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« | Home | »

Keith Kizer’s job security

By Zach Arnold | September 15, 2013

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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:

To put this into perspective, consider the following:

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:

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:

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.

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 30 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

30 Responses to “Keith Kizer’s job security”

  1. nottheface says:

    Kind of interesting that leading up to the fight there was heavy betting in Vegas that it would be a draw, going from 30-to-1 odds to 8-to-1 by fight day.

    From the LA Times:

    Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer said he wasn’t concerned about the betting pattern or what others are speculating.

    “There are always weird rumors,” Kizer said. “Just part of the buzz.”

    • Jim says:

      That’s not uncommon–even at 30/1 the ‘draw’ is a sucker bet in boxing since the ‘true odds’ of a draw are in excess of 100/1. Yet pretty much every big fight you see recreational players take a flyer on the draw hoping for a big payback.

      • JL says:

        Just curious, being a gambling man, I know there’s typically two sides to every bet. If the draw bet went as extreme as only 8-1 (or 4-1 as reported by Maxboxing), doesn’t that mean you can bet, NO Draw? What would that be, like 1-5 or 1-10 in that case?

        Seems like easy money then right?

  2. Mister Jaye says:

    “If you’re a lawyer worth anything, you go into private practice rather than the AG’s office.”

    And that is why attorneys in private practice always win for their clients when they go up against the AG’s office.

    Oh, waitaminnit… they don’t!

    Dingus.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      If you want to make money (like, say, over $90k a year), you’re headed into private practice. You don’t need to be an actual member of the Bar to get that point.

      But your point is well taken, as I noted, if you want to go to the AG’s office for CV enhancement to build a background. I just don’t think anyone’s going to confuse Kizer or Kamala Harris for someone like, say, Preet Bharara in New York.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Wow. That is shockingly low for Bellator. You just can’t do MMA cheap and expect any sort of return on investment. Look at AXS TV… They do MMA cheap and get a bad quality of fighters on the cards.

    From the beginning, SpikeTV should have not acted with their egos. If they were serious about MMA, they should have been willing to spend at least $10 Million per year. And they should have tried to dominate the UFC feeder level…. Not the UFC level.

    No wonder Dana White openly mocks Viacom. He must have known all along what Viacom invested into Bellator and it was obvious it was going to be a failure.

    ***********

    If White or FMJ said they were no longer going to put on shows in Vegas until Kizer was out…. He would be gone within a month.

    ***********

    Floyd Mayweather Jr’s fan base is a lot of ghetto trash. At least that is from what I saw last night at my local theater.

    ***********

    This was the first boxing PPV I watched in a few years. I thought the flow of the show was more like the UFC. I remember a few PPV’s from years back where there were huge gaps between fights. I thought this PPV was much better.

    But the actual action was boring. 46 Rounds of fighting and only 1 knock down (that wasn’t much of a knockdown). They need to reduce the size of the gloves to create more action.

    • kikinho says:

      There weren’t big gaps between the fights because they all went to a decision. Reduce gloves??? Are you kidding? They were increased for the safety of the fighters. The weight of the gloves is determined by the weight of the fighters competing.

      • Steve4192 says:

        The only thing the gloves protect is the fighter’s hands. It has nothing to do with fighter safety and everything to do with increasing entertainment value.

        Boxers would be much safer if handwraps and gloves were banned altogether. Unfortunately, that would ruin the entertainment value by greatly reducing the volume of punches that can be thrown without breaking their hands. Getting rid of gloves would massively reduce the amount of head trauma boxers suffer, but it will never happen because it would make the sport unwatchable for all but the most dedicated of boxing fans.

      • Chuck says:

        To put it simply:

        Bigger gloves;
        1.) Fighter will throw and land more punches because;
        2.) Bigger gloves giving more cushioning, more protection to the fighter’s hands, which leads to;
        3.) More potential head trauma to the opponent because of more punches landed.

        Smaller gloves;
        1.) Fighter will throw and land less punches because;
        2.) Smaller gloves give less cushioning, less protection to the fighter’s hands, which leads to;
        3.) Less potential head trauma to the opponent because of less punches landed.

        Hope that helped. Oh, you know what some studies say lead to head trauma in fighters? The head gear worn for amateur fights. Funny, right? Reason why they are getting rid of head gear for male adult amateur boxing starting with the 2016 Olympics.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Wonderfully said.

          And from a non-injury viewpoint…

          Gloves are so big that they can be used as shields against the opponent. That is not natural.

          Imagine boxing with MMA type of gloves. Half of their defenses would not work and the action levels would be off the hook.

        • Chuck says:

          Why thank you sir! Great point about boxing gloves giving better defense. Didn’t even think about it.

          There is a brand of boxing gloves, called Winning (Japanese, obviously) which are bigger and more padded. They were called the “defensive” gloves, whereas the Reyes gloves are considered the “puncher’s” gloves. Erik Morales was a fan of using the Winning brand. The second Morales/Pacquiao fight almost didn’t happen because Morales demanded Winning gloves to be used, and Pacquiao demanded Reyes gloves to be used. I think they were allowed to use the brand of their own choosing.

          Hell, the first boxing gloves used (1800’s) were two ounces, so why the hell not? Okay, 2 ounces may be too small, but six ounce gloves I think is best way to go. Maybe 8 ounces.

  4. BoxingFanDan says:

    I declare Shenanigans. A MAJORITY Decision paid 21-1. TWENTY ONE to 1! Look how many times she was the ONLY judge to call a major fight a DRAW in the past. http://boxrec.com/media/index.php/C.J._Ross – Every time she scored it a draw, it became a Majority decision. I would “Bet” the odds were pretty high on these other fights too. IMO Investigators need to get to work including some deep forensic accounting on CJ for many years.

    • Jim says:

      I’m not aware of more than a couple of places in Nevada where you could bet the ‘majority draw’ prop. There were a few offshore but couldn’t get anything more than $1000 down on it. I doubt if the majority prop was available for any of Ross’s other big fights with the exception of Pacquiao/Bradley which she famously had for Bradley. Ross is a lousy judge but I don’t think she’s corrupt. Being a high level boxing judge in Nevada is a pretty cushy gig–any gig where you get paid $8k (what the judges made for Saturday’s main event) for watching a fight ringside is sweet.

      • edub says:

        8k?

        Are you kidding me?

      • BF says:

        Just because we didn’t get a draw in the fight, it doesn’t mean that CJ Ross didn’t accomplish her goal.

        As stated by another poster, Floyd by Majority Decision paid 20-1.

        Let’s not be so gullible Jim.

        BTW, do you even know her personally??? How can you say that she’s not corrupt?

        I beg to differ.

  5. Steve4192 says:

    I despise Kizer Soze, but statements like this …

    “Kizer also has a pathological hatred of individuals like Margaret Goodman ”

    … are a little over the top. I’ll buy that he doesn’t like Goodman and will throw a wrench in VADA’s plans whenever he can, but ‘pathological hatred’? Really? And who are these other ‘individuals like Margaret Goodman’ who he has a ‘pathological hatred’ for?

    To me, Kizers antics in relation to VADA seem more like a petty bureaucrat marking territory rather than a ‘pathological hatred’ of someone who works for them.

  6. Beau Dure says:

    It’s a little unfair to say people only go into government work — AG, prosecutor, public defender, etc. — if they’re not very good or eyeing public office. We still have a handful of people in this country who put public service ahead of financial reward.

    • edub says:

      Would you agree that those certain folks are in the minority though?

      • Beau Dure says:

        No, I wouldn’t. The exceptions are the ones who make the paper.

        • edub says:

          You really think most people in those positions put public service ahead of financial reward, and not some type of personal gain down the line?

      • david m says:

        Edub–Most of my friends who went to big law after graduation are uber-miserable and work ridiculous hours. Once you get out of debt, money isn’t the most important thing for most people. Finding a work/play balance, having some free time, doing work that doesn’t make you feel soulless, etc., are all more important.

  7. david m says:

    I stopped reading at: “Let’s state the obvious: if you’re a lawyer worth anything, you go into private practice rather than the AG’s office.”

    You sound like a buffoon, and I say that as someone who has consistently read your site since Puroresu Power. Some of my most talented friends from law school are US Attorneys or DAs or work for the AG in various states. Granted, because you write a fucking blog about mma and read through California State Athletic Commission hearings, you must be some kind of expert on all things. Wow. Stay in your lane.

    • Fluyid says:

      There are many incredibly talented and good people who prosecute because it’s a passion or a calling. I always hate to see them reduced in offhand comments such as those in this article.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      On public/private practice, focus was on earning power here.

      As far as DA’s and other public attorneys go, there’s plenty of fine lawyers doing their job. My experience is dealing with AG offices and the automatic assumption that all the lawyers who work for AG offices are the best & brightest when that is not the case. Many of them are politically motivated.

  8. Chris says:

    So about the Bellator money stuff what does that mean? What do they make at the gate? WHat are they paying the fighters?

    Are they making money per event, losing money, breaking even?

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Is Bellator making money per event? That’s an irrelevant question. Viacom owns both SpikeTV and Bellator. How much money they give to Bellator per TV show is an accounting entry. It does show how much they care about Bellator, which is very little.

      The real question is…. Is Viacom making money on Bellator? And the answer is most certainly no. All signs point to this.

      The change in their fighter recruitment. The quick move to PPV. The change to Friday Nights. All of these things point to Viacom currently losing money on Bellator.

      The other thing that is important are the ratings. Can Bellator get a combination of enough viewers and viewers in the right demographics.

      So far, that answer has also been no. They got 660k viewers last Friday, despite having a lead-in from COPS of 1.2 Million. And they continue to fail to get into the Top 100 on Cable for the key demographic on their night. Real Time With Bill Maher is bringing in more young viewers then Bellator is.

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