It was another shining moment for boxing.
I suppose it’s not right to be too harsh on the sport. After all, don’t most industries have commissions of some form to regulate them? And don’t those commissions pass rules to govern their industries?
And don’t the commissions then turn around and negotiate away those rules when necessary? No?
Well that’s basically what happened this past week when the scales at Caesars Palace failed to match up with the scales of justice.
At issue was the weigh-in prior to Thursday night’s International Boxing Federation middleweight title fight between Frank Tate and Michael Nunn. IBF rules stipulate that the weigh-in must be held no more than 8 to 12 hours prior to a fight.
Tate’s camp, however, wanted the weigh-in held the night before. That’s the procedure favored by Tate’s nutritionist, Doug Farrago.
Last Monday, Dan Goossen, Nunn’s manager, was informed this would be the procedure for Thursday’s fight. The weigh-in would be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday instead of the previously agreed-upon time of 9 a.m. Thursday.
All this has already been chronicled in these pages and elsewhere. But a closer look shows just how sleazy this sport can be.
When Bob Lee, president of the IBF, arrived in town Wednesday, he said he had been told three weeks earlier that both parties had agreed to the earlier weigh-in.
Told by whom?
By the promoter, Stan Hoffman. The same Stan Hoffman who is co-owner of the Houston Boxing Assn., which holds promotional rights to Tate and employs his manager, Bob Spagnola.
In effect, Lee had agreed to a rule change without consulting the other side.
Goossen was vehemently opposed to the switch and said so in very plain, loud and angry terms at a Tuesday press conference.
While the IBF acts as a sanctioning body, and its officials usually set policy for its fights, the Nevada State Athletic Commission had the final say in this case.
Herb Santos, chairman of the Nevada commission, said very plainly Tuesday that unless Lee arrived in Nevada with evidence that his weigh-in rule had officially been changed, the fighters would be weighed the day of the fight.
Guess what? Lee didn’t have such a rule change, just an announcement that, based on recommendations by doctors, the weigh-in would be changed to 18 to 24 hours prior to a fight as of Sept. 1.
So what did Santos do? What many boxing officials seem to do so well these days. He backed down.
Negotiations continued and a compromise was finally reached. Tate got his early weigh-in, but waived the normal right of the champion to choose the brand of gloves to be used in the fight.
Lee certainly has a good argument for changing the weigh-in time. “When a fighter,” he explained, “has to lose weight the day of a fight, the dehydration and fatigue factors can be harmful. The earlier weigh-in can allow him to better replenish his system.”
Fine. Send out a notice that the rule has been changed. Or at least notify the parties directly involved. But don’t change the weigh-in time three weeks before a fight, then fail to inform one of the parties until three days before.
Fighters often follow a strict routine in order to hit the right weight at just the right time. By failing to tell Nunn’s side, Lee left the impression, right or wrong, that he was favoring Tate, the reigning IBF champ.
None of this affected Nunn’s thoroughly convincing knockout victory over Tate on Thursday night, but it was just another example of why this sport has so much trouble maintaining its credibility.
In most sports, records are made to be broken. In boxing, it seems, it is the rules that are made to be broken.
A boxer recently failed a neurological exam which should prohibit him from fighting. Yet he was allowed to continue boxing until he could take the test again. Make a decision. Either he could fight or he couldn’t.
A boxer is not allowed to fight twice within a 24-hour period , yet that rule was waived recently for a fighter who had scored a quick knockout the night before.
Until boxing starts showing some respect for its rules, it cannot expect respect from its public.