By Zach Arnold | September 15, 2013
It was an interesting weekend for combat sports. Bellator had their Spike TV telecast from Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California. The biggest note coming out of that show was this:
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) September 15, 2013
To put this into perspective, consider the following:
— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) September 15, 2013
What the news indicates is what a lot of Bellator’s critics have stated: Viacom wanted to get back into the MMA space but on the cheap and now that the margins are tight, the U-turn to hit PPV with Rampage vs. Tito is the result of more or less an all-or-nothing gamble. Either Bellator’s going to start making money or else it’s going nowhere fast.
But at least Bellator didn’t have a prescription drug scandal at their event like WSOF did in New Jersey on Saturday night. WSOF had a rather mundane fight with Andrei Arlovski beating Mike Kyle by unanimous decision (bad call) and a splendid real-life Ric Flair flop with Rolles Gracie delaying the inevitable collapse to the cage canvas after Derrick Mehman knocked the poor guy out.
However, a prescription drug scandal mix-up cancelling a WSOF fight was nowhere near as bad of a hiccup as what went down in Nevada for the judging of the Floyd Mayweather/Canelo Alvarez fight. Nick Lembo, as you would expect, came off as a professional while Keith Kizer came off like a clown in Las Vegas.
To set the stage for you, this sums up what happened on Saturday night with Mayweather winning a majority decision on the score cards:
Cynthia Ross was the Bradley/Pacquiao judge Keith Kizer constantly defends & she scores Mayweather/Canelo a draw. Serves that bastard right.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) September 15, 2013
Ross is one of Kizer’s favorites and he books her all the time for local boxing shows in the state. In a fight that should have been scored 120-108 or 119-109, we had three judges that gave us a curious spread of scores:
117-111 Craig Metcalfe score = 9 rounds to 3. 116-112 Dave Moretti score = 8 rounds to 4. All Canelo needed was a couple more rounds to win?
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) September 15, 2013
Matt Roth of SB Nation posted the round-by-round scores from each of the judges in the fight. Here’s how it broke down:
Craig Metcalfe: Mayweather w/ R1, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, R9, R11. Canelo w/ R2, R10, R12.
Dave Moretti: Mayweather w/ R1, R2, R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, R10. Canelo w/ R3, R9, R11, R12.
Cynthia Ross: Mayweather w/ R2, R4, R5, R6, R7, R10. Canelo w/ R1, R3, R8, R9, R11, R12.
After eight rounds, all three judges had Mayweather winning. It was garbage time (the last four rounds) where Canelo mopped up points when he shouldn’t have. All Canelo had to do was win a couple of more rounds and we would have had a majority draw.
As USA Today put it on Sunday, Keith Kizer defended his boxing judge Cynthia Ross.
“Just because a judge’s scorecard ends up even, doesn’t mean the judge necessarily thought the fight as a whole was even,” Kizer said. “It could be that a judge has six rounds for each fighter, but the six rounds she gave fighter A, she gave them to him easily and the six rounds she gave fighter B, they were really close rounds. That’s pretty much how it was last night.”
“It’s a round-by-round scoring system. And all three judges thought Floyd Mayweather was the better fighter, that he won that fight as a whole. And again, because one judge had it even on the scorecard doesn’t mean that that judge thought both fighters did equally well.”
“I know most of the people won’t understand it, and I understand that.”
Everyone’s focus is squarely on Cynthia Ross but a lot of attention is also on the execrable Keith Kizer, as it should be. The question that needs to be asked is this: who is protecting Kizer and how can he be removed from power?
Keith Kizer’s political protection
Kizer is a creature of the Nevada Attorney General’s office. As I’ve demonstrated with my numerous articles on California’s athletic commission, it is really amazing to see the tentacles that state AG offices extend into athletic commission affairs. Many of the lawyers that work in AG offices want to be involved in combat sports in one way or another. The awful Karen Chappelle in Los Angeles allegedly wished/wishes she could be a boxing judge in addition to serving the commission as it’s lawyer. It’s ridiculous. Mike Mersch, one of UFC’s two big legal eagles, was a deputy attorney in the AG office in Nevada.
Let’s state the obvious: if you’re a lawyer worth anything, you go into private practice rather than the AG’s office. (Ed. — Addendum: I’m referring to making money, not other career aspects like conviction rates of going after bad guys.) You only go to the AG’s office if you aren’t confident enough in making good money in private practice or if you are looking for résumé enhancement to go places for future political gigs. The difference in backgrounds between Larry Epstein and Mike Mersch is quite stark.
If you want to make money as a lawyer, you go into private practice. Don’t get me wrong — the salaries Chappelle and others make is crazy given their skill set.
Kizer has political protection from two entities — the Governor’s office and the AG’s office. Brian Sandoval, the current Governor of Nevada, was Nevada’s Attorney General.
To run a state athletic commission, having strong knowledge of state law is key. However, anyone with an open mind and a hungry appetite for learning can learn & practice state law applicable to commission matters in a relatively short time. You don’t need a hack from the AG’s office to do the job.
The question then becomes why these entities are protecting Kizer. The answer relies on Occam’s Razor (the simplest answer/guess is often the correct one). The state politicians think Kizer does a great job of bringing revenue to the state. The pols are connecting dots between what Nevada’s commission makes and Kizer. They think there’s an actual correlation — when there really isn’t any. The emperor has no clothes.
No one can honestly sit here and say that Kizer has great relations with promoters. Bob Arum thinks he’s a racist. Dana White constantly destroys him over which officials get booked. Golden Boy never really praises Kizer. The television executives never go out of their way to prop him up. If you look at the calendar of events booked in Nevada, the number is smaller than you think. The volume of shows California & Texas draw in comparison makes Nevada look like a chump.
The reason big shows go to Nevada has nothing to do with Keith Kizer. It has everything to do with the tax situation. It takes up to $3 million dollars in TV revenue before you hit the $50,000 TV tax cap with the commission. The commission has a 6% live gate tax that the casinos often pick up the tab for. Gambling is the lifeline of combat sports in the state. Nothing Keith Kizer has done in terms of recruiting promoters to bring shows to the state has impacted the bottom line. If anything, Kizer is a negative when it comes to promoters. They don’t want to put up with him and his constant need for attention. He is always inserting himself into fight-related issues in the press. He can’t help himself. Kizer also has a pathological hatred of individuals like Margaret Goodman and he can’t shut up or stop attacking others.
Ask yourself the following: if Keith Kizer was fired tomorrow from the commission, would the amount of revenue the commission takes in from shows really change? Of course not. He has zero positive impact on business affairs. The way Marc Ratner molded Nevada’s commission basically makes it easy to run on auto-pilot as long as you don’t massively screw up paperwork. Why do you think Keith Kizer sits on his ass and goes on boxing & MMA message boards and web sites every day? He has time to kill while drawing a paycheck he simply doesn’t have to do much work for.
So, how do you remove a guy like Kizer from office?
Politicians and money
You, as an individual, are not going to get Keith Kizer fired. I’m not going to get Keith Kizer fired. The athletic inspectors & officials who work in Nevada simply won’t cooperate with investigators or writers like myself in digging dirt. It’s a far cry from California, Texas, and Florida on that front.
Who can get Keith Kizer fired? The promoters and the casino bosses. If Bob Arum, Lorenzo Fertitta, MGM, and Harrah’s wrote a joint letter to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval stating that they would no longer run shows in the state, Kizer’s ass would get thrown out the door tomorrow. However, the bosses that control the cash won’t write the joint letter to oust Kizer. Promoters aren’t going to stop running shows in Nevada. Why? Because they want to make money and the state’s tax structure makes it an environment they want to make money in. Promoters aren’t going to give up the prospect of making cash in order to make a point in ditching a bureaucrat like Kizer. So, they put up with Kizer despite the fact that they hate him and think he’s bad for the sport. Plus, Kizer’s a testosterone enabler for fighters and that’s a feature, not a bug for the UFC.
Which leaves us with Brian Sandoval. He’s the Republican Governor of a purplish political state that’s trending blue because of the refugees from California. He’s a dark horse candidate for the 2016 Republican Presidential primary. He’s basically your standard Establishment law-and-order, albeit soft-speaking, Republican. He’ll run simply to increase recognition of his name for future national political office. He’s not going to win a Presidential primary.
So, with a guy like Sandoval, you have to attack his sources of cash for a primary run. You would have to go after the Super PAC money and convince the bundlers that they would tell Sandoval to ditch Kizer in exchange for campaign cash. Who would be Sandoval’s biggest sources of political cash? The casinos, including Lorenzo/UFC. If they didn’t want to do a joint letter to ask for Kizer’s firing, they could simply do the good old fashioned quid-pro-quo where Sandoval gets cash in exchange for Kizer’s dismissal.
Brian Sandoval used to be with the Nevada Gaming Commission. If there’s anyone who could get into his ear and tell him to fire Kizer, it would be Lorenzo Fertitta.
Those are the only two options on the table for Keith Kizer’s removal from the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It would take a monumental scandal like a fighter’s death or cooking the books from events to oust Kizer and that’s not going to happen because the casino box offices simply print out the numbers for tax collection. The next time you hear Dana White or a promoter complain about Keith Kizer, ask them why they won’t use their muscle to get Kizer fired. Kizer’s an easy whipping boy and he deserves all the heat that comes his way. However, if you want to see momentum for his firing, start turning the heat towards his enablers. It’s the only way change will ever happen.