Over the course of time, people have become "wise" to Peltz, and have called him out on more than one issue that has arisen out of this apparent conflict of interest. Some of these revelations have resulted in chapters to this series on boxing reform.
The general opinion in the boxing community is that Peltz has sought an alternate route to do supplemental business - in effect dealing himself in with promoters who are granted shows on the network, sometimes through his recommendation - either by partnering on the promotion itself, with a "silent" interest in a main event fighter, or both.
Those suspicions may indeed be substantiated by an upstart promoter who felt it incumbent upon herself to stand up to Peltz' power play.
Diane Fischer knows she's behind the eight-ball to begin with, as a woman in a man's game. But this Atlantic City operator gets an "A" for effort, and she simply didn't want to take no for an answer when seeking to produce a show that would air on ESPN2's Friday fight series.
Fischer had been dogging Bob Yalen of ESPN about televising an all-women's boxing card, and after considerable effort on her part the network relented. On July 31, 1998 in Atlantic City, Kathy Collins beat Olivia Gerula Peveira in the ten-round main event of what was, by all accounts, a sensational show with a sell-out crowd. After the fight, Fischer inquired with Peltz, ESPN's newly-named "coordinator", as to when she might be able to promote another women's show on the network.
"He told me there would be no more dates," Fischer says. "He said, 'We're going only with men's fights'."
That didn't necessarily dull Fischer's persistence, but she had become frustrated as a result of her subsequent attempts to deal with ESPN. Peltz seemed resigned not to give her any more TV dates, regardless of whether it was for women's OR men's fights, and numerous calls to Yalen, ESPN's "Director of Brand Management", who heads up the boxing package for the network, led nowhere.
"Peltz told me 'As long as I'm involved with ESPN, she'll never get a date'," says Rick Glaser, who has had a well-chronicled spat with Peltz regarding lightweight Billy Irwin - another freeze-out situation which resulted in Peltz ultimately stealing the fighter from Glazer's control.
Fischer once again approached Peltz about promoting an ESPN show in March of 2000 at the Sands Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City. One of the featured bouts she proposed would have pitted her fighter, Will Taylor, a light heavyweight with a 15-3 record, against Peltz' fighter, Sammy Ahmad, who was 14-0-2. "Russell told me the fight wasn't strong enough," says Fischer.
Interestingly, in December of that year, the matchup suddenly became viable, when Peltz indeed used that very same ten-round fight on one of the Blue Horizon shows HE promoted on ESPN2. Fischer, who because of the television freeze-out was finding it difficult to get worthwhile action for Taylor, took the fight for a small purse, in her words, "to get the exposure" (Taylor won a decision, and went on to fight Reggie Johnson for the USBA light heavyweight title).
Then, last summer, Peltz called her, with a very curious proposition, and one that was rather surprising for Fischer. He told her she could promote fights on ESPN, with one condition. "He wanted to know if I was interested in going 50% partners with him in the promotions," Fischer says. Peltz also wanted a 50% share of Fischer's fighters; although she only had Will Taylor under contract, Peltz was seeking a half-share in the promotional rights of anyone Fischer would sign in the future, as a result of her TV deal.
It is not known whether Peltz' employers at ESPN knew that he was making this kind of overture to a promoter. Our inquiries as to whether ESPN management was aware of Peltz' activity, and if so, whether it sanctioned and approved such activity, have gone unanswered, despite repeated attempts.
It deserves mention that Fischer is an industrious operator with an impeccable reputation. She has been licensed in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, and was granted a promoter's license in New Jersey when it was a very difficult thing to acquire.
Peltz had requested a sit-down with Fischer to go over the finer points of the business proposal he was making to her. But principle, and her better judgment, took over.
She never engaged him in the follow-up meeting.
"That would have been like getting in bed with the enemy," explained Fischer. "I don't need that right now. It would be going completely against my beliefs."
Peltz made her pay, soon enough. Fischer had promoted three outstanding cards at Dover Downs in Delaware, a pari-mutuel establishment that had installed slot machines. Although she harbored plans to expand her relationship to something long-term, Fischer was effectively back-doored by Peltz, who went to Dover Downs management, and guaranteed them that Fischer could not produce television, but that HE could.
Peltz promoted a May 10 card at the facility, which featured Kassim Ouma in the now-famous "tattoo incident" (which is dealt with in Chapter 18 of this series). He grossed a reported $105,000 for his efforts, not including that which he pocketed as an ESPN "coordinator".
Dover Downs indicated to Fischer that it would be happy to field additional proposals from her, but of course, they put her "in the trick bag", so to speak. They told her their next available date was October 4, but that they had to have TV coverage. For Fischer, part of the explanation she got was unusual indeed.
"All three shows I had done with them were on a Saturday," she says. "Now they want to do a show on a Friday. I knew what was happening."
What happened is that the race track had, in fact, already made a deal with Peltz, yet it was giving itself a certain plausible deniability, creating the facade that it was conducting a fair and open bidding process. And probably for good reason - it was no secret that Fischer, along with other promoters in the Mid-Atlantic region, had spoken to attorneys about initiating an anti-trust suit against Peltz and ESPN. In fact, Peltz' pitch to go partners with Fischer came after talk of the prospective lawsuit began to circulate publicly.
Fischer has been led to believe that the bidding for the October 4 show is still active, despite the fact that it has been reported in several newspapers, including Tuesday's
Philadelphia Daily News
, that Peltz is scheduled to promote the show at Dover Downs on that date.
Peltz is a life-long resident of Philadelphia, and is licensed by the state of Pennsylvania, within the jurisdiction of former ABC president Greg Sirb, who is currently executive director of the Pennsylvania commission. Thus far Sirb has not initiated an investigation into any of Peltz' activities regarding fighters or promoters that might constitute a conflict of interest.
But there's at least one disgruntled former associate who thinks there should be an investigation, and a thorough one.
"If this guy (Peltz) were Italian, they'd probably have led him out in handcuffs already," says Glaser.
(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN)
All he has to do is step down as First Vice-President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, either before or during the organization's national convention this week in Miami.
Then, after he returns home, he can accomplish something perhaps even more significant.
By taking another step down - as chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission.
If there is a poster boy for what is wrong with boxing regulation, it's Kerns, and at this critical time, when legislation (in fact, two separate bills) is up for consideration by Congress; when the commissioners of this country prepare to congregate in what might be their most crucial meeting to date; when more eyes than ever before are cast upon these people; and when OPERATION CLEANUP is gathering a mountain of momentum in creating awareness about the truly pertinent issues of boxing reform, his resignation, from both positions, would almost - ALMOST - carry with it the pretense of nobility, which, all things considered, is the most Kerns could possibly hope for out of this putrid situation.
I can imagine what it's going to be like in Miami - you're going to have a lot of people walking around, congratulating themselves on being staunch defenders of ethics in boxing. Some of them are sincere; some aren't.
Those who ARE sincere should legitimately be offended by Kerns, because for one entire year he has masqueraded as one of them.
Sure, there are people who have told me Jack is a nice fellow. And I certainly wouldn't disparage them for feeling that way.
But this is a sport where it can become a matter of life and death.
It was that way for Greg Page, on March 9 of last year, when, thanks to the negligence of Kerns, he lay unconscious in a Kentucky ring, without the benefit of oxygen rescucitation equipment that may have helped his condition (a violation of Federal law); without the benefit of an ambulance at the site (a violation of Federal law); without the subsequent benefits from insurance on the fight card (a violation of Federal law), and without a doctor licensed by the state of Kentucky at ringside (a violation of Federal law).
The fact that the UNLICENSED doctor was running the other way, while Page needed potentially life-saving assistance from somebody - ANYBODY - as he was slipping into a coma, was simply a violation of human decency.
I'm not going to rehash everything in the Greg Page case here. For that, you can link to our special report, "Horse Manure Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks In Kentucky" (
But let it be said that when you combine imbecility, ineptitude, corruption, indifference, and ego, together with absolute authority, you're mixing a very dangerous cocktail.
And as long as he is sitting in any position of control, either on a state or national level, Jack Kerns is the most dangerous person in boxing.
Because he hid himself from any level of accountability to the public, then turned around and created a facade with his pathetic and shameless spin campaign, culminating in a run for office with the ABC, which unbelievably was successful, he is also a sham and a fraud.
I don't know Wally Jernigan of Nebraska, who nominated him for a vice-president's position at the ABC's 2001 convention, but he should be ashamed of himself.
I DO know Steve Bayshore of Oklahoma, who's an ABC officer. He's a nice guy. And he seconded Jack Kerns' nomination. Shame on you, Steve.
And shame on Greg Sirb, a guy who constantly puts himself out front as a do-gooder.
Sirb had full knowledge of what happened in Kentucky, having cheerfully accepted an appearance on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" last Easter Sunday to talk about it. Yet he didn't utter ONE word of objection to Kerns' candidacy at the convention three months later. What a tremendous display of leadership and vision from the bureaucrat who is posturing himself to become the national boxing "czar".
Every ABC member who voted for Kerns should be ashamed of himself as well.
You guys wanted to prevent Mike Tyson from fighting? ONE OF YOUR OWN deserves a lifetime banishment from the sport.
In fact, considering all the violations of the Professional Boxer Safety Act, his reckless disregard for ring safety, and his role in the ill-fated promotion, which, evidence suggests, may have opened him up for violations of the Ali Act, I have to be honest with you - Jack Kerns may very well deserve to be in jail - perhaps one of those jails he patrolled for years as a Kentucky corrections officer.
One member of the ABC has told me, "We're not going to use any judges that are recommended by a sanctioning body." That statement is a little silly, for a couple of reasons - one, having that rule in place would probably prompt the sanctioning bodies to recommend officials they DON'T want to work in championship fights, and two, this would probably chase a lot of title fights out of the United States.
Are the sanctioning bodies in business to make money? Yes. Should they be subject to some kind of regulation, whether that be a by-product of licensing or registration? Yes, and in fact, they already are, by virtue of the Ali Act edict that they register ratings criteria, articles of incorporation, etc. with the Federal Trade Commission and the ABC. Should agencies that have some measure of public accountability, by law, in their jurisdictions have a major voice in the deployment of officials? Certainly. Do I think the entire process - the training of officials, the selection and appointment of officials, the evaluation of officials, administrative determinations (or "final orders"), drug testing, ratings, sanctioning decisions, AND the appeals process - should be controlled completely by an outside entity? No.
However, at the same time I think that, rather than either side go to one extreme or the other, the ideal way to do things would be to have a co-operative between the actual jurisdiction, whether it be a state commission or the ABC, and the sanctioning body.
Toward that end, let me suggest a couple of compromises:
The first one is simple - the parties (the state/ABC and sanctioning body) could flip a coin to see who gets the referee, and whoever doesn't will have the right to name two of the three judges, notwithstanding a reasonable objection by the other party.
Maybe that's TOO simple, and leaves too much room for interpretation. Here is the more involved - and perhaps more palpable - solution that I would propose:
* For all title fights, the sanctioning organization would submit a list of recommended officials that would number no less than eight referees and 15-20 judges, to be done a minimum of 30 days prior to the fight.
* This submission shall be to the commission which has jurisdiction over the fight. At that point, the commission would have the option of bringing in the Association of Boxing Commissions to consult with them on this selection process.
* The judges submitted by the sanctioning body, if they are American, would be required to be licensed and working as a judge within a jurisdiction that is a member commission of the ABC (in almost all instances, this is the case), and as a matter of routine, would have a letter of recommendation sent by their commission to the ABC (obviously no commission would use an official they wouldn't recommend, would they?). This way, there should be no plausible objection to an official on the part of the ABC. After all, if a member commission trusts them, why shouldn't THEY?
* Out of the recommended pool of officials, either of the contestants' camps has the option of eliminating from consideration a MAXIMUM of one referee and two judges, in much the same way an attorney can make peremptory challenges of jurors at a trial.
* Then the jurisdiction handling the fight, in conjunction with the ABC if it so desires, will select, from the remaining names on the list, one referee for the fight and FOUR judges (three to work the fight, and one alternate, who will remain an alternate until such time as all three judges are finally settled upon).
* Subsequent to that, if either camp has an objection to any official that is eventually designated for selection, it can lodge that objection, IN WRITING, with the ABC and/or the local jurisdiction. If it's a reasonable challenge, accompanied by some kind of evidence, the objection would be considered and arbitrated. If it is judged not to be legitimate, it won't. The challenge must meet a rather rigid standard.
* It would be understood by the sanctioning bodies that ANY official on their list may be eventually selected, and that once they have submitted this list of officials, the ABC and/or the local jurisdiction would have final word on the actual selection of officials, as well as any process of objection or complaint about those selections that may be lodged by either camp.
* NO "ex-parte" meeting regarding the determination of the removal of an official that has already been named to officiate a bout can be held; that is, either both, or neither, of the fighters' camps would be represented.
* Any judge that is licensed, working, and in good standing with an ABC member commission, and who that commission was willing to recommend in writing, would be considered, for all intents and purposes, to be registered with the ABC. Beyond that, the ABC could employ their own standards of evaluation. Whether it be the degree of recommendation from a member jurisdiction, review of performances by a committee specifically designated by the ABC, experience level, attendance at ABC-sponsored seminars, etc. - all these components would theoretically factor into the rationale behind the ABC's choices of the officials, from lists submitted by sanctioning bodies.
* The ABC would establish a committee of knowledgeable boxing people to develop a familiarity with foreign officials (i.e., those who are not working within the United States). Foreign officials should be eligible to work championship fights within the U.S., on the simple premise that American officials are welcomed into other countries on a regular basis. This kind of courtesy needs to be reciprocated in some way. I would submit that the ABC monitor the qualifications of foreign officials and to maintain contact with the boxing commissions in other countries with regard to recommendations, credentials, etc., so that it could make educated and objective choices when foreign officials are among the pool that is submitted.
Jose Sulaiman, president of the WBC has indicated to me that he would be interested in exploring it, adding that he has not really had any problems with commissions outside of Indiana when it comes to the selection of ring officials. Marc Ratner, director of the Nevada Commission, tells me this is based on good common sense, and that this is not unlike the procedure he uses in his own selection process. Other members of sanctioning bodies, who didn't want to speak FOR those sanctioning bodies, think it's an extremely workable plan.
You know, just because you compromise doesn't need you have to put yourself in a compromising position.
The state of Alabama does not have an active boxing commission, but the promotion itself was perfectly willing to be regulated, as per the Federal law requiring that shows in all states without commissions must be overseen by a commissioner from another state, using the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). The problem was, they couldn't FIND anyone that was willing to come and supervise it.
Mississippi wouldn't come; neither would Georgia, or Tennessee, or Florida.
As time wound down, the promoters were fully prepared to take another course of action, as a last resort - declare the fight to be sanctioned, in effect, by the city of Birmingham, with the mayor's support, deputize an ad hoc commission, with judges from the local gentry, and dare anyone to come in and stop them. They were not going to cancel a fight because SOMEONE ELSE couldn't get their act together.
Thankfully, an awkward situation was averted when Buddy Embanato, who heads the commission in Louisiana, and serves as Treasurer of the ABC, was brought in at the eleventh hour to oversee the fight at the behest of the ABC.
Why would the promoters have had to otherwise take drastic measures? Because the ABC, despite the obligations that are imposed under Federal law, does not have an insurance policy to provide liability coverage for a commissioner who travels from one jurisdiction to another for purposes of regulating a boxing match.
The ABC has a standard "directors insurance" policy for corporations, which would cover them on a number of things. But it does not even cover its corporate directors for such out-of-state regulatory activity.
The thing that makes this so problematic is that the ABC is under a "de facto" obligation to provide such oversight. According to Section 4 of the Professional Boxer Safety Act, referring to "BOXING MATCHES IN STATES WITHOUT BOXING COMMISSIONS",
"No person may arrange, promote, organize, produce, or fight in a professional boxing match held in a State that does not have a boxing commission unless the match is supervised by a boxing commission from another State and subject to the most recent version of the recommended regulatory guidelines certified and published by the Association of Boxing Commissions as well as any additional relevant professional boxing regulations and requirements of such other State."
The previous ABC administration, headed by former president Greg Sirb, had been under the mistaken impression that the insurance policy had indeed provided the proper coverage.
As a result, at least 33 shows between January 2000 and July 2001 were held in locales without boxing commissions, under the supervision of officials who may have had no coverage at all to protect them against liability. And that doesn't even count those held on Indian reservations, which for all intents and purposes reside on land that is outside the prescribed jurisdiction of a commission.
Current ABC president Tim Lueckenhoff confirms that there is no coverage for any commissioner, under any circumstances.
"When I originally inquired with the agent, I was told that we were 'probably covered', but it wasn't clear," Lueckenhoff says. "I have since found out we are not."
The "agent" for that particular policy was Laurence Cole of Texas, who also doubles as a fight referee for the state of Texas and the WBC. Cole worked the policy out with Sirb two years ago, when Sirb was still the ABC's president. It has apparently been Sirb's perspective that while commissioners at large may not have liability coverage with the policy, ABC officers and directors did, and that has led to a very interesting situation which has, according to our sources, caused considerable confusion and consternation within the ABC.
You see, Dover Downs, a pari-mutuel establishment in Delaware, had installed slot machines in its facility with a certain degree of success. They had an interest in boxing, and were in the process of stepping up with its boxing activities, in effect graduating to another level - televised shows, where the money outlay would be much greater.
Sirb is administrative head of the commission in Pennsylvania, which is a neighboring state, and was designated to handle the regulatory duties, since Delaware does not have a boxing commission.
One thing that bears mentioning here is that when a commission representative goes into another state to oversee a fight, he is not doing so on state time, or within the scope of state authority (state law would prohibit that). Therefore, the state employee would sign himself out to do the outside assignment on his own time. That creates a situation where that visiting supervisor is free to keep the money generated from such supervisory duty for himself.
Sirb was stepping down as president of the ABC during the July 2001 convention in New Orleans, as speculation mounted that he was seeking to position himself to be named as the "national commissioner", should the prospective legislation authored by John McCain (that which is currently up for consideration) eventually come to fruition.
However, Sirb, in the interim, would no longer be an officer with the ABC, and therefore would not be entitled to the liability protection under the directors insurance policy. Suddenly, at the ABC convention, an amendment to the constitution was proposed - one that would allow for Sirb to serve on the ABC board and as an officer for two additional years under the designation of "Past President", a title that did not exist in the ABC at the time.
Such an amendment would enable Sirb to go to Delaware to regulate shows - which eventually fell under the control of a long-time ally, Russell Peltz - with liability protection, at least as far as HE perceived it.
Interestingly enough, the motion for the amendment to retain Sirb as Past President, with a vote on the board, was made by Dickie Cole, boxing administrator from Texas, whose son had sold the insurance policy to Sirb originally.
The resolution passed, in effect giving Sirb another term as officer with the ABC. Most recently, Sirb presided over a May 10 Peltz-promoted card at Dover Downs, in which, as it turns out, and unbeknownst to the State of Delaware's Division of Professional Regulation, there was no insurance coverage for him.
Not only has Lueckenhoff found out that the policy purchased from Cole offered no real coverage, he has gradually become convinced no coverage of the sort may even be available.
"Even my own attorney general (in Missouri) has advised me not go into other states," he says.
At this point, many other commissioners feel the same way.
And they're not altogether happy about it.
That's why Lueckenhoff was on Capitol Hill two months ago, asking that another clause be written into the bill McCain is putting forward to Congress (the United States Boxing Amendments Act) - something to stipulate that in cases where a commissioner has to go into another state without a boxing commission in order to satisfy the Professional Boxer Safety Act, the promoter be compelled to take out a liability policy to cover him.
Luckily, in Alabama, the promoters had voluntarily taken out a policy to cover Embanato.
The potential fallout of not having a commission presence, or having one without the proper liability coverage, is quite obvious. Boxing certainly doesn't need the kind of after-effects caused by a disaster in the ring which results from an unsupervised fight.
Let's hope, for the sake of the sport, that Lueckenhoff can rectify the problems created by his predecessors.
I don't disagree with any of the assessments. Cole, in his capacity as a referee, has a potential effect on the level of liability incurred by the underwriter he sells a policy, just by the very nature of his job.
That's a conflict of interest, whichever way you slice it.
He also invariably finds himself in situations where he is functioning as the third man in the ring for a fight involving a boxer who is controlled and/or under contract to HIS CUSTOMER. To my knowledge, he does nothing to recuse himself in those instances.
That's another conflict of interest.
Last week, his activities became an issue again, because Cole sold a policy to Indiana Black Expo Inc., the licensed promoters of the July 20 Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley WBC welterweight title fight.
The Black Expo was a financial partner in this event with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which was represented at the now infamous July 15 meeting of the Indiana Boxing Commission by David Kahn, the company's general manager.
Kahn actively lobbied in unison with Forrest's representative, Al Haymon, for Indiana judge Fred Jones to be removed in favor of semi-retired Tony Castellano.
That raised my eyebrows because, as of the conclusion of that meeting, Cole's CUSTOMER, in effect, was solidly in the Forrest camp. At least that is the APPEARANCE it gave.
We were also not shy about letting people know that.
While not blatantly a conflict of interest, this state of affairs was problematic enough that the insurance policy was re-written so that the fight's promoters made their deal directly with the underwriter, in this case Francis L. Dean of Wheaton, Ill., which refers to itself as "The Nation's Leader in Sports Insurance".
Of course, the other alternative - that Cole be removed as referee - would have likely resulted in a WBC pullout, or at the very least a WBC bluff at a pullout, something the promoters could not afford, for reasons that were explained in
of this series.
Cole is very defiant about his position. As he told Thomas Hauser of SecondsOut.com, "Obviously, I try to do right by everyone involved, but there's no fiduciary duty to either side. I work with a larger agency in Illinois (Dean, as referred to above). We offer thirty-six different plans for professional boxers with coverage ceilings ranging from $2,500 to $250,000 per injury. That's it. There's nothing wrong."
We understand that boxer insurance is hard to get, and that only a few people will touch it. But what is distressing is that, rather than recognize the PERCEPTION of a potential problem and take steps to extricate himself from it, either by recusal from one activity or the other, Laurence Cole is of the mind where he is going to have his cake and eat it too. His major concern seems to be getting AROUND the issue.
I'm told there might actually be a way where the policy can be written directly with the underwriter and Cole can still keep his commission; rumor has it that's an option he's exploring.
That's just what we need in boxing, especially at the regulatory level - more people looking for loopholes.
And I'm told he'd like to become head of the North American Boxing Federation, which wouldn't be a huge surprise.
Now, I don't want to call Cole a bad person, and I don't consider any of these conflicts of interest to be especially egregious, sneaky, or diabolical.
But for purposes of this discussion, and the issues being brought forward in this series, what I'm most interested in are the additional questions this scenario brings up - namely, whether Laurence Cole, while functioning in this "dual capacity", is violating the Professional Boxer Safety Act, a Federal law.
Let me quote it directly:
"§ 6308. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
No member or employee of a boxing commission, no person who administers or enforces State boxing laws, and no member of the Association of Boxing Commissions may belong to, CONTRACT WITH, OR RECEIVE ANY COMPENSATION FROM, any person who sanctions, arranges, or PROMOTES professional boxing matches or who otherwise has a financial interest in an active boxer currently registered with a boxer registry. For purposes of this section, the term "compensation" does not include funds held in escrow for payment to another person in connection with a professional boxing match. The prohibition set forth in this section shall not apply to any contract entered into, or any reasonable compensation received, by a boxing commission to supervise a professional boxing match in another State as described in Section 6303 of title."
I don't think it would be unreasonable to argue that Laurence Cole is either an employee (if only part-time) with the Texas commission, or that he is enforcing state boxing laws, rules, and regulations (in the ring). If things are "arranged" in such a way where technically he is not, then that might be the loophole to end all loopholes.
Actually, I'm reasonably sure his responsibility would apply within the Federal law, when I take a look at Chapter 61, Rule 61.41 of the Texas Administrative Code as it applies to "Responsibilities of the Referee" in "combative sports":
"(a) Referees are responsible for enforcing the rules of the contest and shall exercise immediate authority, direction and control over contests. The referee shall conduct a rules meeting before the first bout of the event.
(b) The referee may eject from an event any person who violates the Code or Department rules. If a second violates these rules or the Code, the referee may disqualify the seconds' contestant."
At the very least, his function should apply within the SPIRIT of the Federal law.
Then again, when you talk about loopholes, there's a guy in Texas who has the ability, I suppose, to create a loophole so large you could drive a truck through it - that's the administrative head of the Texas commission, who just so happens to Laurence's daddy, Dickie Cole.
And frankly folks, I'm not so sure I'm even concerned as much with Laurence as I am (or was) with Dickie Cole, who owned the insurance agency before he turned it over to his son.
While Dickie ran the business, he was doing the same thing Laurence does now - writing policy after policy for boxing promoters who were willing to throw the business his way.
Of course, during this period, Dickie Cole was, at various times, a president of the NABF, as well as its ratings chairman, and was ratings chairman of the World Boxing Council (WBC), for whom he also served as Vice-President and head of the organization in the United States.
Just so we're straight on this, during most, if not all, of this time, he was doing business with boxing promoters.
During most, if not all, of this time he was IN CHARGE OF RATING BOXERS OR IN SETTING POLICIES for sanctioning bodies. In other words, he was cultivating business and accepting money from customers who had more than a passing interest in having their fighters rated, as advantageously as possible.
While I'm not directly suggesting that this provides an explanation for many of the otherwise unexplainable ratings in the WBC and NABF during this period of time, there is certainly no law against anyone drawing his/her own conclusions.
It was hardly a secret in boxing that people felt they were ingratiating themselves to the WBC and/or NABF by purchasing policies through Dickie Cole's agency. For all I know, they may still feel that way.
What makes this important for the immediate future of boxing is that, by all accounts, Dickie Cole has thrown his hat into the ring for national boxing "czar".
And he may have some support; after all, he was appointed to his current job through the administration of someone named George W. Bush.
And it brings up questions as to whether an organization which, in fact, has a stake in the outcome of a fight should in fact have any say at all in who is going to determine that outcome.
What do I mean by that, you might ask?
Well, first of all, let's stipulate that the WBC is in business to make a profit, regardless of what they want you to believe their official designation is. A sanctioning body does not charge sanctioning fees on a percentage basis, with more money coming out of bigger purses, if they are not in business for profit.
And it's not hard to see where that profit motive can get in the way of what might be just and equitable.
Take an example - let's say Fighter A is the champion. He's making #3 million for a particular fight, and 3% of that purse is going to the WBC in the form of a sanctioning fee. If he wins his title defense, he's going to make $10 million for his next fight, which will be a major showdown against another fighter, who might be making, say $6 million. First, however, Fighter A is facing off against Fighter B, who is one of those guys who's probably #8 in the ratings, unknown, and making only about $100,000 for his title challenge. If Fighter B wins, he'll be in bigger money, no doubt, but that bigger payday may be on the order of about $1.5 million, not the considerably larger figure the more well-known Fighter A would get for moving on.
Now let's do some simple arithmetic - if Fighter A wins, the next fight will produce something in the neighborhood of $480,000 for the WBC (3% of the combined purses of the two fighters). However, if Fighter B were to pull off the upset, his next fight might produce no more than $2 million in purses, which would mean only $60,000 in sanctioning fees to the WBC.
That's a difference of $420,000, or SEVEN HUNDRED PERCENT in sanctioning fees.
Is anybody going to sit there with a straight face and tell me that wouldn't mean anything to the WBC? Would it mean something to YOU?
Now consider that when they are able to have their way, the WBC handpicks the judges that the officiating pool is selected FROM.
Allegedly they include on their lists judges who have attended multiple seminars, where "uniformity" is taught in the methodology of scoring fights.
From a technical standpoint, I don't know exactly what is taught at these seminars. Nor do I care to know.
All I can tell you is that "uniformity" can mean a lot of different things.
There's no question that if a judge has gotten to the point where he is going to work in world championship fights, he would have worked on the local level for a certain period of time. Over that period of time he develops a certain philosophy.
Judges have different basic philosophies about them - some appreciate defense more than others. Some favor the "ring general". Many like to consider clean punches more than anything else. That's why you wind up with differing scores in fights - not only are the judges looking at the fight from different angles, they're looking at it from different philosophical perspectives as well.
Maybe this is healthy; maybe it isn't. It isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world for all judges to be using the same basic criteria, and to the same degree, when scoring a fight. I grant you that.
But should the methodology and/or philosophy be that which is CREATED by the likes of Jose Sulaiman & Co., that is, the very people who are in many cases, making the MOST PROFIT off the performance of one fighter in a championship bout?
I would think not.
Even so, I'm less concerned about than the fundamentals that are taught at these seminars, which I'm told are more or less the same no matter which sanctioning body you're talking about, than I am with what is taught OUTSIDE the seminars; that is, what is IMPLIED.
"They bring these promoters out and let you know how much they love them," one WBC judge told us. "They give them awards, introduce them at the dinners, and you look in the program book for the convention and can see who's buying the full-page ads. They make sure everybody gets the message."
The judge asked not to be identified. He's worried he'd never get any more work from the WBC, which tells you a little something about the way this business is done.
If you're going to be setting standards - standards which may, in many cases, determine who wins or loses fights - those standards should not be set by a sanctioning body, not by a PRIVATE enterprise, but by a regulatory agency that has, as a matter of law, a certain degree of PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY - whether you feel that agency is proficient or not. That means a state commission, or collection of state commissions (meaning the ABC), or a national regulatory apparatus.
If the World Boxing Council has a financial incentive, and therefore is an INTERESTED PARTY in the outcome of a fight, why in the world should it have ANY degree of influence over the result? Can anybody answer that question for me in a way in which he wouldn't get laughed out of the room?
Just review the components of the whole process - the WBC is in a position where it controls the TRAINING of their officials and dictates the APPOINTMENT of those same officials, based on (by their own admission), their "past performances" in title fights. They don't want to allow officials who are registered with any other sanctioning body to work their fights. They require the officials to attend conventions at which they are not shy in telling you who their favorite promoters are. There are invariably going to be those promoters who can deliver the highest sanctioning fees, and deliver the most business to the organizations, and therefore those promoters will have the most visibility at the conventions at which many of these judging seminars take place.
And it's not much of a secret, to any of these judges, that those sanctioning fees increase, more often than not, when a "house fighter" controlled by one of those promoters wins a fight.
On top of all that, they also control the drug testing in those states in which law does not require it. That means that the WBC conducts the tests, and reserves the exclusive right to reveal or conceal the results of these tests. If a "house fighter" were to fail a drug test, the WBC could hold back that result if it so desired, and if it suited their purposes, and they wouldn't necessarily be violating the rules of the boxing commission. No one would ever know the difference.
I'll tell you this much - if I were betting on a fight, I could do a heck of a lot worse than have all these factors going in my favor.
With a financial stake in the outcome that is so easily definable, what's so different about the position of the WBC?
Really - and I'm not exaggerating - this may be worse than paying college basketball players to shave points, and it's MUCH easier to do.
That's because it's MUCH more self-contained, and therefore more controllable.
Gourmet meals, hookers, the whole works. Right out the window.
Yes, Jose Sulaiman & Friends appear to be passing a resolution against your humble reporter.
In its latest newsletter, dated July 18, the organization wrote,
"The policies of the World Boxing Council have once again been the subject of criticism - this time by an author of an internet site, one "Charles Jay" - as regards the appointment and selection of the ring officials for Saturday night's WBC welterweight title bout between Vernon
Forrest and Shane Mosley in Indiana.
"The article is full of gross misstatements of fact, errors and misrepresentations, most particularly regarding the relationship between the World Boxing Council and the Indiana State Athletic Commission.
"We feel compelled to respond to the lies and set the record straight...."
It's sure nice to know you've got people that concerned.
And even nicer to know the WBC is always around to "get the record straight".
If they were angry on Thursday, when their newsletter was written, they had to even more irate on Friday, when, as a direct result of our July 16 story, an inflammatory letter was penned by Senator John McCain, which basically threatened to cut off the WBC's balls by way of future boxing legislation, perhaps that which is currently up for consideration before the Congress.
And just imagine their reaction on Saturday, when McCain's letter was shown as part of HBO's telecast of the Forrest-Mosley fight.
If you'd like, you can read the entire WBC newsletter
, but essentially it talks about how respected and revered the WBC is, how respected and revered Tony Castellano is as a judge, and how dare I infer that his credentials were not known by the members of the Indiana Boxing Commission.
As for my "lies, errors, and misrepresentations", where are they?
Did Jake Hall not come to a verbal agreement with Sulaiman on the judges, a group that included Fred Jones of Indiana?
Was Jones not switched in favor of Castellano in the Monday meeting?
The commissioner, Hall, tells me he had never heard of Castellano before that meeting, and neither of his fellow commissioners knew either. In fact, Hall even brought the question up to Kelsey and Treacy during the meeting, at which time neither man could come up with an answer. "He's one of the names on the list (the WBC's list of recommended judges)", was the only retort Kelsey offered.
The truth is, the two Indiana commissioners voted for Castellano based not on actual qualifications, but on the recommendations of others in the meeting, namely Al Haymon, the representative of Forrest, who was coming in OVER A SPEAKERPHONE, and who had not been identified to Jake Hall. There was no one present at the meeting to make an argument for Shane Mosley.
And there's reason to believe that the switch in judges was a fait accompli well BEFORE that commission meeting, something that was unbeknownst to Hall. Fred Jones, the judge who was ousted in favor of Castellano, told me that at 8:15 AM last Monday morning, as he arrived a half-hour early for the meeting, Bill Kelsey, who was the only other party present in the conference room, came to him and said, in Jones' words, "What happens today - I hope you don't take it personally."
Discussing that kind of official commission business between Kelsey and Treacy, outside an official commission meeting, and apart from Jake Hall, might be legal, but it's certainly suspicious.
Given the opportunity to articulate the special qualifications of Tony Castellano before my story was written, neither commissioner - Bill Kelsey or Ed Treacy - came forward with a response.
Kelsey returned my call AFTER the story was posted. My understanding, through Hall, is that Treacy is angry because my story mentioned that he didn't return the call. Well, I've got news for you - Chapter 35 appeared on Tuesday of last week, and it's Monday of THIS week - six days later, and Treacy STILL hasn't returned my call.
What does all that tell you?
It tells me plenty.
More from the WBC
"Third, the dubious author of the internet piece (me) refers to the fact that one judge, Tony Castellano, was 'unknown in the state of Indiana.' In response to this, we can only state that the author is lacking in his comprehension of boxing history, and that HE MIGHT BE BETTER OFF WRITING ABOUT
, OR SOME OTHER SPORT OF WHICH HE HAS A GREATER UNDERSTANDING."
As confirmation of his absolute qualifications, they bring up that Castellano served as a judge for over fifty years, and about a million fights, including the Marciano-Charles fight in 1954. Are you f**king kidding me?
My sense of boxing history? Yes, this guy is history - ANCIENT history. Max Schmeling is still alive today, as far as I know, and though he never beat Lennox Lewis, he did beat JOE Louis. That doesn't necessarily mean I could still buy his way into the WBC heavyweight ratings.
Or maybe I shouldn't speak too soon.
Standard procedure, if they were looking to displace one of their own judges, who they had approved by way of a vote on June 7, would have been for the commissioners, Kelsey and Treacy, to consult with Nevada on what Castellano's real qualifications are, IN THE HERE AND NOW, not 40 years ago.
They did not.
But Jake Hall, who's got more on the ball, requested that Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, send a letter of recommendation for Tony Castellano - at most a routine matter.
Ratner wouldn't go that far.
Let me repeat that - RATNER WOULDN'T GO THAT FAR.
What does THAT tell you?
The fact is, Castellano is merely an HONORARY judge in the state of Nevada, and that's out of courtesy to his wife Carol, who is a working judge. TONY Castellano is NOT a working judge in the state of Nevada.
You go ahead and draw your own conclusions regarding that.
Castellano, in fact, was not on the WBC's original list of five "recommended judges" that was submitted in a letter from Sulaiman of the to the Indiana commission on May 17,
As for the contention that "the WBC holds the Indiana State Athletic Commission, its director and officials in only the highest respect and regard", that's bullshit.
In point of fact, they had NO RESPECT at all for the Indiana Commission. After they had agreed with Jake Hall on the judges (Jones, Merritt, and Duane Ford), and the commission voted to approve those officials on June 7, the WBC attorney, someone named Gabriel Penagaricano, wrote a letter demanded that all the officials be of the WBC's choosing or they would pull the sanction for the fight. "You can have yourselves and Indiana title fight if you want", was the way Penagaricano threatened Kelsey.
Of course, the WBC had all the leverage in the world. According to a "Memorandum of Commitment", in which financial terms, including a $1,327,500 site fee, were outlined between three parties - the promoters (Indiana Black Expo Inc. and Pacers Sports & Entertainment Inc.) and an "agent" (Al Haymon Development Inc.), "the bout MUST be unconditionally sanctioned by the WBC for the welterweight championship of the world".
Whether compelling a FOURTH party to do something is legitimate or not as part of an agreement is a question in and of itself. But there seemed to be no question the WBC was secure in its position that it could squeeze someone's balls in the end.
It was verbally agreed, in a phone call between Hall and WBC president Jose Sulaiman ("He was very much a gentleman", said Hall), that Laurence Cole of Texas would serve as the referee, and that the judges would be Fred Jones and Gary Merritt, both of Indiana, and Jerry Roth of Nevada, who was inserted in place of Duane Ford, who had just recently worked the Barrera-Morales fight and was thus deemed to be unavailable by the WBC.
Hall, a 12-year veteran of the commission who had been appointed with the task of arranging for the officials on behalf of Indiana, was satisfied, and confident he could avoid the same problem that had taken place back in May of 2000, when, in one of the most shameful actions in the sport of boxing in recent memory, the WBC threatened to pull its sanction FIFTEEN MINUTES before Roy Jones Jr.'s light heavyweight title defense against Richard Hall, unless the commission were to remove one of its Indiana-based judges and replace him with David Harris, a judge from Texas who just so happened to have been sent to Indianapolis in advance by Sulaiman.
At THAT particular time, the panic button went off, and commission chairman Bill Kelsey rolled over for the WBC.
On Monday morning, Kelsey did it again.
In a meeting of the commission in which the voting on officials was expected to be a formality, Hall was effectively sandbagged by his colleagues.
In that meeting, Kelsey and another commissioner, Ed Treacy, voted to replace one of its own judges - Fred Jones - with Nevada judge Tony Castellano, thereby throwing the process into a state of chaos which might, before all is said and done, rival that of the Roy Jones-Richard Hall fight.
It is not known for certain how the campaign of Castellano specifically came alive, but the guess here is that it gathered steam well ahead of the meeting. According to Hall, the commission know little or nothing about Castellano's background. One can only speculate as to how much lobbying was done by the WBC behind Hall's back, or behind closed doors.
Hall told us that the group of officials who were finally settled upon late last week were not only approved by the WBC, as far back as June 7, but also met with no objection from the camps of either Mosley or Forrest; nor were there ANY objections from Kelsey or Treacy, prior to Monday's fateful meeting.
Then, suddenly, they were being treated to protests on the part of Al Hayman, a representative of Forrest, who "went on for about 35 minutes" about an objection to Jones, offering Castellano as the alternative, according to Hall.
"Information" such as this apparently influenced the commissioners, who then threw Fred Jones out of the fight.
TOTAL ACTION attempted to contact both Kelsey and Treacy on Monday afternoon; our purpose was not only to decipher the rationale behind the sudden change in their vote - after an agreement had seemingly been reached - but also to inquire as to how much knowledge they had to base this reversal on, particularly about the background and capabilities of Castellano.
Neither commissioner returned our phone calls.
Apparently, the root of the objection to Jones is two-fold: that he is considered to be "an IBF official", and in the words of one of the parties at the commission meeting, "inexperienced".
I find that to be an interesting contradiction - on the one hand, presumably Jones is not considered to have enough experience to be "qualified", according to the WBC, but on the other, he is judged to be experienced enough in the "system" to be an "IBF guy".
I simply don't buy that. The facts are that Fred Jones is neither. He has been a ringside judge for at least eight years, and has worked in seven IBF world championship fights. He would have operated more for the WBC, but after attending several seminars for the NABF, the WBC's "minor league", he received only one NABF assignment.
Malcolm Garrett, an Indiana promoter who was on hand at the commission meeting, said Jones "is an honest guy who is certainly not incapable of officiating at this fight."
The WBC appears to be very worried about the way its champion, Forrest, will be treated by officials who have had an IBF "association", considering the organization stripped Forrest of its version of the welterweight title in 2001, for choosing to fight Mosley instead of top contender Michele Piccirillo. They ultimately used that to leave Jones off its list of "qualified officials", leading to its ultimate objection.
However, that would appear to be another contradiction, in and of itself, as the other officials in this fight - Merritt and Roth - have served as judges at 46 IBF championship fights between them.
And if the WBC is implying that judges who have done a healthy number of IBF title fights would, as a matter of course, prejudice Forrest, or the WBC, in this matter, isn't that conceding that officials in general, and by nature, are biased in a political sense? And given the room for "lateral mobility" on the part of many officials from one sanctioning body to another, does that not also imply that there must undoubtedly be some WBC officials we can't trust?
Why does an organization like the WBC feel that officials must exclusively belong to them? What kind of message does that send?
What does all of this tell us about the credibility of "championship-level" officials as a whole?
You can supply your own conclusions to that one.
Regarding Castellano, to refer to him as a "Nevada judge" is actually something of a misnomer. Yes, he LIVES in Nevada, but he doesn't WORK in Nevada, and hasn't since he moved to Las Vegas with his wife Carol (also a judge) several years ago. Castellano would seem to work exclusively for the WBC, and does so almost entirely in foreign countries, something which, at the very least, should give rise to further exploration on the part of the commission.
Another disturbing thing about the Monday commission meeting was that while the objections and suggestions of Hayman seem to have been digested, considered, and acted upon by the commissioners, there was no representative of Shane Mosley present (none seems to have been invited), giving this meeting the character of an "ex parte" proceeding.
It's reasonable to assume that once Mosley's people discover that the major objection on the part of the WBC was the way FORREST was going to be treated by the judges, and that the organization took pro-active steps to correct that, there will be considerable objection to any maneuvers - covert or otherwise - the WBC may have tried to execute. Whether anything can be done about it is another question.
Just as it did with the Jones fight, the WBC has threatened to pull its sanction for this bout. On June 26 - NINETEEN days after Hall had settled upon the referee and judges with Rex Walker, a WBC official - one of the WBC's attorneys, Gabriel Penagaricano, sent a letter to Kelsey in which he demanded that the Indiana commission replace two of the judges, and NOT use Jones, but a different official - to be selected from a special list of designees the organization provided.
The last line of Penagaricano's letter was this - "In the unfortunate and unwanted event that you opt for the selection of officials deemed by the WBC to be unqualified for the judging of this momentous match, you will leave the organization with no alternative but to withhold its sanction." Sent later that day was a list of officials deemed "qualified" by the WBC which included Merritt, but not Jones.
Six days later, an irate Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, fired off a forceful letter to Jose Sulaiman - the product of a collaboration with Hall and ABC lawyers - in which he castigated the WBC for its previous actions in the Jones fight, reaffirmed the qualifications of Fred Jones as a judge, and raised strong objection to the "requirement" that Indiana replace two judges, indicating that the WBC's insistence in that regard "has the
of being premised upon: (1) a pervasive desire to perpetuate a 'reward' system for those ring officials who pay membership dues, conference fees and seminar fees to the WBC, or, worse, (2) a desire to control the outcome of a professional boxing match."
Perhaps the most important issue raised by Lueckenhoff was that the WBC had no authority or justification for its actions under Federal law.
Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, under the title "JUDGES AND REFEREES", reads this way:
"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 this means, kids, is that the WBC actually has this whole thing ASS-BACKWARDS (with the emphasis on "ass"). It is not THEIR option to approve or disapprove of the officials installed by Indiana; it is actually INDIANA'S authority to approve or disapprove, and the WBC's wants and desires are strictly secondary.
This issue is something that states have struggled to establish authority over, and indeed, Lueckenhoff's letter seemed to have had the effect of creating a phone conversation which eventually produced the verbal agreement between Hall and Sulaiman. Going into the weekend, the judges - Jones, Merritt, and Roth - were solidly in place.
Those arrangements were thrown completely out of whack on Monday.
Effectively, the WBC had figured out a way to get in "through the back door".
And as a result of their subordination, two Indiana commissioners took one more giant step BACKWARD for boxing reform.
I wonder if they even realize what they've done.
Let me weigh in regarding the subject of "experienced officials". At this point, given the overriding political atmosphere that surrounds these selections, there is almost no other choice but to assume that politics and favoritism pervades the way judges look at these fights, to the point of distortion. Is it not patently obvious, to any judge the WBC appoints, that the organization has taken measures specifically to protect Forrest?
To my way of thinking, LACK of exposure to the dubious system by which judges are recruited, appointed, even trained, to officiate these title fights is in all probability an ADVANTAGE, since those officials have not had as much of a chance to get "polluted" by that system.
As such, Fred Jones may just be the MOST qualified judge available.
Personally, as a boxing fan, a boxing writer, and an advocate of boxing reform, I'm certainly disappointed in Messrs. Kelsey and Treacy, and greatly distressed with the message the World Boxing Council is sending my way here.
But you know, when I take a look at some of the principal characters involved, I notice that the supervisor of the Jones fight two years ago (Gerry Bolen), the supervisor assigned to THIS fight (Mario Latraverse), and the liaison for Indiana with regard to officials (Rex Walker), are ALL executive officers and board members for - you guessed it - the North American Boxing Federation, the WBC's so-called "junior organization".
When he does, he may wind up carrying a little more baggage than he originally intended.
As you obviously know if you've read the last several chapters of "Operation Cleanup", Williams fought in Wisconsin on July 5, in a ten-round fight with Michael Grant that was declared an exhibition when it was discovered that he was indeed under indictment for allegedly fixing a fight with Richie Melito in Las Vegas two years ago.
The claim made by Williams' agent, Robert Mittleman, had been that Williams was NOT under indictment, simply under investigation - something Mittleman later admitted was a lie.
TOTAL ACTION has obtained documentation indicating that both Williams and Mittleman presented false information on their applications for state licensure in Wisconsin, an offense that could conceivably have an effect on Williams' trial.
On the second page of the boxer's application put forth by the State of Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing, a series of questions about the disciplinary background of an individual are asked.
The first question is - "Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, or driving while intoxicated (DWI), in this or any other state, OR are criminal charges or DWI charges currently pending against you?"
To this question, Williams checked the "NO" box on the application, clearly an answer that was not truthful.
Of course, this was no surprise, since this had been the false contention of Williams and Mittleman all the way up to the day of the fight.
The following language is used at the bottom of the application:
"I swear under penalty of perjury, that the information provided on this application is true to the best of knowledge and belief."
The application is signed: "Thomas Top Dog Williams".
Quite obviously, Williams has perjured himself here. And if Mittleman - whose word Cedric Kushner, Eric Bottjer, and everyone else associated with the troubled July 5 promotion relied upon to a considerable degree - in any way encouraged, directed, or advised Williams to answer the question in the application in a false manner, then he could very well be guilty of SUBORNING perjury.
The lie on Williams' form was in no way a secret. Members of the management team of Michael Grant became aware of Williams' answers when inspecting his application in the presence of Roxanne Peterson, administrator for the Wisconsin commission, earlier in the day (July 5), and in fact, later on that evening, when it was suggested to Grant that he might be arrested if he failed to fulfill his contractual obligation to fight Williams, attorney Jim Thomas, one of Grant's managers, was fully prepared to bring the application up as evidence that Williams had misrepresented himself in the process of getting the fight.
They had a good point; had Mittleman been open and honest about the status of Williams when asked by Cedric Kushner about the indictment some weeks before, it's likely Williams would have been removed as the opponent. So in a way, he got the fight under false pretenses.
Ironically, there was really no need for Williams to lie on his Wisconsin application, since the commission would have most likely allowed him to fight, considering he was not under an active suspension at the time.
Besides the falsehoods he told to promoters, Mittleman lied to the Wisconsin commission on his license form as well.
Mittleman answered "NO" to all the disciplinary questions on the application, including this one - "Has any licensing or other credentialing agency ever taken any disciplinary action against you, including but not limited to, any warning, reprimand, SUSPENSION, probation, limitation or revocation?"
Mittleman is still under an indefinite suspension handed down by the Mexico City Boxing Commission on June 11, 1999. Reportedly, the genesis of the suspension involves his attempts to take Mexican welterweight Miguel Rodriguez, who was under a valid contract to a licensed promoter (Raul Cruz), and transport him across the border to the U.S. for the purposes of stealing him from Cruz.
The suspension has never been lifted by the commission in Mexico.
While it is true that the Mexico City commission is not a member of the Association of Boxing Commissions, and that regulatory bodies in the United States are not compelled to honor such a suspension, it is also a fact that Mittleman is listed on "The Association of Boxing Commissions Suspension/Disciplinary List", which is accessible through the ABC's website (
This suspension apparently became a problem for Mittleman when he brought a client, junior middleweight Wilfredo Rivera, to fight Shane Mosley in California in September of 1999. The commission reportedly would not let Mittleman work the corner, but finally agreed to after Rivera threatened not to come out.
Williams may run into difficulties as a result of his lies, especially if he expects to take the stand in his own defense during the course of his trial. Evidence that he has perjured himself since the indictment, and in a boxing-related circumstance, no less, could be damning indeed.
And according to Ms. Peterson of the Wisconsin commission, the state may launch its own investigation, as is its option when presented with false information on a state document.
While they're at it, maybe the state should also investigate something else.
What REALLY happened to that substitute opponent who was supposed to show up?
Ken Murphy, a Chicago fighter, was contacted at 3 PM the afternoon of the fight, and purportedly began driving to the Menominee Bingo Casino in Keshena, Wisc. in an attempt to get to the venue in time to step into the ring for the main event. However, Murphy supposedly got lost along the way, turning a 4-1/2-hour trip into something that lasted much, much longer.
According to Jim Thomas, who had talked to Murphy on his cell phone and who also kept closely abreast of matchmaker Eric Bottjer's contact with the fighter, which resulted in close to 40 phone calls in all, Murphy was coming up with some very strange answers to the questions that were being posed to him.
"He didn't seem to be able to tell us where he was at any time," said Thomas. "He wasn't able to read the signs on the highway. So we just asked him to read off numbers, and he could hardly even do that. One minute he was in Milwaukee, the next minute he was in Racine. He was supposedly at a place that was just about seven miles away from the casino, then on the next call he told us he was in Green Bay. I couldn't figure it out."
Teddy Atlas didn't know what to make of it either, as he told Steve Kim of MaxBoxing: "So we found out he's (Murphy) 45 minutes away. So we say 'OK, we're gonna be all right', then 45 minutes later, we find out he's an hour away, he got on the wrong road. It was just an odyssey of errors. It was something that if you put in the movies, they would think it was overkill or over the top."
While I have talked to several people who told me Murphy finally showed up as the card was ending, looking for his money, and that indeed sounded like a funny, ironic way for me to end my story, I have yet to speak to anyone who actually SAW Murphy on the premises.
And I'm wondering whether he ever left Chicago at all.
Think about it for a minute - it would be commonplace for someone who never set out on the highway in the first place to have a very difficult time coming up with plausible answers when queried, on a continuing basis, about his progress. Improvisation just doesn't happen that easily. And the erratic responses Murphy certainly give rise to a lot of doubt.
After all, if you're cruising around Chicago with a cell phone in your hand and someone is asking you which little town in Wisconsin you just passed, and you knew that person was most likely holding a road map in their hands, you'd probably tell them you couldn't read the signs, rather than get caught tripping over yourself.
And I don't care how dumb you may be. Anyone can pull into a gas station and ask directions if he's within 35 miles of a place, and find his way there.
The whole progression of Murphy's movements just doesn't pass the giggle test.
I'm sure I could talk to Murphy about it. I could talk to Bottjer. I could talk to Mittleman, I suppose. But I doubt very seriously those conversations would bring me any closer to the truth. And I'm not sure I could necessarily "bank on" the word of anyone else who was up there who I haven't talked to already. So that leaves me with a gut feeling.
But it's a gut feeling that makes some sense.
Remember, Murphy had been on the phone with Mittleman earlier. And Mittleman, who has booked Murphy into overseas fights previously, had a VERY strong interest in Murphy not showing up. That's because if Murphy shows, he (Mittleman) probably doesn't get paid. As we know by now, Robert Mittleman would do ANYTHING, legal or illegal; moral, immoral, or amoral, to get paid. It wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility that Mittleman and Williams may have gotten together, decided to give Murphy $1500 or so to "get lost", with the promise that he would be booked into some fight, overseas or elsewhere, next month.
My own feeling is that, at the very least, Murphy may have left Chicago and Mittleman exerted some "influence" on the progress of that trip, which ultimately made Murphy "unavailable".
There's a point to be made here, and it has very little to do with the Ali Act. It has little to do with the Professional Boxer Safety Act. And it has nothing to do with any legislation we think should be in place.
But if I'm the commission - and this should apply to ANY commission - and this is just my fourth fight card during all of 2002, AND I had a show with the biggest name who had fought in my state this year, AND there was a venue I wanted to preserve just for the sake of keeping boxing alive in the state, AND the guy who was supposed to come and very possibly save a fight card got lost under some extremely suspicious circumstances, I'd want to know if someone, who has LIED on the state application for licensure, had something to do with that. I'd want to discipline that individual, and anyone else who participated in it. I'd want to send the word out about this individual to all the other state commissions, so they can decide what action to take on their own - hopefully upholding, with my STRONG recommendation, whatever disciplinary action I decided to impose.
You know what that's called?
It's called BOXING REFORM. One step at a time.
Next up: What should be learned from this whole episode?