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Association of Boxing Commissions letter lays out a plan on how to go after Al Haymon

By Zach Arnold | May 6, 2015

A letter from ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff and Vice President Jim Erickson to current US Attorney General Loretta Lynch lays out an argument that individuals with legal standing could use to sue Al Haymon in regards to alleged violations of the Muhammad Ali Act.

The letter, dated April 28th of 2015, reads as follows:

Dear Attorney General Lynch:

The Association of Boxing Commissions (“ABC”) is an association composed of boxing Commissions located in the United States and Canada. It is a non-profit organization formed to, inter alia, encourage adherence to and enforcement of applicable federal laws regarding boxing and foster standardized reporting of results and uniformity of supervision of the sports which the member Commissions govern. It is charged by the Muhammad Ali Act (15 U.S.C. 6301 et. seq.) with promulgating uniform regulatory guidelines for boxing (e.g. 15 U.S.C. 6303, 15 U.S.C. 6307a and 6307b) handling suspension appeals within certain circumstances (15 U.S.C. 6306 (b) (2)).

The ABC has received complaints regarding the activities of an individual named Alvin Haymon and various companies associated with him. We think it (is) appropriate to refer this matter ot the Attorney General for investigation and enforcement pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 6309.

[Haymon appears to work through at least two companies, Haymon Sports LLC and Al Haymon Development Inc.]

It appears that numerous provisions of the Muhammad Ali Act are being broken, and most importantly, 15 U.S.C. 6308(b) which is designed to create a firewall between promoters and managers. 15 U.S.C. 6308(b) reads as follows:

(b) Firewall between promoters and managers

(1) In general, it is unlawful for (a) a promoter to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the management of a boxer; or (b) a manager — (i) to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer; or (ii) to be employed by or receive compensation or other benefits from a promoter, except for amounts received as consideration under the manager’s contract with the boxer.

(2) Exceptions, Paragraph (1) — (a) does not prohibit a boxer from acting as his own promoter or manager; and (b) only applies to boxers participating in a boxing match of 10 rounds or more.

15 U.S.C. 6301(5) defines manager as follows:

“The term “manager” means a person who receives compensation for service as an agent or representative of a boxer.”

Mr. Haymon, through various companies which he controls, claims to have in excess of 150 boxers under contract. Copies of agent’s and of managerial contracts are annexed as Exhibits “A” and “B” to this letter with Exhibit “C” being only a signature page. In a 2015 recent filing for his manager’s license he claimed to have agreements with some 43 fighters. Exhibit “D”. That number is now claimed to exceed 150.

Mr. Haymon, again through companies which he controls, has gained substantial financing from investment groups and, through his companies, has entered into “time buy” cards with numerous television networks including NBC, CBS, ESPN, and Spike. A “time buy” is where a promoter purchases time from a television network rather than the traditional telecast method where a network pays a rights fee to a promoter to purchase rights to telecast an event.

According to press releases, these contracts are directly between the networks and Haymon controlled companies, again with the funding supplied by investment groups. While Haymon hires certain promoters to run the local aspect of the show, the television contracts run through the Haymon controlled entities, purses for the major fighters on the card are set by Haymon controlled entities, the production format is set by the Haymon controlled entities. The series of events is called PBC (short for Premier Boxing Champions) and the announcements state that PBC is control by “Haymon Sports.”

15 U.S.C. 6301 (9) defines “Promoter” as follows:

“The term “promoter” means the person primarily responsible for organization, promoting, and producing a professional boxing match.”

As the funding for the PBC series comes exclusively from Haymon controlled entities, the purses are set by Haymon controlled entities, the selection of the main event fighters is controlled by Haymon controlled entities and the format is controlled by Haymon controlled entities. There are event copies of checks for purses from Haymon Sports LLC which have been posted online. See Exhibit “E”. It is clear that he, operating through his entities, operates as a promoter as well.

It appears that this model is a direct violation of the Firewall provision of the Muhammad Ali Act. The role of manager (who has a fiduciary responsibility to the fighter) and the role of a promoter (who does not and who has in this case a fiduciary responsibility to investors), is completely incompatible. At the time the Muhammad Ali Act was being drafted testimony was given as to the need for a firewall between promoters and managers. See e.g. Testimony of Jim Thomas before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection (a Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce), September 9, 2004 (U.S. Government Printing Office), p. 13; Testimony of Patrick C. English before the Senate Committee on Consumer, Science, and Transportation, March 24, 1998; Testimony of Patrick C. English, before National Association of Attorney’s General Task Force on Boxing, January 20, 1999 pgs. 303-304, 334-335; 34 Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts, 422 (2001); Testimony of Joseph Spinelli before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, August 12, 1994 (U.S. Gov’t Printing Office); Corruption in Professional Boxing – Inadequate State Regulations, Minority Staff of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, March 10, 1993 (p. 23), the Senate report on the Muhammad Ali Act could not be more clear:

“It remains essential that … the manager serve and protect the interests of the boxer. They should not be serving the financial interests of the promoter … It is not plausible for a boxer to receive proper representation if the manager is also on the payroll of a promoter. This is an obvious conflict of interest … A manager must be determined advocate for the boxer’s interests and not be influenced by financial inducements from a promoter.” S. Rpt. No 106-83 at 9 (U.S. Gov’t Printing Office).

Haymon and related companies make no attempt to hide that they operate in the dual capacities of Promoter and manager. It was the Vice President of Operations “Haymon Boxing” which sat on the dais and participated in the announcement of the PBC series on NBC. No other promoter was present. Frankly Haymon seems to be floating this breach of the Firewall provision of the Muhammad Ali Act. By virtue of the management contracts which require that no boxer may enter into any fight contract without his permission, Haymon can ensure and has ensured that his fighters will fight only for his series — the PBC series.

By way of illustration, recently there was a PBC show in California. The ostensible promoter was an entity called TB Goossen. All promotional advertising for the show reflect that it was a PBC show and according to news reports every single featured boxer (of which there were six) were signed to Haymon management or advisory contracts. However, no contracts were filed reflecting Haymon’s involvement either as a manager or promoter. This is an apparent violation of 15 U.S.C. 6307 e (1) which requires that a promoter file “a copy of any agreement in writing to which the promoter is a party with any boxer participating in the match.” The purses for the four main fighters on the card were reported as $1,900,000. The typical Haymon contract provides that he will receive 15% of the fighter’s purse, in this case that would be $285,000. Yet there was no disclosure to the Commission as would be required under 15 U.S.C. 6309 e (3) (A) requiring that the Commission be informed of “all fees, charges and expenses that will be assessed through the promoter, including any portion of the boxer’s purse that the promoter will receive…” Thus 15 U.S.C. 6307 e (3) (A) appears to have been directly violated.

It also appears that 15 U.S.C. 6307 b (1) (A) and (B) is being violated. As best as we can ascertain, in order to appear in a bout on Haymon’s PBC series fighters must be under contract to Haymon. Those contracts have terms in excess of 12 months. See Exhibits “A” and “B”. A coercive contract is a “contract provision which grants any rights between a boxer and a promoter … if the boxer is required to grant such rights … as a condition precedent to the boxer’s participation in a professional boxing match against another boxer who is under contract to the promoter.” 15 U.S.C. 6307 b (a) (B). Such contracts, if they exceed in months are, according to the Muhammad Ali Act “in restraint of trade” and “contrary to public policy.” 15 U.S.C. 6307 (1) (A).

Further, it appears that 15 U.S.C. 6308 (c) is being violated. This takes a bit of explanation.

A “sanctioning organization” is defined as:

“an organization that sanctions professional boxing matches in the United States –

a) between boxers of different States or

b) that are advertised, otherwise promoted, or broadcast (including closed circuit television) in interstate commerce.” 15 U.S.C. 6301 (14)”

One of the express purposes of the Muhammad Ali Act was to regulate “the sanctioning organizations which have proliferated in the boxing industry” which “have not established credible and objective criteria to rate professional boxers and operate with virtually no industry or public oversight. PL 106-210 section 2, May 26, 2000, 114 Stat. 321.

However, it is obvious that the PBC is following the model used by MMA promoters which are not covered by the Muhammad Ali Act, to wit, having their own “in house” champions.

Managers working with the PBC have publicly that this is the model, and reportedly title belts are being made.

15 U.S.C. 6308 (c) prohibits any “officer or employee of a sanctioning organization” from receiving “any compensation, gifts, or benefit, directly or indirectly from a promoter, boxer or manager. Here, just as with the UFC or Bellator the promoter is is the sanctioning organization. Obviously things of benefit are being granted. For instance:

1) The Promoter pays for all costs associated with the sanctioning of PBC bouts.

2) The boxer is granting a benefit by signing with Haymon since Haymon gets the manager’s/advisor’s fee, promotional benefits, and controls who will fight for the PBC title.

While this step has not officially occurred, according to credible reports plans are underway that it occur in the near future, certainly a legitimate area for injunctive relief pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 6309 (a).

The ABC has no resources or authority to investigate further or to take action with respect to this. However, we can and do request that there is a “reasonable cause to believe” that Haymon is “engaged in a violation of this chapter.” [15 U.S.C. 6301 et. seq] and that 15 U.S.C. 6309 gives express authority to the United States Attorney General’s Office to investigate and to take action. We ask that you do so.

Very truly yours,

Tim Lueckenhoff
Assobiation of Boxing Commissions

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Pacquiao shows you can fight in Nevada with broken feet, torn rotator cuffs, “broken skulls”

By Zach Arnold | May 5, 2015

Remember when Tito Ortiz said he fought in Las Vegas with a “broken skull”? Everyone chalked it up to another Tito exaggeration. It turned out that he was in a precarious position after all. Forrest Griffin, his opponent in Vegas, claimed that he fought with a broken foot.

And now Manny Pacquiao is claiming that he suffered a rotator cuff injury two weeks before his fight with Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao is claiming the Athletic Commission wouldn’t allow him to take an injection of Toradol. Francisco Aguilar, Andre Agassi’s lawyer and current Chairman of the Athletic Commission, claims that he will have Nevada’s Attorney General office investigate why Pacquiao selected “no” on an athletic commission document in regards to having an injury.

What, are they going to go after Manny Pacquiao under penalty of perjury? Nevada got the cash they wanted from the Pacquiao fight. Imagine what they would have done if Pacquiao had backed out of the fight.

Manny Pacquiao wasn’t going to back out of a fight with over 3 million PPV buys on the line. Manny Pacquiao wasn’t going to turn down tens of millions of dollars. To back out of a fight at the last minute would have been catastrophic not only for Pacquiao but also for the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Whether backing out would have been as catastrophic as his actual fight performance was on Saturday night is up for debate.

Fighters fight. They fight because they love to fight and they fight because they want the paycheck. In theory, this is the reason Athletic Commissions exist — to protect the health & safety of fighters in an ultrahazardous sport who often can’t and won’t protect themselves.

The onus is on the Athletic Commissions to put a stop to fights when they know that fighters are too injured for their own good. Where are the doctors? How are fighters with broken feet, torn rotator cuffs, and “broken skulls” allowed to walk into the cage? Hiding behind the “they didn’t tell us on a form!” excuse is embarrassing. Applying The Honor System to pre-fight medicals in 2015 is foolish.

OK, you can quit laughing now. It’s Nevada. This is currently the same athletic commission that has a board member who applied for a marijuana permit despite having a gaming license and the Gaming Commission telling him to back off. This same board member happens to vote on any marijuana-related drug suspensions of fighters.

In Nevada, they aren’t even trying to hide the shell game. What price is there to pay? None. Other than their image, which really doesn’t matter when the casinos are still making big bucks off of Floyd Mayweather and UFC events.

Now we have the dreadful prospects of a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch, perhaps in Texas — a state with even less regulatory discipline than Nevada. Nevada already got their big bite at the apple. Now we have a potential class-action lawsuit brewing in Clark County against Pacquiao & Top Rank.

What a legacy Governor Brian Sandoval is leaving behind with the Athletic Commission as he transitions into a 2016 Senatorial campaign.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

A pyrrhic Mayweather victory for Leonard Ellerbe and Al Haymon?

By Zach Arnold | May 2, 2015

And another Floyd Mayweather unanimous decision win. 116 x 112 (8 rounds to 4 rounds) twice, 118 x 110 (10 rounds to 2 rounds).

Look on the bright side. Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols reportedly had media credentialing problems due to Mayweather’s camp putting their foot down. It was humorous to watch the general sports media in an uproar over this when they never blink an eye to the tactics UFC has used against media writers in the past for obtaining or maintaining credentials. Hell, Beadle and Nichols getting stiffed was an orgasmic moment for sportswriters to get more shots in against Mayweather regarding his history of domestic violence.

As for who really won, you know who won:

I remember when Ken Hershman jumped to HBO after his tenure at Showtime and his many defenders said Ken just needed HBO’s resources to really stomp Showtime out as a player in boxing. Your guess is as good as mine on reading the tea leaves now.

Showtime ended up as a playground for Al Haymon. Now Haymon and his money marks are (reportedly) insanely paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast networks, along with cable networks ESPN & Spike TV, for airing events. At this point, who knows if Return on Investment is even a feasible or desirable option on the table if PPV isn’t the end game.

Worse, it’s clear that Haymon going all-in with pay-to-play deals means that TV executives aren’t going to open up their pocketbooks to pay for boxing events, especially on basic cable. It’s why ESPN killed Friday Night Fights. If/when Haymon’s experiment implodes, what will be left for boxing on basic cable (non-Showtime, non-HBO) or broadcast television? If Friday night’s Golden Boy event on Fox Sports 1 is any indication of what kind of cards you can expect on basic cable, heaven help us all.

Can’t wait for the next predictacle MMA sales pitch that Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo in July will be as big as Mayweather/Pacquiao and that UFC delivers what boxing can’t.

I am interested in the Association of Boxing Commissions trying to go after Al Haymon. It won’t go anywhere, at least I don’t think it will, but some eager attorney general looking for a high profile political fight could take a shot at Haymon with the Ali Act. I wonder who could be interested

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 13 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Innocent until proven guilty for Jon Jones, but will UFC have to suspend him?

By Zach Arnold | April 26, 2015

Jon Jones is now reportedly a suspect in a hit-and-run incident involving a pregnant woman as the driver of the other vehicle.

It’s impossible to imagine having worse PR than supposedly leaving drug rehab 24 hours after entering into a program. Making the alleged hit-and-run incident even worse is that it’s one month away from a big fight in Las Vegas involving Rumble Johnson.

In New Mexico, a misdemeanor for hit-and-run occurs when:

66-7-201. Accidents involving death or personal injuries.

D. Any person failing to stop or comply with the requirements of Section 66-7-203 NMSA 1978 where the accident does not result in great bodily harm or death is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced pursuant to the provisions of Subsection A of Section 31-19-1 NMSA 1978.

E. The director shall revoke the license or permit to drive and any nonresident operating privilege of the person so convicted.

Jones has a DWI on his record, albeit in New York state.

It’s bad enough that Jon Jones has now found himself in new legal trouble. What’s just as curious to watch is how UFC will handle this situation. When Jones got busted for cocaine on a Nevada State Athletic Commission drug test, UFC made a strange decision with Fox Sports to go all-in and tout Jones for a one-on-one interview regarding his drug usage. It was a train wreck, but it certainly didn’t hurt his standing amongst UFC fans because the anticipation for his fight against Rumble Johnson has been very ripe.

Lots of fighters have been accused of doing awful things. However, allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run with a pregnant woman as the other driver is a total nightmare for all parties involved.

How does UFC react to this latest situation?

UFC has to weigh their options on what to do with Jon Jones. Nothing has seemingly changed his level of judgment when it comes to making good or bad decisions. He’s dodged a lot of bullets. At some point, he may not dodge a bullet and really find himself in a predicament that will permanently stain his reputation and UFC’s reputation. Jon Jones is currently one of UFC’s two aces (Ronda being the other).

What is the emergency plan UFC has in place if things continue to escalate?

Addendum: According to Marc Raimondi, the police report allegedly points to marijuana in a rental car:

Inside the man’s vehicle, a silver Buick SUV, police found a marijuana pipe with marijuana in it and “paperwork belonging to a Jonathan Jones, which had MMA information on it from the state of Nevada,” the report stated. There was also Enterprise rental car paperwork inside the vehicle. Several phone calls placed to Jones at the time were unsuccessful.

And now that the pregnant driver has reportedly suffered a broken arm, Jon Jones is facing a felony charge.

All of the North American sports press is either in Chicago for the NFL Draft or in Las Vegas for Mayweather-Pacquiao. The timing could not be worse for UFC in terms of being a sitting duck in dealing with the press swarm in the desert right now.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 64 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

How fan antics at Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s California fight opens door for future lawsuits

By Zach Arnold | April 19, 2015

The California State Athletic Commission has officially opened the door for lawsuits due to the negligent behavior of regulators at the StubHub Center boxing event this past Saturday night.

Saturday night’s Showtime fight got ugly in a hurry when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. got his ass kicked. For as much of a liability as Chavez was in the ring, it was what happened outside of the ring in response to Chavez’s performance that should scare the hell out of Sacramento.

Key phrase: glass bottles.

At various shows across the state of California regulated by the Athletic Commission, athletic inspectors routinely allow venues & promoters to serve plastic or glass containers for beverages. Allowing glass or plastic bottles for selling beverages, rather than paper cups, is a blatant violation of California’s Code of Regulations, section 253:

§ 253. Drinks.

Clubs shall be responsible to see that all drinks are dispensed in paper cups.

There’s a reason this rule is on the books — negligence.

So why do regulators not enforce the rule against venues & promoters?

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A career-defining victory for Luke Rockhold on mystery UFC on Fox 15 TV card; Junior Chavez destroyed on Showtime

By Zach Arnold | April 18, 2015

Main card results from the Prudential Center in New Jersey:

Interesting that the focus post-match in the main event was on Rockhold’s comments about wanting to fight at MSG and whether or not he will get to face Chris Weidman later this year. Weidman said on TV that he has better skills than Rockhold in every aspect.

It was sad to watch. The crowd was surprised, if not shocked by the outcome. I was actually more intrigued by Rockhold’s t-shirt sponsor, Dip Your Car. They need to up their game to the level of Dynamic Fasteners.

The only fighter to have a worse night than Machida was Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Showtime against Andrzej Fonfara:

It was such a one-sided beatdown on the Chavez-friendly turf of StubHub Center. So much for any prospects of trying to sell a fight between Chavez and Andre Ward now.

Lucas Matthysse beat Ruslan Provodnikov after 12 rounds by majority decision in front of 4,500 paid at Turning Stone in Verona, New York.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Al Haymon’s CBS special full of Al Haymon Specials was garbage compared to UFC

By Zach Arnold | April 4, 2015

I loved the UFC Fairfax, Virginia show on Fox Sports 1. Mornings & afternoons aren’t my thing but the crowd was great and there were some wild moments that made the show completely worth watching.

And then there was the Al Haymon Special on CBS that was full of Al Haymon Specials that boxing fans have had to choke on for the last few years. Al Haymon promoting fights that Al Haymon the advisor allegedly gets a cut of. What an industry.

The Jorge Masvidal vs. Al Iaquinta fight was a textbook example of how MMA judges look for completely different standards when scoring a fight. This was a pro-Iaquinta crowd. One judge scored the fight 30-27 in favor of Masvidal. The crowd agreed. The other two judges scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Iaquinta. The crowd was super pissed. Masvidal tried to bolt out of the cage only to be stopped by someone. Iaquinta got pissed at the crowd booing and told them to stick it Hogan NWO-style. He left the cage after Masvidal. This was spectacular television. A built-in re-match.

Julianna Pena returned and was a wrecking machine. We basically saw the end of Gray Maynard. Ricardo Lamas is a good fighter who is no longer a serious contender. Chad Mendes delivered when it counted. I came into the show with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

I came into Al Haymon’s CBS show with a limited amount of expectations. His show turned out to be a dud. Mismatches galore for his event on CBS at Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City. Adonis Stevenson had his squash match with 15-to-1 underdog Sakio Bika. Artur Beterbiev dispatched of Gabriel Campillo with ease. Julian Williams housed Joey Hernandez. What a snore-fest.

NBC took pains to try to build up the fighters with some video packages on their telecast. CBS didn’t even bother. They labeled the event a “CBS Sports Spectacular,” which is the same vernacular they use to market rodeo or skiing events that air against Fox NFL games for filler. Fans are conditioned to look it as a low level deal when they see the “sports spectacular” phrase. The only positive for the show was Kevin Harlan & Paulie Malignaggi working the mic.

The telecast went out of its way to avoid using sanctioning body names although they couldn’t hide the shirt patches that the refs were wearing. There were fighters cutting promos for fights on other networks but they couldn’t say what those networks were. There was only a brief mention of upcoming events after the end of R1 of Stevenson/Bika.

Bizarrely, it appeared that the ring announcer was not in the ring again just like the NBC event. Haymon’s McMahon-esque quirks.

In a three hour block of paid TV time, it hardly appeared that Haymon’s operation was able to obtain significant sponsorship at all. His strategy of buying TV time everywhere at some point has to return an investment to his money marks. PPV is the only vehicle to pull this off. The CBS event came across as just another sanitized boxing show. Boxing writer Steve Kim says a big part of the fun with boxing is covering the carnival-like atmosphere. You certainly don’t get that with Haymon’s shows. But hey, ESPN has killed off Friday Night Fights to take the Haymon TV pay days. What will happen if Haymon’s deal implodes and TV networks demand promoters pay them as opposed to paying promoters to produce shows? Scorched Earth.

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

How Ronda Rousey symbolizes the UFC’s tumultuous relationship with WWE

By Zach Arnold | March 29, 2015

Of all the events that transpired at this year’s Wrestlemania in Santa Clara, it looks like Ronda Rousey’s partnership with The Rock against Triple H & Stephanie McMahon will be one of the most enduring moments from the show.

With ESPN now going all-in to cover both UFC & WWE, there is more value in ever in Ronda’s cross-over appeal to both audiences. Hell, both organizations pull from the same audience demographics.

Rousey’s appearance at WM has reportedly been in the works for a while. She and The Rock share the same agent. One very interested party right now is Rousey’s former agent, Darin Harvey, who is finishing up the arbitration process in Los Angeles Superior Court right now. (Case number: BS147674). He may finally see a pay day.

The comparisons between Ronda Rousey & Brock Lesnar in terms of business leverage between UFC & WWE are interesting to analyze. Lesnar, like Kevin Nash, likes wrestling but treats it as a business. It’s created a bit of a cold resentment from fans. Rousey, on the other hand, balances that act much better. She’s a genuine wrestling fan. She loves fighting. She loves both UFC & WWE. It shines through on camera. UFC and WWE both benefit from her apperanace on their TV & PPV platforms. With Lesnar, it’s a zero-sum game. UFC benefits from Rousey’s appearance on WWE TV because it’s a larger audience and UFC can continue to benefit from her Tyson-esque stature in both wrestling & entertainment circles. WWE benefits from having the toughest woman in combat sports who has the movie star looks & athletic ability that anybody can buy into.

Ironically, Lesnar has more potential rivals in UFC that you’re more interested in watching him there than rivals in WWE. With Ronda, it’s the reverse situation.

Before there was a Wrestlemania, WWE got in bed with a music channel called MTV to form the Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection. WWE helped build MTV with Cyndi Lauper, Dave Wolff, and The War to Settle the Score between Roddy Piper & Hulk Hogan. Rowdy Roddy then, Rowdy Ronda today. And just as Hulk Hogan had a stare-down at ringside with one Mr. T at MSG, Rock had his staredown with Ronda at Wrestlemania. Hogan & Mr. T tagged for Wrestlemania 1 at MSG in 1985. The dream scenario of Rock & Rousey tagging 30 years later at a future Wrestlemania has everyone drooling. The WWE helped build MTV 30 years ago with the help of Mr. T. Ronda Rousey could now help build the WWE Network if UFC allows her to wrestle in a WWE ring.

We know WWE obsesses about being relevant in mainstream pop culture. They will do lots of celebrity spots in order to get a mention or two on ESPN or on a show like The Insider. The difference here with Ronda is that people want to see her fight and will pay to watch her do her thing. Nobody’s going to be paying to watch Snoop team with Hogan at Staples Center.

WWE & UFC have always been strange, uncomfortable bedfellows and the Lesnar saga this past week highlighted the tension perfectly. With Ronda Rousey, UFC is going to have to make a decision: do they let her dabble into the spectrum of WWE matches in order to keep her happy and loyal long-term or do they draw a line in the sand and maintain their “no wrestling” position with their fighters? Given the fact that there is plenty of money for MMA fighters to make in professional wrestling, UFC may have to consider absorbing the risk of letting fighters wrestle on the side if it means less complaints about fighter pay and threats of unionization. A hold-on-loosely but-don’t-let-go partnership with WWE may be more of a benefit in 2015 than a hindrance for their bottom line.

Topics: MMA, Media, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

What Brock Lesnar could have been for UFC in 2015 & what he will be for WWE now

By Zach Arnold | March 29, 2015

Brock Lesnar is hours away from headlining Wrestlemania at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. It almost could have blown up in everyone’s face had he not re-committed to WWE. Or maybe not.

The whole build up to Wrestlemania in the Bay Area has been flat out strange. The state Athletic Commission continues to tax WWE mega-events in the state while arbitrarily enforcing their regulatory powers. I’m amazed with so much money on the line that WWE hasn’t bothered to send the lawyers to file a basic writ of mandate to force the Athletic Commission to back off. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here for a gate tax.

Then there’s the actual main event and the enigmatic Lesnar. The fans only care about him when he’s wrecking someone. Summerslam 2014 was hot. Then ice cold until Royal Rumble and back to ice cold until recently for Wrestlemania 2015. The majority of the talk heading into the event has been about Roman Reigns. Charitably-speaking, Lesnar’s a bore for WWE fans when he’s not hurting someone. Paul Heyman has been doing some of his all-time best promo work and yet the fans are treating his verbosity as a timeout for a nap. There’s a reason the ratings haven’t been all that great with Lesnar as champion. His win over Undertaker last year at Wrestlemania remains more interesting for a debate than what he’s up to now.

Brock Lesnar played Vince McMahon. UFC played WWE. Lesnar played UFC. They all played each other and didn’t bother hiding it. In the end, WWE predictably caved. Lesnar decided he didn’t want to have Cain Velasquez put him in a fetal position again. And UFC was prepared to give Lesnar the moon and the stars. For all of the talk about how much momentum UFC has generated the first four months of 2015, they also know that no one on their roster can reach the ceiling that Lesnar has previously established.

You don’t reportedly offer someone up to 10 times what you were originally paying them unless you’re really desperate. Brock Lesnar sells PPVs. He’s not a regular ratings attraction or a gate attraction. He’s a big money fight guy and that’s it. Even with UFC diversifying their business model, PPV still is a critical component and Lesnar trumps anyone they have in selling PPVs. Earlier in the week, I received an e-mail purporting to be from the University of Missouri and it was touting a UFC marketing study which stated the obvious: the heavyweight fights sell the most PPVs for UFC by a significant margin. The current depth of the MMA heavyweight scene is bleak. Brock Lesnar could still fit into the MMA scene in 2015 because of this. Unlike the other weight classes, Heavyweight mostly remains stuck in time. This was the leverage Lesnar possessed. A stale heavyweight scene with an oft-injured champion and on-going TV exposure thanks to WWE.

So why the desperation from both UFC & WWE to obtain Lesnar’s services when his current WWE run has been rather milquetoast for the most part? Fear. With New York state looking very likely to pass MMA legislation soon, the very last thing Vince McMahon wants to see is UFC running an event on his home turf at Madison Square Garden with Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir as the main event. Lesnar headlining MSG for UFC would have been a killer to Vince. WWE helped boost the modern UFC era with RAW as the Spike TV lead-in for Ultimate Fighter. That turned out to be a difficult pill to swallow for McMahon. Lesnar headlining MSG for UFC’s entrance into New York would have burned Vince’s ass.

WWE ended up paying for a new deal with Brock Lesnar. Who knows how this next run will turn out. Strangely enough, Lesnar has more intriguing rivals in UFC than he currently does in WWE after Wrestlemania. I suspect more fans would be interested in Lesnar/Mir III than Lesnar/Undertaker: the rematch. Curiously, Lesnar’s return to WWE will be linked with CM Punk’s tenure in UFC. Who ended up with the better end of the bargain? That question has been asked several times over the weekend in Bay Area media circles. Get used to hearing it more as the hype starts for Punk’s first UFC bout.

Topics: MMA, Media, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 years after cheating scandal, California’s on the run over Javier Capetillo’s new license

By Zach Arnold | March 19, 2015

Antonio Margarito’s boxing trainer, Javier Capetillo, had his California license revoked in 2009. He was issued a new seconds license in 2014. And now the California State Athletic Commission claims they never gave him a new license despite their own documentation stating a new license was granted on September 22nd, 2014.

The story of Javier Capetillo, current trainer/second for Margarito’s fighters, is well-documented. In January of 2009, trainer Naazim Richardson busted Antonio Margarito for illegal hand-wraps. Writer Paul Magno shared his disgust on the situation in this article. Richardson alerted Athletic Commission representatives, which included athletic inspectors Che Guevara & Mike Bray along with Chief Athletic Inspector Dean Lohuis.

After the California State Athletic Commission disciplinary hearing for both Margarito & Capetillo, the careers of Bray & Lohuis were destroyed in a fit of retaliation because they told the truth about the Margarito incident. Inexplicably, Guevara was rewarded Lohuis’s job as Chief Athletic Inspector.

Margarito was suspended by the Athletic Commission body for one year. Capetillo lost his license because Margarito got busted for plaster of paris. The incident immediately triggered memories of Panama Lewis & Luis Resto in New York circa 1983. “Murder, plain and simple” as writer Randy Gordon claimed at the time. The movie Assault in the Ring is available on Amazon Instant Video.

New York’s athletic commission denied Luis Resto a second’s license. It appears California is a more forgiving place for cheaters and approving a 59 year old woman a fight against a 300-pounder.

ESPN Deportes reported that Javier Capetillo had been granted a seconds license in September of 2014 to work in California. Possessing such a license would signal the OK to other state athletic commissions to approve Capetillo if requested. Official athletic commission documentation, dated March 5th, 2015 reveals that Capetillo was licensed as a second:

Alternatively, Capetillo is not listed by the Athletic Commission as possessing a trainer’s license despite the fact that he trains boxers in Montebello, California at Ponce De Leon Boxing Club and in Mexico. In November of 2014, Capetillo was interviewed about obtaining his seconds license in California:

Since this video was posted on Youtube, here is a timeline of recent events:

  • Approximately two weeks ago, sources within the Athletic Commission contacted us because they were concerned that Javier Capetillo was going to work Al Haymon’s Spike TV boxing show in Ontario, California.
  • On March 9th, 2015, we formally filed a California Public Records Act request asking for the licensing application that Javier Capetillo had filled out. Capetillo had not appeared in front of the Athletic Commission body as a whole to obtain a new license after the cheating scandal.
  • On the day of the Al Haymon boxing event in Ontario, Capetillo was supposedly turned away from the arena and not allowed to work the corner for Margarito fighter Miguel Vazquez. According to Ernie Gabion, Vazquez’s opponent Jerry Belmontes protested to the Athletic Commission about Capetillo.

1. If the Athletic Commission approved a new license administratively for Javier Capetillo, what legal grounds did Jerry Belmontes and his camp have in getting Capetillo removed from the show?

2. What legal grounds did the Athletic Commission have in not allowing Capetillo to work the show if their own official documentation said he was licensed?

On March 18th, 2015, we received the following response from the Athletic Commission to our CPRA request for Capetillo’s license application form:

The California State Athletic Commission has received your request for public records. Under the Information Practices Act, if an application for license is not granted, the application is exempt from disclosure. Mr. Javier Capetillo applied for licensure in September 2014, and was not issued a license.

This contradicts the status of Javier Capetillo’s license as stated on the Athletic Commission’s own web site:

Exhausting administrative remedy, we will file a formal complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs to request the licensing application form Javier Capetillo filled out.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Kings (of) MMA: Rafael Dos Anjos & Rafael Cordeiro eat the Wheaties

By Zach Arnold | March 14, 2015

ESPN’s initial headline coming out of the UFC 185 main event was: dos Anjos embarrasses Pettis

UFC 185 on Saturday night in Dallas, Texas:

  • Henry Cejudo defeated Chris Cariaso after 3R by unanimous decision.
  • Heavyweights: Alistair Overeem defeated Roy Nelson after 3R by unanimous decision.
  • Welterweights: Johny Hendricks defeated Matt Brown after 3R by unanimous decision.
  • UFC Strawweight title match: Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated Carla Esparza in R2 (4′17) by TKO.
  • UFC Lightweight title match: Rafael Dos Anjos defeated Anthony Pettis after 5R by unanimous decision.

A lot of one-sided fights. And the heavyweight fight on the prelims with Jake Rosholt was… something. Mike Goldberg was hyping the UFC HW division as talent-filled. That… it is not.

As for the ladies’ title fight:

This card had nowhere near the buzz despite, on paper, looking significantly more attractive than UFC 184 at Staples Center. There was a tip off that internal projections must not have been super hot:

Irregardless of how well this card drew (or didn’t) on PPV, I have all the respect in the world for what Rafael Cordeiro has accomplished as an MMA coach over the last two decades. He’s a Hall-of-Famer when it is all said and done. He simply manages to draw the best out of the fighters he works with. Well deserving of high praise & recognition. No matter how big the stage his fighters perform on, they do well. Kings MMA.

This Patrick Wyman feature at Sherdog from last February with Rafael Cordeiro is mandatory reading material.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Governor Jerry Brown appoints his brother-in-law to California State Athletic Commission

By Zach Arnold | March 11, 2015

Two rather intriguing appointments made by Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday. The athletic commission body members currently:

  • John Carvelli (Chairman – Liberty Dental HMO, shares same lobbying firm as UFC, money man from Southern California)
  • Mary Lehman (former boxer, currently an appellate lawyer, Southern California)
  • Martha Shen-Urquidez (lawyer, consigliere for Andy Foster & Big John McCarthy, Southern California)
  • John Frierson (decades-old friend of Jerry Brown, Southern California)
  • Dr. Christopher Giza (long-time UCLA doctor, Southern California)

Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons, a Sacramento doctor, was termed out from the board. Appointed today:

Van Gordon Sauter, 79, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the California State Athletic Commission. Sauter is former president of CBS News and Fox News. He began his career producing television commercials for a large advertising agency in New York City and later entered journalism. He worked as a newspaper reporter in New Bedford, Detroit and Chicago, Illinois, reporting on Vietnam, civil rights and urban violence. Sauter was also a television anchorman in Chicago, Illinois and CBS News bureau chief in Paris, France. He is the author of three non-fiction books, including the recently published coffee table book, “The Sun Valley Story,” an anecdotal history of the nation’s premiere heritage ski resort. Sauter is a former chairman of the California State Athletic Commission. He earned a Master of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Sauter is registered without party preference.

Vernon B. Williams, 47, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the California State Athletic Commission. Williams has been chief medical officer at the Sports Concussion Institute since 2007, where he was director of the pain management clinic from 2005 to 2007, and has been director of pain management at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic since 1997. He was medical director at HealthSouth Physical Therapy from 1999 to 2005 and an investigator and staff clinician at Innovative Medical Research Inc. from 1994 to 1997. Williams was director of medical student core neurology curriculum at the University of Maryland Medical Center Department of Neurology from 1995 to 1996. He is chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s Sport Neurology Section and is a founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine’s Sports Neurology Fellowship at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, where he is a founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology and chief compliance officer of the Compliance Committee. Williams earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Michigan. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Williams is a Democrat.

Van Gordon Sauter used to be Chairman of the Athletic Commission over a decade ago. Bill Plaschke in The LA Times (April of 2003) ripped into Van Gordon Sauter for pushing approval to let Mike Tyson fight at Staples Center.

“It’s not like we’re licensing a wicket-keeper in a cricket match,” Sauter said. “This is not a tidy business.”

“Well, once you get past the social issues, there’s the obvious huge boost that the fight will bring to the city’s economy,” said Sauter.

The Los Angeles Times points out that Governor Brown’s press release on Sauter’s appointment did not mention the family tie-in.

Remember when I said how politicized California’s athletic commission is and how all the big boys in Sacramento, for one reason or another, obsess with getting their hands involved in Athletic Commission decision making despite the fact that the agency has a miniscule budget?

To fill up the final two slots on the Athletic Commission, we now have two more Southern California individuals. Nobody from Northern California. To not see anyone from Northern California on the athletic commission board is politically remarkable. The one guy on the board who has juice in Sacramento is Carvelli due to his monied connections.

What this likely cements is that the Athletic Commission meetings will continue to stay away from Sacramento. I understand the ulterior motive of wanting to try to keep as many people from Consumer Affairs away as possible from the meetings. However, having zero representation from Northern California on the board and having one meeting a year in Sacramento is a complete disadvantage for anyone not in Southern California who wants to actually participate.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Al Haymon’s PBC boxing experiment only works if he cashes in on PPV

By Zach Arnold | March 7, 2015

After watching the debut of Al Haymon’s PBC promotion on NBC with Robert Guerrero vs. Keith Thurman, my impression of what Haymon is attempting to accomplish in his business venture remained unchanged. This business venture will only work if Haymon can convince his television partners long-term to do barter deals instead of massive pay-for-play contracts. The only value for being on network television at this point is if the TV network is all-in promoting the shows (which was not the case with NBC for Saturday’s event) or if Haymon can build up his fighters to cash in on PPV. It’s no different than all the money marks who have tried to compete with UFC over the years. The difference is that Haymon is reportedly bankrolled by a couple of hundred million dollars.

In many ways, I’m not sure what historical context fits best here. We know Haymon would love to create a UFC-style model. By paying television networks money to air shows, it turns those very networks against paying out a lot of money to other promoters for shows. We’ve heard the rumblings, via Steve Kim, that ESPN is growing tired of paying money for Friday Night Fight events. In that respect, Haymon’s ploy feels a bit like Vince McMahon raiding the territories in the 80s and pushing them off the television landscape. The difference is that Top Rank still has HBO in their corner.

With the way Haymon is reportedly using money mark cash, it reminds me a bit of the SWS experiment gone wrong in Japan in the early 90s. In April of 1990, All Japan worked with Vince McMahon for the Wrestling Summit event at the Tokyo Dome and New Japan participated as well. McMahon had his various odd requests for certain things on the show. Anyhow, the match that would forever change history there was Gen’ichiro Tenryu vs. Randy Savage. After the spectacle drew big heat, Tenryu and associates bolted All Japan and created SWS the next year. They poached the WWE alliance and thought it would work. It failed. SWS had visions of getting on network TV ala Haymon’s PBC but couldn’t do it. The major difference is that PPV has never been a factor in Japan whereas it is the financial lynchpin for combat sports in North America. The other difference is that Tenryu escaped his SWS failure by turning out to be one of the most brilliant self-promoters ever by working with all the other major promoters. Haymon’s not a star to any casual boxing fan and I’m not sure how many promoters will work with him if PBC fails.

So, I’m not sure the SWS analogy totally fits with what Haymon is trying to pull off. What about an analogy to PRIDE? PRIDE lost big cash under Hiromichi Momose and ended up under the auspices of Fuji TV. Fuji TV pumped in significant cash. A couple hundred million bucks. It proved to draw huge ratings. Sometimes nearly 20 million viewers. The difference is that Fuji TV had the major ad agencies on their side and easily racked up the inventory. With Antonio Inoki’s vision, Fuji TV turned New Year’s Eve into the mega-holiday in all of combat sports. Of course, PRIDE allegedly turned out to be nothing more than a vehicle for different business factions to pass money through with various dummy companies supposedly attached to the operation. I don’t see Haymon’s PBC turning out to be like PRIDE. If UFC hasn’t been able to turn their numbers on Fox into PRIDE-style broadcast TV ratings with Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, I seriously doubt Haymon’s going to do the same with Broner or Thurman.

PRIDE worked because Fuji TV had skin in the game. The US networks have no skin in the game with Al Haymon. UFC worked because The Ultimate Fighter clicked and Spike TV went all-in, which in turn helped PPV grow with Tito Ortiz & Ken Shamrock. In order for Haymon to get any return on investment to his financial backers, he will have to get them money on the back-end from PPV or else get money through network television advertising. I could perhaps see the former but definitely not the latter.

While I was happy to watch the NBC show, I’m still uncertain on what the long game is here and why NBC will look at PBC any differently than they look at a standard NHL game they put on Saturday night to fill television time.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 13 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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