The 22nd Round

For those of you who don't understand what it means to open a “Pandora's Box”, I hope you won't mind if I bring up the following hypotheticals:

Let's suppose I'm the type of guy………….

……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”.

Right?

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:

Ҥ 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?

Think harder.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.