TUESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: BraceGate is a done deal, friends. The New York State Athletic Commission informed Team Martinez that the sleeves he wants to wear, to offer a bit of extra support to his knees, are A-OK with them. Thus, Sergio can have that peace of mind heading into his Saturday cclash against Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden.
Here is the release put out by NYSAC, speaking to their stance on sleeves and braces.
Executive Director Memo: 2014-6
June 2, 2014
Use of Knee Braces and Sleeves
Boxers will not be permitted to wear a knee brace during a bout. Boxers will be permitted to wear a knee sleeve during a bout under the following conditions: (1) the boxer will receive no competitive advantage from wearing the sleeve; (2) the knee sleeve will not pose any danger to the boxer’s opponent; and (3) the boxer—without the knee sleeve—is found medically fit to compete by the physician appointed by the Commission to examine the boxer prior to the scheduled bout.
In order for the Commission to properly evaluate a knee sleeve that a boxer wishes to wear during a bout, the boxer or boxer’s representative must present such knee sleeve to the Commission in a timely manner.
Promoter Lou DiBella told TSS he gives the commission, and new executive director David Berlin, high marks for their timely and pragmatic response to the issue, which popped up late Monday morning, after Team Cotto noticed Sergio's knee brace/sleeve in footage seen on HBO's 24/7 program. “I have to thank the commission for the ruling and prompt attention to the situation,” DiBella said.
GloveGate goofed up the May 3 Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana fight lead-in, and it looks like a similar sort of beef is exploding into a thing as we count down to the June 7 clash between middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto in the Madison Square Garden Big Room.
During a Martinez meet 'n' greet at the Times Square Modells, during which the 39-year-old shadowboxed, got a nice sweat going, and then set many hearts aflutter by taking off his shirt, revealing a sick physique for a man half his age, Sergio's promoter Lou DiBella worked the phone regarding the phone call his office got that morning.
Team Dibella was given word that no boxer would be allowed to wear a knee brace, and thus the supportive sheath Martinez was planning to wear on his knees would not be allowed on fight night. The promoter put in a call to the new NYSAC executive director, David Berlin, and forcefully but politely asked why this issue was popping up so late in the game.
WBC champ Martinez took questions from the media, while HBO cameras caught footage for their second installment of their 24/7 docu-mercial series, and fans clutched photos and gloves for the 51-2-2 hitter to sign. He told us that he was planning to wear a sheath on both knees, but that he felt, physically, better than 100%. His left knee, which had undergone surgery last year, leaving him on crutches for seven months, is feeling more than fine. The braces would be on for support, he told the keyboard tappers.
Not long after the Modells session broke, DiBella informed Martinez of the NYSAC ruling. “Sergio is pissed,” DiBella told me at 3:30 PM. “He's really pissed off. If there is a rule, why was no one ever informed? And what's the rationale?” DiBella is of the mindset that NBA and NFL athletes wear them, and they are not performing enhancing.
I reached out to the NYSAC and emailed their media relations department. A spokesman answered thusly: “The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) does not comment on the specifics of a fighter’s health. Per NYSAC policy, as previously recommended by its Medical Advisory Board on 9/30/13, braces are not allowed during competition.” He pointed me out to a video…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2NDZo7dr, of a NYSAC medical advisory board meeting from Sept. 18, 2013, which posted on the DOS website on Sept. 20, 2013, with the portion starting at 27:20 being especially pertinent. “Knee braces in the ring” are being discussed, and the board tosses around the issue.
In the video, you can see the board talking about the fact that a brace might indicate a fighter's health might be not be 100%, and thus perhaps, its presence could indicate he or she shouldn't be licensed.
It seems to be a majority opinion that a brace wouldn't be a performance enhancer, among the board. The board then discusses making the allowance of a brace in-ring a case by case basis, and the issue is decided at 38:10, with the board deciding “no” on braces.
DiBella is irked and now mindful of the fact that it seems like his guy is being made to jump through hoops. The promoter told me he sees fighters wearing braces on his club shows…but now, before this mega-fight, the issue is raised and pertinent? Also, he wonders why his guy was asked to have an MRI, an extra procedure, done to prove his healthfulness..even though, he told me, his fighter has never had to end a fight because his knee gave out, and has never been medically suspended because of a knee injury.
“Are they picking on us?” he asked, rhetorically.
Dibella is mindful that MSG is seen as “Cotto's house,” and wants to make sure that the “house fighter” isn't getting extra love and attention. He said he respects the NYSAC, the exec director David Berlin and the chair Melvina Lathan, but wants to make quite sure that his guy isn't getting the short end of a stick because Cotto is so beloved in NYC.
Cotto is promoted by Top Rank; one of their executives, Carl Moretti, said that Top Rank didn't drop a dime on the brace issue. He said maybe Cotto and trainer Freddie Roach saw Martinez wearing a brace on the first HBO 24/7. “We promise not to punch Sergio in the knee…only on the chin!” Moretti cracked.
Meanwhile, at Modells, aside from the BraceGate beef, DiBella was in a stellar mood, as he watched Sergio whirling about while hotting pads held by trainer Pablo Sarmiento. The promoter told his pal, chef Chris Santos, who was present watching the event, that he was over the moon, because the boxer looked so mobile. I grilled Martinez about his knee, his elbow, everything…he said, “I'm one hundred percent..and a little bit more,” as Team Martinez' Nathan Lewkowicz translated.
Sergio was asked bout the remark by Miguel Cottos' trainer Freddie Roach that Cotto would score a KO4 in NYC.
“Freddie is a good joke-teller,” Martinez joshed.
The boxer made clear that he sees this fight as the most important of his career, and Cotto the toughest test to this point.
The most humorous part of the session came when Sergio was doing pads, and re-directed a person who veered too close to him as he danced and popped. That person happened to be DiBella, and Sergio lightly shoved Lou, saw it was Lou and not some random schmuck, and then greeted him. Both chuckled.
“Sergio looks good planting,” the promoter whispered to Santos, and then noted that the same couldn't be said of Martinez right before his Oct. 1, 2011 scrap against Darren Barker, in AC. DiBella saw Martinez immobile right before and wondered what the heck was wrong. Advisor Sampson Lewkowicz told DiBella he'd been hurt a month before.
“You can hear the thud! His hands are fast…you can see his feet,” DiBella pointed out. “I'm watching him now, and I don't have any doubt. I think he's faster, bigger, stronger, than Cotto, that should do it,” the promoter said.
Dibella, as he was leaving Modells, said that this situation wasn't at all like GloveGate, that no one was threatening to pull out of the fight, and he noted that Sergio's knees are solid, so no brace is needed…but his implication was clear…just in case the judges are needed on Saturday, he'd like to make quite sure that in their heads, they are explicitly aware that the playing field must be even-Steven. That's all he wants, he said.