Teddy Atlas pointed out, not only to me but in another interview he had with Steve Kim of MaxBoxing, that if I had spoken to him before writing my story, this entire situation might have been avoided. I understand his point. But there are a couple of other things that need to be understood also --
I'm not necessarily in the business of putting a stop to events that are supposed to take place in the ring. It's not my intention to CREATE news, although that obviously can't be avoided sometimes. My preference is not to alter the material occurrence of events, but to let those events unfold, then react. So I was not predisposed to call Teddy or Cedric Kushner, people I have known for a while, and suggest who they should or shouldn't be engaging in a boxing match with.
As I mentioned in
, I had been under the assumption that Williams had been taken out as the opponent. I didn't think it was conceivable that CKP would have kept him in there, after the information had been brought forward weeks in advance. When it became apparent to me that Williams might still be in place as Grant's opponent, it was already Tuesday afternoon (July 2), and even then it took at least 24 hours to get any kind of substantive confirmation on it. At that point, I was operating on the assumption that since Williams was indeed in the fight, his participation took place with full knowledge and full disclosure, not to mention everyone's blessing.
Also, as was stated in
, I felt I had every expectation that Teddy had an awareness about the background of Williams, based on the report he had made for ESPN2 back in August of 2000. He has told me that the story was a couple of years ago, and that he had not made the connection, so I am perfectly willing to take him at his word.
And I didn't have any particular objection to Williams fighting and making a living. I feel that if I were a boxing commission, it would give me pause to approve him, and I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to have him on a card, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that approving him for a show was scandalous. If you need further amplification as to my actual objections, please refer back to
. I had tried to contact the Wisconsin commission on Tuesday afternoon, when I started to get the indication that Williams was indeed still in as the opponent for Grant. But I was not calling them to KILL the fight - I never really wanted to kill the fight at any time. In fact, I doubt I would even have informed them about Williams' pending trial, or the charges that were attached to it; once again, I guess I may have been naive about this, but I pre-supposed that everyone was already aware of it. Rather, I was simply trying to confirm that Williams was indeed on record with them as the opponent, so that when I wrote something, I didn't look foolish.
The commission was out of the office until July 9; but when I finally got to speak with Roxanne Peterson, the administrative assistant, who was on hand for the July 5 show, I found her to be most courteous, cooperative, and professional. I really hope she initiates some kind of investigation into the perjurious applications filed by Robert Mittleman and Thomas Williams.
Another matter that deserves mention surrounds the status of Williams, from a boxing perspective, after this fight. In speaking to Roxanne, there was a question as to whether to put Williams on the suspension list or not, since this fight was an exhibition, and will be sent into Fight Fax (the boxing registrar) as such.
I gave her my own opinion - that a stoppage is a stoppage, wherever it happens. If a member of the Wisconsin commission witnessed Williams getting stopped in a sparring session, I would hope they'd want him to serve a medical suspension. So it stands to reason they should suspend him for a TKO loss in an exhibition.
Furthermore, if they DON'T put him on the suspension list, and he goes to another jurisdiction two weeks from now, that commission will check the computer and see that's he's not suspended, and may just allow him to fight. If Williams were to get hurt badly, or worse, under those circumstances, I can't even imagine the depth of the liability the state of Wisconsin might incur in a potential lawsuit.
Enough said there.
I guess I can reconcile myself to empathize with almost everyone involved in this unfortunate situation. I can empathize with Jackie Kallen and Jeanie Miranda, who are in business selling fights to casinos, because they wanted things to go well for their new customer. I can empathize with Cedric Kushner, who got a bunch of lies when he asked Robert Mittleman about Thomas Williams' indictment. I can empathize with Michael Grant's people, who wound up in a position where their main concern was looking out for the welfare and reputation of their fighter, which I suppose is what it should be. I can empathize with the boxing commission, which had probably never encountered a bizarre series of events like this before.
I can empathize with the people from the casino, because I've been in that situation before. If I had brought in a promoter, and all this confusion started happening to me on the night of a fight, and someone hadn't explained to me what was happening, WELL IN ADVANCE, I can guarantee you I'd hold back some of the site fee that was going to go to that promoter, and make a resolution never to do business with that entity again. What needs to be understood is that the people in that audience were not boxing fans first; they were CASINO customers first. And those fights represented ENTERTAINMENT for customers.
But the bottom line with just about everybody involved here is that they just didn't do enough homework. If they had performed enough DUE DILIGENCE, none of this would likely have happened. No one can really be excused from that completely.
Can I run a commercial here? If there's a lesson to be learned, it's that they need to be coming to TotalAction.com everyday. Let's face it - if they had, they would have all avoided major embarrassment.
Oh - I forgot about the person I probably empathize with the most here. That's Amy Hayes, the ring announcer who was confronted with the unenviable task of having to entertain the crowd for about two hours while all hell was breaking loose at the venue; while chairs were being thrown into the ring; while a crowd full of casino patrons was getting more and more upset by the minute. Being put in that situation was completely unforeseen for her, and she deserves a double "A" for effort. Craig Searl, the marketing director at the Menominee Casino, says "Without a doubt, she saved the show." I even forgive her for the shameless plugs for FightNews.
One "person" I simply can not empathize with is Robert Mittleman, because of his utter dishonesty that opened the door for all this to happen in the first place. And for other reasons, including the fact that he's completely shameless.
It would not surprise me in the least if Mittleman were to walk into the offices of Cedric Kushner, or Craig Searl, or Jackie Kallen, one of these days and try to peddle Thomas Williams to them again.
I can envision it now.
"He's absolutely perfect. Didn't you see? The crowd LOVED him."
As the July 5 boxing show commenced, the people in charge of overseeing the Menominee Bingo Casino's interests - marketing director Craig Searl and promotions manager Cynthia Hughes - still had no idea that there was a major problem surrounding the opponent for their feature fighter, Michael Grant, and were oblivious to most of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that could very well have a material affect on the product their customers were about to see that evening.
Starting at about 6 PM, amateur boxers stepped into the ring in the finals of the Junior Olympic International tournament. There would be eight of these bouts, with boxers from around the world, followed by three professional fights on the undercard, then the main event.
It was about an hour into the program before Searl knew exactly what was happening with regard to a switch in opponents.
"It just would have been nice for Jackie (Kallen) or Jeanie (Miranda, Kallen's partner), or Eric Bottjer, or somebody to let me know what was going on," said Searl.
Back in Michael Grant's room, trainer Teddy Atlas and co-managers Craig Hamilton and Jim Thomas were hoping that Ken Murphy, the Chicago fighter who had taken the fight earlier in the day, would be able to get to the venue in time to get dressed and fight. Murphy allegedly departed from his home in Chicago at 3 PM, which left the Grant camp confident he would be at the venue in plenty of time.
"We (either a member of the Grant camp or Bottjer) had talked to him at least thirty times on the cell phone," said Thomas. "So it looked like he was certainly on his way."
By this time, the idea of making Thomas Williams or Robert Mittleman sign affidavits testifying to an honest effort had, for all intents and purposes, gone out the window, from the Grant perspective.
"That wasn't really appealing," said Hamilton. "Could we believe them anyway? What we wanted to do was just replace the opponent."
Mittleman had gotten wind of the fact that Murphy was on his way up, although it probably wasn't in the manner in which it was planned. It seems that after taking off, Murphy had gotten on his car phone and actually phoned Mittleman, who he knew was at the casino. What was said in that conversation is not available to us, but one must wonder whether it was contributory to the bizarre events that followed.
One of those events was initiated by Mittleman himself, who angrily approached Gary Gittelsohn as Olympian Clarence Vinson, Gittelsohn's fighter, was in the ring for his bout against Sheldon Wile. Mittleman had a copy of our initial story concerning Teddy Atlas (
), crumbled it up, threw it in Gittelsohn's face, and in the words of Gittelsohn, "attempted to start a physical altercation with me". Witnesses who were present say that Mittleman swung and missed with a punch, after which the scuffle was broken up.
But it left little doubt that Mittleman was fully apprised of things as they were unfolding.
After the Vinson-Wile fight was over, there was a customary 10-minute intermission, after which Grant and his opponent were to step into the ring and fight.
The identity of that opponent, of course, was still to be determined.
Bottjer, the matchmaker, was maintaining phone contact with Murphy during the course of his trip. But Murphy was running late. And he appeared to be getting lost.
It seemed every half hour Murphy thought he was getting closer to the destination, but wasn't.
"After a while, what he (Murphy) was saying didn't seem to be making any sense," said Thomas. "And at one point, he got very upset when Bottjer asked him where he was, and threatened to turn back. I said to myself, that's strange; why would he do that? We're trying to help this guy get here."
When it came time for the two fighters to come into the ring, Mittleman showed up with Williams, but there was no indication of Grant.
There were a lot of harsh words "backstage", as Jackie Kallen and Jeanie Miranda, who brokered the fight to the casino, wanted Grant to come into the ring. Searl wanted the show to go on, for the sake of his patrons. Roxanne Peterson, the administrative assistant from the Wisconsin commission, started to wonder just what in the hell was going on.
The Grant team, which consisted of Atlas, Hamilton and Thomas, were holding fast on their refusal to come out and fight this opponent, while at the same time trying to give Murphy every opportunity to get there, so that the fight as THEY planned it, could commence.
But ten minutes had become 20, which became 30, which became 40........
Mittleman and Williams stayed in the ring and would not budge. There would seem to be little doubt as to the thoughts on Mittleman's mind at that time - he had heard Murphy was coming, and he didn't want to relinquish what were, from his perspective, valuable "squatter's rights".
The stage was set for a scene that was, to put it mildly, unusual in boxing.
There was some talk that the tribal police were going to come in and make some arrests - Atlas and Grant, under "tribal law", for not fulfilling a contractual obligation, and Thomas, for allegedly being an "instigator" (Thomas had no problem with that, as he was fully prepared to litigate if that happened).
Searl claims that was not the case.
"No one was going to be arrested," he says. "It's more of a civil matter. If anything, there may have been a lawsuit, but that's all."
As the minutes ticked away, and because one of the main event fighters was standing in the ring without an opponent, the crowd started to get extremely restless. When the delay began to appear ridiculous, ring announcer Amy Hayes, a former Hawaiian Tropic girl and Playboy model who was clad in a red, white, and blue bikini, had to start improvising. She let Williams have the floor, and the fighter began to call Grant out, WWE-style.
"Michael Grant, why don't you come out and face me? Are you afraid?," or something to that effect, were the words coming from Williams, loud and clear, over the ring microphone. The crowd erupted into a chant of "Grant Sucks! Grant Sucks!"
But despite Williams, and the customers, egging him on, there was still no sign of Michael Grant.
And a few minutes after Murphy had told Bottjer that he was at a point which was just seven miles away from the casino, cell phone contact was lost with the substitute.
As the delay dragged on, Hayes was bringing people into the ring to participate in what turned out to be a conga line. Customers, who came out of the audience, were parading past Thomas Williams, who by this time was sitting on a stool in the corner.
It was surreal.
After what seemed like an eternity, Williams and Mittleman left and went to a van that was functioning as a dressing room.
Curiously, around that time, when Bottjer was finally able to get him on the phone, Murphy told him that he was in Green Bay - completely in the opposite direction. It was late now - about 9:45 PM, and Thomas figured that any plans on using Murphy would be futile.
"He was at least 45 minutes away," said Thomas. "There was no way he was going to get his physical exam, get dressed, cool down after the ride, and be able to get in the ring in any kind of shape to fight."
With each passing moment, it became more and more of a possibility that the fight card had to either proceed with a fight between Grant and Williams or be called off.
Meanwhile, the crowd was getting angrier. A chair was thrown into the ring. Hayes scrambled to entertain the customers some more. There's no question she earned her combat pay, and then some.
At some point along the way, it became clear to Kallen, Miranda, Gary Pliner (the promoter of record), Bottjer, and everyone else that Michael Grant was not going to come out and fight under the present circumstances. And it did not please them, because at a meeting much earlier in this long, long day, it was agreed that Grant would face Williams if no one else could be found.
"Teddy said, 'I just can't be in the ring with a guy who a Grand Jury indicted for fixing fights, and that according to this
(ours), admitted to fixing fights'," said Thomas. "And we're a team. We were ready to support him all the way."
Miranda was absolutely furious. She pointed to the assurances made by Atlas earlier in the day. Screaming followed. The acrimony was at such a fever pitch that Miranda was ready to call security - an action that would have undoubtedly escalated things to a more unpleasant level. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
Atlas later told Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com, "I changed my mind. I do not deny that. She was absolutely right, we did say that. I thought about it, and I just did not feel comfortable with it."
Searl was also apoplectic. The casino marketing director had been left with the impression that Grant was going to fight Williams, if that's what it had to come down to.
Mittleman was running around, screaming that he had a commitment and a contract to fight, and that his man was not under suspension. Thomas had legitimate concerns about Grant - "Michael was a mess mentally at this stage. I was worried about him having gone through all this and then having to go in and fight."
Finally, amidst all the madness, Jackie Kallen came to Grant's team and suggested a compromise of sorts. Would they fight a ten-round exhibition? That seemed to be the most logical way to go at the late hour, seeing as Murphy was a no-show to that time, and no one among Grant's handlers really wanted to send an unhappy, unruly crowd away.
So a ten-round exhibition it was.
First, though, Peterson of the Wisconsin commission pulled Williams aside to give him a message. "We made sure we told him that we were going to be keeping a very close eye on him in this fight," she said.
Over in Grant's room, Atlas, who was extremely impressed with the professional way in which Grant had handled the whole fiasco, delivered a stern warning to his charge.
"I told him, 'You have to erase everything you've heard over the last few hours about dives and fixes. Get all of that stuff out of your mind'," Atlas said. "I told him 'I can guarantee you this guy's coming out to fight. He's going to come right out and try to knock you out'."
Grant arrived to a loud chorus of boos. The crowd has to be forgiven, for they were not aware of the entire story. "I wondered why all these people (including the organizers) were mad at US, while they didn't get mad at the guys who lied about fixing fights," says Thomas.
As if to exacerbate things, Kallen didn't want to announce the fight as an exhibition. That was fine with Hamilton; as far as he was concerned, he was ready to turn around, go home and put the whole incident behind him. But once again, an accord was reached, and the fight, which by now was an anti-climax, began.
The delay between fights was estimated to be between 90 minutes and two hours in length.
Williams, as it turned out, put forth an effort. But unfortunately, the two fighters clashed heads in the second round, with Williams hitting the canvas. He went down twice more in the second round as a result of Grant's punches, and the referee stepped in to halt the proceedings after the second knockdown.
As Grant was signing autographs afterward, he was still booed by many of the customers. Williams, it seemed, had become the crowd's hero. And that gives you something of an idea of what kind sport boxing can be, I guess.
It somehow seemed appropriate that just as the fight was coming to an end, pulling into the casino parking lot - approximately eight and a half hours after he left Chicago - was Ken Murphy.
A problem indeed. Hamilton and Thomas explained the substance of
Chapter 28 of "Operation Cleanup"
to Atlas, something the veteran trainer was unaware of (Atlas later read the piece).
Atlas had immediate concerns, but he also understood the premise of our story.
"You're right," he told us later. "What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I've got to be accountable for the same standards I'd want everyone else to uphold. I can't just do it when it's convenient."
Atlas says that his initial ESPN report regarding Thomas Williams' alleged fight fix against Richie Melito, which took place in August of 2000, was long enough ago that he pretty much forgot about it.
"I honestly didn't make the connection," he said. "Believe me, I wouldn't have trained Grant for a whole month, and left my family on the Fourth of July to come all the way up here if I knew it was going to be a situation like this, with an opponent under indictment. I wouldn't have wasted my time."
At any rate, Atlas realized something had to be done about the situation, while there was still a chance.
"I told them to find another opponent," he says. "I wasn't going to go into the ring with this guy."
Grant's management team agreed, and told him the wheels were already in motion.
Matchmaker Eric Bottjer was on the phone. And for his first option, he looked westward.
A week or so before the fight was to take place, Bottjer had indeed contacted a Minnesota heavyweight named Brian Sargent to be ready as a possible "standby" opponent, just in case of emergency. When Thomas Williams showed up at the casino for the fight, Sargent "stood down", so to speak.
Well, if ever there was an emergency, this was it. But as Bottjer reached out for Sargent at about noon, he was informed that the heavyweight, who lived some 500 miles away, had started to "imbibe", thereby rendering him unavailable to fight.
So while no one knew exactly who was going to be fighting Michael Grant, one thing seemed certain - if Atlas and his colleagues had their way, it was NOT going to be Thomas Williams.
And a little anxiety was setting in.
Of course, Atlas didn't want to ruin the show for the casino, if at all possible. He came up with an alternative idea - that if Williams absolutely had to be the opponent, he would force the fighter, and his representative (Mittleman) to sign affidavits testifying that they would put forth an honest effort. "I would make them sign it in front of everybody, including the commission," Atlas said. "But that was clearly a secondary option. What I really wanted was a new opponent."
At some point along the way, Craig Hamilton ran into Williams' agent, Robert Mittleman, in the parking lot. Realizing that the issue of the status of Williams' legal problems was at the crux of the current controversy, Hamilton asked Mittleman, straight-out, whether Williams was under indictment or not.
"He (Mittleman) said, 'Well, yes - he's under indictment....but he's not under suspension'," Hamilton says.
At long last, some truth.
A call was finally placed to Jack Cowan, a booking agent from Chicago who has dealt, at one time or another, with almost every fighter coming out of the Windy City. Cowan came up with a possibility - Ken Murphy, a former cruiserweight with a respectable 21-7-1 record.
Murphy's line-by-line mark was one of the more curious you're likely to find. In going unbeaten in his first 22 pro fights, he had faced opponents with an aggregate record (using Boxrec.com as the source) of 70-385-10 (15% wins), while in the process of losing his last seven fights in a row, his opponents took a record of 198-6 into the ring. And included on that list were capable fighters like Juan Carlos Gomez, Fabrice Tiozzo, Brian Nielsen, Clifford Etienne, and Lawrence Clay-Bey.
The 39-year-old Murphy, whose brother Lee Roy had once held the IBF cruiserweight title, was ready to take the fight on short notice - no doubt at a premium rate.
Of course, Murphy was not in Wisconsin; he was in Chicago, which was about 250 miles away from the casino. So it would be quite a while before his arrival. And when he got there, by the time he got his medical exam done, it was going to be cutting things somewhat close. The show was scheduled to start at 6 PM, because there were a whole slew of international amateur bouts on the undercard, and the casino didn't necessarily want to keep the crowd waiting.
Or had we mentioned - no one had bothered to notify the casino that there was a problem?
Logistical difficulties having nothing to do with Murphy himself also came into play. One of those involved what the reaction on the part of Mittleman and Williams would be.
The Mittleman "problem" was an especially delicate matter. He may be a charlatan, and often blind with greed, but Mittleman was no dummy either. He had a contract for a fight, and a payday that was going to come along with it, and he was not going to go away quietly, if at all.
Furthermore, Mittleman had previously booked Murphy into a couple of losing fights in Denmark, so he most likely knew how to contact him. It was probably feared that if he had knowledge of the Chicago fighter's imminent arrival, he might take some steps to "encourage" Murphy not to leave, even going so far as to offer him a side deal not to show up.
And perhaps most importantly, if Williams was told to get lost and Murphy, for whatever reason, didn't get there on time, no one wanted to be stuck without an opponent.
It was finally decided that Mittleman would not be informed of any new developments. He was not to know, for the time being, that another opponent was on his way in, and casino security was alerted to be on hand and ready, because if Mittleman and Williams caused a scene when Murphy showed up, they would have to be escorted from the premises.
But to say the least, time was of the essence. And the drive from Chicago to Keshena would be a long one. Murphy was to take off at 3 PM, and had a cell phone in tow.
At that juncture, it was just a matter of waiting.
To that gentleman, I certainly trust that this story, the story that preceded it, and the stories that follow, will serve to properly introduce both me, AND the medium.
Hello there, from both of us.
In this topsy-turvy story, let's begin, appropriately enough, where it ended.
As Amy Hayes, the ring announcer for last Friday night's fight show at the Menominee Bingo Casino in Keshena, Wisc. was wrapping up the evening's proceedings - which were low-lighted by a delay of Guinness-record proportions, followed by a ten-round "exhibition" match - she announced to the crowd, in what must qualify as one of the most shameful and surreal plugs of all-time, "This was not Michael Grant's idea. For the real story about this, go to Fightnews.com."
Well, she's right about one thing - it was not Michael Grant's idea.
As far as the rest of it is concerned, Fightnews HAS no idea, believe me.
In point of fact, the whole fracas germinated out of something that was MY idea. So inasmuch as we actually seem to ba a material part of this story, I suppose I should tell you what happened surrounding boxing's latest "circus" - at least as far as I know it.
Who better, right?
By the way, if you haven't read
of this series, please read it now before going any further.
The rest of you can come along with me.
Suffice to say that if anyone connected to the Wisconsin promotion had come to the TotalAction website on the afternoon of July 4th, a crisis of major proportions may very well have been averted.
But apparently, the location was so far away from anything connected with civilization that there was a scarcity of internet access, and most cell phones simply were not working at all. The casino was not just 35 miles outside of Green Bay, it was, in the words of Teddy Atlas, "Thirty-five HARD miles."
So it's not so unbelievable that nothing posted on the website even reached people until Thursday evening at the earliest.
And even then, it came only by way of a fax transmission.
My understanding is that on Thursday, for motivations that, I imagine, were completely their own, Grant's managers were supposedly in a huff about the opponent that was to face Olympian Clarence Vinson on the show - a fighter named Sheldon Wile. When Gary Gittelsohn, the manager for Vinson, countered with the point that perhaps the opponent for Grant (Thomas Williams) should be cause for much greater concern, the angry Grant braintrust seemed not to know what he was talking about.
As the day wore on, Gittelsohn began to hear more objections about Wile - from Eric Bottjer, the matchmaker for Cedric Kushner Promotions, and Jeanie Miranda, a principal (along with Jackie Kallen) in a company called "The Fight Brokers", which had actually sold the fight package to the Menominee group.
Finally, it got to the point where Gittelsohn, who felt the complaints from the Grant camp might just be an effort to deflect attention away from Williams, was annoyed enough to call home and have Chapter 28 of "Operation Cleanup", a story entitled
"I CAN FIND DODGE CITY IN THE ATLAS"
faxed to him, after which he presented both Bottjer and Miranda with copies.
Later that evening, a hard copy of the story also found its way into the hands of Grant's handlers - Craig Hamilton and Jim Thomas.
By all accounts, from Thursday night to Friday morning, the reaction of Grant's management tandem gradually progressed from:
1) Surprise that such a story had indeed been written;
2) A certain degree of denial about the story's validity (hence, the "slop" comment);
3) Indignation (mostly toward Gittelsohn) that the story was being circulated at all;
4) The hard realization that some damage control had to be implemented - sooner rather than later.
Whether or not these guys were previously aware that Thomas Williams was under a Federal indictment for fixing fights is a subject that is open for debate, but one certainty is that on Friday morning, Gittelsohn, who was upset at Bottjer's interference in particular, placed a call to New York and the offices of Kushner, who has a promotional contract with Grant. As a result of that call, Jim DiLorenzo, Kushner's right-hand man, got on the phone with Bottjer. With an understandable degree of concern, DiLorenzo directed Bottjer to investigate finding a new opponent for Grant.
At this point, enter Robert Mittleman, the Chicago-based matchmaker/agent who had booked Thomas Williams into the fight and accompanied him to Keshena.
Mittleman's name is mentioned prominently in the audiotaped conversation between Williams and former manager George Peterson - a tape that eventually led to Williams' indictment. And he is also the American agent for Danish promoter Mogens Palle, bringing over a score of opponents for Brian Nielsen (including Williams), many of whom have given performances that were suspicious at best.
Kushner's office was made aware of the status of Thomas Williams' legal situation several weeks ago. I had been apprised of that. And so, at that time, I completely discounted the participation of Williams as a possibility.
What I DIDN'T know was that, instead of killing the fight, Kushner had simply inquired, through Bottjer, as to whether Williams was indeed under an indictment. Bottjer, in turn, asked Mittleman. The response that had come back from Mittleman was a resounding "no" - there was no indictment, only an investigation.
Kushner says he took the opportunity to ask Mittleman directly "about four or five times" during the week the two were both in Atlantic City for the Klitschko-Mercer show, which took place on June 29. Time and again, Mittleman dismissed any possibility that there were indictments hanging over Williams' head. Mittleman's repeated denials were adamant enough that Kushner figured it would be superfluous to prod him on it any further.
In retrospect, he obviously should have pressed the issue even more.
In truth, not only was Mittleman very much aware that Williams is currently under indictment and facing a trial next month on charges of federal sports bribery, but Mittleman actually fears that he may end up being indicted himself as a result of the ongoing Federal investigation, to the extent that he has hired private detectives to "dig up dirt" on potential witnesses, including Peterson.
Clearly, given his nefarious history, Mittleman was not a trustworthy source of information about ANYTHING, much less one of his fighters, especially as he was to profit from Williams' appearance.
Despite the fact that they indeed wanted another opponent, the folks at CKP also realized that as the afternoon approached, accomplishing that was going to be a tall order indeed.
A call was placed to Greg Sirb, listed as "past president" of the Association of Boxing Commissions, to get an opinion. Sirb apparently told CKP that Williams was not currently on the national suspension list, which would have been absolutely true.
Then Marc Ratner was contacted at the Nevada Commission office. In substance, Ratner told them the same thing he had told me on Wednesday - that even though he felt Williams' KO loss to Richie Melito, the subject matter of the indictment, was legitimate, and would testify to that effect at the trial if asked, he would have reservations about licensing Williams to fight at this time, pending the actual results of the trial, given the fact that the alleged dive had taken place in a Las Vegas ring.
So while there was an indictment, there certainly was not a hard-and-fast suspension of Williams, from any commission in the country.
Sitting with Williams as the only opponent that was available to them at the time, such news may have, at least for a moment, given rise to hope on the part of Bottjer that he could keep Williams "alive" as the opponent, and the show might just be able to go off without any more complications.
If that were indeed the case, such hope didn't last long.
To use Teddy Atlas' analogy - the young Mike Tyson was a comet, not a planet. A fighter of immense physical talent, but one who was flawed mentally, lacking the character of truly great fighters such as Ali, Robinson or Louis (with an "ou"). A fighter with a style predicated on explosive speed and bestial aggression, a style, in fact, destined to deteriorate quickly. A fighter, not of enduring substance, but one destined to burn brightly, albeit fleetingly.
In retrospect, the sheer magnificence with which Tyson shone during the late 80's has perhaps blurred the collective vision when considering his career.
Lewis too is past his best. In fact, I would argue Lennox Lewis never reached his best. Bereft of top caliber sparring during his amateur years, then proper coaching during the first part of his pro career - Pepe Correa, Lewis' trainer when he was knocked out by Oliver McCall, was a cheerleader, not a trainer - it was not until Emmanuel Steward resurrected Lewis' career that Lewis began to display his true quality. Lewis, however, was approaching 30 when Steward took over, a fact considered by few. What could have been had Lewis been trained properly since day one.
Still, I digress. "Lewis Tyson is On," so what's likely to happen?
At the end of the day, we can break this fight down all we want, put the X's there and the O's over here, the X's here and the O's there, at the end of the day there appears to be so much hype, so much emotion and, now, so much apparent ill will that form may very well go out the window as this one just might go off big time. Still, the analysis …
Mike Tyson's reputation precedes him (in more ways than one). The Mike Tyson that cleaned out the division during the late 80's was an apparently awesome force. But just how awesome? I would suggest that there is a myth that has come to surround Mike Tyson the fighter.
Let me be clear, Mike Tyson was often awesome during his peak years. However, not necessarily as awesome as the myth would suggest. In this regard, I'd pose a few questions:
- who has Mike Tyson actually beat? - in particular, how many top caliber heavyweights did he defeat? - how many quality fighters has he beat recently ( ie. during the last 5 years)? - how has he fared against big men throughout his career ie. fighters like Lewis?
Let's take them one by one.
Looking back over Tyson's dance card, there is a surprising dearth of quality opponents, given the magnitude of Tyson's reputation. Fighters he has beat include Razor Ruddock, Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno (twice), Michael Spinks, Francois Botha, Lou Savarese and Andrew Golota. A respectable list, but hardly one that would have Muhammad Ali losing sleep. Amongst the top caliber list of fighters Tyson has fought, find Tony Tucker, Razor Ruddock, Evander Holyfield, Michael Spinks and Andrew Golota.
Of course, it depends on how you define "top caliber", but for the sake of argument I put these guys near the top of the division at their best. Golota is perhaps suspect on this list, but he makes it based on physical strength and technique, a dangerous package, despite his house of cards psyche. Michael Spinks is also suspect. Certainly, he was a tremendous boxer, but he just wasn't a heavyweight. Again, looking at the list of the toughest fighters Tyson has fought, one might wonder what all the fuss was about. Note that Buster Douglas, the first to conquer Tyson, is not even on the list.
The other fighter who defeated Tyson was, of course, Evander Holyfield. Holyfield dominated Tyson and finally exposed to the world what Teddy Atlas had known all along. Mike Tyson struggles badly when he's not the boss, a sign of insecurity, according to Atlas. Based on the maxim that "styles makes fights," I wouldn't read too much into the fact that Lewis beat Holyfield. The enduring feature that lives on from the 2 Holyfield-Tyson bouts is that Holyfield exposed the lack of substance in one of Tyson's greatest weapons - intimidation.
Think back to Frank Bruno entering the ring blessing himself repeatedly, squirming as he approached the ring, or Bruce Seldon taking a dive, going down from a punch that didn't touch him. Intimidation has always been one of Mike Tyson's greatest weapons. It was something Cus D'Amato cultivated from the very early days. Indeed, through the years Mike Tyson scared a lot of guys senseless and effectively secured victory before the opening bell even rang.
Stacey McKinlay - one of Tyson's trainers - this week said: "Lennox Lewis is a b*tch. He is a coward. Tell him I said that." The Tyson camp can talk all they want, don't expect to see a frightened Lennox Lewis enter the ring on Saturday night.
Back in Tyson's heyday I always felt that Lewis was the fighter with the best "chance" to beat Tyson, simply because Lewis wouldn't beat himself before he entered the ring. Still, this may not be as big a factor as it once may have been, simply because the secret is out as far the Mike Tyson the myth is concerned.
Ron Borges pointed out this week that Tyson's camps' mouths are in overdrive, but - notably - Iron Mike has fallen silent. Borges - definitely one of the most tuned in boxing writers - suggests it is because Tyson doesn't really believe he will "spread Lewis' pompous brains all over the ring" on Saturday night as Mike previously had threatened.
As Borges pointed out, when there were thousands of miles between the fighters and Tyson was preparing in Hawaii, Tyson's mouth was in overdrive. Now the distance has closed to 15 miles, Tyson has fallen silent. Personally, I feel too much is made of this type of thing. In truth, who really knows what Tyson (or even Lewis) is thinking? The point is that I don't see intimidation being much of a factor in this fight, and that definitely is to the detriment of Mike Tyson.
When considering this matchup, one must also ask: how has Tyson fared against big men throughout his career, men with styles comparable to Lennox Lewis? The answer is not as well as you probably think.
Of course, Buster Douglas comes to mind immediately. Sure, Tyson was undertrained and perhaps overmedicated, had Douglas on the canvas during the fight and was facing a guy who - inspired by personal circumstances - fought the fight of his life.
Still, Douglas was big man who could stick and move, and it was a style that obviously caused Tyson problems. And there have been others. James Tillis and Mitch Green both took Tyson the distance and caused him some problems. Both were tallish fighers who could jab. And there was Tony Tucker. Tucker faced a prime Mike Tyson and, frankly, Tucker - in my opinion, a very underrated heavyweight in terms of pure talent - caused Tyson some problems in a competitive fight, though a fight Mike Tyson clearly won.
These glimpses of the past may be an ominous sign for Mike Tyson when he confronts Lewis, the tall, powerful boxer-puncher, on Saturday night.
But which Lennox Lewis will show up on Saturday night? That is the question many of the experts are asking.
Will it be the assertive puncher-boxer who dominated Rahman in the return leg, who blasted out a dangerous Razor Ruddock early and who chopped down the feared-at-the-time Andrew Golota in the first round. Or will it be the tentative, calculating to the point of inertia boxer who forgets to punch, who struggled with Zeljko Mavrovic, who refused to step it up a gear against Holyfield the first time, or who coasted against David Tua when a true beating for Tua looked on the cards. Again, who knows, really, but the man himself?
History tells us, though, that when Lewis faces dangerous tests - Ruddock, Golota, Rahman II and even Holyfield - he brings the focus necessary to do the job. Under the glare of the spotlight, when the pressure is on, I've always fancied Lewis. When was the last time Tyson entered a fight with this much at stake, under this degree of pressure? It was over 5 years ago when he bit Evander Holyfield's ear.
But before we rush ahead of ourselves, we must ask the same questions of Lewis that we have asked of Tyson.
- who has Lewis actually beat? - in particular, how many top caliber heavyweights did he defeat? - how many quality fighters has he beat recently ( ie. during the last 5 years) - how has he fared against shorter men like Tyson?
Lewis' opponents include Razor Ruddock, Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno, Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer, Andrew Golota, Shannon Briggs, Evander Holyfield, Michael Grant, Francois Botha, David Tua and Hasim Rahman. The list is comparable to that of Tyson, though probably slightly more impressive. In addition, Tucker, Mercer, Golota, Tua and Holyfield seem to comprise a list of elite heavyweights slightly more impressive than the list of elite heavyweights Tyson has battled. Still, there may not be much in it, and either way I doubt this list would have been enough to make Joe Louis nervous.
However, recent competition is where Lewis clearly has an edge over Tyson. Since the ear biting fight with Holyfield during 1997, Tyson has fought Botha, Orlin Norris, Julius Francis, Savarese, Golota and Brian Nielsen. The only credible opponents in that list are Botha and Golota.
Of course, Lewis had already had beaten the fight out of the Pole and a rusty Tyson struggled badly for the better part of 5 rounds before a complacent Botha walked into a peach of a right hand from Tyson. Notably, Lewis dispatched Botha through the ropes during the 2nd round with consummate ease.
Lewis, in addition, during the last 5 years has fought Akinwande, Golota, Briggs, Mavrovic, Holyfield (twice), Grant, Botha, Tua and Rahman (twice). Clearly, Lewis has had much stiffer opposition over the last 5 years. If this means anything, it gives Lewis an edge. I'd suggest it means something.
What about the Tyson style? Frankly, this is where Lewis could run into trouble. There is no other fighter who is comparable in style to Tyson. Tua has a superficial resemblance, but is too one-handed and doesn't bring enough pressure to be credibly compared to Tyson. Mercer, perhaps, could be compared based on build and strength, but he doesn't have the speed or movement of a Tyson. Mercer was able, though, to slip Lewis's jab and as a result was able to cause Lewis all sorts of problems, providing Lewis with the toughest physical battle of his career. Mercer's ability to slip the jab and absorb physical punishment along the way, without wilting, may provide a general blueprint for Tyson.
Tyson will have to use foot and head movement to get inside Lewis' long arms, where he can break down Lewis, to the body and to the head. If Tyson can close the distance and breach Lewis' long range attack, Lennox will be in a world of trouble.
I do not believe that Lewis necessarily has the glass chin he is reputed to possess, but it is undeniable he does not possess the kind of whiskers a la Holyfield) that are required to absorb the blows of a heavy handed Tyson. If Tyson lands any significant combinations, I have to say, the big man from Kitchener by way of London will go. Good night London. Good night Kitchener. Good night Vienna.
However, will Tyson be able to do enough to close the distance on Lewis? One of the great conundrums of Lennox Lewis the fighter is that space is one of his greatest weapons. He is tall, has long arms, possesses a good jab when he cares to use it and is physically powerful. Space, then, is naturally his ally. When he keeps a shorter man (most opponents) on the end of the jab he is out of harms way and has room to think, room to pick his spots and room to unload his long power punches, especially the right cross.
However, when Lewis becomes passive, when he attempts to employ space defensively, hiding out of harms way, thinking too much and going into a defensive shell, he not only elicits accusations of being boring, more importantly, he opens himself up to being caught with a hopeful bomb.
Against Tyson, Lewis must not only establish distance, but must defend it aggressively, using the space to launch attacks on Tyson, not just to punish him, but to take Tyson out of his rhythm. It is imperative that Lewis employs a punishing jab (a la Rahman II), not just to Tyson's head, but to the chest too if need be.
Lewis must use his long arms to upset Tyson's rhythm, he must hit Tyson on the chest and shoulders as well as the head, to keep Tyson off balance and to stop Tyson from getting set. As Gil Clancy has pointed out, when Foreman destroyed Frazier he set it up by constantly hitting, pawing and pushing Frazier's left shoulder, keeping him off balance and thereby negating Frazier's greatest weapon, the left hook. Lewis must attempt to employ a similar strategy against Mike Tyson.
So, there you have it, some X's and O's. But what happens if Tyson has decided it's all or nothing and comes roaring across the ring at the opening bell intent on ripping Lennox Lewis' head off? Truthfully, your guess is as good as mine. But for the record …
Tyson has a legitimate chance of ending this one within 5. The most compelling thing about heavyweight boxing is that it can end in the blink of an eye, and this cannot be discounted when handicapping this fight. One Tyson combination could quite plausibly end it all.
However, at the end of the day I see Lennox Lewis getting the jab going and unsettling Tyson. There may be some anxious moments along the way, but Lennox Lewis is too good for Mike Tyson. He's too good, too strong and too self-assured to succumb to the Tyson fury.
Lennox Lewis will win this fight and I'm picking him by a decision. I do not think this bout will end on a disqualification! I see Lewis possibly ending it anywhere between 4 and 9, but in all likelihood taking Tyson the distance and giving him a lesson along the way.
Now, with the carnival atmosphere and emotion that surrounds this fight, the foregoing analysis seems, in retrospect, just a little too conventional. So, with that in mind … as Larry Merchant might say, if the universe is a righteous place then on Saturday night karma must surely have its say. Only then will the astral light course down from the cosmos and bathe humanity in its glow. For a brief moment - if you look closely -that epiphanous light might even illuminate the very nature of humanity's soul. At least I hope so.
---- Teddy Atlas, in his written statement submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, concerning the improvement of boxing
I've always liked Teddy Atlas, and have in the past appreciated that he's spoken up - loudly - about doing something - ANYTHING - to bring about a little order to the landscape of boxing, preferably on a national level.
On the other hand...........
I hope no one minds me bringing up a subject that wasn't touched upon, by EITHER side, in the recent interview Atlas had with Senator John McCain which aired on ESPN - the fact that on Friday night, the opponent for Michael Grant, the heavyweight Atlas trains, just so happens to be Thomas Williams, a fighter who currently finds himself under indictment, and awaiting an August trial, for fight fixing (the official charge is Federal sports bribery) - the result of a one-round knockout he suffered at the hands of pretender Richie Melito on August 12, 2000.
Actually, it goes a little beyond that, as far as Williams is concerned. Not only is he being accused of taking the dive against Melito, he has also put himself down on record, on an audiotape which is in the possession of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office, as having admitted to taking previous dives against Lance/Mount/Goofi Whitaker and Brian Nielsen.
Not that I'm implying Williams is going to take a dive against Grant. Or that he should be prohibited from pursuing a living.
But what I'm saying is, if putting his fighter into the ring with Thomas Williams constitutes Teddy Atlas' idea of advancing the cause of boxing reform, then I'm not buying what he's selling.
Makes you wonder WHO should have been questioning WHO in that interview.
Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised; this is something I've found to be characteristic of a lot of so-called "boxing reformers". They seem to be absolutely agreeable, even gung-ho, about the concept of reforming the sport and business of boxing - as long as it doesn't inconvenience them. And there's always a desire to enforce stronger rules and regulations - that is, if it applies to the "other guy". But invariably, there seems to be no hesitation to exploit the system, the second an opportunity arises to take advantage of all the leniency it allows.
Reform can come later - for the time being, the most important thing is that Michael Grant gets another easy win, right?
This fight is taking place at the Menominee Bingo Casino in Wisconsin - on tribal land, where, theoretically, any boxing card has the potential to become a Wild West show. Not that it's too difficult to get an opponent passed in the state of Wisconsin anyway. I have spoken with several commissioners who would never even consider sanctioning a fight like this, at least until the Williams verdict is final.
Of course, some WOULD sanction it. Williams was scheduled to face then-unbeaten Andre Purlette last September on Miami Beach. The fight had been approved by the Florida Commission, headed up in an administrative capacity by Chris Meffert, Vice-President of the Association of Boxing Commissions. The fight never came off, but not because the commission ever took any action; it was only after I received a phone call from one of Purlette's trainers, who asked to me to recount my original Melito-Williams story and brief him on Williams' legal situation, that Purlette's camp put a halt to the match.
It's perfectly understandable - at this point, who would want their fighter associated with an opponent like that?
Well, we obviously know the answer to that now, don't we?
Sure, I've heard the line before - "the guy hasn't been convicted of anything yet". But I would think that, given some of Atlas' statements in the past, it's not unfair that he be asked to hold himself to a bit of a higher standard.
For someone who has been so vocal about tighter regulations, uniform standards, and overall boxing "integrity", this would have been a tremendously opportune time for Atlas, who should have the right to accept or reject Grant's proposed opponents (I'd be shocked if he didn't), to stand up and perhaps make a statement, even if that statement is nothing more than "We don't want to fight this guy (Williams) until we find out for sure whether he's guilty of throwing fights".
Apparently, nothing like that is forthcoming.
Therefore, no thanks - I don't think I'm going to be sucked in by any statements in WORD from him, when they aren't backed up with statements in DEED.
There's simply no way Atlas could plead ignorance on this one either - in fact, on the August 25, 2000 edition of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights", Atlas made it a point to file a report on Williams' alleged fight fixing, erroneously crediting the New York Post for nailing an "exclusive" that was to run in the paper that Sunday (of course, the story had in fact been
reported two weeks before that by TOTAL ACTION
). This, of course, was tagged with the obligatory appeal for stricter regulation.
It seemed to be a big deal to Atlas then. Why would it be any less important now?
Also, it would be real difficult to convince me that McCain or his people don't have an idea of who Williams is and what his situation represents, since I know that Kenneth Nahigian, the special counsel for McCain's committee who deals with the boxing legislation, has read the stories about the Williams-Melito incident on our website.
Let's put it this way - if McCain, who has positioned himself as a "strong advocate" for boxing reform, doesn't know enough to have recognized that there's a real problem regarding Thomas Williams, isn't that a sad commentary?
And speaking of sad commentaries, I've read and heard Atlas' constant references to "weak commissions" who don't know what they're doing. Well, isn't Teddy taking full advantage of a weak commission NOW? And doesn't he understand that BECAUSE the commission may be so weak, it behooves him, as a "man of principle", to stand up and take some actions of his own?
Frankly, as someone who is authoring what many consider to be a relatively important piece of material on the subject of boxing reform, I take the insensitivity to this issue as a personal affront. I've pushed too hard on this series - through study, research, interviews, and simply pounding away at a keyboard - to sit back and tolerate it.
But I guess as long as the John McCains and Kenneth Nahigians of this world choose to listen only to those "reformers" who may have ulterior motives, and ignore the real problems that exist - problems we're uncovering, apparently, for the very first time - I suppose we're going to have to tolerate it all we can.
Well, I've got a few suggestions along those lines (did you think I wouldn't?):
That somebody have the fortitude to enforce the Ali Act in one way or another here. As we've mentioned, in Section 11 of the Act, and under certain conditions, sanctioning organizations are required to put forward ratings criteria that meets with the standards established by the ABC. Well, first it would be a good idea for the ABC to get off its ass and establish this criteria. Surely it didn't do so under the "leadership" of Greg Sirb. I would hope that in the end the ABC would have enough perspective to be able to employ such criteria, and I wouldn't mind them following through with my request for investigation of the NABF, as I've pretty much laid everything out for them. And if those guys can't do that, who really needs them?
That somehow, some way, an arbitration panel - with some knowledge of the boxing industry - is established sometime in the near future, for the purposes of reviewing boxer grievances about instances of manipulated ratings, rigged decisions, stripped titles, etc., that may have some connection to corruption or prejudice in favor of, or against, a particular manager or promoter. When meeting before this board, the boxer and his management would have the opportunity to present evidence - circumstantial or otherwise - not unlike the kind of evidence contained within
Chapter 22 of "Operation Cleanup"
. The sanctioning body would then have the opportunity to explain - thoroughly - it's criteria, philosophy of its rules, and its rationale behind whatever decision it made that brought forth the dispute in the first place. No one has yet had the foresight to put together such an arbitration panel.
Very strict standards should be applied to organizations when they are under a formal review. For the NABF to simply explain, for example, that Golden Johnson did not agree to fight the highest available contender might, if you weren't looking too deeply, seem plausible. But in the Johnson case, there were extenuating circumstances, to say the least, and I would want to be supplied with a satisfactory explanation about every link in the chain of events that led the NABF to make the decisions they did. Judgment on sanctioning bodies should completely discount any mitigating actions after the fact - things like "grace periods" or "interim championships" - that provide organizations with convenient opportunities to have their cake (sanctioning fees) and eat it too (justify stripping titles at will).
This is what I would call
"THE NABF RULE"
. After all, I figure we should name SOMETHING in their honor (or dishonor, as it were).
Should an organization be found to be corrupt, or to be circumventing either their own rules or reasonable standards which would be set forth by a national commission, for the sake of favoring a particular promoter, where it works to the unjust detriment of a fighter, that organization shall be suspended from sanctioning title bouts or operating in any official capacity for whatever period of time would be deemed appropriate under the circumstances, or preferably, indefinitely, subject to certain requirements being met to facilitate reinstatement.
Naturally, I realize you can't legislate the sanctioning bodies out of business.
But you can go through the back door.
To illustrate this, and using the NABF as an example, part of this rule would prescribe that, in the event of a violation, no licensed promoter be permitted to advertise or publicize any bout as being for an NABF title or use the NABF in such advertising; no licensed ring announcer would be permitted to mention the NABF during his (or her) ring introductions; no network (in the event they were eventually licensed or regulated in some way) would be permitted to bill any bout to be an NABF-sanctioned contest; all licensees, whether they be promoters, managers, matchmakers, fighters, or agents, would be prohibited from remitting any fees to the NABF, whether they be in the form of sanctioning fees, membership fees, advertising fees, or fees to attend an official NABF meeting or convention, or else risk suspension and/or other disciplinary action.
At the same time, if the NABF wished to be reinstated after a specific period of time as set forth by the commission, it would be required to continue to rate fighters on a monthly basis during the suspension period, using criteria that meets acceptable standards, subject to continuing review, and do so while maintaining a constant web presence. Only when the national board is satisfied that the NABF has given good cause that it should be reinstated will that, in fact, happen.
The idea, of course, is to force an organization to spend time, money, and effort to maintain itself during a suspension period, with little or no money coming in during that time.
If that wouldn't serve as enough of a deterrent, what would?
"A sanctioning organization shall not be entitled to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, in connection with a boxing match, until, with respect to a change in the rating of a boxer previously rated by such organization in the top 10 boxers, the organization -
(1) posts a copy, WITHIN 7 DAYS OF SUCH CHANGE, on its Internet website or home page, if any, including an explanation of such change, for a period of not less than 30 days."
On June 9, 2002, Golden Johnson had been officially stripped of his welterweight championship by the North American Boxing Federation.
As of June 19, 2002, a fight for the vacant NABF welterweight championship had already been arranged, sanctioned and announced - a bout between Teddy Reid of Washington, DC and Germaine Sanders of Illinois.
As of June 30, 2002, the NABF website, located at
, had ratings changes listed only through "April-May 2002", and which still do not offer an explanation as to why Johnson was stripped of his title, nor why Teddy Reid could be moved into the #5 spot at 147 pounds without beating anyone since an unsuccessful NABF title fight at 140 pounds, ahead of other fighters who were already in the welterweight ratings.
In the "newsletter" section of the NABF site, there was still a notation that Johnson was scheduled to fight against Germaine Sanders, despite the fact that Johnson had long since been taken out of that fight in favor of Reid, a fighter signed to a promotional contract with Arthur Pelullo's Banner Promotions. There is no mention of Teddy Reid in connection with that fight, which had already taken place last Friday.
I took the liberty of making a hard copy of all this, time-stamped from June 29, which I would be happy to forward on to any interested party, including yourself.
So what we're talking about here is a period of ten days and counting since the announcement of an NABF title fight with new contestants; 21 days, and counting, having passed since the organization's action against Johnson, and 37 days and counting since May 23, when Johnson was notified of the organization's intentions.
And as of July 1, when this story is being completed as part of the "Operation Cleanup" series on TotalAction.com, there has still been no explanation posted on the website, as prescribed by Federal law. In fact, the NABF is still trying to explain how it dropped both Jose Luis Rivera and Danny Perez from the ratings two months ago, and it is removing fighters due to "inactivity", while at the same time apparently preparing to insert Reid near the top of one division despite an 0-0 record in that weight class, five months of inactivity, and nearly TEN months since his last win.
The NABF is in violation of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. It is not entitled to collect sanctioning fees for fights.
And I'm expecting the Association of Boxing Commissions to step forward and do something about it, as is its obligation and responsibility.
Let me get even more specific in supporting the case that the NABF is in violation. As I look at the Act as quoted above, the SPIRIT of that particular passage can reasonably be interpreted - that if a boxer is dropped from the top ten in an organization's rankings, it certainly has the potential effect of diminishing that fighter's earning capacity and window of opportunity, since in most instances the fighter needs to be in the top ten to challenge for a champion's title, or to stay in the running for a vacant shot at the championship.
To any reasonable person, it would then logically follow that the same spirit should apply in cases where a champion is "relieved" of his title in a manner in which it is not of his own volition, since quite obviously the drop in potential earning power, in almost all cases, is dramatically greater.
It is inconceivable that the law could be interpreted in any other way. After all, a champion suddenly without a championship wouldn't be entitled to less consideration, or less protection under this law than, say, a boxer who has lost a top ten ranking, would he?
Of course not. And the NABF has simply failed to provide the required information as to WHY it suddenly, surreptitiously denied Johnson an opportunity to defend his title in a fight it had already indicated would have been sanctioned. And it has not explained WHY the welterweight rankings were manipulated for the most recent month to allow Reid to be eligible for a title opportunity.
Given the facts - facts which are rather indisputable, I might add - that were put forward in Chapter 22 of "Operation Cleanup", can there possibly be any question but that Section 11 of the Ali Act has been violated?
I am not trying to be overly fastidious. Rather, I AM suggesting that there is a certain degree of reticence on the part of the NABF here, and that there is a strong motivation for such reticence; it is obviously to the organization's advantage to go "unchecked", since that state of affairs allows it the latitude to circumvent its own rules when convenient, in order to render preferential treatment toward one promoter or fighter, to the detriment of another, without fear of repercussion.
I realize what you said before the Senate in May - that you have contacted Attorneys General in three different states for the purposes of reporting violations of the Ali Act, but that you never received a response, in all likelihood because they didn't have any familiarity with the Ali Act or, for that matter, the previous piece of legislation - the Professional Boxer Safety Act of 1996.
We can argue the possible reasons - and justification - for such unfamiliarity at a later time, but right now I am going to suggest a couple of courses of action for you:
The NABF president, Claude Jackson, is located in Texas, and the NABF's mailing address, as distributed to the state boxing commissions, is P.O. Box 3113, Port Arthur, Texas 77643. The boxing commission in Texas falls under the state's Department of Licensing and Regulation. The attorney assigned to that agency is:
Mr. Michael D. Chisum, General Counsel, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
P.O. Box 12157, Austin, Texas 78711. The phone number for the Attorney General is 512-463-2100.
Perhaps an inquiry with the state of Nevada would meet with more success. The listed address of the NABF's championship committeee, headed by Sam Macias, is 14340 Sundance Drive, Reno, Nevada 89511, so the activity of Macias and his organziation would arguably fall within the purview of the Nevada Attorney General.
The boxing commission in Nevada is somewhat unique in that it has the power to regulate sanctioning organizations -
"NRS 467.136 Registration of sanctioning organization or television network; fees, costs and deposit; regulations.
1. The commission may require a sanctioning organization or a broadcasting network for television that televises professional contests of unarmed combat in this state to register with the commission before it participates, directly or indirectly, in any professional contest or exhibition of unarmed combat.
2. If such registration is required, the commission shall adopt regulations that prescribe, without limitation, the requirements for registration and any fees for registration."
The Nevada State Athletic Commission is assigned a counsel by the state Attorney General's office. He is the Chief Deputy Attorney General, Keith Kizer. He is easy enough to reach by way of the Nevada commission office (702-486-2575) or the Attorney General's office (775-684-1100).
Not only is Mr. Kizer completely conversant with the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, he has written extensively - and very eloquently, I might add - about reform-related issues.
And I'll go one further - the United States Attorney might have an interest in this as well, particularly Joe Sierra, who is very familiar with boxing corruption cases from his experience prosecuting the IBF matter a couple of years ago; he's located in Newark, N.J., and can be reached through the general number - 973-645-2700.
Tim, I know you're a good guy with good intentions. But at this point there are no more excuses.
One of the self-important commission members, who was sitting around doing very little except look self-important (you know the type) caught what I was doing; he gave me a scowl and told me in no uncertain terms that it was not a very nice thing for me to do.
Okay - I eventually repaid his indignation somewhere down the road, when I refused to give him the 20 or so tickets he tried to extort out of us for every show, but that's beside the point.
The point IS - sure it was sneaky on my part, but I did it AFTER the fight was over. And even if it weren't, you can hardly blame a guy for trying to get a little edge for the fighter he's working with.
Chapter 10 of this series
, I mentioned that my idea for open scoring would be for both corners to be apprised of the judges' scores as the fight progressed, because I think it can be argued that they are entitled to that kind of information.
Of course, I didn't say that only ONE corner should have the info, and that it could, or should, be parceled out to a selected corner by an OFFICIAL IN CHARGE.
But now we have before us something that truly boggles the mind - a situation where a high-ranking official of a sanctioning body may have been giving out the judges' scores, at a moment when it was especially critical, to one - and ONLY one - of the combatants in a title fight his organization was sanctioning.
A source who was formerly in the camp of Teddy Reid, currently the NABF's welterweight champion, has told TOTAL ACTION that Sam Macias, the chairman of the NABF's championship committee, communicated the scores on the judge's cards to Reid's promoter, Arthur Pelullo (of Banner Promotions), during a July 21, 2000 fight between Reid and Golden Johnson, which was being "conditionally" contested for the NABF's 140-pound belt in Mount Pleasant, Mich. (Johnson came in over the weight, but if Reid won he would have been awarded the title).
According to this source, who asked not to be identified, "Pelullo comes over to me after one of the middle rounds, either the sixth or seventh and says, 'You better tell Pepe (Reid's trainer, Pepe Correa) to get the kid moving, Sammy (Macias) says we are down two points on two cards and down one on the other'. I was floored. I was not shocked that we were losing, and I was not shocked that Pelullo as Teddy's promoter was telling me to tell the trainer to get going, but I really was shocked that Macias would be passing the scores of his officials to Pelullo during the fight."
It was entirely probable, and perhaps even mandatory, that Macias have unique access to the judges' scorecards. After all, the NABF appoints the ringside officials that are to be used for a championship fight, and Macias, who is not only chairman of the championship committee but also, as Vice-President, second in command to president Claude Jackson in the organization, was the NABF's chief official at the fight.
Obviously, it is dangerous to the integrity of the sport that an organization would venture to provide any privileged information to one fighter's camp - especially crucial information in a closely contested fight - when it consciously held back that same information from the other fighter. The Reid-Johnson bout was certainly very tight, and ultimately wound up going to a split decision, with Johnson getting the nod.
If Macias indeed distributed the judges' scores to one competitor to the exclusion of the other, it opens up a whole Pandora's box of questions - such as, how many times Macias may have performed this kind of "service" for Pelullo, who works often with the NABF, in order to benefit one of the many fighters Banner Promotions has put into NABF championship bouts. And in situations where Macias can position himself as a conduit between the judges' scoring function and the official tabulation of scorecards, how many times, if any, have those cards been manipulated to put Pelullo's fighter on the favorable side of a close decision? The possibilities are frightening, to say the least.
When presented with the scenario as a hypothetical, reaction from officials of a sanctioning body and a state commission were essentially the same.
"If my supervisor were passing on that kind of information, and I found out about it during the fight, the first thing I would do is inform our president, Marian Muhammad, and also the boxing commission," said Joe Dwyer, chairman of the IBF's championship committee. "If we found out about it some time after the fight, and could verify it, the Executive Committee would no doubt remove that person. There's simply no room for that."
"If I found one of my officials passing information like that on, that official would certainly have his license suspended. Giving information to one side or the other is not an official's job," says Tom Mishou, administrator for the Georgia Boxing Commission. "It's likely we would have a hearing that would involve not only that official, but also the manager, promoter or agent who received the information from him. And if they were found to be in violation, licenses could be revoked."
Interestingly enough, there is no provision in the Ali Act or the Professional Boxer Safety Act that specifically deals with Macias' alleged actions. And maybe that's not such a big surprise - it's such an egregious act that the possibility may never have even been considered.
Of course, there may be problems beyond that which is covered by a boxing law. There is something of an element of fraud involved when an official takes any action at all to influence the outcome of a fight, from outside the ring, and using his own position no less, when such action it is not part of a specified regulatory function. And it certainly can make a very material difference, particularly in instances where a fight is in jeopardy of being stopped on the basis of a cut or some other type of injury, and the scorecards come very prominently into play.
It also brings up the question of whether sanctioning bodies should be licensed and closely regulated - either by every state individually (through some sort of model legislation) or by a national committee or commission, not only so that they could be held more accountable for their actions in a jurisdiction where one of their title fights takes place, but that actions can be taken to EXPEL them from jurisdictions, with the backing of nationwide reciprocal policy, when they are found to be committing acts such as those which are alleged here.
More food for thought that will probably fall on deaf ears.
Back in the spring of 1987, a shady Jacksonville, Fla. promoter named Phil Myers announced that he had secured two North American Boxing Federation championship fights for an upcoming show he was producing. One of those fights was to pit Dorcey Gaymon, a hometown boy who had previously fought for the IBF cruiserweight title, against slick veteran Larry Alexander for the NABF heavyweight title. The other pairing, a more curious one, matched Bash Ali, the one-time NABF cruiserweight champ, against another Jacksonville fighter, Tommy Richardson - at stake the NABF cruiserweight title that had been vacated by Bert Cooper, who was then trying to make a move into the heavyweight division.
What was indeed curious about this particular matchup was how Richardson got clearance to participate in it in the first place. After all, he was just a novice fighter, having compiled just a 3-1 career record, with a grand total of just NINE professional rounds over the course of almost two years.
Nonetheless, Richardson somehow was inserted as the #14 contender in the NABF's cruiserweight ratings, which conveniently made him eligible to fight for the title - although as we demonstrated in a
similar situation in Chapter 22
, some strings must have undoubtedly been pulled with the NABF to make Richardson eligible for a VACANT crown, since there no doubt were many available contenders ahead of him to choose from.
Well, taking a look at this whole scenario, it really got me thinking, not only because a fighter with no credentials at all had found his way into a title shot, but because the promoter of the event (Myers) had a well-earned reputation of leaving a bevy of stiffed, pissed-off people in his wake.
So I made a bunch of phone calls, and eventually wound up talking to Dickie Cole, who was the ratings chairman of the NABF at the time (and yes, the same Dickie Cole who currently runs the boxing commission in Texas).
According to Cole, the NABF had been sent information on Richardson that credited him with a record of 10-0 with 10 knockouts, and presumably on that basis alone the fighter got rated. Cole would not identify the individual who sent the record to him, but did say he was "an East Coast promoter".
When I informed him about Richardson's REAL record, as well as the fact that he had only been in scheduled four-round fights, Cole seemed taken aback. And that surprise turned to embarrassment when I explained exactly how I was able to substantiate what I was telling him.
Actually, it was very simple - I got Richardson's documented record from Fight Fax, the current "boxer registry", which at the time was headed by Ralph Citro. And if that weren't enough, I told him I had actually booked Richardson into the one fight he had lost - a four-decision to the debuting David Nalls on the Holyfield-Qawi undercard just nine months before.
There was an obvious question, one that I held back asking, since I didn't want to cause Cole total humiliation - how was it that I could gain access to that information about Richardson, while at the same time the NABF found themselves duped by a phony record, especially since Ralph Citro was a member of the NABF's ratings committee? Didn't they consult with Citro on these matters?
Actually, the answers to those questions would have been somewhat interesting; back in 1987 it didn't cross my mind that perhaps the NABF was perfectly willing to accept the false record in order to facilitate getting a sanctioning fee. Of course, that thought crosses my mind now.
Funny thing is - it's quite possible that what was sent to these guys was a KICK-BOXING record of Richardson's, and that even THAT was phony. Myers had always talked about Richardson being a top-shelf kick-boxer, but we were only able to document one or two fights of his through the full-contact organizations that were around at the time.
Frankly, I don't know if I could take credit for this or not, but some time shortly after my inquisitive phone call, the NABF pulled the sanction from the Ali-Richardson fight, and subsequently took Richardson out of its ratings.
However, the fight found another home - the World Boxing Council, which is more or less the "parent" organization of the NABF. At the time the WBC was experimenting with their "junior world championships", which, as far as anyone could tell, were designed to generate additional sanctioning fees while proving nothing else in particular.
When I talked to Cole about it, he said he had "no idea" how Richardson got the title shot, or for that matter, which WBC official actually did the sanctioning for the event. I figured he would know, since, in addition to his duties at the NABF, he was also the WBC's head man in the United States at the time. He also made it clear that at no time did Richardson hold a position in the top 30 of the WBC rankings, which would have been a requirement for the "junior championships" (though I distinctly remember him being listed as #30 the following month in the cruiserweight ranks).
I would be remiss if I did not mention that by sheer dumb luck, Richardson managed to take Bash Ali the entire distance in losing a 12-round decision, although I think it's also important to point out that it was probably more of a reflection on Ali, who, even though he's still fighting today at age 46, was probably something of a shot fighter back then. As for Richardson, he was knocked out in one round by Dwight Qawi and Johnny McClain after that, then faded from view.
The point of this piece, though, is that the same thing could conceivably happen now.
The way the Ali Act is written, the sanctioning bodies are required to put forth the criteria upon which they will rate fighters; however, once they do that, regardless of what form they do it in, the sanctioning body is usually left alone because 1) they have more or less complied, if only in a cursory fashion, and 2) there are no comprehensive, coherent, standard criteria to use as an effective barometer against the standards of any particular sanctioning body.
Not having the perspective from which to work, the ABC will usually choose the easiest alternative, which is to do nothing.
In fact, the only time sanctioning bodies have been put "on suspension' by the ABC - for example, the WAA and the WBU - it was because they simply didn't comply in sending their ratings criteria to the Federal Trade Commission.
As it stands now, the only way to force a sanctioning body to answer specific, in-depth questions about its changes in rankings is for a boxer to make a formal request for it - I'm assuming in the way of an inquiry or protest.
And since there are no established standards, there is nothing, at least as specified by Federal law, that requires a fighter to have a winning record, nothing that requires he have a scheduled ten-round fight under his belt; nothing, in fact, that requires him to have any professional experience at all, in order to be rated by a sanctioning body. There is only the sanctioning body's own rules and standards; and as we know all too well by now, an outfit like the NABF will throw those standards in the trash can whenever it becomes expedient to do so.
Because the law is written in such a way that explanations are required to be put forward only in the case of a fighter's complaint or the movement of a fighter out of the top 10 of an organization, and because the vast majority of fighters are unaware that this part of the law exists at all, it's very unlikely that you're going to have many "challenges". Therefore, there is really nothing standing in the way of another 3-1 fighter getting an NABF title shot by using a phony record. And in cases where the sanctioning body is the most corrupt entity in the process, that's bad news indeed.