By Zach Arnold | October 24, 2013
To read all CSAC-related articles, dating back to May 2012, CLICK HERE.
— Steve Kim (@stevemaxboxing) October 24, 2013
The honorable Steve Kim has penned a must-read column for Sports on Earth about the death of boxer Francisco (Franky) Leal last week and how athletic commissions need to change protocols in order to prevent managers & trainers from throwing fighters into situations where they shouldn’t be fighting after suffering concussive beatings.
Francisco “Franky” Leal’s 27th birthday would have been this Friday. Unfortunately, he and his family won’t be celebrating the occasion. They’ll instead be mourning his death after Leal was knocked out by Raul Hirales in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, this past weekend, and died soon after.
In March of 2012, Leal faced Evgeny Gradovich in San Antonio. Gradovich, the current IBF featherweight champion, doesn’t so much knock opponents out as he does slowly beat them into submission. One punch at a time, he concusses his opponents with a steady stream of leather. After a typically game effort, Leal finally succumbed in the 10th and final round of their contest. Afterwards, he was carried off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital, an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come.
To put Steve’s column into perspective, it is easy to dismiss his concerns as yet another boxing-only story when the reality is that it’s a story that should be of major concern to all combat sports fans. After what transpired with Junior dos Santos, Nate Marquardt, and Diego Sanchez this past weekend in Houston, you better believe that the issue of brain damage will be as big of a problem in MMA as it is in boxing. If you believe the recent results from the Cleveland Clinic study on fighters, we may very well see the suffering of MMA fighters in much the same way we see punch-drunk boxers today. The CC study indicates the impact of brain damage for MMA fighters will surface sooner than the symptoms from brain damage that boxers display.
The Desert Sun: Trainer Marcos Caballero speaks out on Franky Leal’s death
Franky Leal fought in the wild west of Texas, whose athletic commission is completely shambolic. Any MMA fan who watched the UFC Houston PPV knows how out of control the situation is with Dickie Cole and son Lawrence running the show.
However, the situation for regulating boxing in California isn’t a whole lot better.
@stevemaxboxing Mike Alexander KO'd in CA in June. Taken out on stretcher. CA allowed him to fight 2xs since. KO'd both times. Shameful.
— Jason Chavez (@bigjaychavez) October 24, 2013
Mike Alexander is a journeyman boxer, age 34. He’s no different than a million other boxers you see booked on local fight cards to put over younger fighters. His current record is 2-9-3. In other words, he shouldn’t be fighting any more. However, guys like Alexander do get booked on California cards — especially Don Chargin/Paco Presents cards with Jorge Marron — because the front office rubber stamps the bookings. What could go wrong?
In December 2011, there was controversy about the California State Athletic Commission allowing fighter Jose Figueroa to compete twice in three weeks. Both times, he was knocked out. He fought in Russia before fighting in California. The commission put the blame on the fighter for not disclosing the Russian bout. Naturally, there was big political heat on the commission for not performing due diligence.
In July 2012, Che Guevera was on a conference call with California promoters in which he deflected issues of medical suspensions away from the athletic commission.
George & Che made sure to note that if a fighter who is currently on suspension gets booked, that’s on the promoter and is their responsibility to make sure a fighter is cleared before getting booked.
In other words, it’s the promoter’s fault for booking fighters who are medically suspended elsewhere or shouldn’t be on cards in the first place. This attitude rubbed regulators in other states the wrong way in a hurry. Other regulators approached me with their disgust about the attitude in Sacramento.
It is with this as the backdrop that makes the Mike Alexander story so alarming. On June 1st, 2013, Mike Alexander was booked for a 4-rounder against a club-type fighter named Ricardo Pinell.
Click the image to view the video of the fight on Vimeo
As the end of round two was approaching, it was clear that Pinell had much quicker hand speed and was ready to coast to a decision victory. Then the bell rang to end round two. Alexander put his hands down and left himself unguarded. Pinell, clearly after the bell, clocked Alexander and knocked him out cold in the ring. The referee Gerard White stood over Alexander and stopped the fight.
Pinell clearly punched Alexander after the bell… and was given the win. On the video, Nichole Bowles from CSAC entered the ring with a stool. Alexander was stretchered out of the building.
The California State Athletic Commission, according to Fight Fax, did not medically suspend Mike Alexander.
Update (1/18/2014): It was records on Boxrec that were not updated, not Fight Fax records. A retraction is being made regarding the Fight Fax claim, as our original item was not based on malice but rather a mistake in reporting misinformation. We apologize for this reporting error.
According to commission documentation, Che Guevara was the lead athletic inspector on the Redwood City, California show. Despite still being in the front office, his booking power had been stripped. Andy Foster was the one who approved of the Alexander/Pinell fight. Guevara worked the Redwood City show with top young ally Nichole Bowles & new CAMO golden boy Hanley Chan.
Less than three months after being stretchered out of a boxing ring, Alexander fought on a Top Rank August 24th card at the Glendale Civic Auditorium against prospect Liam Vaughn. Vaughn celebrated his 23rd birthday by knocking out Mike Alexander. Alexander was given a 45-day medical suspension. Vaughn went to 7-1.
On October 12th, Alexander fought for promoter OPP in the Sacramento area and lost to prospect Aaron Coley, two days fresh off his 23rd birthday. Alexander lost by TKO in the third round of a six rounder. Coley improved to 7-0. Alexander went to 2-9-3. The lead athletic inspector on the OPP event was Nichole Bowles, the same inspector who worked the Redwood City fight. Six months ago, Nichole Bowles was the lead inspector for an OPP show in Sacramento in which Martha Salazar & Sonya Lamonakis fought in a six-rounder. The problem? Instead of two minute rounds, they ended up fighting in three minute rounds.
Referee Gerard White, who officiated the Alexander/Pinell fight at Redwood City, was booked for the OPP event.
According to records we initially searched on Boxrec, The California State Athletic Commission did not give Mike Alexander a medical suspension after his October 12th bout.
Ricardo Pinell, who was not disqualified or suspended, fought in two fights after knocking Alexander out after the bell in Redwood City. He was booked for a Don Chargin event on September 28th at Cache Creek Resort & Casino (north of Sacramento) and lost. Pinell fought on a card with some fights that should have never been booked by the promoter or rubber stamped by the Sacramento front office.
While JCC/Vera was happening Saturday night at StubHub Center, there was a Don Chargin fight at Cache Creek Resort & Casino about 45 minutes north of Sacramento. It was a five-fight card that featured two curious bookings. The main event featured then 13-2-1 Paul Mendez (24 year old local fighter) versus then 9-10 fighter Rahman Yusubov. Yusubov ended up with a ruptured ear drum. On the same card, then 1-0 local fighter Darwin Price faced a then 2-19-4 fighter named Johnny Frazier from Las Vegas. There were people at the show who were floored that this fight was approved on the card and expressed concern that the booking should have never happened. Needless to say, Mr. Frazier’s record went to 2-20-4 after the fight. After his loss, Frazier was given a two day mandatory rest suspension by the commission.
The situation regarding the quality of regulation of boxing in the state of California is not improving. It’s actually declining. Someone is going to get seriously injured or killed. The issues of liability are very real. Boxers like Franky Leal die because no one wants to step up and be the adult in the room and say, “Hey, it’s time to quit.” It’s even worse when the regulators create the environments for fighters to get seriously injured and don’t bother following the proper protocols in dealing with medical suspensions.
Maybe Mike Alexander can get a distribution from the state’s boxer pension fund at age 50 to pay for his future medical bills. Or maybe not. He’d probably have a better chance of getting money by suing Che Guevara & the state of California on the grounds of negligence.
Respect to Frankie Leal family making decision to donate his organs to give others the chance at life. His organs can save up to 7 lives
— TRU Boxing Headz (@TRUBoxingHeadz) October 24, 2013
Fighters don’t know when to stop. The regulators (in name) are supposed to be the adults in the room. They’ve failed and will continue to do so unless major changes are made.