The 40th Round

Wasn't that kind of a silly presentation during the exchange between Teddy Atlas and Nevada deputy attorney general Keith Kizer on ESPN2 last Friday night? It just goes to show you that what started out on these pages as a legitimate issue for discussion; an academic argument that fits right in with the “boxing reform” theme we try to espouse, has gravitated into a soap opera/pissing contest, where even politicians like Senators John McCain and Harry Reid, and Nevada governor Kenny Guinn have been perfectly willing to serve as participants.

That's cool, I guess. I don't mind a good soap opera now and then.

And I can't help but laugh at the pretenders who are trying to be “investigators”.

According to ESPN, it wasn't their preference that Kizer come on the “Friday Night Fights” program. They claimed they had tried to get Nevada commission chairman Luther Mack and vice-chairman Tony Alamo Jr. to speak with them on the air, without any luck. But Kizer probably knows the Professional Boxer Safety Act and the Muhammad Ali Act better than anyone in Nevada, and along with Bruce Spiezer of Maryland, as well as any attorney connected to a boxing commission in the United States.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean he was ready to be ambushed by Atlas, who came at him in a sophomoric manner that couldn't possibly have been for any other purpose than to create “effect”, and give ESPN's public relations guy Dan Quinn additional ammunition to get Atlas more publicity from a few backward boxing writers.

When it came to the substance of the argument, Atlas, who has already used up MY material, came up dry.

Example – at one point when Kizer was trying to say something about the Ali Act, Atlas interrupted him. “We have the law, maybe we can help you,” he said. “We're going to help you out.” A befuddled Bob Papa then said, “Let's take a look at
the Professional Safety Act (sic). And this is right from the bill.”

Then, with Atlas nodding all the way, I'm sure, Papa proceeded to recite a passage from something that in fact wasn't part of any federal law at all, but instead taken from the Nevada Ethics Code, leaving considerable doubt as to whether Atlas, or Papa, or anyone else at ESPN even KNOWS what is in the federal law.

That's quite an embarrassment for the “Boxing Authority”, isn't it?

Kizer, who must've been holding back giggles by this time, was gracious enough to point out that what was being shown on the screen wasn't exactly what the “Authority” was attempting to refer to, and with that, Papa and Atlas both flunked their audition for “60 Minutes”.

The problem with most of Atlas' “findings” (and we must qualify that because we're not sure where any of them really come from) is that there is a counter-argument to what he offered as “evidence” on ESPN regarding Luther Mack. Kizer had an answer for that, though it may not be one that ESPN liked.

However, there is no plausible argument against bringing up questions related to the APPEARANCE of conflicts of interest, which has been the fulcrum of my case all along, in the process of initially identifying and clarifying this issue. As we've stated before, bring flimsy evidence to the table and your allegations look flimsy. Stay within the abstract as much as possible, and you have an issue that can have relevance, regardless of which commission you're talking about.

Kizer must've felt like a guest on one of those inflammatory talk shows, where it's more important to be louder and ruder than your “opponent” than to make the more salient points. Even so, he could have been stronger.

Kizer brought up a letter sent by Reid to McCain, in which the Nevada commission was unabashedly praised – “As you know, Nevada's commission has been regarded as the authority on professional boxing for the last 20 years.”

maybe that's what this is about – I guess everybody wants to be the “authority”.

We'll deal with that letter in an upcoming chapter.

I also felt Kizer's analogy to baseball commissioner Bud Selig did not fit the circumstances. You can't draw a parallel between that and the Alamo/Nevada situation. Major League Baseball is a corporation and a legal monopoly that is not regulated by a government body, whether it be on the local or national level. There is no secret about the loyalties or obligations of the commissioner's office – the commissioner works for the owners. He is hired, and can be fired, by the owners. He is paid by the owners.

In point of fact, when he was both owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and team owner simultaneously, Selig was actually in a position of conflict of interest – a conflict which manifest itself on occasion, and which, in this reporter's opinion, still exists to some extent, as long as his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, is chairman and principal owner of that franchise. It would be too tangential to get into great detail about it, but it's moot anyway, because it's a private issue, not a governmental one. And to use it as an exhibit couldn't do anything but strengthen the argument AGAINST Nevada, if only Atlas had the presence of mind to bring it up.

If you'll excuse my continuing with the baseball analogy, Kizer was in a position where he could have “knocked one out of the park”. But he didn't do it.

When Atlas asked the question “Doesn't it have the look of a conflict of interest?”, all Kizer would have to say was something like, “Well, let's talk about ESPN for a moment. Having a boxing promoter like Russell Peltz working as a
functionary of the network, with an active input in picking and choosing the promoters who get television dates, then turning around and muscling those promoters for a piece of their action – THAT'S a conflict of interest.

“When somebody, aside from ESPN, pays you an exorbitant weekly salary, Teddy, and all of sudden that particular party is being given ESPN dates, with YOUR fighter appearing on them – gee, doesn't THAT constitute a conflict of interest? Would you like me to go on? The point is, while there might very well be justification to refer to the APPEARANCE of conflicts of interest in Nevada, your network, which calls itself 'The Boxing Authority', is knee-deep in conflicts of interest that are very, very REAL. As someone who holds himself out to be a moral voice for your sport, would you kindly begin to address those now?”

I don't know what the reaction in the ESPN truck would have been to that. But I'd think in the future, they might want to have one of those “Please Stand By” cards to flash up on the screen.

Of course, proper decorum most likely prevented Kizer from going in that direction.

Not me.

At the close of last Friday's segment, Atlas turned to Kizer and advised him to “catch up on that law.”

And I said to my television set, “Yeah Teddy – you do some catching up too.”

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.