Bruno on Boxing
August 6, 2000
By Joe Bruno---Former Vice President of the New York Boxing
Association and the International Boxing Writers Association
News Item: “Honest Injun” fight officials mar a fine Showtime
Just when we get to see a competitive Showtime
fight card showcasing four
fine fighters, incompetent and possibly crooked boxing officials
force us to leave with rancid taste in our mouths.
The fight card took place Saturday night at
the Mohegan Sun Casino in
Uncasville, Connecticut. In the opening bout, former junior
lightweight champion Jesse James Leija was matched with tough
up-and-coming prospect Juan Lazcano. Leija, a youthful 34,
had fought 47 times in his career, losing only four, and those to
future Hall of Fame fighters Azuma Nelson (twice), Sugar Shane
Mosley and Oscar De la Hoya. Lazcano, ten years younger than Leija,
is a hot prospect and has some talent, but unless these old eyes
deceived me, he was given a “house fighter” comp on Saturday
night’s boxing show, courtesy of some very friendly Indians down
on the Mohegan Sun Reservation.
Leija started strong, out-punching and out-quicking
Lazcano for the first five rounds. Lazcano came on in the sixth
and seventh rounds, finally connecting with some of his roundhouse
left hooks and an occasional straight right. After seven rounds,
Leija was bleeding from a cut over the right eyelid and seemed to
be in danger of being stopped on cuts.
But surprisingly, Leija reached down into
his ring-worn gas tank, and resumed control in rounds eight and
nine. The tenth round was close and could’ve gone either way.
But there was no doubt in Lazcano’s corner after the fight that
Leija had proven he was the better man that night. Lazcano was
downcast and glum, shaking his head over the way he had not
been able to perform against world class competition. In the other
corner Leija was jubilant, confident he had done enough to keep
him fighting for big paychecks for a least another day.
There was a hint of larceny in the air when
it took several minutes to count up the scorecards. Judge
William Hutt rightfully scored the 96-94 for Leija. Judge Fred
Ucci scored it 96-94 for Lazcano, and somehow Judge Steve Weisfeld
saw it 97-93 for Lazcano, giving Leija only three rounds in the
entire fight. Disgraceful. This reporter had it 97-93 for Leija.
Both TV commentators Steve Albert and Bobby
Czyz had Leija winning comfortably in rounds, 6-3-1 and 7-3
respectively. After the decision was announced, Albert said, “It
was improbable that Leija won only three rounds.” Czyz then
quipped, “Improbable? It was impossible. There should be an
The Showtime fight was being simultaneously
scored by fight fans in American on the Showtime website. They had
it 10-0 for Leija, which was a little ridiculous, but not as
ridiculous as Judge Weisfeld’s scorecard favoring Lazcano.
Leija hit the nail on the head when he said
after the fight, “I wasn’t shocked by the decision. I’ve
been around too long. Main Events is the promoter and Lazcano was
their house fighter. I now how these things work.”
Leija may have made a slight, but
understandable mistake about the promoter’s name. Lou Duva’s
promotion group, headed by son Dino, was the
promoters of the fight. But Main Events, Duva’s old crew, is now
under the control of Duva’s ex-daughter-in-law Kathy Duva, the
wife of Lou’s deceased
son Dan. But Leija was right about his implication. The Lou Duva
the benefit of two judges largess and that plain stunk like puffs
on a putrid
Did Duva pay the the judges off for their
votes? Probably not. But any judge worth his weight in favors
knows, go against the house fighter and forget any future
assignments on that promoter’s card, or maybe any promoter’s
future fight shows. Judges with reputations for voting against
house fighters, get their next assignments judging cockroach races
in back alleys; the bona fide Witness Protection Program for fight
The main event featured another Duva
fighter, junior welterweight champion, Zab Judah defending his
title against former champ Terron Millett. Except for taking a
Millett left hook on the jaw in a first round during a heated
exchange, dropping him for the second time in his career, it was
Judah all the way. But the ending at 2:47 in round four, left
viewers shaking their head at the actions of referee Mike Ortega,
son of former middleweight contender Gaspar “The Indian”
Ortega. Maybe no “Honest Injun” here either.
Using blazing hand-speed and a
middleweight’s punch, Judah dropped Millett a minute into the
forth round for the second time in the fight. Millett was up at
the count of one, and both fighter exchanged heat in mid ring.
Millett launched a hard overhand right, which Judah
sidestepped. Millett’s momentum hurried him past Judah and he
fell forward onto the canvas. Replays showed no punch had landed,
but Ortega still ruled this a knockdown. Millett was again up at
one, and seemed not too badly hurt.
Ortega yelled for Millett to advance towards
him, which Millett did, hands held high. Ortega barked at Millett,
“Are you all right? Do you want to continue to fight?” Millett
clearly said yes. Suddenly, Ortega yelled “No!” Then he waved
his hands over his head signaling the fight was over. Millett said
clearly to Ortega, “I’m cool.” But Ortega was firm. He was
the sheriff, and in like the old black and white westerns,
the sheriff always has the final say.
It probably wouldn’t have made a
difference anyway. Millett was on the way out, if not in that
round, then most likely in the next. But as a former champion, you
would think a referee would give Millett every chance to turn the
fight around. After all, he did drop Judah in the first round with
a wicked left hook.
To add insult to injury, Showtime was not
allowed to interview Ortega after the fight, citing a commission
rule that makes referees unavailable for interviews after a fight.
We were given no clue as to why Ortega stopped the fight when he
did, and this more than anything else, gives credence to the
assumption that house fighters like Judah are given every
advantage. Even ones they don’t need.
The new fad is holding fight cards on Indian
Reservations that house casinos, designed to separate gamblers
from their hard earned cash. The reasoning is, casinos are
sovereign, pay no taxes and answer to no one, not even the Big
Indian Chief in the sky.
As long as these Indian reservations are
permitted to act with impunity, expect more bad decisions like the
judges and ref Ortega made Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun.
Almost as bad as when General Custer turned to his trusty aide and
said, “They do seem like friendly Indians, now don’t they?”