The 21st Round

I normally don't like to disparage Nevada – they usually get things right, and are constantly under tremendous pressure to do so, since more high-profile fights in the U.S. happen there than anyone else.

But there's one place where they've missed the boat entirely.

Just a few days ago, Luther Mack, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, appointed Tony Alamo JUNIOR to the position of vice-chairman, which means, almost by definition, that unless he is replaced, Alamo would be next in line for the chairmanship.

My friend Don Majeski recently put together his annual “50 Most Influential People in Boxing” for International Boxing Digest; one of the names on this list is Tony Alamo SENIOR.

I'm afraid Don may not even know the half of it.

Mandalay Resort Group, which operates the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, is not only a major player in championship boxing in the city of Las Vegas (and the world), but also a licensed promoter in the state of Nevada.

Tony Alamo Sr. is the senior vice-president of that operation and the man in charge of the hotel/casino's boxing activities.

What this means is that the son is in the precarious position of having regulatory authority over the father. Let me put this another way – it could be easily perceived that the father, part of a licensed promotional entity, is uniquely positioned to control a vote on the board of the state agency that is supposed to be overseeing his activities.

And on a five-member commission, that vote has the potential of breaking 2-2 deadlocks that could occur at any time.

It's safe to say that many of the votes taken by the Nevada Commission concern either boxers who may someday fight on the Mandalay Bay property (or one of its sister properties), or promoters who may either seek to stage shows at Mandalay Bay, or do shows in conjunction with direct competitors of Mandalay Bay – competitors who also have licenses, or who would be required to have them.

Alamo Jr. is eligible to vote on all these issues. And to my knowledge, no other casino in the state of Nevada has such “representation by proxy” on the commission.

Not that what I've just told you is a secret to anyone in Nevada. Alamo Jr. gets up at every commission meeting and reads off a disclaimer whenever he has to vote on something. It discloses his family association with Mandalay Bay – this, I guess, in case any member of the general public in attendance doesn't know it already.

Of course, what he really should be saying is, “I hereby recuse myself from voting on any matter that even remotely concerns Mandalay Bay Resort Group or any competitive entity.”

But he doesn't do that. In fact, he doesn't recuse himself from anything.

And silly me – I'm over here thinking that if a guy has to read off a disclaimer like that, it should not only disqualify him from VOTING, it should probably disqualify him from SERVING on the commission.

Yet apparently the governor doesn't feel that way.

Alamo Jr. has a ready-made rationalization for his position. “I do not work for Mandalay Resorts,” he has told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “I do not own common stock. I have no ties at all to Mandalay Bay, per se.”

Well – yes, and no.

Let's say Alamo Sr. owns stock in Mandalay Bay and has some stock options (not an unreasonable assumption). And I would further assume that if he's been a good son, Alamo Jr. would one day inherit this interest. Last I looked, the shares were sitting at 27-3/8. Now, would it be better for Tony Alamo Jr. – in the long run – if that stock jumped to 40, or dipped to 20?

In this business, that's what we call a rhetorical question.

You see, having “no ties at all to Mandalay Bay, per se” is just a matter of perception, isn't it?

Don't misunderstand me – I'm sure everyone is very thankful that Alamo Jr. has given us his input on his position, vis-a-vis Mandalay Bay. But to be perfectly honest, when it comes to someone who is, let's face it, a government official, I'm not all that interested in hearing HIM tell me HE doesn't have a conflict of interest, not when there's supposed to be a higher authority to make that determination.

And if the people overseeing the boxing commission in Nevada's state government can't see what I see, then the state that likes to think it sets a standard for other states to follow in the way of boxing regulation has fumbled the ball.

As I've said time and again, and will continue to say as long as it needs to be said – when it comes to the governmental regulation of boxing, we've got to look deeper than the OBVIOUS conflict of interest and attempt to avoid even the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest.

Is there anyone out there who could possibly tell me, with a straight face, that Alamo Jr.'s situation doesn't constitute – at the very least – the appearance of a conflict of interest?

I mean, there have been people with the commission who have already gone on record in recognizing this. And it brings up at least one thing I would congratulate the NSAC on. Back when Alamo Jr. (an internist) was the chairman of its medical advisory board, he was not permitted to serve as a ringside physician at fights that were held at his father's property, despite his protests. Of course, the problem, at least from my perspective, was easy to see – his father's property was taking bets on those fights, and as a ringside physician, Alamo Jr. may have been in a position where he could directly affect the outcome of those fights – like who won, and how. Why venture into that kind of territory?

Others with the commission agreed. Marc Ratner, the executive director, was quoted in a Las Vegas Review Journal story as saying, “It is an implied conflict of interest we don't even want brought up. He will not be working any fights at Mandalay Bay. We don't want anybody second-guessing him as a doctor with his obvious ties to Mandalay Bay.”

Amy Ayoub, who was a commissioner at the time, was right behind him.

“Dr. Alamo's integrity is not in question at all, but the perception of a possible conflict is there,” Ayoub said. “Because of that, we feel it is best that he not be the doctor at Mandalay Bay fights when we have other qualified doctors to work those fights.”

Well, if there are “obvious ties” to Mandalay Bay, which would preclude him from working fights there, why would this “implied conflict of interest” be any less operative in Alamo Jr.'s role as a commissioner, where he's voting on issues that, once again, might directly OR indirectly affect Mandalay Bay or one of its competitors?

Let's give another example. Alamo Jr. was, in the end, opposed to licensing Mike Tyson. Tyson's fight with Lewis was supposed to be bought by the MGM Grand – a competitor of Mandalay Bay. if the fight had been scheduled for Mandalay Bay, and his father had an awful lot riding on it, would Alamo Jr. have voted differently? And would he have tried to convince others on the commission to do the same?

Should someone like him ever be in a position where he can cast the deciding vote which determines whether a fight – ANY fight – takes place at Mandalay Bay or not?

The very fact that one can bring up a question like that should be grounds for a recusal on his part. And as long as that's the case, why should he have been able to vote on Tyson appearing at ANY casino?

Here's the thing – in both pieces of federal legislation in effect, there are provisions – which I've brought up before – designed to guard against conflicts of interest:

In Section 5 of the Ali Act,


`(1) IN GENERAL- It is unlawful for–

`(A) a promoter to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the management of a boxer; or

`(B) a manager–

`(i) to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer; or

`(ii) to be employed by or receive compensation or other benefits from a promoter, except for amounts received as consideration under the manager's contract with the boxer.”

……And in Section 15 of the Professional Boxer Safety Act,

“(b) EMPLOYMENT AS CONDITION OF PROMOTING, ETC- No person who is a licensee, manager, matchmaker, or promoter may require a boxer to employ, retain, or provide compensation to any individual or business enterprise (whether operating in corporate form or not) recommended or designated by that person as a condition of–

`(1) such person's working with the boxer as a licensee, manager, matchmaker, or promoter;

`(2) such person's arranging for the boxer to participate in a professional boxing match; or

`(3) such boxer's participation in a professional boxing match.”

One of the principal thoughts in mind from the very beginning was the professional relationship between Don King, a promoter, and his son Carl King, who managed some of the fighters who were under promotional contract to Don King Productions.

In fact, this kind of issue has been specifically brought up – often – by people like John McCain and other proponents of a national boxing “administration”.

What they recognize is that the relationship between one relative and another – particularly between a father and son – can create a perceived conflict of interest that can have the effect of polluting a dynamic in which two parties would otherwise hold certain checks and balances over each other.

Well, if we consider the relationship between a commissioner and a licensee, don't Alamo Sr. and Alamo Jr. fit into that same kind of dynamic?

So how can we ask anyone to obey the Ali Act or the Professional Boxer Safety Act, to enforce them, or even sympathize with their rationale, when the very regulators who espouse them don't even care to adhere to the same standard?

Or as usual, are commissioners and politicians telling us that what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander?

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.