Sullivan’s Travels: The Fight for What Is Right

By Robert Mladinich on September 21, 2012
Sullivan’s Travels: The Fight for What Is Right
At the Garden in Feb. 2000, Gatti brutally stopped Joey Gamache who never fought again.

“I didn’t find boxing, it found me and I can honestly say that my association with it has enhanced my life in an immeasurable way…”

In April 2010, attorney Keith Sullivan secured a significant court victory against the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) on behalf of former WBA super featherweight and lightweight champion Joey Gamache. The commission was found guilty of negligence for failing to properly carry out its duties and responsibilities while conducting the weigh-in for Gamache’s fight with the late Arturo Gatti at Madison Square Garden in February 2000. 

Gatti exceeded the pre-set weight limit of 141 pounds on the scales and was 20 pounds heavier on fight night. He brutally stopped Gamache in the second round, and the two-time former champion never fought again.

In September 2012, Sullivan, who is immersed in many boxing duties, took on yet another when he was appointed a deputy commissioner with the NYSAC, which operates under the auspices of the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The commission was comprised of different members when the Gamache-Gatti debacle occurred. 

With an unimpeachable reputation for integrity, the straight-shooting Sullivan, 39, is immensely proud to be associated with the current administration because, he says, Chairwoman Melvina Lathan and Director of Boxing Ralph Petrillo have “set a new standard of excellence in running an athletic commission.”

That, says Sullivan, is extremely important because of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions commitment to bring a show a month to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which many people believe could once again make New York a boxing Mecca.

“I was extremely honored to be appointed to the commission, and I am really looking forward to working with all of the people that make the NYSAC so effective. It is a privilege, a dream come true, especially with all of the good things on the horizon.”

Sullivan, a partner in the law firm Sullivan and Galleshaw, LLP, which specializes in personal injury, criminal defense and commercial litigation, also serves as pro bono legal counsel for the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), the Veteran Boxers Association, Ring 8, in New York, and the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation. He has also helped scores of boxers with managerial and other issues.

He represented Gamache pro bono, and has also served as an adviser to Andy Lee who unsuccessfully challenged Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the middleweight title earlier this year. Just prior to his NYSAC appointment, he negotiated a professional contract for light heavyweight Marcus Browne of Staten Island, a product of the Atlas Cops and Kids boxing program who represented the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. 

“Boxers have a short professional life, so it is important that they maximize their potential in a relatively short time,” said Sullivan. “There are a lot of people in the game that don’t have their best interests at heart. Besides being imparted with a tremendous work ethic by my parents, I also developed a great empathy for others that I am able to use in my role as an attorney. I consider it a privilege to have worn all of the hats I’ve worn in boxing, and I’m really looking forward to helping enhance the NYSAC’s already sterling reputation by helping to make it the one by which all others are measured.”

Sullivan will work his first show in his new position this Saturday, September 22, at the Resorts World Casino in Jamaica, Queens. Between the recent onset of casino boxing in the New York City metropolitan area, the already established Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York, and the re-emergence of big time boxing at the brand new venue in a revitalized downtown Brooklyn, Sullivan, a visionary by nature, could not be more excited about the prospects for the future.

One thing he is looking forward to exploring is bringing Ultimate Fighting or Mixed Martial Arts to New York. He believes its mainstream fan base, as well as the enormous revenue it generates, makes it a perfect fit for New York City, which is universally regarded as the Capital of the World.

Sullivan has no shortage of supporters in all areas of the boxing community, one of the most notable being outspoken commentator Teddy Atlas.

“There are three lines of defense for a fighter,” Atlas told ESPN.com. “Moving your head, your legs, or blocking punches. Now, make it four, as Keith Sullivan has been named deputy commissioner to the NYSAC. Keith understands the sport, but more importantly, he cares about people, as he proved with his work helping families in need through the Dr. Atlas Foundation. Now, fighters who compete in New York won’t have to worry about being hit after the bell.”

“The amount of work Keith does for others is astounding,” added Jack Hirsch, the President of the BWAA. “I feel guilty because I count on him so much, and I could never do as much for him as he does for me and many other people.

“He does it all with a genuine humility,” Hirsch continued. “Even when talking about the law, he never makes it seem like he knows more than you. He respects everyone, and he always has your back. Having Keith as a friend is knowing you always have a lifeline, no matter how bad things might get. For years I have been urging him to run for public office. With his decency, integrity and strong work ethic, he would really serve the public well.” 

Sullivan’s loves the law and boxing with equal aplomb. As the youngest of four children born to father Thomas, a retired NYPD detective sergeant, and mother Denise, a schoolteacher, he remembers having trouble sleeping at night until his father came home safe.

He would silently listen to his father recount the day’s events with his mother. Despite being in the fourth or fifth grade, Sullivan realized that the making of an arrest was only the beginning of a long, complex and very interesting legal process.

While other kids were collecting baseball cards or immersing themselves in age-appropriate activities full-time, Sullivan often found himself working out the intricacies of future trials, from both prosecutorial and defensive standpoints, in his overactive imagination. Had shows like “Law and Order” been around in the early 1980s, Sullivan would have been a devoted pre-teen viewer.

With the emergence of Mike Tyson, who at the time had the well-deserved reputation as the baddest man on the planet, Sullivan was hooked for life on boxing.

“As a young fan everything about Tyson fascinated me,” said Sullivan. “I used to watch Tyson’s fights over and over, and I loved how he was all business. There was no ring walk, he wore no robe and there was no booming music. He would just walk to the ring like a warrior going to battle. There was no big production. His production began after the bell rang. It was thrilling for me, and I marveled at his seriousness.”

Not surprisingly, as Sullivan grew older his fascination with Tyson waned a bit.

“Many things I came to learn about him disappointed me,” he explained. “But it was a great lesson for me to pick my heroes and role models more selectively.” 

Sullivan realizes that boxing’s real role models are very often not even household names. His full immersion in the sport came after the most tragic of circumstances. A friend of his, a police officer with whom Sullivan shared a passion for boxing, committed suicide several years ago. Prior to his friend’s death, he and Sullivan often spoke of training at the fabled Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.

After his friend’s passing, Sullivan made his way to Gleason’s where he encountered a kindly old school trainer and retired state corrections officer named Bob Jackson.

“Bob asked me why I was there, and two hours later I was still talking and he was still listening,” recalled Sullivan. “I was also crying like a baby. That day Bob became like an uncle to me, and I soon realized that Bob was like an uncle to a lot of people. He ran the boxing program at Sing Sing prison for many years. Paroled prisoners would come to see Bob, and he always treated them with respect and kindness.”

Jackson was instrumental in the boxing development of Dewey Bozella, who became a prison champion while serving nearly 30 years for a murder he did not commit. In October 2011, at the age of 52, he made his pro debut, winning a four-round decision on the undercard of the first Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson encounter in Los Angeles.   

Through Jackson, Sullivan realized that people begin boxing for more than the obvious reasons.

“He opened my eyes a lot faster than they might have been opened on my own,” said Sullivan. “Kids take up boxing not only to learn how to throw punches, but to learn how to be men.”

Because Sullivan was an attorney, Jackson sometimes asked him to look at some contracts or help out a youngster who might have gotten into trouble with the police. He began assisting Gamache after one of Gamache’s lawyers committed suicide, and through him he was introduced to Andy Lee.

In addition to Sullivan’s contributions to boxing, through his law firm he and his legal partner, James Galleshaw, have raised $30,000 for the U.S. War Veterans Wounded Warrior Project, and founded a promotional and event company, Cocktails 4 Charities, which donates 100 percent of its proceeds to charity.

In addition, he continues to represent Merit Matters, a New York City Fire Department (FDNY) organization that is appealing a federal court ruling that has abolished merit-based hiring, and he recently did pro bono work for Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who was unable to take a recent FDNY exam because he was overseas fighting for his country.

“There is nothing I enjoy more than public service,” said Sullivan. “It makes me very happy to put in a hard day’s work doing something I love. People tell me how hard I work, but I always take exception with that comment. It’s an old cliché, but I love what I do so much I never even think of it as work.”

Asked specifically about his affinity for boxing, Sullivan said, “I didn’t find boxing, it found me and I can honestly say that my association with it has enhanced my life in an immeasurable way.”

For more information on Keith Sullivan, log onto: sullivangalleshaw.com.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Ray McCormack 06:26pm, 11/19/2012

    While talking to Bob Jackson, Sullivan “I was cying like a like a baby. The author never explained why “Sullivan was cying like a baby.” It makes no since. What was Sullivan crying about. A brilliant man is created and the next thing we know he is crying like a baby, and later on he is added to the e Boxing commission

    And you people wonder why boxing is a close second to “Rolly Derby” in popularity.. Some of you people need to get a life or stop looking in the mirrior. Boxing is not a sport it is carnage,

  2. Vince Mc 07:24pm, 09/24/2012

    Keith Sullivan is a standup guy.  He helps out a lot of boxers, often with free advice. He’s a good man to have on the commission. He has a backbone and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

  3. the thresher 08:17am, 09/22/2012

    And oh by the way, I don’t think it’s good idea to put my a cell phone number out there for anyone to see and use.

  4. the thresher 08:15am, 09/22/2012

    Paul Mannix, not sure a simple statement that I am not one of Sullivan’s supporters is a smear. Simply a statmemnt of fact. And anyone who knows me knows that I hide from no one or anything.

    My name is Ted Sares. I write for Boxing.com. Thresher is my poster’s name. Bob Mladinich is not only a great friend but also a great writer and I understand fully why he is a great supporter of Sullivan. But if a simple statement of non-support (based on a private inetraction involving boxing) gets you so upset, I suggest you check your fragilty index. There are far more imprtant things to get upset about in this world. I did not crticize this man; I simply said I am not one of his supporters.

    That said, does anyone know if Gamache ever got any money re his legal issues with the Gatti fight? Was there a settlement? My understanding is that Joey made not have received anything from the court decision.

  5. Paul Mannix 05:58am, 09/22/2012

    To read someone criticizing Keith Sullivan was a real jolt. I thought I was reading it wrong. First of all, come out from behind your cloak of anonymity; anyone can throw mud from behind a wall.

    I am the President of Merit Matters, mentioned in the article and included in the video about Sgt. Meyer. The article neglected to mention that Keith represents us on a pro bono basis also, and has for almost 3 years - 3 years in which I have been privileged to get to know Keith and Jay Galleshaw and proudly count myself as their friend. I cannot say enough about Keith Sullivan, and am joined in that praise by everyone I have ever met that knows him.

    I am definitely one of Sullivan’s supporters, which makes me anything but unique. I will provide my contact number below - and my name; no cowardly comments for me - and invite anyone with questions because of the laughable smear posted by “the thresher” to call (especially “the thresher”). Unwarranted attacks on a good man are a “big deal” if they are allowed to go unchallenged. This one will not go unchallenged.

    Paul Mannix
    516-848-9847 cell

  6. pete 06:14pm, 09/21/2012

    Boxing needs intelligent advocacy, and a guy like Keith Sullivan, an attorney with compassion and smarts, seems to fit the bill. This was an interesting article. I loved the line—“I didn’t find boxing, it found me and I can honestly say that my association with it has enhanced my life in an immeasurable way…”

  7. the thresher 04:56pm, 09/21/2012

    Sorry Bob, notwithstanding his reputation, I am not one of Sulliivan’s supporters. If you email me, I can elaborate. No big deal.

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