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Boxer who left ring at first bell wants disqualification overturned

The heavyweight boxer who last week left the ring at the start of the first round said he’s hopeful Minnesota regulators investigating his case will change his disqualification to a no-contest.

Curtis Harper told the Los Angeles Times that he seeks to fight again, explaining that he left the ring because he was angered at being deprived of the opportunity to sign hard copies of contracts he believed were necessary to be fully paid for a bout against unbeaten Efe Ajagba.

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“It wasn’t about money. It was about the respect of the game,” Harper said.

Harper has been cast as one of the most disrespectful participants in the colorful sport’s storied history by exiting the Premier Boxing Champions bout after touching gloves with Ajagba, leaving the opponent, crowd and television viewers aghast.

Harper says he walked out because he had an overwhelming feeling he was being duped.

“I touched gloves and in the bottom right corner over my opponent’s shoulder was the promoter and matchmaker all smiling and happy after I never signed a contract. … I never got a copy back [of the electronic contract],” Harper said.

“It felt like I didn’t have a contract. I never saw a contract, so I never knew what they had. I wanted a bout contract and a participant contract and [matchmaker] Chico Rivas told me, ‘Get in the ring or you won’t get paid.’”

Harper was to earn $6,000 for the fight, but instead headed home to Jacksonville, Fla., empty-handed.

Leon Margules, who promoted the fight, said Harper and his wife, Sandra, are “lying. … The commission asked them at the weigh-in, ‘Is this your signature?’” on the electronic contract, “and [Harper] said yes.”

While Harper’s wife said she believed her husband should have been shown a hard copy of a promoter-participant contract, a bout agreement and a disclosure revealing the fight would be televised, two officials connected to PBC say that’s not the way it works, with one adding, “Minnesota has one of the simplest bout agreements in the country.”

The Minnesota investigation is in progress, with one important matter apparently clarified this week with Jacksonville ophthalmologist Robert Schnipper reporting that Harper underwent successful surgery to treat a detached retina and cataract on July 17. Harper was cleared to fight after a July 26 exam, according to two officials who inquired on the matter.

While Harper’s trainer, Nate Campbell, and others had speculated the boxer didn’t want to fight because of the eye condition, Harper says he’s hopeful his stance will serve as a landmark moment in pro fighters standing up for their rights.

“I hope so. Why wouldn’t it?” he asked. “The sport of boxing has no union. No one can protect themselves. Boxing needs more work by the commissions.”

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Attempts to reach members of the Minnesota commission were unsuccessful this week.

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