA, it has to be made by the end of business on Wednesday. According to Article 5 of the WBA's Appeal Regulations, not only does the appeal have to be accompanied by all of the relevant subject matter and documentation, WITH a check for $5000 attached, it also "should be proposed within a term of eight (8) business days counted from the date in which the decision had been dictated or issued.........." Since the fight took place on July 27, a Saturday, the eighth business day forward would be August 7.
So if Johnson's people want to take advantage of this information, they had better hurry up.
Certainly no one can fault Nevada for wanting to enforce its own rules. And considering the state of relations between the sanctioning bodies and certain factions of the Association of Boxing Commissions, the commission there would get plenty of support in doing so.
But I don't think that should mean that a fighter, with a lot of money, not to mention a title, on the line, should fall victim when there is an ambiguity or conflict that can be interpreted to have a material effect on the process by which the contest is regulated, whether it's by the local jurisdiction or the sanctioning body.
I may get a chorus of boos on this one, but from what the World Boxing Association has presented as the way it conducts business at the championship level, and those things I know to be factual, I can come to one conclusion, and one conclusion only.
Kirk Johnson deserves to be granted an immediate rematch by the WBA.
In 1995, I was involved in the management of Robert "Preacher Man" Daniels, the former WBA cruiserweight champion, who at the time had climbed up into the top five in both the WBC and WBA. In the WBO we were #2 or #3 in the ratings (honestly, I forgot which), although we never really seriously considered fighting for that title.
One day my partner, Mike Frost, called me to relate an interesting piece of news. He had been contacted - repeatedly - by a gentleman from Miami named Ricardo Rizzo, who Frost says identified himself as "someone who could help Robert Daniels get a title shot". Rizzo must have spoken very enthusiastically in his pitch; he had my partner halfway convinced he could move mountains for our fighter. But still, Mike wasn't altogether sure what this guy's role was, and frankly, neither did I. In fact, the impression I came away with when Frost told me about him was that maybe this guy wanted to promote some shows.
We already had a promotional relationship with someone at the time, but I figured it didn't cost anything to listen, so when my partner asked me if I wanted to sit down and find out what this fellow had on his mind, we arranged for a meeting at the Tropical Park Gym in Miami, which was where Daniels was training.
To say the least, Rizzo was not what one would call a polished salesman. You could tell he was a little unsure about making his presentation, because he started beating around the bush, to the point where I was actually getting bored. And to be perfectly honest, after sitting there for what seemed to be at least five minutes, I still didn't know what he was trying to say.
Then, he basically came out with it - he told us that Daniels, ranked where he was, was not going to get a shot at the WBO cruiserweight title. But, if he were the number one contender, he would be in line for a mandatory opportunity. And he (Rizzo) was the guy who could make that mandatory shot happen - quickly. He explained that the WBO convention was upcoming, and though we didn't have to actually GO to this convention, all we had to do was come up with a "donation" to the organization, and he could virtually guarantee it would make our man the top cruiserweight contender. Such a donation would be made out to the WBO, and he - Ricardo Rizzo - would carry it to the convention on our behalf. I thought that was awfully nice of him.
Then he gave us his card.
It turns out he was a WBO official.
So how much was the donation he was looking for?
"Ten thousand dollars."
For a split second, I was in a little bit of shock, not because we had been solicited in this way, but because it was done in a small office, with several other people in the room, including Daniels, his trainer, the guy who was running the gym, and a couple of strangers who I didn't even know. I figured if this guy was trying to peddle something shady, the least he could do was create more of a "cloak-and-dagger" effect.
Well, I started to get up out of my seat to leave, but I thought about it again, and decided I wanted to hear the entire story. So I asked Rizzo, "What's this donation for?"
"Pens and pencils for our members at the convention."
Upon further inquiry, I was assured that I had heard him correctly - PENS AND PENCILS.
Well, as they say, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
And I'm sitting there thinking - this guy couldn't come up with anything more creative than THAT? I had to start laughing. My partner started laughing. Then the whole room started laughing.
But this guy was NOT laughing. He was now working us even harder, like a used car salesman watching a prospect slip away. And it was clear he didn't want to walk out of that office with "no" for an answer. Almost immediately, his request dropped from $10,000 to $5000, and he told us if we "donated" that much he'd see what he could do, while at the same time explaining that some of the other managers of cruiserweight contenders were giving that much, or more.
"Everybody does it this way," is what Frost remembers him saying.
Well, we turned him down, as politely as we possibly could, and thanked him for his time.
The funniest part of the whole thing was that this guy would assume we even had $5000 to throw at him. I can't remember us being flush with cash at the time.
The scary part is that, had we indeed had that kind of money to toss around at the drop of a hat, I wonder if we would have seriously considered giving in to temptation, considering this is the way the game is played a good deal of the time.
In retrospect, I think not.
We rationalized it this way - even if we had given Rizzo the money, and gotten the title shot, I couldn't see the move being that profitable. After all, I had heard about some of the purses for WBO title fights, and I figured $20,000 would be a lot of money for a fight like that. If we were getting 25% as the manager's share, that kind of purse would return $5000 to us - a financial wash at best - and we'd no doubt have to go overseas, only to get robbed of a decision somewhere. And to be honest, the WBO championship was so unimportant to us, I don't think I even paid attention to who the champion was at the time.
As it was, on the ride home, we had a few more laughs - Frost and I mused about whether Mr. Rizzo would have given us a receipt for the "donation", and if so, what in the world it would possibly have said.
Then our thoughts turned to what might have happened had we gotten the same proposition we'd just heard, at the same price, for a shot at the WBC, WBA, or IBF title.
I would have done the math, for sure, but I just couldn't find a pen.
Or a pencil, for that matter.
(NOTE: I did keep Rizzo's business card as a memento of the occasion, and you can see it below. We "whited out" the phone numbers.)
He put on a little weight for his recent fight with David Santos, and the next thing he knew, they took away his title, snapped it out of his chubby little hand like it was an ice cream cone and he was an 8-year-old with a slippery grip.
But it’s not like Forbes didn’t see it coming. He had three months to get ready to defend his IBF junior-lightweight title against Santos. Three months to sweat off some soft pounds and maybe stand on a scale once in awhile just to see how he was doing, how close he was to the target weight of 130.
On Saturday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in California, Forbes stood on the scale and - surprise - discovered he was a lightweight, just two pounds shy of becoming a junior-welterweight.
He weighed 134 pounds, or four pounds over the limit.
He disappeared for a couple hours, came back and found out he still weighed just a little under 133 pounds.
What did he do for those two hours, go in the next room and take a nap?
So much for the IBF title defense. Now it’s just another fight.
By fight time on Sunday, Forbes had porked up to a ripe 152 pounds, though he said you had to be fair and subtract a few pounds because he was wearing his clothes and boots when he weighed in again Sunday. OK. So he weighted 147 pounds. What did he do between Saturday and Sunday, camp out at Baskin Robbins? How do you put 14 pounds on in 24 hours?
Forbes must know a secret.
Santos, meanwhile, came back Sunday ready to fight at 131 pounds.
Forbes went on to beat Santos on a split decision, though there should be an asterisk next to the win on Forbes’ fight record telling the world that it wasn’t fair, that he was fighting as a junior-middleweight when he beat a junior-lightweight.
Where are the cops when you need them?
The IBF, meanwhile, looked over all the paperwork and didn’t like what it saw. Some of the numbers were too high, too lop-sided. One of its champions hadn’t acted like one. Forbes didn’t bother to live up to his contract or his title.
But instead of closing its eyes and shrugging its shoulders, the IBF told Santos he was still the No. 1 contender and would get the next title shot against a legitimate 130-pounder.
It also scolded Forbes, saying there is “absolutely no excuse for a champion with a three month training window to come to a weigh-in four pounds overweight.’’
A little applause, please, for the IBF.
The real problem here is the crazy idea that it’s safer for fighters trying to make weight, to weigh-in the day before the fight instead of the day of the fight. It gives them more time to get their strength back. It’s less dangerous that way.
Give me a break.
What’s safe about a 130-pounder climbing into the ring with a 152-pounder? Isn’t that why we have divisions, so that doesn’t happen?
It wasn’t that long ago that fighters weighed-in the day of the fight, usually around noon. If they had to lose weight, that still gave them enough time to regain their strength before the fight. That way, no one could take a 14 or 15 pound advantage into the ring with them.
It kept junior-middleweights from pretending they were junior-lightweights.
"(1) FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FILING- A sanctioning organization shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match unless, not later than January 31 of each year, it submits to the Federal Trade Commission and to the ABC--
`(A) a complete description of the organization's ratings criteria, policies, and general sanctioning fee schedule;
`(B) the bylaws of the organization;
`(C) the appeals procedure of the organization for a boxer's rating; and
`(D) a list and business address of the organization's officials who vote on the ratings of boxers.
`(2) FORMAT; UPDATES- A sanctioning organization shall--
`(A) provide the information required under paragraph (1) in writing, and, for any document greater than 2 pages in length, also in electronic form; and
`(B) promptly notify the Federal Trade Commission of any material change in the information submitted."
Section 12 deals a little more with disclosures by sanctioning bodies, this time "TO STATE BOXING COMMISSIONS".
Section 13 concerns "REQUIRED DISCLOSURES BY PROMOTERS".
Section 14 covers "REQUIRED DISCLOSURES FOR JUDGES AND REFEREES".
That's a lot of disclosure.
And there's nothing wrong with any of that; in fact, it's probably necessary.
But there seems to be an omission in the law regarding disclosures, and that is, disclosures by the ABC-member boxing commissions themselves - not only of their own laws, standards and practices, but also which government employees or appointees are ultimately responsible for enforcing those laws, rules, and standards.
During the course of researching this report, I have endeavored to look into the specific rules by which some of these state commissions function, and more often than not I hit a dead end; while I am nearing a self-imposed deadline I find that the only way I'm going to get some factual information is by filing for it, in writing, where there is a lag time of anywhere from a week to six weeks in receiving something that should be readily available online.
Naturally, things should be different.
If members of the ABC - the Association of Boxing Commissions - are going to, at least ideally, be as strict as they are about that which is made public by entities they intend to regulate, then perhaps they should be just as forthcoming with the information they possess that is supposed to be for public consumption.
There are 43 state commissions which currently belong to the ABC. I'm fairly certain that in each one of those 43 states, there is some form of "sunshine" law in which records and information are readily available to the public.
However, of those 43 states, only 30 of them actually have a home page which is in any way, shape, or form, dedicated to the boxing commission. And of those sites, there are only TWELVE which make available both their commission's rules and regulations AND the actual names of the commissioners in a way in which they can be accessed in TWO CLICKS OR LESS (which I think is reasonable) from that home page. That means there are only 12 of 43 jurisdictions (28%) where any member of the general public can find out exactly how they conduct business in their state, or who is charged with overseeing that process.
It is disappointing that they would not feel any particular sense of urgency to stand up and lead by example.
The website for the ABC itself (
) gets mixed reviews. As I explored it today I found that there is a copy of the ABC Constitution (good), and also it has the national suspension list framed from where it appears on the Sports Network website (good). There is a list of boxers who have applied for Federal ID's across the country, a list of commission address and e-mails (which could use some updating), and a page where you can access legislation such as the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, or either version of the Professional Boxer Safety Act (1995 and 1996).
On the other hand, it also lists pages dedicated to "Boxers", "Managers", "Promoters", "Referees", and "Commission". On each one of these pages is the same message -
"Sorry - This page is not completed yet. Many sections of this site are still under construction"
(not so good).
I have no idea what is supposed to be on those pages.
Below is the "scorecard" in terms of what different states are making accesible to the public. The standard we used for content is that it has to be available to access no more than TWO CLICK-THROUGHS from the commission's primary page. The categories we were looking for are those which I would consider to be essential (and I dare say, highly reasonable) - whether there is in fact a website, or something that could pass for one; the actual rules and regulations by which the commission governs fights in its state, and the names of the people responsible for such enforcement, i.e., the commissioners.
X X CALIFORNIA
X X X COLORADO
X X X CONNECTICUT
X X FLORIDA
X X X INDIANA
X X KENTUCKY
X X X LOUISIANA
X X X MAINE
X X MASSACHUSETTS
X X MICHIGAN
X X X MISSOURI
X X X NEBRASKA
X X X NEVADA
X X X NEW JERSEY
X X X NEW MEXICO
X X NEW YORK
X NORTH CAROLINA
X X OHIO
X X X OREGON
X X SOUTH CAROLINA
X X X TENNESSEE
X X TEXAS
X X UTAH
X X VERMONT
X X WASHINGTON
X X WISCONSIN
X X Take note - there are seven states without a boxing commission - Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Obviously they are not going to have a web page. The rest of the states have not established a web presence as of yet (although we know some of them, including Georgia, for instance, are in the process of doing so). As for Arizona, John McCain's home state, we found commission rules, but no web page. Go figure.
Several chapters ago, we briefly made reference to the May 31 show in Birmingham, Ala., where former world champion Meldrick Taylor fought. We also mentioned that Buddy Embanato - the Vice-Chairman of the Louisiana Boxing & Wrestling Commission, who also functions as Treasurer of the Association of Boxing Commissions - came in to supervise the fight, and was compensated for that purpose. I'm sure Embanato is adequate, or maybe even better than that, at what he does in Louisiana. Harry Barnette, matchmaker for the show, called him "a good boxing man".
Indeed, by all accounts, the fight ran smoothly from an organizational standpoint.
However, there was this little matter of ensuring that a proper bout contract was signed between Taylor and Dillon Carew, the New York-based Guyana native who had come to fight as a late replacement for Willie McDonald, who himself was a substitute for Jerry Smith, in the main event.
It seems that issue was not covered.
Had there been a contract required to be signed and filed with Embanato, for example, there would be a stipulation as to exactly how many rounds the fight would be scheduled for. Carew had been under the impression that the fight was a six-rounder, because that's what Johnny Bos, the agent who booked him into the fight, had been told. This was an assumption he carried all the way up to the time the bell (er, I'm sorry, the BOWL - a bell could not be found) sounded to end the sixth round. And according to him, no one had come to him and told him differently.
"That's why I blew it all out in the sixth," he says. "I came back to the corner at the end of the round, looking to take my gloves off. Then I saw the ring card girl walking around with a card that said 'Round 7'. At that point I really didn't know whether the fight was going to be eight rounds or ten rounds."
The extra rounds certainly made a tangible difference in the outcome of the fight. Carew, who had dropped Taylor twice (Taylor also received a standing eight-count), was ahead by three points on one card, and one point on another, with the other scorecard even, after six rounds. Carew, who had put on what he thought was a big finish in the sixth, was admittedly dead tired in the last two stanzas, and lost them on all three cards. As a result, Taylor was awarded the split decision win.
Carew, who also never got the opportunity to see Taylor weigh in, wasn't pleased, but he took the decision philosophically. "This is America, and I guess you gotta chill," he says. "But back home (Guyana) you'd have a lot of bottles being thrown in the ring."
Barnette says the fight was announced as an eight-rounder when the fighters got to the ring, but concedes that Carew may not have heard that; understandably, he may not have been paying much attention to the ring announcer. "Taylor really wanted to fight a ten-rounder, but he settled for eight," is what Barnette has told us. Indeed, scorecards for a ten-round fight had been prepared. And the fight was listed as an eight-rounder on bout sheets that were circulated earlier that day; but there is no one who can confirm that Carew was ever informed of this.
The selection of officials was a little out of the ordinary as well. One of them was Jay Deas, who runs an outfit called Skyy Promotions, which puts on boxing shows in Tuscaloosa. Another judge, Jonathan Cohen, is a full-time chemist and part-time matchmaker who was pressed into service when some judges didn't show up. Ricco Ray, who was supposed to be a judge for the Taylor-Carew fight, actually wound up FIGHTING against Luis Collazo on the undercard. The referee, Kenny Woods, formerly managed the late Stephan Johnson.
Carew, who tells us he was asking for a contract but never got one, was actually lucky he even got paid.
Barnette took $1500 out of his own pocket to compensate Carew for his performance; he was supposed to be reimbursed by Jimmy Logan, the show's promoter, but Logan disappeared after the fight and his check to Barnette bounced. Other people have been stiffed as well, including the ring announcer, the ringside physician, and the judges. And since Logan did not pay the hotel in full, all the people who traveled to the fight from out of town had to pay for the last night of their stay.
Bos complained to Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, about the way the Carew situation was handled, operating under the assumption that it was essentially the ABC governing the fight in this non-commission state. Lueckenhoff's response to us was that Bos has been around the sport of boxing long enough to know that he shouldn't have let a fighter into the ring, no matter how short the notice, without a written contract in which terms were actually spelled out.
Well, yes and no. Yes, there's certainly a point to be made there, because no one can fully substantiate how long the fight was supposed to be, at least to Lueckenhoff's satisfaction, without the presence of a written contract. And Bos has been hoodwinked by enough people through the years to know that a handshake doesn't mean much.
However, from a supervisory perspective, the fight should not have been allowed to take place without a contract. And though Louisiana may not require such contracts to be filed, and the ABC may not either, there's no question they SHOULD. There is NO WAY a fight should be allowed to take place ANYWHERE without a contract, on file, with the local jurisdiction.
What if a fighter gets stiffed? What if a thieving manager took 75% of a kid's purse? What if a manager got paid on behalf of a fighter, then took the money and ran off with it? What if one fighter's connections look at the scorecards, and then decide the fight has to go extra rounds, which is not necessarily what Bos is claiming happened to Carew, but which could conceivably happen with no supervision? Is someone going to tell me that any of those things are consistent with the public interest, and that a mechanism shouldn't be in place to prevent them from happening, without forcing someone to go to court when they may not be able to afford it?
Maybe the problem lies in the fact that we don't know who really holds jurisdiction. For example, Federal law requires that fights in states without commissions be supervised by a commissioner from another state, with rules set forth by the ABC. But does this mean that the ABC, a trade association, has the authority to sanction a fight, or enforce certain rules?
If they do, how much accountability do they have for that which results from such enforcement, and who are they accountable TO?
Louisiana was the "supervising commission". Well, what is the real plausibility of enforcing the laws of the state of Louisiana within the borders of the state of Alabama? Is anyone in Alabama compelled to obey those laws?
And if they are, doesn't that mean that ALL the Louisiana commission's rules should have effect, including the selection of ring officials and any laws that might exist regarding contracts for bouts?
Is there any set of Federal rules and regulations that should, or could, apply here?
Most importantly, if the duration of a fight is going to be extended arbitrarily; if contracts are not going to be required; if promoters are going to be allowed to operate without being bonded, stiffing people as a result, and if inexperienced personnel are going to be inserted as officials, wouldn't one have to question the necessity, not to mention the wisdom, of even having an outside supervisor from another state?
What purpose did it really serve?
We'd like to have gotten an answer from Embanato, but unfortunately, our attempts to secure comment from him were unsuccessful.
It seems to me that we have some very poorly written law here, and as usual, it's the product of what happens when no one consults with anybody who has been in the business of professional boxing.
But then again, what else is new?
"The sport of boxing really needs an enema," says Bos.
As for what might come out - just use your imagination.