State Athletic Commission amends free-pass policy


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The California State Athletic Commission voted unanimously Monday to stop itself from accepting more than one free pass to a fight, a policy change that followed a Times investigation last month documenting commissioner handouts to friends of free ringside passes to big fights.

‘I was encouraged it was adopted,’ said Brian Stiger, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the athletic commission.


During public comment before the 5-0 vote was made by commissioners John Frierson, Peter Lopez, Dr. Van Lemon, Dr. Christopher Giza and Mario Rodriguez, one individual urged the commissioners to operate with ‘transparency’ and only attend fights when ‘on official business, not because it’s a nice thing to do on a Friday night.’

In other commission business, Consumer Affairs analysts unveiled a report that found that 23% of the state’s 507 boxing matches between July 2008 and September were ‘poor bouts’ that ended less than halfway through the scheduled rounds. Acting executive officer Dave Thornton said the report was ‘not meant as a slam’ to compare the work of current leaders Bill Douglas and Che Guevara to veteran inspectors who have been let go during the last year.

‘We’ve received some criticism about our bout approval process, and this [report] was one method showing our process is as sound as it was in the past,’ Thornton told the commission.

Veteran boxing judge Marty Denkin urged the commission not to rely merely on these statistics, but to embrace checklists to avoid mismatches that endanger boxers. For example, former veteran inspector Dean Lohuis pointed out that two boxers involved in first-round knockouts Oct. 10 in a Fresno card did not have federal identification numbers that are required to fight. In another fight earlier this month, a fighter listed and announced at 3-0 at the Nokia Theatre actually had a 1-7 record and was knocked down three times, losing in a second-round TKO.

‘This [report] doesn’t touch on the problems we’ve been talking about,’ Denkin told the commission. When you have a death, God forbid, they’re going to come out.’

‘It’s a concern,’ commissioner John Frierson said during the hearing.

Frierson and Giza are charged with sorting through more than 70 applicants who want to become the commission’s permanent executive officer. Interviews are scheduled to be conducted at the commission’s Dec. 8 meeting.


That process has already been completed once without success.

The past leading executive officer candidate, referee Pat Russell, attended Monday’s hearing and addressed the commission’s issuance of a cease-and-desist order to the boxing portion of the Western States Police and Fire Games in Santa Clarita in June. Russell, a former San Diego County District Attorney investigator, oversees the boxing portion of games that have been in existence for more than 40 years.

‘The timing was real interesting,’ Russell told The Times, referring to the commission’s support of Russell for the job then being denied by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Frierson asked, ‘How did it get to this? I’ve gone to some of those events with Sheriff [Lee] Baca and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.’

Thornton denied that the issuance of the cease-and-desist letter was related to Russell’s status. Stiger told the commission that his department was ‘going top to bottom to make sure all of these entities are being regulated appropriately.’ A 58-page report ultimately resulted in no disciplinary action against any of the referees or licensees involved in the police and fire games.

Also Monday, the commission revoked the boxing license of Danny Batchelder, who tested positive for steroids at an August fight, and it also voted unanimously to allow amateur mixed martial arts events to begin next month.

--Lance Pugmire