Negotiations for the Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti fight were plagued with hostility, to say the least. Petty as it may sound, one of the primary points of contention involved the kind of accommodations Ward's people were going to receive at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. According to reports, Main Events, the promoters of the fight, refused to give Ward the standard courtesies of room, food, and fight tickets, drawing the ire of Ward's advisor, Lou DiBella, who understandably went ballistic, and considered discontinuing talks for the HBO matchup.

According to published reports at the time, Main Events had indicated that promoter Russell Peltz was brought in to mediate the situation, after which a deal was struck.

Patrick English, the attorney representing Main Events, reaffirms that. “Russell Peltz was the licensed promoter with whom Main Events dealt in connection with the Gatti/Ward bout. He was heavily involved in the negotiations and was instrumental in working out the details of the bout.”

But was that the way things really went down?

Evidence at our disposal suggests that there was a different set of circumstances involved.

According to a “side” agreement that was executed in conjunction with the fight, Peltz represented himself as Ward's promoter –

“Main Events hereby acknowledges that Peltz has an exclusive promotional agreement with Mickey Ward governing the promotion of professional boxing contests featuring Mickey Ward.”

– and was paid on that basis:

“Main Events hereby agrees to pay Peltz a one-time fee of sixty thousand dollars ($60,000) as full compensation for Peltz' release of Ward from his exclusive promotional agreement with Peltz for the sole purpose of allowing Ward to compete in a professional boxing contest against Arturo Gatti to be promoted by Main events currently scheduled to take place on May 18, 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut and to be televised live on the “HBO Boxing After Dark” television series payable upon completion of the bout.”

Of course, there was one small problem.

Peltz does not have an exclusive promotional agreement with Mickey Ward.

He doesn't have any agreement at all with Mickey Ward.

None whatsoever. Not now. Not ever.

In fact, NO ONE has a written promotional agreement with Mickey Ward, exclusive or otherwise.

Sal Lonano, the manager of Ward, says he never authorized Peltz to sign anything representing that he had a promotional deal with his fighter, “and I found out about it very late in the game.”

Lou DiBella, who was brought aboard by Lonano as Ward's advisor, did not authorize Peltz to sign anything involving Ward either.

Al Valenti, who has in the past helped Lonano promote the fighter in New England, couldn't have authorized Peltz to sign an agreement, because he himself has no contract with the fighter, and thus no official authority.

Now, in all fairness, it should be mentioned that DiBella and Valenti were compensated for their efforts out of Peltz' end. But that only happened AFTER Peltz had made his deal with Main Events, which according to the Ward camp, was without their knowledge. And those individuals (DiBella and Valenti) were paid with the blessing of the manager, Lonano. Russell Peltz, as far as we know anyway, is the only person to get paid off the sweat, blood, and toil of Mickey Ward who had absolutely nothing to do with the fighter. And Lonano did not invite him.

As for Peltz being useful or essential in terms of “smoothing things over” between the warring parties, the general feeling from the Ward camp is that Peltz did not serve any necessary purpose for them, and in fact, probably exacerbated the situation; also, that Peltz' presence was more of a contrivance, to put it mildly.

Given those parameters, why would Peltz have commanded – or expected to command – any money at all in terms of a side payment?

When stripped to its essence, could it be for any other reason than that he felt he was entitled to it for putting Mickey Ward into some fights on ESPN?

And if that's the case, doesn't that transgress the legal “fence”, so to speak, given Peltz' position as a “boxing coordinator” for ESPN?

The bottom line is that Peltz made himself a party to a transaction related to this fight – in which he profited – and did so using a false representation.

Could that be in any fighter's interest? Could it possibly be in the public interest? And shouldn't it be stopped?

I would suggest we have several issues at stake here –

* First, how can Ward/Lonano/DiBella be assured that there weren't still other monies accumulated by Peltz in association with this fight? Surely a Federal law that legitimately sought to help fighters – and one that was enforced – would enable them to find this out.

* Second, how can a promoter possibly pay a third party in relation to the appearance of a fighter, and under the pretense of a particular representation, without performing enough due diligence to find out whether that representation is valid? How could the party receiving the money not be required to provide that documentation? If one provision in the Ali Act (Section 13, b-1) reads that, “A promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes……the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match”, it would ridiculous to think that it wouldn't apply to boxers a promoter DOESN'T promote, but gets paid in connection with anyway, and why shouldn't this be a matter for commissions in New Jersey (where Main Events is licensed and headquartered), Pennsylvania (where Peltz is licensed and headquartered) and Connecticut (where the fight took place), not to mention the U.S. Attorney, to investigate?

* Third, the idea of Peltz doing this kind of business (i.e., engaging in “side deals”) with parties who might also, in the normal course of business, be expected to pitch proposals to him for ESPN shows is deplorable, and would seem to constitute precisely the kind of thing a Federal boxing law should be created to combat; yet, obviously, nothing in the Federal law really addresses it effectively.

* Fourth, if in fact Peltz commanded ONE DIME from ONE FIGHTER just because he gave them exposure on ESPN, it would represent a situation that warrants investigation by the FBI, don't you think?

(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN; also, DiBella Entertainment is a current advertiser on TotalAction.com)

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Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.