It's that they figure they know what Alamo Jr. is all about, which in their minds isextending the reach of his father's interests to the boxing commission, and they're asking- hey, why can't we have a seat on the commission too?
And you know what? Under the current circumstances, that's really not a bad question.
Given the fact that the casino industry is so dominant in Nevada, and that rarely, ifever, does a fight take place in the state without the involvement of a casino, theindustry should have a voice in the way policy is structured and implemented.
How that voice should be heard, or who that voice should be, is another question.
Certainly, Alamo does not represent the casino industry. At the most, he represents justONE interest. And that's simply not the way it should be.
I would propose something which I think could be very constructive.
The first thing would be to take any person with a relationship to an individual casinoOFF the athletic commission. There's certainly no place for someone like that. They don'tfulfill any purpose other than to create controversy and resentment, as well as thefeeling that agendas are only being selectively served. They also have the potential toproduce situations that become embarrassing, as will invariably happen in Nevada.
The next thing I'd do is facilitate a structure for something like this to happen.
These are my suggestions:
1) A FIVE-PERSON COMMITTEE TO ACT IN AN ADVISORY CAPACITY TO THE BOXING COMMISSION. Thiswould includes people who could represent the interests of various companies that owncasinos and are active in boxing. These kinds of things, as you know, run in cycles - theLas Vegas Hilton had been involved heavily in boxing; now it is not. Caesars had been moreor less out of boxing for a while - now it wants back in. The Mandalay Bay may somedaydecide to phase boxing out - you never know. For these reasons, perhaps membership on thiscommittee could be changed on a rotating basis, depending on who really has a stake in thesport at the time.
Right now, I guess you'd be talking about the Mandalay Bay, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, andthe Orleans in Las Vegas, and whatever properties in Laughlin or Reno-Tahoe which theydon't own or control, and are involved in boxing.
The overriding idea here is to ADVOCATE and COOPERATE, producing a give-and-take thatensures fair dealings between the boxing commission and the casino industry.
2) THE GOVERNOR CAN RESERVE A SEAT ON THE COMMISSION FOR SOMEONE TO REPRESENT CASINOS'INTERESTS IN GENERAL. Once again, Alamo Jr. does not fulfill this function. We're talkingabout someone who would not be appointed by the Governor, but who would be chosen fromamong the casinos themselves; not carrying the ball for anyone's particular interests, butALL interests. Maybe it could even be coordinated with Solution #1.
Perhaps casinos could get together in choosing one representative, ostensibly one which isindependent of any one casino company, to exercise the collective voice.
Unquestionably, you'd have some issues that would have to be resolved with regard to this.One involves the fact that there would still presumably be someone associated with thecasino industry who would be voting on ring officials (judges, referees). But at leastthat ideally wouldn't be someone voting on behalf of ONE casino.
Another concern might be that economics would take priority over other matters ofcommission business, such as fighter safety, for example. But I'm confident that withpeople looking over their shoulders, commission members and personnel would seek to strikea proper balance.
Besides, when has the economics of the casino industry NOT been a major consideration ofthis commission, anyway?
And considering what makes the engine run as far as boxing in Nevada is concerned, whyshouldn't it be?
Nevertheless, I felt it perhaps useful to offer a little background as to what you canexpect from the hearings, and why it is that they take the shape they do.
First of all, it's important to understand a couple of important things:
This is NOT a fact-finding mission. It is a show, specifically tailored to utilize the"name value" of its participants, for whatever it's worth, to provide"window dressing" for the bill, which, by the way, is ALREADY WRITTEN. In otherwords, there is not ONE THING anyone in this hearing could say that would change what isin the bill.
The entire procedure is structured to generate "FRIENDLY" TESTIMONY, and nothingelse. You will not find voices shouting above each other, trying to get a word inedgewise. There's no need for that, because rarely is heard a dissenting word.
I am not a political animal, so my mentality doesn't exactly identify with this kind ofphilosophy, not when we're supposed to be dealing with something that is democratic innature. But I'm told that this is the norm when we're talking about hearings conducted inassociation with prospective legislation.
I can only imagine that in boxing, it's probably a lot easier to put together a smallgroup of "witnesses" who are all too happy to be there. And there are plenty ofthem.
Those people are identified through something called the PRE-INTERVIEW process. In effect,what happens is that someone - in this case, Senator John McCain's "boy", KenNahigian - gets you on the phone and "feels you out". What he's trying todetermine is whether a potential invitee is available on the day the hearing is scheduled.But more importantly, he wants to find out whether that person is available to be brought"on board" with the legislation.
In most cases, the people who have been contacted for the pre-interview have been screenedto where it is known even before that point where the person stands - squarely in favor ofthe legislation, or "neutral" enough to be swayed without too much effort.
What is fundamental to an understanding of this process is that if you let it be known tosomeone like Nahigian that you have serious questions - however legitimate - about what heand his bosses are trying to accomplish, you run the risk of never being contacted again.
Someone like myself, for example, who is aware of the farcical nature of such a hearing,knows a lot more than anyone on the committee, and wouldn't hesitate to tell them thetruth, would be considered "too dangerous" for their purposes, and wouldn't evenrate a consideration.
No one wants to hear that kind of voice within the context of a Senate hearing. But sinceit's the only forum where any of these people are actually paying attention, that doesn'treally say much for free speech or democracy, but that's just the way it is.
I have actually spoken with people who have expressed reservations about what McCain andhis folks were trying to accomplish, but who were either not allowed to come or asked notto include those kind of "negative" references in their statement, which bringsme to........
The PRE-SUBMITTED TESTIMONY. Anyone who is scheduled for one of these hearings mustprovide a complete script of his/her opening statement in writing, at least two days inadvance. Among other things, this provides a great filtering mechanism. This statement isgoing to be read by the witness and put on the record, so it is important that it conformwith "the program". If it doesn't, the witness may be asked to make some changesto it. If most of it is objectionable or inflammatory, there is that possibility that thewitness' appearance will be canceled.
Operatives working for these committees, and pushing legislation, are not above actuallywriting the script, or part of it, for their witnesses either. Sometimes that's how wewind up with..........
PLANTED TESTIMONY. When one of the committee members would like to have something put onthe record to further his own agenda, but does not want the notion to originate withhimself, he will figure out a way to arrange for such a suggestion to be"planted" with one of the witnesses. This way, it looks as though it weresomeone else's idea, creating the impression that the idea has enhanced"credibility".
This deception can be performed in a number of different ways. Someone like Nahigian, forexample, might actually write a passage that will be inserted into the witness' openingstatement. Or, it could be planned that a Senator asks a certain question or brings up acertain point during the "Q&A" session, and the material planted with thewitness comes up then. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about.
About a month before last May's Senate hearing, I was having a conversation with someonefrom a state boxing commission. He was explaining to me that there was one possible routefor other commissions to go, in keeping with the desire to bring about some kind ofuniformity in laws related to boxing that could, in a way, go beyond what might becontained in the federal legislation. That would be to adopt "model legislation"that could be introduced and voted on, state-by-state. He cited an organization he hadcontact with, called the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws,formed in order to draft such legislation.
He wrote a memorandum to Nahigian, explaining all this in depth. Nahigian didn't know whatthe NCCUSL was, but he thought it was a good idea, worth following up on.
But it didn't involve his bill specifically, so there was no plausible way for someone onthe committee to introduce the idea.
At the May 22 hearing, Bert Sugar, a former editor of Ring Magazine, was one of thepanelists. Sugar, who is a skilled ad-libber, was sailing through an opening statementthat did not quite match that which he had submitted to the committee, but was a wonderfuland entertaining improvisation nonetheless.
There was only one part of the statement in which Sugar has to stop, reference a piece ofpaper, and read from something that looked like a script. It was to recite the following(taken from the written statement):
"In keeping with Senator McCain's stated goal, we do not have to re-invent the boxingwheel; the mechanism to organize the sport is already in place. And it is called 'TheNational Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws'. This is a group that wasorganized in 1892 - not incidentally, the same year as the John L. Sullivan-James J.Corbett fight, the fight which brought in modern boxing as we know it today, withthree-minute rounds and gloves under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules.The stated purposeof The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is 'to promoteuniformity in state law on all subjects where uniformity is desirable and practable, byvoluntary action of each state government'. As such, The National Conference ofCommissioners on Uniform State Laws has drafted uniform laws in many fields and thenencouraged states to adopt them on a state-by-state basis as law-including such diverselaws as the UCC, the Probate Act, the Anatomical Gift Act, and the Interstate FamilySupport Act."
Even for someone with legal training, like Sugar, that's quite a coincidence.
There's nothing illegal or unethical about planting testimony with a witness, though it'sa little deceptive. After all, the witness is ostensibly brought in to contribute what HEhas to the discussion, not what others have. Such a manipulation of the process wouldleave doubt in my mind as to the credibility of ANY testimony that was offered by a givenwitness.
Finally, there is the QUESTION & ANSWER session. This is something of a freelancediscussion, where what panelists say is not necessarily controlled. A dissenting viewcould possibly be heard here, but it must be remembered that the senators on the committeecontrol the floor, so if there are controversial issues brought up in a witness'statement, it's likely that someone like, say, a McCain would pick and choose which oneshe would like to address and ignore the others. If you noticed from the last hearing,Emmanuel Steward brought up several good points that needed to be followed up on, but theywere not touched. Once again, control of the flow of information is the key.
This time around, Sugar is back again, along with that well-known "reformadvocate", Bernard Hopkins, Ross Greenberg of HBO, and the member of this panel thatwill offer the most substance, author/columnist Thomas Hauser. Sugar, by the way, is alate substitute for Greg Sirb, who has suddenly pulled out of the Wednesday proceedings.Hmmmmmmm.
In any case, grab a beer, sit yourself in front of the television, and have a laugh. Butdon't do that until you've finished reading my own "statement".
I shall only make a short statement, since covering the issues that are critical, andwhich have not been addressed in the legislation you are holding in your back pocketstoday, would take much longer than five minutes; indeed, much longer than the time youhave allotted for today's entire proceeding.
To imply that an hour and a half is sufficient to discuss boxing reform in a way that ismeaningful or relevant is an insult to those who feel strongly about this subject, so Iwill attempt to hammer home a couple of points you should contemplate on the way to yourmore "important" meetings this afternoon.
I understand that you will be distributing copies of your legislation - the"Professional Boxing Amendments Act" - immediately after this hearing. If thesubstance of this bill is already complete, what is the purpose of anyone testifying? Whatcould possibly be said; what point could possibly be made, that would affect a differenceat this point?
If a new idea or concept that could improve the quality of your bill can not beincorporated into it, can it explained to me, with a straight face, what this"ceremony" is all about?
I must tell you, I have misgivings about politicians becoming involved in the regulationof boxing on a national level. We have enough of it on the state level, and it is NOTeffective, NOT efficient, NOT expert in any way.
I listen to all of you - that includes Senator McCain, other members of this committee,many of the hand-picked witnesses, and representatives of the Association of BoxingCommissions, and what I hear is that the sanctioning bodies are somehow the overridingevil that pervades boxing, pointing to so-called "bought-off" ratings, bribes toofficials, rulings that seem to favor one promoter over another. No one, not the least ofall me, would doubt that a problem does indeed exist, and should be addressed. In fact,I've endeavored to deal with it personally.
But are you, as politicians, engaged in anything different? In the normal course ofbusiness, you accept large sums of money from people who have very specific specialinterests, and you do your best to make sure their voices are heard, and their agendasmet. Senator McCain should be acquainted with this more than anyone, considering hisembarrassing involvement with the Keating Five some years ago.
But Senator McCain has been adamant about ignoring the oversight of television networksinvolved with boxing as a component of this bill. That is conspicuous, considering thatthe companies that control the television networks that would be the subject of suchoversight were among the largest contributors to his senatorial and presidentialcampaigns, and continue to be.
How can anyone argue for a complete "hands-off" attitude toward the TV networks?When a mid-level promoter is frozen out of HBO, for example, and elects to distribute hisevent through pay-per-view avenues, simply because he has no choice, he must approach acompany called InDemand to get any kind of clearance at all. InDemand is owned in part byTime Warner Entertainment, of which HBO is a component. If HBO has an interest in thatpromoter not succeeding with his show, which may result in his developing strength infuture negotiations with the network, HBO has the power to block that promoter out ofpay-per-view distribution. Isn't that an issue that should be dealt with? Could someoneask Ross Greenberg about that?
Russell Peltz has bullied his way into partnership with several promoters who were forcedto go through him to get their shows aired on ESPN. He is, simultaneously, an operative ata network and an independent promoter, and until ESPN responded to stories published inTOTAL ACTION which pointed out his blatant conflicts of interest, he actually foundhimself in the enviable position of having some degree of control over the success of hisdirect competitors. Shouldn't there be safeguards implemented in future legislation toensure that this kind of situation can't happen again?
Since your last hearing, there has been no change on the board of directors of theAssociation of Boxing Commissions, which is to say that Jack Kerns, the chairman of theKentucky Athletic Commission, who put the lives of many fighters in danger by completely -and I might add, consciously - ignoring safety standards that were set forth in federallaw, still serves as First Vice-President of the organization, although there was ampleopportunity to remove him.
The ABC has become a disgrace to boxing, and although that may not explain why ABCPresident Tim Lueckenhoff, who was scheduled to testify here today, has canceled, itcertainly would be a plausible reason, wouldn't it? Each and every member of the ABC boardshould be absolutely ashamed of themselves for not having the guts and fortitude to standup and convey a positive message for boxing.
If you don't mind, let me make note of more people who are NOT here today. From what I'veheard, Senator McCain's major concern, at least as he would have us believe, is to protectthe interests of fighters. Why then, has someone like Paul Johnson, who runs the Boxers'Organizing Committee, not been given the opportunity to come here and discuss issuesrelating to boxers? I understand his organization is in its formative stages, but at thisparticular time, Mr. Johnson is the only person making an effort to organize professionalfighters in a collective manner, and he should have been given a chance to be part of thedialogue.
Instead, you have Bernard Hopkins, who, truth be known, serves as the perfect example ofsomeone who preaches "boxing reform by convenience", that is, someone who is infavor of sweeping reforms, so long as they can benefit him, but is perfectly content totake advantage of all a corrupted system would allow. As such, he is a poor representativeof the interests of fighters, as it applies to your prospective efforts.
I am most curious about the absence of Greg Sirb, the executive director of thePennsylvania State Athletic Commission, and aspirant to the office of "United StatesBoxing Administrator". You see, unless I'm interpreting it wrong, a major purpose ofall this legislation, including that which is the subject of this hearing, is to makepromoters, managers, and sanctioning bodies more accountable for their actions.
If ACCOUNTABILITY is to be a theme, then why, in light of evidence that demands aplausible explanation, is Mr. Sirb, who has had the support and cooperation of SenatorMcCain and his "assistant", Kenneth Nahigian, suddenly, and suspiciously, beenexcused from his scheduled appearance here? Why was he not asked - indeed, compelled - toappear before this committee for the purposes of answering questions about his pastactivities, which directly impact upon his suitability to function in a regulatorycapacity, whether it be on a local or state level, much less assume a presidentialappointment to oversee boxing on a national scale?
On January 23 of this year, I sent Mr. Sirb a questionnaire in order to solicit hisresponse to a story of a very serious nature that was a subject for publication in"Operation Cleanup 2". The communication read as follows:
A story from heavyweight fighter Maurice Harris has come across my desk which, if true, ishighly disturbing. According to Harris, in December of 1992, when he was at a weigh-infilling out an application for his pro debut (against Joe Kenna) in the Poconos, youapproached him, as chief inspector in charge of the weigh-in, and asked him how old hewas. He tells me he told you he was 16, but that YOU told HIM he was 18, and furthermore,that the info on his application may have been changed by you to reflect this. No ID wasasked from him at that weigh-in.
Indeed, records show that Harris fought twice more in Pennsylvania before turning 18 (hisbirthdate is 2/21/76), seemingly in violation of state law - the documentation of thesefights is accessible through Fight Fax and other record-keeping sources.
Would you care to comment on this? You were on hand for Harris' pro debut, were you not?
Why wasn't he asked for a birth certificate or other form of identification at thatinitial weigh-in?
Why wasn't he asked for ID at those subsequent Pennsylvania appearances?
Is that original application from Harris' pro debut (dated 12/4/92) on file as an officialstate document, and if so, can it be faxed to me at 708-575-1280?
If you care to comment, please furnish those answers by way of a response to this e-mail;in the event a story is written, your response will be copied and pasted into the story.
Thank you Charles Jay
Mr. Sirb did not answer any of my questions directly, and did not send thedocumentation I requested. His two-line response, which I assume was a composite for allmy questions, was:
"In 1992 the Commission policy was to allow boxers over the age of 16 to compete - ayear later that policy was revised to reflect an 18 year old minimum."
That statement was not true, and not relevant.
I was hoping that you'd have better luck getting answers out of him - perhaps under oath.
But I guess that's not forthcoming.
That's all the time I have. I would like thank you for the opportunity to address thiscommittee, and hope that some good will result from this appearance.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wait in the lobby for my limo.
In case you're interested in the quality of individuals McCain will have testifying that day, in particular one whose advice he's relied on - heavily - in terms of the formulation of this bill (and if you're a Senator, or work for one, you should be VERY interested indeed), allow me to take you on a journey back in time................
It was December of 1992. Heavyweight Maurice Harris was in Fernwood, Pa., readying himself for what he was hoping would be a successful pro debut against a fighter named Joe Kenna. The Newark, NJ native was relatively under-prepared, having had the benefit of just nine amateur bouts.
He was ill-suited to turn pro for another, much more important reason.
Harris had no idea at the time, but since he was only sixteen years old, he really had no business entering a Pennsylvania ring.
He was able to fight nonetheless. That's because no one asked him for any identification to substantiate that he was eighteen years old - the legal age as it was in the Keystone State then, and as it is now. It's not that Harris even lied about it, at least at first. In fact, in the process of filling out the necessary paperwork for licensing, he wrote his correct birthdate - February 21, 1976 - on the Pennsylvania commission's form.
At two different points during the procedure, the man who was in charge of conducting the weigh-in for the commission - chief inspector Greg Sirb - approached Harris and asked him how old he was. Both times, according to Harris, he told Sirb he was sixteen.
"We went back and forth," said Harris. "He (Sirb) told me, 'No, you're 18'. I said, 'No, I'm sixteen.'"
This is where the plot "thickens", so to speak, taking what might be considered an alarming turn.
Harris says that Sirb came back a third time while he was sitting in the room where the weigh-in was being held. "Again he asked me how old I was," Harris says. "I told him once again I was sixteen - I was filling out the paper. He looked real hard at me and said again, 'NO, YOU'RE EIGHTEEN'. By that time I was like, 'Okay, whatever'. Because I guess that was the only way they were going to let me fight."
According to Harris, after he gave his license application over to Sirb, the information on it was altered in order to make it appear as if the fighter was indeed eighteen years of age.
If what Harris is claiming is true; if Sirb did indeed CHANGE the information on Harris' official commission paperwork to facilitate him being of legal age, that would be a piece of disturbing news that simply could not go ignored - not by us, not by John McCain and his colleagues, not by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission, and not by that state's office of the Attorney General.
Eleven days ago, TOTAL ACTION made a written request of Sirb - as administrative director of a state agency - for a copy of the application Harris was supposed to have filled out that evening. That request was not fulfilled.
Harris lost that debut fight on a four-round decision. Of course, by Pennsylvania law, he shouldn't have been in the bout to begin with. But even if we were to give Sirb the benefit of the doubt on that one, the "mistake" was repeated twice more - Harris appeared in Pennsylvania again on February 12th and 27th of 1993, meaning that he was permitted to fight THREE TIMES in the state before his eighteenth birthday.
On no occasion, claims Harris, did Sirb request that he produce identification documenting his age. According to what currently appears in Chapter 21, Paragraph 8 of the Pennsylvania Code:
"§ 21.8. Boxers
(e) The Commission will not license as a professional boxer an applicant under 18 years of age and the Commission will require conclusive proof of age of a boxer applying for the first time to be so licensed with the Commonwealth......"
Sirb's explanation is that it was allowable - and indeed, acceptable - for Harris to appear in those fights. "In 1992 the commission policy was to allow boxers over the age of 16 to compete," he told us. "A year later that policy was revised to reflect an 18-year-old minimum."
Whatever the "commission policy" was in that regard - whether it was something in practice, or simply made up on the spot, is debatable. But even if such a policy did exist, it quite obviously did not supersede what had been legislated into Pennsylvania law.
The assertion that the "policy", or ANY policy that could possibly have some gravity here, was not changed or amended until 1993 simply doesn't ring true. And it's meaningless anyway, by virtue of what was already contained in the Pennsylvania statutes.
At least as far back as July 1, 1989, when Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey signed the "Athletic Code Act", pursuant to House Bill 1197 (session of 1989), the relevant statute (4Ps, Sec. 31.502), relating to "Age of Participants", read as follows:
"(a) General rule.--No person UNDER THE AGE OF 18 shall be a participant in any boxing contest or exhibition.
(b) Exception.-- (1) Any person between 12 and 17 years of age may participate in amateur contests or exhibitions under such rules and regulations as the commission shall prescribe.
(2) Persons between 12 and 17 years of age may participate after obtaining written permission from a parent or legal guardian, AS WELL AS consent by the executive director.
(3) Persons 12 to 16 years of age may only participate in such contests with persons not more than one year older."
There have been amendments to the boxing statutes, namely on May 13, 1992, when House Bill 1174 was signed into law. But the provisions regarding "Age of Participants" went untouched.
Harris did not fall under any of the stipulated exceptions, not by a long shot. Certainly he was not competing as an amateur; he did not have parental permission, simply because he wasn't aware he needed it. His manager at the time, Andre Kut, did not sign anything authorizing Harris to fight; indeed, he couldn't, since he did not have the status of legal guardian. And there was no special approval from the executive director which would allow him into the ring.
In addition, if you look closely at Sirb's statement, it's ambiguous in a sense - Harris was in fact not OVER the age of 16 at the time of his pro debut. He WAS sixteen.
After a rocky start to his pro career, in which he was 7-8-2 after 17 fights, Harris has gone on to become a prominent heavyweight, most recently winning Cedric Kushner's one-night "Thunderbox" tournament in Atlantic City.
He certainly can handle himself now, though no one knew very much about him then. But if, in fact, Harris had suffered serious injury - or worse - in any of those fights he engaged in before he turned eighteen, the state of Pennsylvania would have left itself open to considerable liability as a result of Sirb's indiscretion.
How much liability?
"Well, let's put it this way," said one former attorney who now serves on a boxing commission, "there's no private individual out there who actually owns an entire state, but I guess there's always a first time."
Eventually, Sirb went on to become chief administrator for the Pennsylvania commission, and served as president of the Association of Boxing Commissions for four years (he is currently listed as "past president").
This revelation takes on added importance in light of the fact that Sirb has, for quite some time, been an active candidate for the office of "national boxing administrator", or boxing "czar", if you will, should Sen. McCain's "Professional Boxing Amendments Act" pass in both houses of Congress later this year.
In Chapter 69 of OPERATION CLEANUP, it was reported that Sirb had in the past arbitrarily taken certain fighters off the national suspension list, regardless of what medical suspension they were under, contrary to procedures set forth in federal law.
Naturally, this begs the question as to whether we really need a regulator overseeing boxing on a national level who seems intent on making up the rules - or circumventing them - as he goes along.
"When it comes to making sure a fighter is eighteen years old, you just can't compromise on something like that," said one state commissioner. "Unfortunately, Sirb gets too cozy with the people he regulates. He wants to get in the ring and do exhibition bouts on their shows. He wants to be one of the guys. Then it's hard to say no to them. It's a big conflict of interest. There's a fine line out there, and you really can't cross that line."
You don't dilly-dally. You don't blink hard. You hand it to him with a polite bow and your best wishes, preferably on a silver platter.
But the IBF decided that maybe they don't really need to bow down in front of Roy Boy. They don't have to pick their words, make excuses or stall for time. If Jones doesn't want to defend his title against mandatory challenger Antonio Tarver - and he had until late Monday to decide - fine. He can join the land of the heavies and take his title belt or belts with him.
In case you haven't been listening, Jones asked the IBF if he could skip the mandatory against Tarver and go directly to the heavyweight fight with Ruiz. More money for a Ruiz fight.
After scratching its head and consulting a higher power - the legal department - the IBF replied, "Sure, Roy, do what you want. You always do. But if you don't fight Tarver, you will no longer be the IBF champ.''
That's because the IBF, in order to determine who the light-heavyweight champion of the world is, has the crazy idea that certain criteria must be met. Most important among those stipulations is that - get this - to win the light heavyweight title, you have to be a light-heavyweight and you have to BEAT a light-heavyweight. And John Ruiz kissed the light-heavyweight division good-bye when he was 14.
Can you believe these guys at the IBF? Where do they come up with this stuff? Pretty soon, they're going to insist that fighters defending their world title actually weigh-in at that specific weight. In other words, if you're fighting for the junior-welterweight championship, at some point in the days leading up to your fight, you actually have to weigh 140 pounds. If you weigh, say, 145 pounds at the weigh-in, you can't really defend the 140-pound title.
So why Roy will apparently move up to fight the heavyweights for more money - and I don't think anyone here can blame him - Tarver is probably throwing a party right about now. He gets to fight another top contender - probably light-heavyweight Montell Griffin - for the vacant title Jones no longer seems too worried about.
"I was surprised,'' Griffin told Boxingtalk.com after the ruling by the IBF. "But I'm happy.''
I would think so. Unless Jones changes his mind about fighting Tarver, Montell has moved to the front of the line leading to the light-heavyweight championship. The only guy blocking the door is Tarver It would have been easy for the IBF to give Jones the exemption, but it also would have been unfair to both Griffin and Tarver. Tarver would have been shut out from fighting Jones for the IBF title until the last half of next year Same with Griffin. He was looking at 2004 before he'd get a shot at winning the IBF title.
"If Jones had received the exemption, the (IBF) title would have been stagnant for probably 11 months,'' said Dan Goossen, Griffin's promoter. "And if Roy Jones is successful against Ruiz, what direction is he going to take? Is he going to stay in the lucrative heavyweight division?
"The IBF did not make their decision based on money. They made their decision based on the best interest of boxing.''
Well, isn't something roughly similar going on with casinos and boxing? Let's illustrate it in terms of the abstract, without bringing up the case of any casino in particular.
Let's say a casino lays out a site fee to host a world championship fight. It may even have a "relationship" with the promoter of that fight, which may lead down the road to more championship cards the promoter will bring to the property. And one of the main event participants in the fight is quite appealing, drawing enough gamblers to the casino that it would be to their great advantage to have him back again. Either way, big-time boxing means big-time business for the property.
The casino has a sports book. And that sports book, like all sports books, is in the business of taking bets on sporting events - in some cases, very large bets. As the gamblers are being attracted into the casino the week of the fight, they are laying down their bets in the sports book. naturally, if they're on hand for the fight, they're going to BET on the fight. So the casino's sports book will invariably handle an awful lot of money on the event.
Sports books generally try to balance action on both sides of a proposition, but it doesn't always work out that way. If there is enough action on one side where it creates considerable financial "exposure" on the part of the sports book, it would certainly be very interested in one side winning over the other, wouldn't it?
Now consider that the way things are set up in Nevada, that casino entity also holds a promoter's license, meaning that, by definition, it is taking bets on fights that it is promoting.
And its "promotional partner", if we can use that term, is an entity the casino might have an "exclusive" deal with, or an "output" deal which entails that they do a specific number of fights in conjunction with an outside promoter. There might be a special relationship struck because of a "house fighter" the casino wants to be involved with. There might even be a direct deal made by the casino with a fighter.
The convergence between the promotional interests and the wagering interests of the casino in relation to a boxing event is something that needs to be acknowledged. The hotel/casino hosts the fight, houses the fighters, and its staff can't avoid having continual contact with both camps that are involved. There is a lot of information the casino (i.e., the oddsmaking entity) might be privy to that may not be available to the betting public, or to other sports books.
What about when there is a CONFLICT between the two? What happens when a casino has enough exposure through the wagering to where it would be better for them if the opponent of the house fighter won? And then we saw some outrageous decision by the judges to make something like that happen?
And what if a fighter owes a casino a lot money? It's no secret that some fighters have shown a proclivity to gamble - I've seen quite a few of them run up a considerable tab by the end of their stay. Sometimes they're signing markers.
Now let me give you the "added attraction".
Consider, on top of everything else, that the officials that are chosen for fights can have a very real effect on the outcome - something we are keenly aware of, based on recent boxing history, if nothing else. When the casino that is co-promoting a fight, hosting the fighters, and taking bets on the result, with a very real interest in the fight, from more than one angle, also has a voice - indeed an actual vote by way of "proxy" on the boxing commission, as to who the officials are going to be a for a championship fight, it becomes a matter of very real concern. Who needs to open that can of worms?
Understand this - I've been involved in boxing long enough to know that cases of fixed fights, and fixed judges, are few and far between. But when I address this issue, I'm not looking at it from the perspective of what
. I'm trying to envision how the general public would look at it. And I offer no guarantees as to what the average fan might perceive if this kind of scenario were laid out for him.
You know, the NBA forbids the Maloof family, which owns the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, from accepting wagers on the NBA in its sports book. It's for a pretty good reason - the league doesn't want to raise any questions about the integrity of its games. There might be the appearance that the Maloofs could use certain inside information on the NBA franchise they own (the Sacramento Kings) or other NBA franchises (which, in effect, are their partners in the league) to their advantage - information they could easily have access to.
And you know what? The Maloofs are all too happy to oblige.
When a casino gets involved in the promotion of a fight, it "owns the franchise", so to speak, at least temporarily. So why should the standard be any different?
Perhaps it's an issue that Nevada's boxing commission, and its gaming commission, should contemplate addressing.
Over the years, light-heavyweights have always had this strange longing to be heavyweights. They’re like kids who grew up wishing they could play shortstop for the New York Yankees. When they don’t make it - when they end up selling life insurance in Toledo - they spend the rest of their lives wondering what happened, how it all got away.
It’s almost Freudian stuff, this crazy desire to be a heavyweight. Look deep into the mind of a light-heavy and you see ugly things you don’t want to share with the kids or talk about at the office: Envy, greed, resentment. Wishing they were bigger.
When the little guys finally realize they’ll never be more than a fat light-heavy or a skinny cruiserweight, they sometimes decide that if they can’t be a heavyweight, they can at least try to beat one. It’s almost like the short-man complex, that affliction where the little guys are the ones always itching for a fight.
Welcome to the biggies, Roy. Pull up a chair, throw on a cushion or two and peer over the edge of the table. That‘s where the heavyweights are sitting, stuffing themselves on big pay days and the comforting thought that the greatest title on the planet is being the heavyweight champion of the world.
The light-heavyweight champion of the world? It’s a good title, but it’s like winning the Greater Greensboro Open or becoming the Hertz Rent-A-Car Bowling champion. It’s second fiddle, a kind of consolation prize, like Miss Congeniality.
But worse - and this is the part that really stings - there‘s not as much money at 175 pounds as there is at 225.
So what do you do? You eat a lot of mama’s home-made pasta and have dessert after every meal. And you go to bed at night praying you put on 25 pounds while you sleep.
But when none of it works - when you still tip the scales at 180 the next morning- you decide the only way into the enchanted world of the heavyweights is through beating one. Hopefully, beating him silly.
That’ll show ‘em.
For Jones, it’s not about the money as much as it is about the challenge, the chance to prove that he’s not all talk and flash, that he can beat anyone he wants to.
"When I was 16, I knew I could whoop anyone,’’ he said on a recent conference call.
Sure, Roy. Maybe if you’d been born a heavyweight.
He said he hopes to weigh 190 for the Ruiz fight, which would still leave him a cruiserweight.
"I‘ve been trying to make the jump (to heavyweight),’’ he said. "It‘s just that people won‘t give me the opportunity.’’
Funny. I don’t remember "people" ever getting in the way of Roy Jones before.
"I just want a shot at the heavyweight title,‘’ he said. "It may happen or it may not. I just have to see how I feel when I do this."
Given that fact, would it really surprise anyone that the tentacles of the company would extend not just to regulation on the local level (if you don't know this, just read the previous two chapters), but to the national level as well?
I wonder if very many people outside the state of Nevada actually realize this, but John Ensign, the Republican United States senator from Nevada, is the son of Michael S. Ensign, the Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Resort Group and holder of five million shares (worth roughly $130 million) of that company's stock.
This wouldn't be so significant, except that Senator Ensign currently sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, right beside John McCain. What that means is that he has been involved in creating, and voting on, the boxing-related legislation that will coming up for vote on the Senate floor relatively soon - I'm speaking, of course, about the "Professional Boxing Amendments Act". This is legislation that would affect Michael Ensign, who, through his company's licensure with the Nevada commission, is a big player in some of the biggest world title fights.
Of course, that means, once again, that we have a situation where the son would have some sort of regulatory domain over the father.
And that's not all. Within McCain's committee, there is a three-man "sub-committee" which, in the event McCain's legislation is passed, will make the official recommendation to the President as to who will be appointed to the position of "United States Boxing Administrator" (commonly referred to as the boxing "czar") - a position that would be created as a result of the Boxing Amendments bill.
So by definition, if and when someone is chosen who is going to be instrumental in shaping, implementing, and enforcing policy nationwide, the son of a major boxing promoter is going to have an awful lot to say about it.
Of course, it's worth mentioning that there are quite a few states who seem to resist some federal intervention, even if the autonomy of their own commission is preserved to some extent. And Nevada is one state where the constituents hold a lot of libertarian ideals. Not the least of those constituents are the people who comprise the gaming industry.
As you might expect, Ensign's campaigns are heavily financed by casino money. The industry contributed $373,749 to his 2000 Senate campaign, by far more than any other business sector and ten times that which it gave to his opponent, Ed Bernstein. And the Mandalay Resort Group contributed over $111,000 of that total, nearly twice that of the next highest donor, the MGM Mirage ($56,950).
And it should be noted that there is some built-in protection for the casinos' position in the legislation that is being proposed.
Foe example, this is from the "Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002":
"PROMOTER. The term `promoter' means the person primarily responsible for organizing, promoting, and producing a professional boxing match. The term `promoter' does not include a premium or other cable or satellite program service, hotel, casino, resort, or other commercial establishment hosting or sponsoring a professional boxing match unless:
``(A) the premium or other cable or satellite program service, hotel, casino, resort, or other commercial establishment is primarily responsible for organizing, promoting, and producing has a promotional agreement with a boxer in the match; and
``(B) there is no other person primarily responsible for organizing, promoting, and producing the match not affiliated with the premium or other cable or satellite program service, hotel, casino, resort, or other commercial establishment."
The law would not mandate that the casino be classified as a "promoter" if there is only a site fee package involved in their financial support of a fight. So while Ensign may not be completely on board as far as passing McCain's legislation is concerned, at the very least he's going to have his bets covered, if you pardon the pun, by protecting those who support him and having some input as to who will be wielding the ultimate authority over the industry (including his father's enterprise) as a whole.
Look - I don't necessarily disagree with protecting the casinos' interests, vis-a-vis national regulation. Certainly anyone who is familiar with TotalAction.com realizes that I am pro-industry as far as casinos are concerned. And even though we've pointed out in the past that a casino can be considered a "promotional partner" in an event, if a property is not in control of fighters, or does not make exclusive deals with promoters, we might concede that their role could conceivably be regarded as that of a "sponsor" and "host", rather than a "promoter".
Then again, I'm not the one that requires the casinos to be licensed as promoters - the Nevada commission does. And that should tell you something about the way THEY look upon that role.
Not that there aren't some redeeming aspects about Ensign's presence in the Senate, though. He has fought against a particularly ridiculous, ill-informed piece of legislation put forth by McCain - one which would ban all betting on college sports across the country (although when you think about it, the very act of him fighting that bill could be a conflict of interest in and of itself, couldn't it?).
And Ensign's spot on this three-man "czar appointment committee" could serve a positive purpose as well - if that purpose is to bring someone else into consideration for that job, other than McCain's favorite, ABC "past president" Greg Sirb.
But I see a double-edged sword - something that worries me, and should worry you as well. Clearly, Ensign is going to try and push someone from Nevada to become the "czar". And because Ensign and the other Nevada senator, Harry Reid (the Democratic Whip) have the ability to bring together a considerable amount of support, they might indeed be able to force someone from the Silver State into the mix as a "compromise candidate".
If some of the whispers are true, Ensign may be creating a mechanism for putting Tony Alamo Jr.'s name forward for that job. After all, some feel Alamo Jr.'s campaign for the vice-chairmanship of the Nevada commission (he was appointed last week) was intended as a stepping stone in that direction, to get him "credentialed".
You must admit - it's a perfect setup.
Well, if Alamo Jr.'s involvement is a concern on a local level, certainly it has to be as much, if not more of a concern, on the national level, especially as Mandalay Bay is involved exclusively in events that carry with it a degree of national and world significance, involving the networks in all cases, and because the company would, in the course of business, compete with other entities across the country to acquire those events.
I don't anyone to interpret from these pieces that I do not like the Mandalay Bay or its people. Indeed, I respect the Mandalay Bay and acknowledge their role in supporting boxing events, which is something we could use more of. At the same time, however, I recognize that their role - and that of casinos in general - is as a participant in this business; a party with certain financial interests, and not as the quasi-regulator.
And I'm not sure anyone concerned with the long-term interests of boxing wants to see someone holding a national position in regulating the boxing industry, with all the unilateral authority and power that it brings, who has the kind of relationship Alamo Jr. has to a major operator like the Mandalay Bay.
Last weekend was just another chapter in the crazy life of Johnny Tapia, who is appropriately nicknamed 'Mi Vida Loca' ('My Crazy Life'). He was engaged in a standoff with police, with two other men who were wanted on drug charges. Tapia was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. The following morning he suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed in his Las Vegas home. His wife Teresa frantically called 911. Tapia was in intensive care and hooked up to a life support system throughout the weekend. At that point Tapia was hanging onto life by a thread. The man who had been pronounced clinically dead three times prior, seemingly had cheated the grim reaper for the last time.
Well, hold on with the obits. By early this week, not only had Johnny regained consciousness, he was able to walk out of the hospital and yes, there was talk of him resuming his career. The fact he made it out of the weekend in itself, was a huge upset.
" I was there for five hours that first night," said his trainer Freddie Roach, who's in Las Vegas training Mike Tyson." And I thought he was dead. I didn't think he was coming back. He was in a complete coma and didn't move a muscle. But in the sixth hour when I was there, I told Teresa to just take a break and get something to eat. He opened his eyes, he had no idea where he was, and he didn't know who I was either. But at least he opened his eyes, I was happy about that. And the following day he asked for a cheeseburger, so I got him a cheeseburger."
" It seems he doesn't know what happened because he tells me he was in a car accident and I said,' Johnny, there was no car accident' I asked him if he took something and so forth and the doctors haven't got the blood work back in when I was talking to him."
Tapia has battled substance abuse problems his whole adult life. His career was put on hiatus in the early 90's when he tested positive for cocaine. His addiction is something he fights everyday like any other addict. But the fact that he had drug paraphernalia the night before his sudden collapse is suspicious. It's obvious that drugs need to be eliminated from his life but according to Roach, boxing is badly needed.
" I'm glad he's ok," says Roach." And if it's drug related, which I think it is - he needs help. The thing is, if he gets suspended three years - then his careers over. And you know what will happen," asked Roach rhetorically. He'll kill himself.
Because he still loves boxing and he can still fight a little bit. There's probably a couple of fights out there for him but if he doesn't get help, he's gonna end up dead."
There has been no word on if drugs were in Tapia's system. But according to Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, all boxing licenses expired on December 31st and Tapia had not reapplied for a new license. But he notes that if and when he does, he, like any other fighter will be subject to drug tests and perhaps even a mental evaluation.
While Roach may be correct in his theory that boxing is a positive diversion for his fighter, the bottom line is that he is approaching the sunset of a very distinguished career and pretty soon he will be living life without boxing. It's a tough adjustment for any athlete that retires from the glory of their playing fields to a regular private civilian life. For Tapia, you figure it will be that much more difficult.
" The thing is, after Johnny's last fight, it was probably the first fight where he took a lot of shots and maybe took a beating because Barrera was too big for him," Roach says." I wouldn't like to see that happen to him again with some of the bigger featherweights. They were talking about him and Hamed fighting and y'know what? I was thinking in my mind that if he fights Hamed, win or lose, maybe he should retire."
" Because maybe it's just time, but I know as a fighter, no fighter's going to retire until there ready to retire because I did the same thing. Eddie Futch told me to retire, I made the comeback and maybe if I didn't, I wouldn't have the problems I have today," he says of his battle with Parkinsons syndrome that he controls with medication." But I'm a grown person and I chose it but Johnny's getting towards the end of his career and he needs boxing to occupy his time and that's when he gets in trouble when he's not boxing. So I'd rather see him in the ring than laid out on a stretcher like he was the other night."
In theory I agree with Roach, but to me this is like putting a band-aid on a fractured leg. Unless he gets help with his addictions- and even more importantly psychologically- the minute he moves on with the rest of his life- he may not have that much of a life to live.
It was a successful debut for Oscar De La Hoya's 'Boxeo De Oro' series on HBO Latino at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles this past Thursday night.
Top to bottom, the card put together by Golden Boy Promotions was action packed, highlighted by Oscar Larios' hard-fought ten round decision over Marcos Lincona and Jose Navarro's impressive second round blowout of Carlos Madrigal.
But what was really impressive was that over 4,500 people actually bought tickets to the event. No, it's not a huge number and it does pale in comparison to some of the crowds that used to regularly flock to the Olympic back in it's heydays, but considering that the event was televised (always a killer for the gate), the relatively early start time of 5:30 (and trust me, LA traffic is no treat at that hour off the adjacent freeways) and that the Olympic hadn't had a boxing event in over four years because of diminishing crowds-this night can be considered a huge success.
And I tell you what, there's not a bad seat in the house. And when you get a few fannies in the seats, it does provide quite an atmosphere for the fighters.
It's doubtful that this arena can ever have a regular schedule of boxing again, but if you have a well- promoted event once in a while, it can work.
If Lennox Lewis bypasses an April date on pay-per-view against Vitaly Klitschko, that pay-per-view slot will be taken by Marco Antonio Barrera.
Now, here's the funny part in all this, it seems Barrera and his people are somewhat reluctant to face another Mexican national. Guys, I hate to break it to you, but in that division, you really don't have that much of a choice. That would be like a heavyweight saying he doesn't want to face an African-American.
Now, names like Kevin Kelley are being mentioned. A Barrera-Kelley fight would be HBO's reply to Showtime's mismatch featuring Acelino Freitas and Gabe Ruelas.
......Who has always wondered why, after having been involved in a low blow controversy, in favor of John Ruiz, in the second Ruiz-Holyfield fight, Joe Cortez would be named by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to referee another Ruiz fight, this one against Kirk Johnson.
.......And let's say I had heard the standard explanation about Cortez being an experienced referee and a good official from folks like Marc Ratner of the NSAC, but I wasn't completely sold, because I had been educated about "good officials" and the concept of neutrality in officiating by reading Chapters 46, 47, 50, 65 and 66 of "Operation Cleanup".
.......And then, knowing that he and manager Norman Stone have in the past been on record expressing how close a friendship they have with Tony Alamo Sr. of Mandalay Bay, I watched the Ruiz-Johnson post-fight press conference and heard quotes like this coming from Ruiz' attorney and advisor, Tony Cardinale - "I'd like to thank Mandalay Bay for bringing us back home. This is Johnny's home. This is OUR house. And they weren't going to take that belt in our house."
.......And I'm familiar enough with boxing to know that casinos, who put up money to help subsidize fights, sometimes would like to see one fighter win over another, especially if that means they'll get the chance to put up more money for more fights, and make more money FROM fights down the road.
.......And I've read that the Nevada commission made the conscious decision, with an inflexible posture, to ignore World Boxing Association championship rules which call for neutral officials in title fights involving competitors from different countries, choosing instead to install a referee who not only shares the same country of origin, but the same ancestral roots (Puerto Rico) and same city of residence (Las Vegas) as Ruiz.
.......And then I realize that Tony Alamo's son, Tony Alamo Jr., is actually a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. And I discover that in Nevada, there is a regulation (not necessarily a law) in Chapter 467 of the Administrative Code, that states:
In Paragraph 214: "the commission will select and approve all ring officials."
In Paragraph 219: "A majority of the commission will select the referee for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events."
In Paragraph 225: "A majority of the commission will select the judges for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events."
........And then it hits me - the son of one of the promoters actually had a hand, or could have had a hand, in actually selecting Cortez specifically for the job of refereeing the Ruiz-Johnson fight.
........And then I review a tape of that fight and see a couple of obvious head butts by Ruiz that could have been called by Cortez, but were not, and which would have at least provided some kind of counterbalance in terms of penalties assessed in the fight, possibly having the effect of putting off a disqualification call by "evening out" those fouls.
I might be curious enough to ask some probing questions, wouldn't you? Let's put it this way - you wouldn't really blame me if I was trying to connect the dots.
I mean, that entire series of events could conceivably give a guy enough excuses to let his imagination run away with him.
And at the very least, you'd understand what I was talking about when I bring up a concept like "avoiding the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest".
Okay - now let's say I was the type of guy..........
............Who wanted to get nit-picky with appointed officials from a state agency; you know, the way sometimes state agencies get nit-picky with taxpayers. And I'm surfing around the internet one day and I come across something called the "Professional Boxer Safety Act". And in that law there's a paragraph that reads like this:
"§ 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."
.........And then I start to ask myself, when Tony Alamo Jr. - a boxing regulator and state official - visits the casino his father, Tony Alamo Sr., operates - which happens to be a licensed promotional entity in the state of Nevada, does he buy his own lunch, or does he have it "comped"? Does he buy his own tickets for concerts and shows that happen to take place there, or is he "comped"? Does he ever go there for the weekend and get "comped"? Does he get any "comps" or amenities at all, and might any of this constitute any form of "compensation" as it is referred to in the Professional Boxer Safety Act, a federal law?
.........And the only reason I'm asking is because in the next section of the Professional Boxer Safety Act, under "Enforcement", it says this:
"(2) Conflict of Interest. Any member or employee of a boxing commission, any person who administers or enforces State boxing laws, and any member of the Association of Boxing Commissions who knowingly violates Section 6308 of this title shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned for not more than 1 year or fined not more than $20,000, or both."
.........And I'm wondering - while we're at it, are there any other members or employees of the Nevada State Athletic Commission who get "comped" for anything - rooms, tickets, food, beverage, etc. - at Mandalay Bay, a licensed promotional entity? And wouldn't that be an interesting thing for someone in state government - and indeed, given the federal law I just read to you, the United States government - to look into?
And by now YOU may be asking yourself, 'Gee, does this guy know more than he's letting on'?
And my answer is - maybe. Maybe not. And maybe I'm just waiting to see if anyone will do anything about it.
Since we're talking about Nevada, I'm "betting" no one will. And there are very little "maybes" about it. After all, the Attorney General's electoral campaign (part of which, from what I understand, included fund raisers hosted by Mr. Joe Cortez at his home) raised around $400,000, or even more, from the casino industry, a lot of that money coming from Mandalay Bay, and all of it just after resigning as chairman of the Gaming Commission (yes, taking money from the people he had been regulating).
And in his 1996 election bid, Governor Kenny Guinn - the same governor who later appointed Tony Alamo Jr. to the state boxing commission, skirted campaign regulations in a sense by accepting $20,000 EACH from 15 different companies owned or controlled by the Mandalay Resort Group, which was known as Circus Circus Enterprises at the time, accumulating $300,000 IN ONE DAY in what columnist Jon Ralston of the Reno Gazette-Journal described as "the most obscene public contribution in state annals".
And you think we're better off with the politicians running boxing?