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Internal memos from Sacramento CSAC office reveal utter chaos & rules violations

By Zach Arnold | September 12, 2012

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Since the events that transpired this past weekend at the Tachi Palace show (streamed online by Sherdog) in Lemoore, California, we’ve had a flood of tips from insiders about some of the chaos on the ground at shows regulated by the California State Athletic Commission. Referee Marcos Rosales found himself suffering the brunt of online fury for bad officiating of fights at the Tachi event, but he has not been the only one under the microscope this past weekend for being involved in what can only be described as utter chaos in Sacramento.

Before we tell you about what transpired at the K-1 event this past Saturday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, there is something you should know that is going down behind the scenes that provides a perfect illustration of how the Department of Consumer Affairs is destroying any sense of competency with CSAC.

We have gotten our hands on some internal memos sent out by the Sacramento office to CSAC workers that reveal just how reckless, careless, and law-breaking the attitude is right now towards fighters and promoters. If you think the inspectors have a thankless job right now regulating shows under the ‘3 inspector policy,’ wait until you read some of the marching orders being dished out by Consumer Affairs.

Screwballs, screw-ups, & screwjobs

For an operation that screwed up drug testing protocols at the Strikeforce show last month in San Diego, can’t manage a box office and is missing up to 7-figures in revenue due to not auditing ticket manifests, can’t seem to avoid illegal hand-wraps & skinned gloves at shows where fighters & trainers are openly cheating, and is openly altering fighter paperwork & losing medical documentation… everything sure seems to be really rosy right now as far as getting the job done, isn’t it?

One of the worst aspects about the California State Athletic Commission not auditing the event packages after they arrive in Sacramento (from the lead inspectors) is that they aren’t auditing the licensing application transactions involving fighters, seconds, and managers. They aren’t checking the revenue amounts to see if more licenses are being issued than the amount of money that has been properly collected. In other words, if promoters or inspectors are pocketing some of the cash from the transactions as opposed to sending the revenue back to Sacramento.

It is this kind of disregard of the law that has blasted the door wide open to all sorts of funny business when it comes to the licensing process with the commission.

In a startling memo sent last Friday at 5 PM by Department of Consumer Affairs lifer Kathi Burns to those who work for the California State Athletic Commission, Burns issued new guidelines regarding the licensing application transaction process. Standard protocol has been for those filing out a licensing application to pay by check, cash, or have their fees deducted from the fight purse. Simple enough to follow, right? You take care of the transactions at the weigh-ins the day before an event, the lead inspector gives the parties involved a receipt, and the transaction is documented in the event package envelope sent back to Sacramento.

As we’ve demonstrated in previous articles, many lead inspectors simply are not documenting the licensing application transactions because they’re not producing the receipts. This results in fighters being asked at their next event to fill out new application forms and lead inspectors are being ordered by Sacramento to back-date the documentation.

So, given that pretext, Kathi Burns sent out a memo giving inspectors some bizarre orders regarding the licensing process.

3. Do not issue the standard license/receipt for application payments that come to us in the mail, unless the license is ready to issue at the time the payment is received – meaning all licensing requirements have been met. Once the applicant has met all of the licensing requirements, then the receipt and license can be completed and mailed out. Inspectors – do not issue the receipt/license in the field (weigh-in) to a fighter who is paying the fee out of their purse. Give them the license during suspension/payoff, after they have fought and there is a purse to deduct from. We can’t issue the license without obtaining the fee. This also prevents us from issuing licenses to fighters who back out at the last minute and therefore have no purse from which to deduct the fee.

4. Everyone – please try to get fighters to pay the application fee before they fight. We need to get away from having it deducted from their purse. I know this seems difficult, but procedurally, it’s the right thing to do.

(Ed. — Preferably, the fighters should be licensed prior to the weigh-in. That’s the best-case scenario, but it’s never followed through. This should be done by the Sacramento office before the event package is prepared. If it was handled properly and professionally, that’s the way things should be done.)

Fighters should (ed — shall) be fully licensed prior to stepping in the ring/cage and in order to be fully licensed, the application fee needs to have been paid.

Internal blowback

Before I break down just how nonsensical these remarks are, let’s take a look at a response sent by the uncle of Chief Athletic Inspector Che Guevara, Joe Guevara. The remarks were sent to Kathi Burns on Monday morning.

#3 and 4 Correct me if I’m wrong but, doesn’t a fighter supposed to be licensed before he/she is to sign a contract to fight? Why are we continuing to allow the promoter and fighter to get away with this simple rule?

It turns out Uncle Joe is exactly right. Look at the rules & regulations:

§ 216. License Required.

Boxer and managers licensed in other jurisdictions signing a contract with a promoter to box in this state shall have made application for a license with this commission and the boxer shall have been issued a license prior to signing any contract. Failure to comply with this rule may result in denial of any application received from such boxer or manager pending a hearing before the commission.

NOTE: Authority cited: Section 18611, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Sections 18640, 18641 and 18642, Business and Professions Code.

The reason we highlight the difference between “should” and “shall” is that the law uses the word shall. Shall leaves no room for interpretation. You know what it means. “Should” can be used as a weasel word for flexibility of enforcing the law, which is entirely possible if you have someone sending a memo to an inspector who doesn’t know all the rules & regulations in the first place.

Now, with that squared away, let’s break down Kathi’s marching orders here.

do not issue the receipt/license in the field (weigh-in) to a fighter who is paying the fee out of their purse.

This is, without a doubt, total BS.

If the commission is going after promoters for needing at least $50,000 in liquid assets in order to cover payroll for shows, then why would the commission be worried about getting their cash for license fees from the purse if the promoter has to ensure they have the funds to pay everyone in the first place?

If the front office was doing their job and auditing the event packages being sent to them by the lead inspectors, then they could take care of any discrepancies regarding the box office numbers by contacting the promoter in question and squaring away any sort of financial differences. Because they don’t do audit the paperwork they are supposed to audit, you end up with all kinds of screwed up box office numbers. Again, this falls entirely on the commission to do their job in the first place by following their own rules & regulations — something which they never do. So, instead of worrying about hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in missing revenue, they are worried about nickel-and-dime crap regarding fighters getting licensed. Perfect. Penny wise and pound foolish thy name is Sacramento.

In the bigger picture, it has always been protocol to allow licensees to have fees deducted from their purse. Some fighters simply aren’t going to show up with the cash to be able to cover the costs of the the licensing transactions. There is nothing wrong with asking for the fees to be deducted from the fight purse, especially when you are vigorously enforcing a rule on the book that says that the promoter must have $50,000 in liquid assets available to cover a show.

Give them the license during suspension/payoff, after they have fought and there is a purse to deduct from. We can’t issue the license without obtaining the fee. This also prevents us from issuing licenses to fighters who back out at the last minute and therefore have no purse from which to deduct the fee.

If you give a fighter, trainer, second, or manager their license after the fight has taken place, how can you suspend any of them for any adverse actions that took place during a fight (breaking of the rules such as illegal hand-wraps) when you, as a commission, allowed a person to fight while legally unlicensed? You can’t. It’s like a fighter who fails a drug test when they’re not official licensed. You can stop from licensing them but you can’t suspend them. Same deal here.

Common sense tells you that if you are instructing inspectors to finalize the licensing transaction after a fight, then why are you as a commission allowing said individuals to sign commission-approved fight contracts at the weigh-ins before the event?

Furthermore, if someone applies for a license and they don’t pay the fee, common sense would tell you that the lead inspector would simply notify the Sacramento office about the fee not being paid and the person in question wouldn’t be allowed to participate at the show because they aren’t licensed. It’s a no harm, no foul situation. Why is this an issue for the CSAC front office now? Maybe because they haven’t been auditing the licensing fee transactions all along in the event packages being sent to them by the lead inspectors at shows?

Fighters should be fully licensed prior to stepping in the ring/cage and in order to be fully licensed, the application fee needs to have been paid.

One paragraph above in the same memo, she’s instructing the lead inspectors to not finalize the licensing transaction until after the fight has taken place. Is your head spinning like everyone else that has read this memo and tried to decipher what it means? It should be.

The response

After Uncle Joe Guevara plainly stated the obvious problem with Kathi Burns’ memo that was sent out last Friday, Burns responded on Monday morning with this memo to everyone:

It’s not simple and in a perfect world a lot of things would be different. Let’s just try to make the best of it until things can change.

Regarding the handing out of the license/receipt – It’s OK so hand out the license/receipts on the day of the fight, before the fight, instead of after each bout. Just don’t hand them out at the weigh-in. If the fighter shows up at the event, it’s pretty likely that the fight will occur and the purse will be earned and available to cover the licensing fees. I understand trying to find and hand out licenses/receipt to seconds after the bout would be very difficult.

How did the fighter get on the event card and sign a contract if “fees need to have been paid”? These things can only be done if the fighter is licensed. This is a prime example that Kathy and Che have no clue as to what they are doing, unless they are just trying to confuse the event staff.

Her response to Joe Guevara is to back down from giving out the receipt for the applications after the fight but to not give the receipt at the weigh-ins? What is the big deal here about the lead inspectors giving the receipts at the weigh-ins? The weigh-ins happen to be where the fight contracts are signed, so why is she still demanding that fighters sign the bout agreements while legally being considered unlicensed fighters? Kathi didn’t alleviate Uncle Joe’s concern here regarding boxers & managers who are unlicensed from signing bout agreements that the commission signs off on.

The only change in her language is how fast she backed off from the “no purse deduction’ policy. Within 72 hours, you go from telling everyone to no longer let fighters deduct fees from their purse (“and in order to be fully licensed, the application fee needs to have been paid”) to saying it’s OK since the fighter in question is likely to show up at the event and fight?

What the hell is going on here?

Instructions for drug testing protocols opens up a can of worms

Kathi Burns caused chaos with her drug testing protocols at the Strikeforce show in San Diego. If you thought the drama ended there with drug testing and inspectors, think again.

A memo was sent out to inspectors with instructions on how to implement drug testing protocols that the Sacramento office wants used. This memo was sent out by Kathi Burns, the same person who messed up the labeling protocols when she handled the drug testing at the Strikeforce show last month in San Diego. The same person who had not handled athletic drug testing before in her life until she decided to oversee it at the San Diego event. Yeah, her, she’s the one who is sending out this drug testing memo to the inspectors at CSAC.

Take a look at these instructions:


1. Testing should be done the day of the event, before or after the fight.

2. All testing must be directly observed, unless a gender specific inspector is unavailable. Remember, it is your job to ensure that the athlete does not cheat.

3. If testing for Steroids, mark CSAC #1, if testing for Drugs of Abuse mark CSAC #2. If testing for both, mark both.

4. Use the last 4 digits of the athlete’s social security number for the Sample Code number – mark the numbers in the first four boxes. DO NOT fill-in the left over boxes. If the fighter does not have SS #, use their visa or other ID card number.

5. Write last 4 digits of Athletes social on the front of the urine cup, and on the seal label. The new seal label has a place for Initials – DO NOT initial, instead write the 4 digit number there, as well as on the front of the cup.

6. DO NOT POP CUP. Just throw away the key (if the cup is popped the test is invalid)

7. Send in to UCLA as normal – address is on the lab slip.

8. REMEMBER: the sample cannot leave the custody of the CSAC. It must be securely maintained at all times.

On point #1, do you notice the vagueness there regarding which tests can/should be done – are we talking about the steroid test or are we talking about the drugs of abuse test, which includes diuretics? There’s a lot of problems with this guideline. For example, if you give the test for drugs of abuse to a fighter before they fight and you allow them some time after the test to get ready for their fight, what’s to say that they can’t pop a greenie (amphetamine) and essentially eliminate the importance of the test?

The second problem is if you administer the test for drugs of abuse with a fighter before their bout and you decide to do a preliminary reading out in the field using reagents and your preliminary test results indicates something may be wrong — what are you going to do about it? Are you going to stop the fight from happening? If you stop a fight from happening and the UCLA lab checks out the sample and says that it was a false positive, aren’t you opening yourself up to a big lawsuit there? By the same token, what if the preliminary test reading comes back positive, you ignore the result, and you let the fight go on and someone in the fight gets hurt? Imagine that scenario where someone gets hurt, the sample in the preliminary reading is positive, and the UCLA lab runs their analysis on the sample and it turns out positive? You have a huge mess on your hands then.

On point #2, there shouldn’t be an issue regarding gender-specific inspectors being available to procure drug testing samples. The Northern California crew includes Sarah Waklee & Nichole Bowles. The Southern California crew includes Valerie Douglas, who works for the state’s Corrections department. There are female inspectors who can get the samples from female fighters and we know there are plenty of male inspectors who can get the urine samples from male fighters. So, why are the female inspectors procuring urine samples from the men and male inspectors procuring urine samples from the ladies?

Notice the language used here — if you don’t have the right gender of inspector, the inspector in question therefore cannot directly observe the testing? What is this about?

On point #5, what is the point of having a seal label that can be initialed and then instructing the inspectors to not initial it? The point of inspectors putting their initials on the label is to demonstrate the chain of custody process. It ties in with point #8. Custody is not the issue. Chain of custody is the issue. There’s a difference. If Inspector A transfers the sample to Inspector B and Inspector C sends it off to the UCLA lab, all three inspectors need to be able to testify that they handled the sample. Chain of custody, not just plain custody of the sample, is the key.

K-1, CSAC troubles in Los Angeles

While Kathi Burns & Che Guevara were at the Andre Ward/Chad Dawson fight in Oakland this past Saturday night, a K-1 event was taking place at the LA Sports Arena. Mohammad Noor, the veteran #1 Southern California inspector, was reportedly sent by the athletic commission to oversee the regulatory process.

A couple of days ago, we received a tip from a very trustworthy insider that K-1 had used a 16 foot x 16 foot ring for the LA event. That, of course, is a no-no. The rules & regulations state that you need at least an 18 x 18 ring, with a 20 x 20 ring also an option. Here’s the rule on the books that spells this out:

§ 310. Ring.

The ring shall be not less than 17 feet square within the ropes. The ring floor shall extend beyond the ropes not less than 18 inches. The ring floor shall be padded in a manner as approved by the commission. Padding must extend beyond the ring ropes and over the edge of the platform.

NOTE: Authority cited: Section 18611, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Sections 18640, 18724 and 18725, Business and Professions Code.

In conversations with numerous sources (all on background, none wanted to go on the record), here is the general picture that can be painted regarding why a 16 x 16 ring was used at the show.

Allegedly, the crew that was bringing the (wrong) ring tried to take it to the LA Sports Arena venue last Friday but were supposedly denied entry. When officials from the athletic commission showed up at the building on Saturday, the ring wasn’t supposedly set up. Things dragged on and the show started late. When it was all said and done, the lead inspector signed off on K-1 using the 16 x 16 ring and gave the go ahead for the show to proceed. Whether they called Che Guevara or Kathi Burns on the phone to get clearance, that I don’t know — although I suspect someone like Mo made sure to run this by them first for approval so he wouldn’t take the brunt of the blame.

I can sympathize with a promoter having ring & venue issues, but fighters train to fight in an 18 x 18 ring (or bigger). A 16 x 16 ring is a small ring for a professional fight. It’s more of a club-size ring, at best.

There was also another curious happening at the event and it involved one of the judges, who was supposedly placed next to the media for seating. This is one of those deals that can raise a red flag because of the potential for the media to know about the scoring of a fight before everyone else does in the building. If the media is breathing down a judge’s neck, it may influence the way a judge scores the fight.

If you’re going to seat judges alongside media writers, you may as well have live scoring available for everybody in the arena. And if you’re going to allow 16 x 16 rings, you kind of give up the right to castigate other promoters who are using irregular rings or want to use their own set-up. The commission may think playing favorites is fine, but I suspect other promoters will not be so happy about this.


The bottom line is that there are proverbial fires needing to be extinguished at various shows taking place in California right now. In responding to these incidents, the leadership in the Sacramento office (Kathi Burns & Che Guevara) are proving to be clueless in how to put out the fires in a responsible, lawful manner.

However, there are individuals in the front office who do understand how their behavior is wrong and are simply not interested in making the right calls. They’re more interested in being involved in activity that I could argue is legitimately criminal in nature. Thanks to DCA head honchos Denise Brown and Awet Kidane, CSAC has become the ultimate poster child for a dysfunctional political operation in Sacramento.

DCA getting rid of George Dodd as Executive Officer really improved working conditions at CSAC, didn’t it?

A fish rots from the head and it’s easy to see why there is a lot of chaos happening at many events regulated by the California State Athletic Commission.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, K-1, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “Internal memos from Sacramento CSAC office reveal utter chaos & rules violations”

  1. Jonathan Snowden says:

    You can actually use a much bigger ring for kickboxing in California. That’s neither here nor there, but they can be up to 32 feet, which is enormous.

    § 523. Ring.

    (a) For kickboxing contests, the ring or fighting area shall either meet the requirements of Rules 310 through 312, inclusive, or shall meet the requirements of this section; except that subsection (d)(1) permitting a contest to be held in a ring enclosed by a fence shall not apply to kickboxing contests and the commission shall not permit a kickboxing contest to be held in a ring enclosed by a fence. For all other types of martial arts bouts, the ring or fighting area shall either meet the requirements set forth below in this section or shall be held in a ring that meets the requirements set forth in Rules 310 through 312, inclusive.

    (b) The ring or fighting area shall be no smaller than 20′ by 20′ and no larger than 32′ by 32′. A ring enclosed by ropes shall be square. The ring floor or floor of the fighting area enclosed by ropes shall extend at least 20 inches beyond the ropes. The ring floor or floor of the fighting area shall be padded in a manner approved by the commission, consistent with the requirements of section 18724 of the code. Padding shall extend beyond the ring or fighting area and over the edge of the platform. The ring or fighting area shall have a canvas covering or similar material, tightly stretched and laced to the ring platform. Vinyl or other plastic rubberized covering will not be permitted. There shall not be any obstruction or object, including but not limited to a triangular border, on any part of the ring floor.

  2. The Gaijin says:

    Not a bad little night of boxing. I smell a rematch for Martinez – JCC Jr., and good on Martinez b/c another fight with him will probably make him a lot of money.

    Though I do have to say that Martinez’s age looks like it is starting to catch up with him based on his last few fights…still what a warrior for gutting out that last round without running/clutching/etc.

    Canelo is a BEAST…and I will fully gloat that I was hyping this guy up when everyone else thought he wasn’t as good as he was being billed. “A broken clock is right twice a day”, “Even blind squirrel can find a nut” – blah, blah. 🙂

    • Tomer says:

      To be fair, Canelo was beating up a bloated Junior Welterweight who was small compared to Victor Ortiz in their fight, so it doesn’t really say much about Canelo’s quality as a top tier fighter. If the rumor that Martinez is going to go down to 154 are true, he should angle for a fight versus Canelo (particularly since he just got the W over the opponent for the ‘dream’ all-Mexican super fight in Chavez Jr.).

    • Nottheface says:

      A whole day later and all I want to do is discuss Martinez and not the CSAC (sorry Zach).

      I disagree that Sergio showed his age. He dominated every minute of 11 rounds and the only reason he got clipped by Junior was because he wanted to hurt him or even put him away before the final bell. And then to top it off after being wobbled he had to prove himself by going toe-to-toe instead of hanging on for the win. I wouldn’t be surprised if a rematch is a replay of rounds 1 through 10 and then see Sergio going back to his bicyclist days and pedaling away to guarantee the win.

      Couple things are worth noting about the dying sport of boxing. Over the last calendar year boxing has sold some 6 million ppvs on 6 events while the UFC has sold 6.5 million on 15. Also, in the last month Ward, Martinez, Chavez JR, and Canelo (plus throw in maybe Froch and Golovkin) have all emerged as stars so it doesn’t seem as if the good times are stopping anytime soon.

      • The Gaijin says:

        I agree in part on Sergio being the architect of his own problems in the last two rounds, but it did seem like he may have started slowing down *just* enough in the last couple of rounds that JCC was able to take advantage of the size difference.

        In any case, he looked unbelievable for 10 rounds and still fought like a champion and with crazy heart in the last round – and what a round that was. Freddie Roach looked like he might stop the fight a few times from the corner too.

        And re. Canelo – I was just being a little intentionally over the top there – I realize he was fighting a way overmatched, overpowered guy. But unlike a lot of hyped up rising stars, he doesn’t seem to lose focus or get shocked against the guys he’s supposed to thrash and/or get gift decisions…he looks more impressive than you’d expect most times. I think he’d take Ortiz to the woodshed…and he’d demolish JCC Jr.

        • edub says:

          Just an amazing night of fights.

          -First off; I’m probably in the minority, but I hated the Maidana-Soto Karass stoppage. I understand Jesus was blasted the round before, and he was still getting plastered, but he was fighting back. If it was the 10th or 11th round of a fight like Kennedy-Rodriguez or Mancini-Kim I can understand the being overprotective part. However, it was great back and forth fight and Maidana isn’t exactly known for his sustained dominance in any fight. I would have liked to see a stoppage with a bit more clarity. However, I understand I’m in the minority.

          -Canelo is a monster. He keeps passing every test that’s put in front of him, and although Lopez was a blown up JWW Josesito was game. Just completely outclassed. If Sergio moves back down to 154 there are a plethora of matches to be made there.

          -Sergio Martinez might be the best boxer in the world (obviously that won’t be provable since he’ll probably never fight Ward, PBF, or Pacquiao but I believe he’d hang skill wise with any of them). He’s just a smallish MW, and JCC jr. is a damn monster.

          -The Showtime main card was as good as any in combat sports this year. Great fight between Maidana and Soto-Karass. Leo Santa Cruz is a machine, and I would pay to see him against any combination of Rigondeuax, Donaire, Moreno, Agbeko, Mares, or Perez. Ponce De Leon-Gonzalez was a good fight marred by a crummy stoppage (and some scoring I didn’t agree with), and Canelo performed like a PFP top tier talent.

          -JCC jr. vs. Canelo will be the biggest fight in Mexican history (money wise) if/when it happens. There’s just too much money to be made for it not to happen, and it should be hella exciting when it does. Canelo I believe is the much more skilled fighter, but I see Chavez withstanding a beating to stop him late. He’s just too big at that weight class to be hurt. Martinez has real fight ending power, and Chavez walked through his shots most of the time.

          -Hopefully, Chavez was forced to take the drug test this time and not just claim he couldn’t pee.

        • nottheface says:

          Soto Karas-Maidana was the fight of the night. That plus the 12th round is what made it the best night in either boxing or MMA in some time. And I was also not happy with the stoppage. I’m not going to put up to big of fuss because I prefer they err on the side of protecting fighters (and I don’t want to hear how MMA is safer than boxing anymore because there’s no standing count. When’s the last time an MMA ref stopped a fight to protect someone from future damage and not because he thought he was out of it?) but not only was Maidana done with his attack when the fight was stopped but the two were actually tangled up. Soto Karass had survived and we didn’t get to see if he could retaliate. Dissapointing.


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