Greg Sirb in the Age of Timidity

By Robert Ecksel on June 18, 2014
Greg Sirb in the Age of Timidity
“You put it out to the masses,” said Sirb. “You hope it clicks. You hope they agree with it.”

“There’s a lot of moving parts. You know. You’re in the game. There’s a lot of moving parts and everybody brings their own interpretation…”

Greg Sirb, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, is a boxing man through and through. I’ve seen him work the fights. I’ve seen him work ballrooms. No matter when and where I’ve seen him, the impression I’m always left with is this guy is engaged. He may lack tact, but no one questions his commitment or desire to get it right. And his willingness, no make that eagerness, to stick his neck out is laudable in the Age of Timidity.

A recent press release from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission reads:

Please be advised that the any fighter testing “positive” for any drug test taken in Pennsylvania and that fighter was the winner of the bout – the decision shall be change to a “disqualification loss” for that fighter. The losing fighter of the bout shall see the results changed to a No Decision.

Also be advised that the PA Commission will now be allowing day before weigh-ins at the Commission’s discretion. On those occasions where the Commission approves a day-before weigh-in the main event(s) of that show (main events will be determined by the Commission) will be subject to a mandatory next day weigh-in with the 10-lb. weight gain rule in effect.  This will not be enforced for weights 175 and above.

Any fighter (MMA or Boxing) that misses weight shall be subject to a monetary fine as well as the following:

First offense – 90-day suspension
Second offense – 180-day suspension
Third offense – 1-year suspension

Most press releases aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. They serve a purpose, but rarely do more than promote a fight. The above press release, by contrast, seemed, at least on the surface, a genuine attempt to address two of boxing ills; specifically failed drug tests and the inability to make weight for a fight.

Boxing is in need of reform. State commissioners can advocate for boxing at the same time as they advocate for their jurisdictions, but too few commissioners seem willing to use the power vested in them to institute changes that boxing and its credibility need.

I spoke with Greg Sirb about these changes. I also congratulated him for taking a hard line.

“Yeah,” he said in a voice tinged with weariness, “particularly with the drug testing. I always felt you’ve got to disqualify the guy. You can’t just make it a no contest, a slap on the wrist. The guy has to lose by disqualification.”

I agree with Sirb. The system, however, does not.

“I think slowly but surely. Some people agree. But Pennsylvania has to do it. We’re disqualifying the fighter. It’s going to show up as a loss on his record by disqualification and everybody will know why.”

I wonder how Sirb’s fellow commissioners in the ABC have reacted at the news.

“There will be others,” Sirb said. “But it’s hard. They just stay with the status quo. I think you really need to take a hard line with the guys and the drug testing. Saying it’s a no contest sort of makes it a sham. It wasn’t a no contest. The kid took drugs, he shouldn’t have taken them, and he did illegally and he did it willingly. It’s not like it was an accidental foul. We use no contest when there’s an accidental foul before four rounds. This isn’t an accidental foul. The kid knowingly took drugs before an event. I don’t see anything accidental about it. I just hope the other commissions come along.”

Just because an idea is a good one is no guarantee it will be embraced. There’s too much at stake and blaming the trainer or nutritionist is a fallback position that is worth its weight in gold.

“I agree. And it’s the same thing with the weight, it really is. It seems like it’s once a month, every other title fight, when somebody’s over weight.”

One solution to that problem would be to revert back to weigh-ins on the day of the fight. It’s not nostalgia. It’s common sense.

“I wish it would go that way. But there’s not too many commissions that believe that. A lot of them are more interested in playing nice so the fight comes into their jurisdiction. I also think a lot of the commissioners, particularly the younger guys, they haven’t been around the game and don’t know the history of the game. They don’t realize that when you had eight weight classes and weighed in the day of the event, probably two or three o’clock in the afternoon on the day of the event, there were no more deaths back then there are now. And then they added all the weight classes.

“It was in the mid-eighties, in reaction to Mancini and Duk Koo Kim. Flip Homansky, who was big on it, said it well: ‘It was a well intentioned move by making it the day before so the guys could rehydrate and get their strength back—but it’s turned into a farce. It’s got to be removed now. It’s not doing what it was intended to do.’ And now he’s 180 degrees. He backs me 100 percent. We’re going to be doing it here at Saturday’s NBC show in Wilkes-Barre. You’re going to weigh in again with that 10-pound rule. Go get hydrated. Do what you’ve got to do. But don’t abuse it. And if they come in above the 10-pound rule, the same thing they did the regular way, they have three hours to lose it.”

And what if they don’t lose the weight?

“Basically, for us, not only is he going to lose money to the opponent, obviously. We’re going to fine him—and we’re going to suspend him. I think what would make sense is if any fighter from any organization fighting for any title misses the weight, he should be dropped from the ratings. Like if he misses the middleweight at 160, because he weighed 165, he should be dropped from the middleweight ratings until he can make 160 at a future bout. Until that time he’s dropped from the ratings.”

That sounded good, but as I told Greg Sirb, there’s no way that’s going to happen.

“I know,” he said with resignation, “but it would be a helluva hammer. It’s one thing for a state commission to do it. But you need not only all the state commissions to do it, but you have to work with the organizations too. They have a hammer that we don’t have sometimes. That’s really difficult, Robert, really difficult.”

The difficulty is vested interests wanting to protect their investment, at all costs and often at boxing’s expense. In addition to the sanctioning bodies, there are the TV networks, the fighters’ promoters, managers, and backers, all of whom want what they want.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” admitted Sirb. “People don’t realize that. You know. You’re in the game. There’s a lot of moving parts and everybody brings their own interpretation. It’s always on. ‘Don’t worry about it, Greg. There’s always another fight next week.’ I don’t care if you have another fight next week of next month. That’s not my concern. My concern is what his fight is like in PA. That stuff just bothers the hell out of me. But I think within a year, you’re going to see more and more people go to the disqualification for drugs. It’s a good hard statement that boxing is taking it seriously, that they’re going to lose by disqualification, and it’s going to come up on your Fight Fax report.

“You get it out there, you hope it clicks, you put it out to the masses and you hope they agree with it.”

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  1. Alan Santana WBF North American Coordinator 11:45pm, 03/17/2016

    This article does not tell of the total disrespect Mister Sirb has for fighters, managers or the staff. He is a complete control freak and a man who’s time has come to step down from this job due to his total.lack of respect and disregard for the sport and its fighters.  His actions as a COMMISSIONER are downright despicable and an embarrassment to the sport. Mr. Sirb seems to make the rules up as he goes at each and every event and his are.not negotiable. I truly hope that he is removed from his position as COMMISSIONER and is replaced by someone who has a little more tact and respect for the fighters and everyone involved in the sport.

    Alan Santana
    WBF North American Coordinator

  2. NYIrish 06:19pm, 06/19/2014

    Weigh in by 11AM the day of the fight if the weight divisions are to be meaningful. But that is secondary. It’s not on the level.

  3. Mike Silver 10:15pm, 06/18/2014

    These are all good suggestions but getting them standardized is another matter. The solution is really simple, though. The state boxing commissions should get together and issue their own official monthly ratings and agree on champions. That would take the power away from the sanctioning organizations. This is something Greg Sirb should endorse. There is no reason not to. If boxing cannot help itself in this way then it will never change.

  4. Clarence George 07:24pm, 06/18/2014

    I’m reminded of Gatti-Gamache, where “Thunder” entered the squared circle bearing a rather remarkable resemblance to Homer Fonseca.

  5. Robert Ecksel 05:55pm, 06/18/2014

    Yeah, Irish, you might be right about the NSAC (you’re definitely right about Chavez Jr.), but we’ve got to start somewhere. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 03:17pm, 06/18/2014

    Don’t hold your breath until the NSAC adopts these rules…...which reminds me…..with these rules Baby Huey Chavez Jr. would have been getting his ass kicked and yes KO’d by the cruiserweights that he should have been fighting all along.

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