January 9, 2004

Boxing 2003 – Another Year of Shame

By Fiona Manning

While 2003 has to go down in the history books as the year California finally decided to write into law the mandatory presence of ambulances at every single fight; it was a law hard fought for the state’s medical director Dr. Paul Wallace.

Promoters grumbled and groaned but it finally happened.

We can hardly congratulate the California State Athletic Commission however, when it is still handing out promoters’ licenses to anybody who wants one. Crackerjacks, anyone?

Promoter Anthony Lewis of Can’t Lewz Promotions claimed that he never bounced a check on the Commission or any ringside official for his fights. However, La Prensa San Diego has copies of his bounced checks and the paper work proving the promoter was suspended and fined.

He’d hardly finished paying back this fine when he was allowed once again to hang up his singles as a promoter in California. His first bout back at Hollywood Park Casino last March was canceled – with fans sitting ringside – when his card failed to provide enough mandatory rounds to qualify as a professional bout.

Lewis told the media the official reason was it was too windy, but the Commission readily told the truth to anyone who listened. Lewis has not promoted any fights in California since then but hey, his dubious abilities were soon taken over by former fighter Lupe Aquino and his wife Jamie Aquino.

Their Rose Jewell Promotions should never again be allowed to promote after their fiasco of a December 13 San Francisco show.

The fans were forced to wait in the wind and rain for over two hours for the venue doors to open. The fight started three hours late and as of this week, not a single fighter has been paid!

The California State Athletic Commission needs to adopt new guidelines to ensure that boxers are paid when they risk their lives for our entertainment.

“It is unacceptable,” said legendary California promoter Don Chargin. “California has more fights in one month than some states have in a year but this business is beginning to look like an amateur circus.”

2003 was a year of other scandals: Oscar de la Hoya’s former girlfriend Angie McQueen went missing with his two year old son. The son Oscar first denied was his, until the media scrutiny made it impossible for him to deny the child who is the spitting-image of him.

This storm in a B-cup – oops, teacup - was nothing in comparison with the storm brewing with his company’s chief executive officer, Roy Engelbrecht.

According to a sensational report from the state Commission, Engelbrecht has time and again asked referees “To let the fights go because I need the rounds.”

For years in his role as the #2 man at Golden Boy Promotions, Engelbrecht has pressured referees to permit the fighters to endure more of a beating than they might normally have by telling them to “Let the fights go.”

The Commission’s Chief Inspector Dean Lohuis finally acknowledged this week that he, “Had heard for months that Roy (Again representing Oscar De La Hoya) was approaching Referees and asking that they allow the fights to go longer.”

Lohuis told columnist Pedro Fernandez that, “I didn’t believe it until I witnessed it for myself at his last show. I have not yet decided as to whether this will go before the entire Commission.”

Is Lohuis kidding? All promoters who wish to ply their trade in California should be held accountable. Hopefully now the story has hit the press, CSAC will feel it is their duty to investigate this matter further.

2003 also has to go down as the year California judges were accused of making bad ring decisions.

Starting with the Joel Casamayor-Nate Campbell fight in January (a fight Casamayor clearly won and which he was awarded a unanimous decision) these charges are preposterous.

Our Commission has many, many problems but we have some of the best ringside officials in the world.

The worst commission currently has to be the state of New York which has granted a boxing license to convicted felon James “The Harlem Hammer” Butler after assuring fight fans this man would never, ever again be allowed to set foot in a boxing ring.

How can they sanction the man who sucker-punched an unsuspecting Richard Grant in the ring after the two fought?

For those who missed this atrocity on ESPN2, Grant won and tried to shake Butler’s hand.

A very angry Butler hauled off and slammed his bandage-wrapped hand (akin to hitting a man in the face with a brick) and knocked Grant unconscious - which was more than Butler was able to do in the actual fight.

He broke Grant’s jaw, several teeth and horrified the poor man’s family, which was sitting ringside. The sad part about this was not just the lousy sportsmanship but the fact that the whole bout, every single penny, was to raise money for the New York Fire Department after 9/11.

James Butler served jail time on Ryker’s Island for this dreadful crime, but so what? He should still never be allowed to fight again. Or aren’t Commissions’ words good for anything?

Another major crime was perpetrated on Filipino world featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao who trains locally in California.

After his shocking victory over Marco Antonio Barrera, Pacquaio’s trainer, fight legend Freddy Roach said he had not been paid by Pacquiao’s promoter Murad Muhammad and would therefore never work for the fighter again.

Poor Pacquiao, who also got stiffed, personally paid his trainer. Pacquiao also told the media that he knows that Muhammad has burned him out of at the very least several hundred thousand dollars in recent fights. And yet, for some reason, he chooses to stay with Muhammad.

“It’s a pimp/whore mentality,” Pedro Fernandez told La Prensa San Diego. “I don’t get it but neither does anybody else. This is one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen.”

2003 proved finally to boxing insiders that the World Boxing Hall of Fame in California is really the joke they always said it was.

For years California has been ridiculed for its “Boys Club” mentality, inducting strange, unworthy choices such as Joey Barnham.

Nothing compared with “Gato-Gate” however. The 2003 induction of former fighter Rodolfo “El Gato” Gonzales was so controversial, it is still sending shock-waves through the sport.

Gonzales did not get enough votes but a couple of guys on the board of directors decided Gato was their mate and should be allowed into the club. This, despite all the rules against this type of cronyism.

This, despite the fact that the Hall of Fame lost its two hardest-working, high-profile supporters over the decision. Radio personality Rich Marrotta and the Hall’s tireless PR man Robert Morales resigned in protest.

Many of the sport’s top reporters failed to cover the event and one wonders what happens this year?

The whole thing was almost too much for PR man Bill Caplan to stomach since he’d missed by one vote in 2001 so he had to wait a year before being given his props.

Who do we vote in next? Anthony Lewis?

Finally, 2003 has to get a pat on the back: it has to be acknowledged as the year that saw the good guys become champions: Latino superstars Jesus “El Matador” Chavez and Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez made good on their early promise.

Both men look to make a big impact in 2004 in the 130 pound division in which they reign supreme.

Let’s hope the California State Athletic Commission chooses to make the paths of these two fighters and those who will be inspired by them much, much easier.

Let’s hope the Commission will put the health, safety and financial welfare of all fighters first. Let’s hope the Commission makes all those who make money off fighters’ backs not struggle for pennies.

Jesus "El Matador" Chavez

And finally, let’s hope that in this new year of 2004, the California State Athletic Commission finds a new way to compensate fighters who have nothing to show for a fight except some bruises.

Let’s hope they spring into swift action with cash payment - and not another lousy check months later when the Commission finally gets a hold of the $25,000 bond the likes of Anthony Lewis and Jamie Aquino have posted.

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