The 27th Round
Well, let's say I was in that Senate meeting room today. This is what I might have to say:
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.
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.
Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.