By Zach Arnold | September 18, 2013
As with every scandal in today’s 24/7 news cycle, we have the general pattern: scandal happens, mea culpa or excuse, fighting over response, and then basic ‘we’ll investigate’ or ‘we’ll fix the problem’ response. Then the audience tunes away from the story and moves onto something else.
We know what happened with judge Cynthia Ross scoring the Mayweather/Canelo fight a 114-114 draw. Ross butchered the score for the Tim Bradley/Manny Pacquiao fight. I knew that as soon as she scored Mayweather/Canelo a draw, all the attention would go on her. It’s a fool’s errand. The real culprit is Keith Kizer and everyone, deep down, knows it. Kizer, in the past, has always defended his officials and judges — partially to create loyalty and partially because he has always figured that blowing off the critics was easy to do and that his job security was always in tact.
Then came Saturday night… and Sunday afternoon… and Kizer was defending Ross as a judge. Even the best con men discover that one cover-up too many can bite you in the ass. Rather than diffusing the situation and taking the heat off of his booking of judges, Kizer says what he always does in these kinds of controversies and defended Ross by blaming the 10-point must system. And in the process, Kizer exposed himself for others who held their fire back in the past to go after him this time because there was nothing to lose.
Realizing that his job security actually is at risk this time around, Kizer embraced a scenario where Ross would take an ‘indefinite leave of absence’. The whole thing is a farce. Keith Kizer is the man who runs the operation and has ran the ship since Marc Ratner left to go work for UFC. It doesn’t always mean that he is in total control, however.
In addition to embracing the departure of Ross, Kizer is claiming that he will hold a seminar for judges & officials either next month or in November in Las Vegas. A seminar. Talk about the blind leading the blind. If you have no leader and no leadership, then it’s useless. Kizer hopes that this sales pitch will cause the media to back off of him and relieve some of the public outcry.
Now is not the time to stay silent.
The art of self-preservation
When I wrote the article about Keith Kizer’s job security, I got a lot of insider reaction adding fuel to the fire. In short, I stated that if the major casino bosses and promoters like Bob Arum, Lorenzo Fertitta, and others threatened to not run shows in Nevada then Kizer would be fired the next day. However, that threat isn’t going to be taken seriously because nobody is going to stop running shows in Nevada because of the state’s great tax structure for hosting events. With Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Amir Khan in the works, it looks more likely that the fight will happen in Las Vegas and not in London.
Reaction to our Keith Kizer job security article from insiders pointed out that if political players like Sig Rogich (a Ronald Reagan political fixer who currently backs the World Series of Fighting promotion) and Skip Avansino wanted Kizer fired, they could supposedly make the call tomorrow and get the move done.
So why haven’t the major power brokers made the effort to go after Kizer? Because, up until this point, his actions haven’t damaged their credibility. Even though the quality of the commission is degrading in front of our eyes with Kizer at the helm, his actions never put a horrible spotlight on the politicos who influence the fight game in Las Vegas. However, Keith Kizer is now a real public liability and he’s starting to drag their reputations through the political mud. It’s perfectly understandable why guys like Mr. Avansino stuck with Kizer in the past. Sometimes it’s hard to admit making a mistake, especially such a high-profile one.
On three key levels as a regulator, Keith Kizer’s performance has been substandard. On booking officials, he’s lousy except for when he books Kenny Bayless or Jay Nady — and that’s kind of impossible to screw that up. On recruiting fights & being respected by promoters, I’d hardly call him much of a success. The structure of the commission molded by Marc Ratner basically works on auto-pilot as long as you don’t massively screw things up. On drug testing, Kizer’s legacy is downright terrible. The image of the Nevada State Athletic Commission today is a commission where fighters can get permission to use testosterone (anabolic steroids) and Kizer will come out and defend such steroid usage by telling the press that it shouldn’t be used as a scarlet letter against such users. When fighters aren’t getting hall passes for testosterone, standard Nevada drug tests aren’t catching the users who are microdosing on drugs like synthetic testosterone. Instead, it’s outside drug testing from an organization like the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association that is catching fighters who volunteer to be part of the drug testing program. In addition to having difficulty dealing with anabolic steroid usage, Kizer has had protracted fights with fighters Nick Diaz & Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. over positive marijuana tests. These fights drew the ire of political interest groups because of how excessive the fines were and how excessive the fines are still going to be for a positive marijuana test, despite updating their policy on marijuana metabolites to match modified World Anti-Doping Agency standards. And then there’s the mess with Kizer getting involved in the GSP/Johny Hendricks battle over drug testing.
If you’re going to be a front man for politicos, you should at least attempt to be a savvy manipulator. He’s attempted to try to accomplish this and, unfortunately for him, Keith Kizer has zero ability to manipulate the press, the public, and the fighters.
If Bill Brady can
step in express remorse and regret that he let Keith Kizer appoint judges for the Floyd Mayweather/Canelo Alvarez fight, isn’t that a signal to everyone else that Keith Kizer’s performance & judgment isn’t up to par with the standards that Nevada’s athletic commission expects an Executive Director to abide by? Jordan Breen on Sherdog radio tore into Kizer making excuses about how the 10-point must system contributed to Cynthia Ross’s 114-114 score card for Mayweather/Canelo:
“CJ Ross shouldn’t have been there in the first place. That’s the question that no one seems to ask, like, why was she even there, why was she judging this fight? It’s ludicrous. And to me that says a lot about Keith Kizer. I don’t want to make him sound like some sort of Walter White figure but you got some balls on you, you got some real F-U to the world type attitude when right after Bradley and Pacquiao you’re going to turn around and put CJ Ross in there. What, it’s not like boxing fans are going to forget. No one did. The minute that score card came out, everyone was like, ‘Oh, CJ Ross, from the Pacquiao and Bradley fight,’ took two seconds.
“But if you roll in the world where you protect everybody and everybody protects you, everything’s all good in the hood I guess. Cronyism reigns, nothing’s wrong. This guy lost but, ‘oh, what if it was a hockey playoff (game) and one team won in double overtime by 1 goal but then another team won by 5…’ Who cares, it’s fighting. Get it right or go home. That’s it. No time for any of this other stuff. I’m sick of hearing Keith Kizer talk about tennis scores and all this other [palaver] that has nothing to do with MMA or boxing.
“Make an effort, review your judges. Because here’s the thing — you can act like you have some kind of internal auditing process all you want. When CJ Ross gets this gig after that, the next big fight that CJ Ross gets unless Kizer wises up… Just all the proof you need that nothing’s going to happen. They don’t care. It’s going to be the same homies being recycled day in, day out. If they screw up, there’s going to be some, “Well, in tennis…” No one cares. Just find judges who can do it right or at least do it right with a greatest frequency and less of an inclination to screw up in catastrophic-type fashion.”
Both selfish & justifiable reasons to make a change at the top
Keith Kizer has been Executive Director for over seven years.
The powers-that-be have a chance to fix the situation now. They have a chance to restore their good name. All they have to do is say, hey, we made a mistake and let’s clean house by getting rid of our biggest liability. Rather than drawing scorn, power brokers like Mr. Avansino & Mr. Rogich would draw praise from everyone in the fight industry and the fans that support combat sports.
If you’re Skip Avansino, ask yourself any of the following questions:
- Would Keith Kizer’s removal help improve the image of the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Yes.
- Would Keith Kizer’s removal decrease the amount of revenue from big fights? No.
- Would the quality of officiating & judging on major combat shows in the state improve on the MMA side of the ledger? Yes.
- Is Nevada still considered the top commission in combat sports since the hiring of Keith Kizer as Executive Director? Debatably, no. Nevada’s back to joining the pack.
If I’m a member of the Nevada commission, I would take a look at the events calendar and look at the level of show activity in the state. Nevada still attracts the major shows because of the tax structure but where are all the small and mid-level events? Those events are important in developing a new crop of officials who can take center stage for bigger events down the road. Without that ecosystem of minor events, it’s hard to staff the major events with quality officiating unless you start poaching officials from other states.
Nevada is losing smaller and mid-sized shows to Florida and Texas. Florida, that hellhole of regulatory chaos where anything practically goes at this point. Florida, a state that is lucky to regulate one professional show a week, is now starting to attract Golden Boy events that Nevada should be getting instead? It’s inexcusable.
With the exodus of Cynthia Ross, Keith Kizer is hoping for a timeout and a reprieve from those in political power who helped him get his job. It’s time for those responsible putting Kizer in power to admit that they made a mistake, repair the commission’s image, and find a new leader who best represents the state and also the image of the powers-that-be. On all levels, Keith Kizer has been a failure as a leader and that leadership deficit will continue to grow as long as he in power as the Executive Director.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission used to be the role model for other athletic commissions. It used to be an example of exceptional regulation. It’s time for a deus ex machina moment.