On Friday, June 30, the office of New York State Senator Jose M. Serrano contacted the New York State Athletic Commission at the request of this writer and was told that New York governor Andrew Cuomo has nominated three new NYSAC commissioners subject to approval by the State Senate.
The nominees are (1) Dr. Philip Stieg, a New York City neurosurgeon; (2) Dr. James Vosswinkel, an East Setauket critical care surgeon; and (3) Donald Patterson, a Buffalo resident who has been involved with amateur boxing.
This information was confirmed later in the day by Michelle Nicoli-Rosales (Governor Cuomo’s Deputy Director of Communications for Economic Development).
None of the three has extensive experience in the world of professional combat sports.
It’s not known at present when the prospective commissioners will be confirmed since the state legislative session ended this past week.
Legislation enacted in April 2016 increased the number of NYSAC commissioners from three to five. However, at present, there are only three commissioners: Ndidi Massay (who recently relinquished the title of interim chair), John Signorile, and Edwin Torres.
Massay’s term runs through January 1, 2019. Torres’s term expired on January 1, 2014. Signorile’s term expired on January 1, 2015. Both Signorile and Torres have been serving on a holdover basis.
Nicoli-Rosales said that Signorile will remain with the commission.
The long delay by the governor in filling the four available commission seats has been seen in some circles as an expression of disregard for the boxing community.
Meanwhile, as acknowledged on June 23 by the New York Department of State (which oversees the NYSAC), the NYSAC is under investigation yet again by the Inspector General of the State of New York.
A report by the Inspector General’s office made public on July 25, 2016, declared, “The Inspector General found that many Athletic Commission practices, policies and procedures were either nonexistent or deficient, specifically those relating to post-bout medical care, tactical emergency plans and communication, and training. The Inspector General also found a lack of appropriate engagement and oversight by Athletic Commission commissioners [Signorile and Torres] and its chair [Melvina Lathan].”
Signorile has said that he sought greater engagement but that his efforts were rebuffed.
In addition, the Inspector General’s report voiced the conclusion that Lathan and her successor – Tom Hoover – had acted unethically. Lathan was found to have received “improper gifts from promoters,” while Hoover improperly used his position in “obtaining benefits for a relative and friends.”
Thereafter, the Inspector General’s office launched a new inquiry into additional alleged financial improprieties, new problems regarding fighter safety, and other issues relating to the NYSAC. This inquiry was believed to have been concluded in May 2017 when the most recent findings by the Inspector General’s office were submitted in written form to the New York Secretary of State’s office.
However, on Friday, June 23, Cherise A. Watson (an assistant records officer for the New York Department of State) released a document acknowledging the existence of a still pending investigation of New York State Athletic Commission staff members and procedures.
It’s hard to keep track of all the investigations that have grown out of the incompetence and corruption at the NYSAC.
Finally, there’s word that UFC has suggested to Andrew Cuomo’s political operatives that, when Acting Executive Director Anthony Giardina leaves the NYSAC, he be replaced by NYSAC MMA Project Coordinator Kim Sumbler.
Ed Kunkle (an NYSAC deputy commissioner) and Ryan Sakacs (legal counsel for the NYSAC) are widely considered to be more qualified for the position than Sumbler.
Governor Cuomo fought the good fight and achieved an important victory this week with the passage of legislation continuing centralized control of the New York City school system. Let’s see if the governor, who has been lax in the appointment of NYSAC commissioners, jumps when and where UFC tells him to jump.
The WBC and Mayweather-McGregor
On June 16, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said that the WBC might bestow its Diamond Belt on the winner of the August 16 Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor spectacle. That raises an interesting possibility.
In order to fight for a WBC championship, or if a fighter is ranked by the WBC in its top-15 in any weight division, the fighter must be registered in the WBC Clean Boxing Program and submit to year-round PED testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
Mayweather has studiously avoided VADA testing, preferring to be tested by the more compliant United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
If the WBC requires Mayweather and McGregor to submit to VADA testing, it would reaffirm the sanctioning body’s commitment to clean sport. But that’s unlikely to happen. Either Mayweather or McGregor will decline the WBC’s offer. Or propelled by a desire to be part of Mayweather-McGregor, the WBC will find a way to negate its Clean Boxing Program’s VADA requirement. Sulaiman hinted at that possibility on July 19, when he said that neither Mayweather nor McGregor is currently ranked by the WBC and, if they fight for the Diamond Belt, it would be regarded as a commemorative trophy, not a championship.
The WBC’s Clean Boxing Program is the most-promising of boxing’s current anti-PED initiatives. It would be a shame if Mauricio Sulaiman were to undermine it for the sake of participating in one fight.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.
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