Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 90
Date: 99-05-24 20:28:55 EDT
From: email@example.com (J Michael Kenyon)
The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
Edited by J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 90
Saturday, May 29, 1999
New York City, New York, US of A
IN THIS ISSUE: THE DEATH OF JACK DEMPSEY NOTED IN A LEGENDARY JIM MURRAY
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A CHAMPION LIKE NO OTHER
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, June 7, 1983)
By Jim Murray
He fought out of a crouch. But he was the most stand-up guy you'd ever want
to meet in the rest of life.
"Dempsey!" The very name inspired shivers in the fight game. It was a name
like "Hogan!" Like "Geronimo!" and "Attila!" It was a name that was not much
fun to hear. A name to inspire fear. A lion-is-loose! name. It was a name
caked with history.
Whenever I hear the name Dempsey I think of train whistles on a hot summer
night on the prairie. I think of a tinkling piano coming out of a
kerosene-lit saloon in a mining camp. I think of an America that was one big
roaring camp of miners, drifters, bunkhouse hands, con men, hard cases, men
who lived by their fists and their shooting irons and the cards they drew.
It was the America of the Great Plains buffalo, the cattle drive, the fast
draw, the jailhouse dirge. America at High Noon.
More than a man died with Dempsey. He took an era with him. Dempsey came out
of the core of the America that had Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, Billy the Kid,
Ned Buntline, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson,
Wild Bill Hickok and the man who shot Jesse James, men who carried their
lives in their saddles and their law in their holsters. Dempsey was part of
our heritage like Dan'l Boone, Davy Crockett or Honest Abe. Dempsey came out
of covered-wagon America. He reinforced our image of ourselves, this
black-browed, curly-haired, bronze young giant with fists like paving blocks
and the savage fighting style of a recently uncaged and hungry panther.
America loved him. Never mind that "slacker" nonsense in World War I.
Dempsey was what we thought we were. His fighting style was modeled after
the timber wolf's. He pioneered the bob-and-weave, move-in-and-hook style of
fighting. He was exciting to watch even against a punching bag. All his
fights had the elemental fury of two stags rutting in a medieval forest. Tex
Rickard, the promoter, was always afraid Dempsey would kill somebody.
Dempsey retired with the word "Champ!" with him. "Dempsey" meant "Champ!"
When he went down, he got up. When he got hit, he hit back. When he bled, he
laughed. When he got hurt, he attacked. When he got beat, he shrugged. If
that doesn't mean Champ, you tell me what does.
He was as gentle outside the ring as he was savage in it. He'd punch you on
the arm occasionally to remind you who you were with. You might get cayenne
pepper in the sugar jar. But there was no real malice in Dempsey. He gave
away money the way some men give advice. Dempsey never gave advice, only
He was not a fearless man but a brave one. There's a distinction. The places
Dempsey dropped off in his early hobo years, fear rode shotgun. Dempsey
hurled himself at fear.
I used to meet Dempsey with his longtime friend, and mine, the great author,
Gene Fowler. One of the great moments of my life was when Gene arranged a
lunch at Romanoff's for me and his son, Will, with Jack Dempsey, Rube
Goldberg and Grantland Rice. It was like spending an afternoon in King
Arthur's court. A writer's Camelot.
Gene and his wife, Agnes, took Dempsey in when he was a young hobo in
Denver. But Gene, the master biographer, would never touch Dempsey's story.
He knew too much about it. That his first wife was a whore and his first job
was as a bouncer in her fancy house, for instance.
Dempsey rose above his hard-scrabble beginnings in Manassa, Colo. He liked
to describe himself as "a jack Mormon," but the teachings of Celia Dempsey
and the hard practicalities of his father, Hiram Dempsey, were never far
from the son. Dempsey was a kindly man. One time, I had just done an
interview with Jess Willard, the giant Dempsey battered into a blood clot
one hot July 4th in Toledo, Ohio, in a fight so ferocious men still gasp at
the fury of it.
Forty-five years later, the day I interviewed him, Willard was bitter. he
pointed to a massive indentation in the bone above his temple. "Does that,"
he demanded, "look to you as if it were made by a gloved fist?"
Whatever it was, it did not. Willard had contended for years that Dempsey's
manager, Doc Kearns, had put a "load" in his fighter's gloves. He claimed
Dempsey's manager had hired a band to play outside Willard's window the
night before the fight so he could get no sleep.
Dempsey was amused at the charges. But he had tolerated them over the years
(until a magazine published them after Kearns' death, and then he finally
At that time, Dempsey laughed, "Jess has been going around telling that
story for years," he said. "You know, one time when he was down on his luck,
I gave him a jbo promoting my whiskey in some bars down in Florida. All he
had to do was go in, buy the house a drink and promote sales.
"you know what he did?" Dempsey laughed again. "He would go in and tell
these guys I was a bum and if it wasn't for Doc Kearns loading the gloves
and keeping him up all night, I would never have been champ!"
"Did you fire him?" I asked.
Dempsey paused. "Well, they wanted me to. He was killing the sales of my
whiskey. But, shucks! Jess needed the money!"
So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you -- the winner and still heavyweight
champion of our world -- Jack Dempsey!
SANCTIONING BODIES UNDER SCRUTINY
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, May 18, 1999)
By Steve Springer and David Wharton
It is boxing's worst-kept secret.
Forget the furor over judging that arose from the draw between Evander
Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Forget the stereotype of the fighter taking a
People in and around the sport say the real corruption occurs far from the
ring and long before any fight, when boxers are ranked in each weight
Rankings are like gold because they determine which fighters get big-money
bouts and which get left out in the cold. These decisions are the business
of the three major sanctioning bodies: the World Boxing Assn., World Boxing
Council and International Boxing Federation.
"It's just a common belief in the boxing world that rankings are bought and
sold," said Larry Merchant, a television analyst for HBO. "They're totally
shameless, these people. Their livelihoods rely on the money they bring in."
The sanctioning bodies denied improprieties after an investigation by The
Times unearthed allegations of widespread abuse. A manager says he had to
pay to get his boxers ranked. Major promoters and their underlings say they
funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the WBA, WBC and IBF.
The alleged payments have recently come under investigation by legislators
and a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J. Witnesses summoned before the grand
jury told The Times they testified that some payments were made in cash but
that others were more subtle, hidden in overpayments of standard fees.
The sanctioning bodies themselves have confirmed that promoters paid for
their annual conventions.
"They don't just take money under the table," said Bert Sugar, a noted
boxing historian. "They take it around the table, over the table and
sometimes they take the table too."
Ron Weathers, a manager in Texas, is among the fighters, managers, promoters
and officials subpoenaed by the grand jury in New Jersey. He said he
testified about dealing with the sanctioning bodies.
"It's just common knowledge that if you want to get something done, you have
got to grease their palms," Weathers said. "Either $10,000 or $20,000,
depending on where you want the guy rated."
In a sport noted for its bravery, insiders are quick to say corruption
exists but hesitant to admit their own culpability. Weathers admitted to
making numerous payments.
"Obviously, it's an all-cash transaction," he said.
In one instance, a 32-year-old heavyweight he managed, the long-struggling
Joe Hipp, rose through the rankings and got a 1995 title shot against WBA
champion Bruce Seldon. Hipp lost on a TKO in the 10th round.
When contacted by The Times, officials from the WBC and WBA denied accepting
improper payments. IBF President Bob Lee, who has drawn particular attention
from the grand jury, meeting not far from his East Orange, N.J., office,
declined to comment, on the advice of his attorney.
Allegations leveled at the sanctioning bodies are simply a fad, said
promoter Don King, who recently testified before a New York state Senate
committee investigating corruption in boxing.
"These are all devious things, categorical lies," King said. "They are
trying to give the perception of impropriety in these organizations because
it is the popular thing to do now, after Holyfield-Lewis."
But rival promoter Bob Arum said that as far back as 1983 he paid $500,000
to a Puerto Rican promoter whom Arum described as "a bagman" for the WBA.
The payment was made to get a title fight for lightweight Ray
"Boom Boom" Mancini, Arum said. The Puerto Rican promoter has denied the
accusation to Ring magazine.
"That was the only way you could do business in those days," Arum said.
"Now, if it looks like it has to be done, I try to stay away."
King insisted he has always followed the sanctioning bodies' rules and
regulations. But the flamboyant promoter's former accountant, Joseph Maffia,
said that fees paid to the WBA, WBC and IBF often included kickbacks.
"There were overpayments of sanctioning fees by hundreds of thousands of
dollars in [Mike] Tyson fights," said Maffia, who, according to the
Associated Press, made the same allegation in a 1992 affidavit filed with
New Jersey state officials.
Another former employee of King, Scott Woodworth, also told The Times about
payments. King argued that his accusers have axes to grind.
Maffia, who left Don King Productions in 1991, testified against his former
boss in a 1995 insurance fraud trial. King was acquitted of those charges.
Woodworth sued his former boss in 1997 and now works for rival Arum.
"What did you do, get my enemies list?" King asked. "It's all jealousy and
envy. Because they can't compete with me, they try to condemn and destroy
Jose Sulaiman, president of the WBC, was equally dismissive of the claims
against his organization.
"These are absolute lies and these are not people you should pay attention
to . . . they only want to be in the papers," Sulaiman said. "I have never,
ever, received anything from anybody in return for anything."
But Weathers, who has advised heavyweight George Foreman for many years,
painted a different picture for the federal grand jury.
"They don't call you up and openly solicit you," he told The Times. "You
have to approach them."
Weathers would not give The Times specific dates and amounts, saying federal
authorities had asked him not to divulge his testimony. But he said many of
the alleged payments occurred at conventions that the WBA, WBC and IBF hold
"Everybody came with bags of money," he said. "They tell you who to pay. You
hand them the money."
Rankings have become so valuable because of multimillion-dollar pay-per-view
"Television wants rankings so Cecil can tell Ethel, 'I can't come to the
dinner table because it's a big fight,' " boxing writer Sugar
explained. "He doesn't know who's fighting but it's a big fight."
This advertising ploy befits boxing's structure, or lack thereof. The
sanctioning bodies operate from different countries: the WBA from Venezuela,
the WBC from Mexico and the IBF from the U.S. They compete for top fights
and rarely agree on rankings.
So boxing is a free-market free-for-all.
"That's because the events are entrepreneurial, because there are no
leagues," HBO television announcer Jim Lampley said. "Promoters and managers
sit down and simply decide, 'This is good business.' "
Close relationships develop between the sanctioning bodies and the promoters
and managers who are jockeying to get the big-money bouts.
The interaction does not always involve alleged payments.
Each December, for example, Don King had WBA President Gilberto Mendoza,
Sulaiman of the WBC and Lee of the IBF stay at his home in Delray Beach,
Fla., said Woodworth and another former King employee, Mike Marley.
A WBA executive confirmed that Mendoza has been to King's home, but only
because Mendoza owns a house nearby. Sulaiman of the WBC denied ever making
an extended visit.
"Please tell them I'm a fat person with a big nose and they might be
confusing me with someone else," Sulaiman said. "I don't know Delray. I have
never stayed at Don King's house."
King said, "Every Christmas, everybody gets invited to my big Christmas
On other occasions, Woodworth said, a King lieutenant named Dana Jamison met
at a Miami restaurant with WBA executive Bolivar Icaza.
According to Woodworth, Jamison suggested to Icaza which fighters to move up
in the rankings and which fighters, usually represented by rival promoters,
to move down.
"She would start circling names," Woodworth said. "Next month, when the
ratings came out, that's the way it would be."
Icaza, reached by telephone in Panama, denied having lunch with Jamison or
letting her dictate the rankings. Jamison refused to comment.
"In boxing, just like politics, you lobby," King said on her behalf. "I
lobby for fighters. Scott Woodworth and Mike Marley lobby for fighters.
"Marley is a great lobbyist. He lobbied for a fighter who was so bad that
the only good thing about him was that you could sell advertising on the
bottom of his shoes."
With promoters so eager to gain influence, the sanctioning bodies have made
a practice of soliciting money for their annual conventions.
In 1991, promoter Cedric Kushner underwrote a portion of the IBF convention
in New Orleans, providing meals and steamboat rides up the Mississippi.
"It's just something that everyone does," Kushner said. "That's not a case
of expecting favors."
Five years later, King paid for the IBF convention in Toronto, former
employees Woodworth and Marley said.
King allegedly also paid for the trophies that were awarded at the
convention and demanded that his personal driver be honored. When the IBF
said it had no category for "best chauffeur," Woodworth and Marley said they
heard King tell an IBF official, "Well, then, make one up."
King denied these allegations but admitted to helping pay for numerous
"I contribute to the conventions the same as I contribute to the Democratic
convention for Bill Clinton, the same as I contribute to the Republican
convention for Bob Dole," he said.
"I look at [boxing's sanctioning bodies] as governmental bodies. If you want
to play, you've got to pay."
Marley said, "That's not illegal. But it makes things a little cozy, don't
The boxing community seems wearily accustomed to this way of business. John
Davimos, a Los Angeles manager, said.
"If people are corruptible, someone's going to corrupt them."
Yet it was Davimos who helped start a chain reaction that has brought hope
for a change.
The chain reaction began in 1995 with a shake-up in the IBF's heavyweight
division. The top two contenders left the IBF to fight for the WBA title. So
No. 3 Michael Moorer, a Davimos fighter, expected to get a shot at champion
George Foreman's title. But, according to an affidavit filed in an ensuing
lawsuit, Don King called HBO and predicted that one of his fighters, No. 4
Francois Botha, would jump over Moorer in the rankings.
"This is, in fact, what occurred," Seth Abraham, who oversees HBO sports
programming, said in the 1995 affidavit. "Frans Botha was jumped over
Michael Moorer in the IBF rankings and became the No. 1 contender.
"I recognize that there is subjectivity in the rankings," Abraham continued.
"[But] it is my opinion that Frans Botha, based upon his record and ability,
should not now be ranked in the top 10 of heavyweights. To date, he has
never even fought a current top-10 contender."
In his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Moorer claimed
his ranking suffered "as a result of bribes." The IBF filed papers denying
that claim, but the suit was settled and Moorer got his shot at
Two years later, a similar case arose between heavyweight Orlin Norris and
As the No. 2-ranked contender, Norris figured to be in line for a title shot
against the WBA champion, Bruce Seldon. In the meantime, King offered him a
contract to fight former champion Tyson.
Norris' manager, Woodworth, who was also working for Don King Productions,
did not like the terms of the Tyson deal.
"King's putting a gun to our head to sign this bogus contract," he says he
told Norris. "There's no hurry."
When the contract was returned unsigned, King allegedly became angry.
"Give it couple of months and we will watch Orlin disappear from the
ratings," he threatened, according to court records from an ensuing civil
Norris was unbeaten in four previous fights but slipped from No. 2 to No. 6.
Woodworth took his complaint to the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania.
"We were fading quick," Woodworth said. "I knew that if I didn't file a
lawsuit, we might not exist anymore."
The WBA denied that King had undue influence over its rankings but,in a late
1997 settlement, gave Norris an elimination bout, the winner to become the
mandatory challenger for the title. Meanwhile, federal investigators in New
Jersey--reportedly prompted by the Moorer suit--had begun their boxing
No one openly condones improper payments by managers and promoters but the
cries for reform in boxing have, for the most part, been directed at the
sanctioning bodies. Critics say they have created a system that encourages
The organizations argue that they have been made scapegoats.
"To me, this is all rumor," Alberto Sarmiento, a WBA executive, said. "It's
trying to find five legs on a cat with four legs."
King concurred: "They are chasing ghosts and apparitions. They are trying to
denigrate and disparage. They tell their lies and put their spin on it,
trying to pour gasoline on fire."
Sulaiman of the WBC conceded, "There's too much greed in the world. Why are
there so many organizations? Because if a promoter does not receive what he
wants, he goes to someone else."
Some critics hope indictments from the federal grand jury in New Jersey will
initiate reform. Others have put their faith in the government.
The New York state Senate committee began its investigation in the wake of
the Holyfield-Lewis fight.
In Washington, a Senate subcommittee recently approved the proposed Muhammad
Ali Boxing Reform Act, which, in part, seeks to create "objective and
consistent written criteria" for rankings.
But boxing insiders say that only the cable networks, with the millions they
pour into the sport, have the power to demand more reliable rankings.
"If the money players get into the game, that's the best shot," manager
Davimos said. "HBO and Showtime could come together and say, 'We're not
going to back fights by these organizations unless they form a legitimate
[rankings] committee.' "
Weathers was less diplomatic. Reached by telephone at a hotel on the
Caribbean island of Anguilla, the long-time manager could not imagine a
bright future for boxing that includes the sanctioning bodies.
"They've taken so much out of the sport," he said. "They need to be totally
destroyed. . . . Then we could turn this sport around and take it back from
the Dark Ages."
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From: "J Michael Kenyon"
Subject: The BAWLI Papers No. 90
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 20:21:26 -0400