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De La Hoya, Mosley Set for Staples

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With an assurance from the California Speaker of the Assembly that a tax break will be considered, promoter Bob Arum has agreed to hold the Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley welterweight match June 17 at Staples Center.

“This decision is only subject now to going over the documents to make sure everything is, in fact, the way it is supposed to be,” said Arum, whose alternative site had been Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel.

The stumbling block has been the state’s 5% tax on boxing and wrestling shows. A Staples sellout for the fight would generate revenue of $8 million, which would mean a tax bill of $400,000. There is also a 3% city tax in Los Angeles, which would take another $240,000.

Staples officials are asking for a cap of $50,000 on the state tax, the same as is in effect in New York.

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“We are looking at what we can do to level the playing field,” said California Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa. “We would all like to see Oscar De La Hoya [of East Los Angeles] play in his hometown. I think it’s possible we can come up with legislation so that Los Angeles can compete with New York and Las Vegas in this area. Failure to do so would hurt Oscar De La Hoya and keep him from fighting in his own city. I feel there is a willingness for us to work on the matter.”

That’s enough for Staples President Tim Leiweke, who has offered Arum a guarantee of $5-6 million for a fight between two Southern California fighters, Mosley being from Pomona.

“We know this is not a one-day or a two-day process,” Leiweke said. “We are prepared to take [the legislators] at their word. If they don’t come through, chances are this will be the last big fight held in California.”

Leiweke said Staples and Arum will share the tax burden if no legislation comes through. Arum says he has been assured by Leiweke that he will be indemnified in case no relief is forthcoming.

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“The law was put into effect for gates from $20,000 to $300,000,” Leiweke said. “Nobody imagined an $8 million gate.”

The California live-gate record is just under $700,000 for a 1990 fight between Jorge Paez and Tony Lopez in Sacramento, resulting in a tax bill of $35,000.

It’s not as if Arum is unfamiliar with huge tax bills. There is a 4% tax charged on boxing shows in Nevada, where Arum stages most of his fights. The live gate on last year’s Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad blockbuster match at Mandalay Bay was $12,949,000, which gave the tax collector $517,960.

“They learned in New York what has to be done, and that’s what we have to do to generate this kind of income,” Leiweke said.

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“It’s hard to make it work here because we don’t have the gaming revenue they do in Las Vegas and we don’t have the cap they do in New York. It’s tight for us and the cap could be the difference between our making it or not making it.”

Last October, officials in New York, which has lost most major fights over the last few decades to Las Vegas, lowered the state’s tax on boxing gates from 5.5% to 3% with a $50,000 cap.

“The governor doesn’t toss out tax breaks to people on a whim,” said Michael Bustamante, press secretary for Gov. Gray Davis. “The people involved in this are sophisticated enough to know this. If they are serious about putting on a fight, they should put on a fight.”

Rob Lynch, executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, wasn’t any more optimistic about changing the tax law.

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“I don’t want to say no, but I don’t see how it could happen,” Lynch said. “Promoters are always saying, ‘Golly, could you cut back here or there?’ You can’t do that. I think it would be considered what is called a gift of public funds.”

Whether the state provides some sort of tax relief is a battle for another day.

For now, Los Angeles has won the battle for the biggest fight on the horizon, De La Hoya-Mosley.

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Plan B: Staples Center officials have also been contacted about a possible Kostya Tszyu-Julio Cesar Chavez fight in July.

Chavez pulled out of a fight on last week’s Felix Trinidad-David Reid card with a week to go, claiming he was injured.

Others said Chavez either wanted more money or simply didn’t want to fight.

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A fight tonight at the Maywood Activity Center in Maywood is thought to be a California first. Both amateurs and professionals will fight. There will be four pro matches and two amateur bouts. Headlining the pros will be a light-heavyweight match between Julio Gonzalez (20-0, 11 knockouts) and David Boone (16-7, 11 knockouts). First bell is at 7 p.m.

The vacant International Boxing Assn. lightweight title will be at stake tonight at Fantasy Springs in Indio when former World Boxing Council featherweight champion Alejandro Gonzalez (41-4, 30 knockouts) takes on Steve Forbes (14-0, four knockouts). . . . The Trinidad-Reid replay will be shown Monday on Showtime at 10 p.m.


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