The 79th Round

(NOTE: The “Q & A” passages in these reports, as well as the direct quotes, are a product of a deposition taken from Jack Kerns, dated December 10, 2002)

James Doolin, the trainer for former heavyweight champion Greg Page, came to officials of the Kentucky Athletic Commission with a complaint on the night of his fighter's state title bout againt Dale Crowe.

The thrust of the complaint was Doolin's contention that the padding underneath the ring canvas was not thick enough. Kentucky rules specify that the padding must be a minimum of one inch thick, otherwise it is not fight for use in a professional fight card.

Doolin also complained about oxygen, which didn't seem to be present at the location of the fight – Peel's Palace. He made his thoughts known to one of the commissioners, Tim Gonterman.

According to Gonterman's statement, which was submitted pursuant to the KAC's “investigation” into the matter, “I met with Mr. Doolin for about eight minutes and he stated concerns he had about the ring and safety equipment at ringside and also some other personal feelings toward the commission.”

Yeah, “peronal feelings”; he's not alone there.

Let's go to Doug Morris, questioning Jack Kerns about this:

“Q: Could you not require some representative of the commission to be present before the canvas is stretched out over the padding in order to make sure that the padding was sufficient?

A: It would be kind of hard to do, because you never know when they're going to set up a ring. They might set it up the night before, they might set it up the next day.

Q: Well, I mean, as chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, do you not have the power to say to them, notify us before you do that?

A: Well, yeah, I could have said notify us, but I see no reason to. If someone brought something to my attention, I'm going to check it out, so I mean, it wouldn't be no different than checking one thing ot checking another one. When they set the ring up, we check it all.

Q: But you can't check the thickness of the padding after the canvas –

A: Sir, I went around and I felt all around that there, and I'll die and go to heaven believing that there was enough padding on that ring.

Q: As we sit here today, you cannot tell us how thick the pad was that was underneath the canvas in that ring, correct?

A: I can tell you that in my heart there was at least an inch padding there.

Q: Did you ever measure it?

A: No, sir.”

Brian Walsh didn't exactly measure it either. But as he explained to me in connection with my original Kentucky report, “Horse Manure Isn't the Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky”, Greg Page's friend and representative stuck around after the fight, reached under the canvas, and cut out a piece of the ring padding, obviously foreseeing a possible point of contention. And just to show he had much more presence of mind than Jack Kerns, Walsh went to the trouble of having a local sheriff's deputy sign off on an envelope Walsh put that padding in and sealed. Walsh says the padding had hardly any thickness to it at all.

“Q: All right. Did you check – before the Greg Page fight, did you check for the presence of any safety equipment?

A: Like what, sir?

Q: Well, how about oxygen?

A: If it was ever brought to my attention, I would. Anything brought to my attention, I would check. I never – the oxygen was up to the promoter. That's his duty.

Q: But regardless of whether the promoter is required to provide it, it's up to the commission to see to it that those regulations are complied with; correct, sir?

A: Sir, when this was brough to my attention, I called the three commissioners together, and I told them that it was brought up by Mr. Doolin to Tim Gonterman that there was no oxygen. It was our judgment, after talking it over, you had a hospital within two blocks, you had EMT's within two blocks, you had the police department, not only that there, but Greg Page and Mr. Doolin said they didn't want – you know, Mr. Gonterman told him that they could stop the fight right then and there. They elected to go on with it. We talked about the safety of the fighter, and it was our judgment call. Now, we have to make judgment calls. If it was some other city, and it was different, we might have stopped the fight. But in this case, with everything so close, it was our judgment call that we said let's go on with it. With Greg Page and Doolin saying go on with it, our commission decided – it was our judgment call on that, and we went on with it.

Q: So it was pointed out to you before the Greg Page fight that there was no oxygen?

A: Yes, sir – not to me. It was pointed out to Tim Gonterman.

Q: And Tim Gonterman reported that to you?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: When did that occur? What time of day?

A: It was before the fight, but I don't know exactly what time it was.

Q: Was it before other fights as well?

A: Oh yeah, it was before any fight started.

Q: Did you discuss this with the managers of boxers of any of the other fights?

A: No, sir.

Q: So you did not discuss with the fighters in the previous rounds about whether they wanted to go forward without any oxygen?

A: No sir. I talked it over with my commission.

Q: So before any of the fights started, you, as the chairman, and Mr. Emmitt Igo, and Tim Gonterman, and Fred Burch were all aware of the fact that there was no oxygen present at the time of –

A: I don't know if Igo – excuse me. I don't know whether Igo – he wasn't in on the meeting. He was over at the motel. Whether he came back over there, I don't know.

Q: So before any of the fights started, you and Fred Burch and Tim Gonterman were all aware that there was no oxygen present?

A: Yeah, I'm sure everybody there knew. I'm sure there wasn't a fighter in that house that didn't know it.

Q: Well, regardless of what you're sure of, did you ever discuss with any of the other fighters, other than Greg Page, whether or not there was any oxygen present?

A: No, sir.”

That's another thing that's so bad. Greg Page was not the only boxer on the card that night. The Page-Crowe fight, though the main event, was not the evening's only bout. There were at least eight competitors scheduled to be on the card – didn't they have a right to know that there wouldn't be oxygen, as per state and federal law? Is it THEIR obligation to check for the presence of oxygen and ensure that it is present? Or were they supposed to be satisfied, after the fact, that Jack Kerns was making potential life-and-death decisions for them?

And having made that critical decision, along with his fellow commissioners, in a unilateral fashion, what kind of due diligence (there's that phrase again) did Kerns perform in order to mitigate any potentially life-threatening situation (not that it makes any legal difference)?

“Q: Did you make any determinations – did you call the EMT's to find out how long it would take them to get to the Peel's Palace in the event they were needed?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you – go ahead.

A: But I knew from other experiences, because I had a security company, that they were there within a couple of minutes.

Q: Do you know how long it took the EMT's to arrive once the call was made?

A: No sir, I don't.

Q: It certainly was more than two or three minutes, wasn't it, sir?

A: I don;t know, sir.

Q: Have you ever looked at the dispatch records of the EMT's to be there from the time they were called until the time they arrived?

A: No sir.

Q: Do you know how long a person can go without oxygen before they sustain permanent brain injury?

A: Sir, I'm not a doctor –

MR. GUILFOYLE (Kerns' attorney): Objection.

Q: I know you're not a doctor, sir. Did you consult with any doctor on the night of March 9th and say, how long does it take a person to sustain a brain injury if they don't have oxygen?

A: No sir. I never thought to ask a question like that.

Q: Yes sir. So you;re making a judgment, you;re telling me, on whether or not to have oxygen there, and you're telling me you don't have any opinion as to how long someone can go without oxygen, correct?

A: We made a judgment call that we would go on because we felt that they were so close.

Q: Yes, sir. And what I want to know is – you made that judgment call without knowing how long a human being could go without oxygen, correct?

A: Our commission decided that, because yes – that was our judgment call to do that, yes.”

Morris was curious as to where Kerns felt he had the authority to let the fight proceed on the basis of such a judgment call. He wanted Kerns to point that out in the regulations. Guilfoyle asked Morris, “If you want to direct him to the regulations…”, to which Morris said:

“Q: No, sir, I want you to direct ME. I want you to take the regulations of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, and I want you to tell me where in there it says that you can exercise your judgment in such a way as to allow this fight to proceed without oxygen.

A: I can't tell you that, sir. I can tell you that it says in our regulations that we have the right to make a judgment call, and our judgment was that the hospital – as I said before, the hospital was just two and a half blocks away, everything was that close, that we felt that – and also Mr. Doolin and also Mr. Page –

Q: Mr. Doolin is not the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, is he, sir?

A: No.

Q: Mr.–

A: He could have stopped the fight anytime.

Q: Please answer my question.

A: All right.

Q: Mr. Page is not the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, is he sir?

A: No, sir.

Q: You are the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission; isn;t that right, sir?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And you have the ultimate authority to determine whether the fight will go forward or not; correct, sir?

A: Yes.”

Jack Kerns, who was appointed to a position of trust by the governor of the state of Kentucky, has never – EVER – had a full understanding of the importance of his responsibilities and his role of leadership. That lack of understanding can perhaps be most vividly illustrated both above and in this exchange:

“Q: Did it ever occur to you to say to the promoter, get on the line to the EMT's and see if they can send an ambulance out here?

A: Sir, the promoters had – they knew what they're supposed to do.

Q: My question is about you, sir. I want to know about you. Did you ever say to anyone, whether it be the promoter or anyone else, contact the EMT's and see if they can provide oxygen or an ambulance?

A: No, sir. I never told the promoter anything he should do. There was very little I had to do with that promoter. He was the one putting the show on.

Q: Well, if you had shown up and there hadn't been a clean bucket there, and clean water, towels, would that be something you would be responsible for seeing if it was complied with?

A: The referee would tell me, and the referee would get it done.

Q: So it would be necessary to have a bucket and a stool or a chair before the fight would go forward, correct?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And if it wasn't there, then somebody would have to make some arrangements to get it there, correct?

A: The referee would tell the promoter and get the promoter to do this.

Q: Are you familiar with – you told me that there was no ambulance present for the fight?

A: Right.

Q: And again, referring to the federal Professional Boxing Safety Act, section 6304, which requires that an ambulance or medical personnel with appropriate resuscitation equipment be continuously present on site, were you aware of that regulation in March of 2001?

MR. GUILFOYLE: Objection to the extent you're asking whether that was even applicable. Go ahead, Jack.

A: No sir, I wasn't.”

You see what I mean? People like Kerns – and believe me, there are more like him in other states – don't seem to grasp the fact that as a REGULATOR, it is not only preferable, but MANDATORY – that they be the last line of defense when rules have either been ignored or transgressed.

But the posture of Kerns, just as its was with Nancy Black in testimony before him, is to lay off all the blame on the promoter. What there is no comprehension of is that they have to OVERSEE the activities of the promoter – that is their job.

Could you imagine Marc Ratner presiding over a fight at the MGM Grand or Caesars Palace, where an ambulance hasn't been called or hasn't shown up yet, and letting the fights go forward anyway, with the attitude that “It's okay. If anything tragic happens, I'll just blame the promoter”?

It seems something too bizarre to even consider.

That's what's so absurd about this whole thing. It is not Terry O'Brien's job to be the guardian of the public interest. In Kentucky, that's the responsibility of Jack Kerns and Nancy Black. But these pathetic “human beings” don't have any respect whatsoever for that. It's a slap in the face to the people of Kentucky and an insult to anyone within earshot of their story.

Oh – should it be big surprise that Kerns had no idea about INSURANCE either?

“Q: Did you know that federal law – that the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 requires that health insurance be provided for each boxer?

MR. GUILFOYLE: I'm going to object. Go ahead and answer it, if you can.

A: No, that's up to – an attorney would have to answer that there. It would be in the insurance – that would have to be provided by the promoter.

Q: But my question was: Were you familiar with the requirement that insurance be provided?

A: No, sir.”

Kerns' testimony is that, when it appeared Greg Page was in dire straits, it was HE who got on his cell phone and called 911 at Dr. Mediodia's request:

“Q: And it's your testimony that you called EMS after Dr. Mediodia came back from his examination of Greg Page?

A: He didn't come back, sir. He was up in the ring, and I was standing there, and I asked – he said – I asked him how he was, and he said he thought he was just tired, exhausted. And so I said, do you want me to call 911? And he said yes, and I got my cell phone out and called 911.”

It should be noted that there have been legitimate questions raised as to whether it really was Kerns who placed the emergency phone call. Curiously, Kerns' observation of Mediodia's activities once Page went down seem to conflict with Mediodia's own version of events:

“Q: How many times did you see Dr. Mediodia attend to Greg Page? Once or more than once?

A: Attend to him? He was right up there. He stayed right up there with him.

Q: Is it your testimony he stayed up in the ring until EMS arrived?

A: Oh, yes.”

As we said, Mediodia's testimony is a little different. He says he actually LEFT the ring after initially examining Page, then went back up in the ring. As for what he did in between, this is what he testified to:

“Q – And did you stay with Jack Kerns during that time?

A – Yes. I was with him all that time.

Q – And what did you and Jack Kerns do during that time?

A – Well, we were still watching the proceedings inside the ring.

Q – But you were outside the ring?

A – There was no reason for us to move away from that area.

Q – But you were outside the ring over where you had been sitting with Jack Kerns?

A – Right. yes. Just a few feet away.

Q – All right. And during that ten minutes, did you do anything to assist Greg Page in any way?

A – No. There was no necessity for treatment or any procedure to be done. His ABC's, as I said, were just perfect.”

What is Mediodia's recollection of whether Kerns himself called for the emergency unit?

“I assmued it was Jack Kerns.”

That's unusual, for someone who was by his side the entire time. Why wouldn't he know for sure?

Brian Walsh has told me, “And this doctor, who had already seen Greg, was standing there, with his hands in his pockets, in the center of the ring. He wasn't anywhere NEAR Greg. He looked right into my my face, and told me, 'He's faking'. I was just so shocked he would say something like that. It was clear Greg was hurt and needed help.”

Kelly Mays, a Kentucky fight manager, told me that Mediodia didn;t go right into the ring at all when Page went down, but in fact was apparently headed home:

“The doctor was actually walking through the lobby heading toward the parking lot,” said Mays, who was working in Page's corner that night. “And he did this 30-40 seconds before the fight ended. He took for granted that the fight was over.”

Even though Kerns had previously testified that he would never use Mediodia again for a fight, he didn't seem to feel that the unlicensed doctor had done anything irregular or unusual in the process of his immediate treatment of Page before the ambulance finally arrived:

“Q: What did you think about the quality of action by Dr. Mediodia from what you could see?

A: I didn't see anything that he done wrong. Like I say, I couldn't really tell what he did other than bust that capsule (an ammonia capsule), and I asked him about calling 911. You know, first, he told me that the man was either wore out or exhausted, and then I called 911. That's the only – when something like that happens, there's so many people that can get in front of you that I really didn't get a chance to talk to the doctor.”

Certainly at least one other commissioner saw things a little differently. We'll have his story, and what happened to him as a result, in the next chapter.

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Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.