The target of a joint FBI-New York City Police Department boxing investigation is promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization, not last September’s Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley super-welterweight title fight, according to a knowledgeable law enforcement source.
FBI agents raided Arum’s Las Vegas office Tuesday, seizing computers, medical records, fight tapes, contracts and other financial documents.
Speculation that the investigation centered on the De La Hoya-Mosley match was fueled by a quote in the New York Daily News from an anonymous law enforcement source claiming to have information that the fight was fixed.
All major figures connected with that match, however, have said they have not been questioned by investigators. That includes the fighters; Gary Shaw, Mosley’s promoter; Richard Schaefer, De La Hoya’s business manager; John Bailey, chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission; Marc Ratner, executive director of the commission, and Keith Kizer, chief deputy attorney general in Nevada.
A boxing source said the investigation centers on the possible fixing of fights, tampering with scales at weigh-ins and the forging of medical documents, actions allegedly connected, the source said, to Top Rank personnel or people associated with the organization.
Back in his office Friday after a South African vacation, Arum chose not to comment, instead approving the following release:
“Upon Mr. Arum’s return to Las Vegas, he stated Top Rank has done nothing wrong. Top Rank does not know the scope of the government investigation. Top Rank is lawfully cooperating with that investigation and will not comment on or respond to the rumors, speculations and unverified allegations appearing in the media. Top Rank will continue to focus on its business of promoting its boxers and fights and appreciates all the support it has received from the boxing industry.”
Arum and fellow promoter Don King have ruled their sport for a quarter century. If these charges are proven true, it could seriously damage or destroy Top Rank, sending tremors through a sport already reeling from years of unsavory behavior and bad press.
“I would still do business with Top Rank,” said Shaw. “In the America I grew up in, you’re innocent until proven guilty.... I don’t know that Bob Arum did anything wrong. Maybe it was the janitor at Top Rank.
“Arum and King are the two biggest promoters around today, but I would believe boxing would survive with others like myself to carry the torch.”
Said Judd Burstein, Mosley’s attorney: “Nobody has even been charged with anything right now. It’s just an investigation.”
As to the possibility that medical documents may have been altered to permit injured boxers to fight, Shaw said, “If that truly happened, I don’t want to know.... It would be like NASCAR putting a driver into a car when it was known the wheels would come off.”
According to several boxing sources, an undercover NYPD detective who went by the name “Big Frankie” spent more than a year in Nevada boxing circles compiling evidence for the probe. The investigation began in Las Vegas, according to Todd Palmer, special agent for the Las Vegas division of the FBI.
But, Shaw said, that doesn’t mean the violations, if there were any, occurred in Nevada. “It may have happened somewhere else, like in Puerto Rico.”
Fights that have come under suspicion, according to sources, include those involving Joey Torres, Jorge Paez and Eric “Butterbean” Esch.
In 2000, Arum admitted in a New Jersey racketeering trial that, in 1994, he agreed to a $200,000 bribery payment to the International Boxing Federation to get a heavyweight title fight between George Foreman and Axel Schulz sanctioned.