By Zach Arnold | December 12, 2014
Just watched a robbery on ESPN2. This is what's wrong with boxing!
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) December 12, 2014
The more things change, the more things stay the same. The reputation of the California State Athletic Commission under Andy Foster has been cemented as a top MMA commission and in our opinion one of the worst, if not the worst, athletic commissions in America when it comes to boxing regulation. The cards approved by Sacramento are full of mismatches, especially for TV fights. Even worse is the quality of regulation at the fights, especially the quality of judging.
Before we get to Teddy Atlas’s comments about the Athletic Commission from last night’s ESPN2 telecast, it is important for me to give you a brief primer on what the political climate currently looks like in Sacramento for the AC.
The Athletic Commission currently is considered ’safe’ politically-speaking and that’s good news for Andy Foster given how powerful the Department of Consumer Affairs is. Awet Kidane has to be happy about the AC’s current financial situation, given that Governor Jerry Brown’s point-man John Carvelli is currently the $ watchdog on the commission board. The dental HMO boss from Newport Beach is a wheeler-and-dealer. His company uses Platinum Advisors LLC in Sacramento for lobbying. This is the same lobbying firm the UFC has successfully used for years in the state capitol.
What has sailed under the radar, politically-speaking, is the fact that Governor Jerry Brown appointed 33-year old Platinum Advisors lobbyist Melinda McClain to be the deputy director of legislative & policy affairs at Consumer Affairs. Check her profile out here.
While John Carvelli is the Governor’s watchdog over Andy Foster when it comes to Athletic Commission finances, veteran DCA lawyer Spencer Walker has firmly entrenched himself as the powerhouse legal broker for all AC affairs. Watching him do his thing at each AC meeting is quite a spectacle. He sits right near the center seat at all the meetings. Spencer is a smooth operator and, as we’ve stated before on Fight Opinion, has big aspirations. He is a dominant figure without having to say too many words.
With Carvelli overseeing $ and Spencer overseeing legal affairs, this leaves Martha Shen-Urquidez to basically be Andy Foster’s consigliere on affairs such as inspectors, doctors, and officials. Especially officials. She may be a lawyer, but I would love to see one of the grunts challenge her legal authority over a recent officials competency exam she created in closed sessions. She likes to be seen and definitely heard. Our viewpoint is that she has a lot less power than she thinks she possesses but as long as nobody calls her bluff…
On the surface, the picture of what the Athletic Commission’s future looks like is portrayed as rosy. Claims of $750,000 in the bank account of the AC. Even with drug testing costs exceeding current projections, fine money from fighters who have failed tests is going to help make up some of the deficit. The AC will be on pace to regulate 130 events. The UFC event this February at Staples Center with Ronda Rousey is doing a solid box office advance.
Everything on the surface looks great. That’s one way to look at the AC operations.
The other way to look at the current Athletic Commission operations is to actually focus on the regulation itself and the tenuous position that the AC is in. First and foremost, Consumer Affairs & CSAC is at the mercy of the Feds right now in regards to the Leland Yee show trial pending in San Francisco. If Yee and associates, who are accused by the Feds of trying to extort cash & resources from outfits like the Athletic Commission, do not play Let’s Make a Deal with the Feds then all hell could break loose regarding wire-taps and other evidence alleging Yee & company got their hooks into players who wanted to keep the Athletic Commission alive. I’m still convinced that Yee and company will cut deals but if they don’t, everything will go public and it would damage the image of an Athletic Commission that DCA has tried to rehabilitate.
And then there is the actual quality of regulation at events. Strip away the dollars and cents. Focus on the quality of inspectors and judges currently being used.
(For the record, I’m not talking about the referees in the ring booked for shows.)
Thursday night’s ESPN2 card from Pechanga was a lousy watch. Mismatches on the TV cards. Not as bad as say a typical Golden Boy event, but close. Just like Jermain Taylor gave Al Haymon a shoutout after his win in Mississippi, Austin Trout gave Al Haymon a shoutout for his squash match that proved absolutely nothing. Antonio Tarver, an out-of-shape heavyweight at age 46, had his own personal squash match.
However, the controversy de jour that stole the thunder on ESPN2 involved a fight between Canadian Tyson Cave and Colombian fighter Oscar Escandon. It was an awful, one-sided 12 round fight. Escandon really didn’t present much of a fight to Cave. It certainly came off as more of a club showcase fight than a competitive TV bout. The only argument heading to the scorecards after 12 rounds was how lopsided the win for Cave would be. He won, at the very least, 8 of the 12 rounds.
117-111 Escandon (???), 115-113 Cave (???), 115-113 for Escandon. I had 118-110 Cave. I think that’s an awful decision.
— Scott (@scottchristBLH) December 12, 2014
And then came the reading of the score cards. Raul Caiz Jr. scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Escandon. Tony Crebs scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Escandon. Max DeLuca, Andy Foster’s most-preferred boxing judge, scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Cave. At least DeLuca picked the right guy. Crebs gave Escandon 7 rounds and Caiz gave the guy 9 rounds.
@ESPNBoxing I am so proud of Teddy Atlas for saying what needed to be said. Tyson Cave was robbed of this fight and I'm this has to stop!
— Derrick Brooks (@DBrooks55) December 12, 2014
Teddy Atlas ranted and raved but summarized his position in sober fashion. He’s been in boxing for 40 years and has seen countless screwjobs that he’s considered criminal in nature but where’s he going to go and what he can do about it? Nothing’s changed.
What Andy Foster must do next
Andy Foster is in a tough position here after Thursday’s troubling scoring of the ESPN2 TV fight. He could ignore the situation and let it pass, which is entirely possible but would also mean failing to capitalize on an opportunity to improve upon his image as a leader in the fight game.
He could administratively yank Crebs & Caiz Jr. off of future boxing shows, but that could create real & legitimate openings for legal challenges for administrative suspensions without due process. It would be a trap.
The correct move for Andy Foster in this situation is to summon all three judges (Crebs, Caiz Jr., and DeLuca) to the next Athletic Commission meeting and haul them in front of the commission board for a performance review. Allow the commission as a body to take action and to dish out discipline. Give the judges their due process and make them explain in public how and why they scored the fight the way they did.