The Need for Commissions

By Wrigley Brogan on July 24, 2018
The Need for Commissions
A decent commission wouldn't have approved the fight in the first place. (Wrigley Brogan)

I always tell people that I am not a boxing fan; I am a boxing writer. I attempt to be objective and report only what I see…

People have differing opinions about state boxing commissions. Promoters often do not appreciate commissions because they interfere with their work. They are hindered from making the matches they want and, when problems arise before a show, they cannot skirt the edges of what is ethical or even legal. Many boxing commissions, as pointed out on several occasions by Teddy Atlas, are incompetent.

In Washington State the boxing commission was a division of the state hairdressing licensing division. They knew more about perms than boxing. The frustrating part was they had no inclination to learn about boxing. Fortunately that has changed. They still do not know how to approve matches because they rely on a boxer’s record and refuse to take into consideration who he has fought; therefore a boxer who has lost several fights to top contenders, or even to world champions, is often rated lower than a boxer with an unblemished record against street bums and tuna salesmen.

The primary reason for boxing commissions should be for the safety of the boxers, to make sure there are no substantial mismatches that could result in serious injury. They also make sure a show runs legally, weigh-ins are done properly, there is nothing strange about the judging or suspicious calls by the referees, that the boxers are properly paid, and many other small details like certified gloves, etc.

Without a commission you get a show like the one last year held in a cow pasture on an Indian Reservation in Hays, Montana. The people putting on the show are all good people but knew nothing about boxing.

The fights suffered problems from the beginning. Because there was no cell phone coverage in the area, many boxers did not know how the find the weigh-in and there was no way to call and find out where it was being held. No one in the area had heard anything about the fight so the boxers returned home. This left a void of fighters that needed to be filled. Any boxer would do.

Patrick Ferguson (8-0, 8KO) vs. Zoltan Petranyi (56-23) did not happen. Ferguson, an unbeaten star in the cruiserweight division, was anxious to take his first step up in class against the Hungarian veteran. Petranyi hit the scale on time and on weight. Ferguson was not there. Petranyi stayed at the weigh-in until midnight but, because the nearest hotel room was 30 miles distant down a gravel road, had something to eat and finally left. Ferguson had gotten lost and arrived the following morning. He had eaten and was several pounds overweight. Petranyi refused to fight unless Ferguson took off the pounds, an impossible task just hours before the fight.

Ferguson’s manager, Ray Frye, had the perfect and logical solution, one any American fighter would have taken. Let them both weigh in now. If Ferguson weighed more than Petranyi, he would take off the weight so they would both step into the ring weighing the same. Petranyi refused. The call went out for a replacement for Ferguson.

One thing about American fighters, especially Native American fighters, they don’t lack for guts. Ruben Roundstone, a local kid with a record of 0-1, would have fought Mike Tyson in his prime. No commission would have approved the fight. Roundstone stepped into the ring and, for 32 seconds, gave Ferguson his best shot. Ferguson knocked him to the canvas, where he should have stayed. Pride returned him to his feet. Ferguson pummeled him with a body shot so vicious his breath was last seen somewhere over Wyoming.

The fight was a letdown for Ferguson. He was anxious to take the next step and he wanted to return to the ring as soon as possible.

The fight between Stephen Villalobos and Daniel Gonzalez was almost manslaughter. According to witnesses, Villalobos’ original opponent, appeared briefly, then, for reasons known only to him, scurried quickly back across the border to Canada. Good natured, Daniel Gonzales was called in from Billings. Gonzales (12-42-1) was already such damaged goods that he was presently on suspension and could not legally fight anywhere in the world except on a Native American Reservation where they make their own rules. He drove directly from work to the fight and was returning home after the fight. He was all grins when he arrived and wandered about thanking the crowd for coming. He was also concerned about his money and wanted to know where to collect his purse after the fight. The Villalobos team had agreed to pay him.

He stepped into the ring on unsteady legs and tilted to one side, clearly not in full control of his motor skills. At the bell the attempted execution began as the unbeaten Villalobos tore into him like a pit bull on a dog biscuit. Within 15 seconds anyone could see the criminal mismatch. Some men are too tough for their own good. Gonzales refused to go down.

Boxing needs professional opponents on which to build their fighters. Many boxers take terrible beatings with few physical or mental effects and earn a decent living. Those who become damaged need to retire. A decent commission will see that this is done.

Villalobos, a decent young man with great potential, saw the futility of the fight. He even encouraged Gonzales to throw punches and looked to the referee as if to ask him to stop the fight. Apparently the referee thought it was a world title fight and that someone totally defenseless should be given his chance. Gonzales probably never threw more than a half dozen meaningless punches during the entire 4-round fight. If the referee, or the doctor, did not have enough humanity to stop the fight, his corner should have thrown in the towel. A decent commission would have stopped the fight. No, they would not have approved the fight in the first place. Anyone who thought a fight like this one would return boxing to Montana must be a sadist. The last time I checked, murder is illegal in all 50 states. Nothing could be worse for the “sport.”

After the fight, Gonzales, almost blind from the beating he took, stumbled about thanking everyone for coming.

I wrote several articles about this fight and sent them to Montana’s governor. I don’t know if it did any good, but not long afterwards Montana formed a boxing commission. I always tell people that I am not a boxing fan; I am a boxing writer. I attempt to be objective and report only what I see. My main concern is always for the safety of the boxers. People in the business often abuse them. The least they can do is to keep them as safe as possible. Decent and knowledgeable boxing commissions are a good start.

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  1. jim allcorn 10:26pm, 07/30/2018

    I was a sparring partner for both Bumphis & his stablemate Livingstone Bramble ( who stopped Ray Mancini for his WBA lightweight title ) for their fights that night. I was just a local kid who hadn’t yet made his pro debut back in 1984 but Lou Duva gave me the chance to earn a little $$$ & get some experience against real world class pros by letting me go a few rounds a day with the two of them over the course of week leading up to their bouts. And, Lou made sure that neither of them took liberties with me by telling them to ease up when they had me hurt or were outclassing me too badly. So, although I was never a fan of the man before then I was eternally grateful for him afterward. Yeah, he often resorted to histrionics in the ring when he felt that his fighter had been wronged but it wasn’t a show. He truly cared about fighters & watched out for them. Even a low-level pug like me.

  2. Chico Suave 03:31pm, 07/26/2018

    Lucas McCain bringing up Johnny Bumphus had me watching Bumphus’ losing effort against Gene Hatcher. Speaking of not caring about fighters, might want to add Lou Duva to that list. Bumphus was staggering all over the ring at the time of the stoppage, and ONCE AGAIN, Duva goes ape about his fighter being stopped. ONCE AGAIN, Lou put on an Oscar winning performance where he had to be restrained. Remember watching this fight when it happened but I had forgotten about how it ended with “Bump City” and Lou losing it.

  3. Chico Suave 06:34am, 07/26/2018

    Lucas… And tanks for the info on that Twilight Zone episode. Loved those old shows. Haven’t seen that one but hopefully I can catch it sometime.

  4. Chico Suave 06:32am, 07/26/2018

    Lucas McCain… Tanks for the 411 on Johnny Bumphus. Remember him being highly touted when he started out, he was one of “Tomorrow’s Champions.” Had no idea things turned out that bad for the guy. At the time, I think they even were saying he was more talented than the other prospects like Czyz, Ayala, and Ramos. Czyz probably received the least attention and yet it was Czyz that went on to be more successful. Of course Ayala would have been a superstar if he didn’t turn out to be a POS rapist.

  5. Buster 09:01pm, 07/25/2018

    Easy solution for Montana (and any state where the “oversight” is nil or negligent): BAN THIS FUCKING SO CALLED SPORT.

  6. Kid Blast 05:11pm, 07/25/2018

    In order to get fairness, equality, accountability, and transparency, you must want fairness, equality, accountability, and transparency.

  7. George Otto, Esq., AAIB and TJQF 03:03pm, 07/25/2018

    While there are many reasons why limited regulation of professional boxing exists in the USA, here are a few which the author did not mention.  Most of the important fighters are primarily connected or live in countries outside of the USA, and thus have limited local support in this country.  Secondly, for a wide variety of reasons, amateur boxing has noticeably declined in much of America in terms of number of participants, meaningful training, and local financial support.  Thirdly, the fighters have no unions, significant pensions, fair ratings systems, comprehensive physical exams, or uniform regulations monitoring the training and licensing of trainers, referees, ring officials, and boxing inspectors; hence the fighters and those who support them have very little control over many aspects of the conduct of the contests or their purses.  Finally, no major demands have been made by those who follow the sport, or those who might do so, to create any type of national and uniform regulations monitoring the sport.  As a result of all of these reasons, the promoters, managers, and cable television network executives possess and exercise great leeway in controlling and conducting the various aspects of professional boxing in such a way that maximizes their profits and compromises the very essence of sports—-fairness, equality, accountability, and transparency.

  8. Lucas McCain 10:19am, 07/25/2018

    Casanova, that one-ups the old “red light district of sports.” 

    One especially touching remark was:  After the fight, Gonzales, almost blind from the beating he took, stumbled about thanking everyone for coming. Half a dozen responses well up after that sentence.

    I recall a similar report about Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus’ last fight.  Once a rising star, he was barely steady enough (according to the reporter) to climb up the stairs into the ring.  His trainer had to help him up, for the sake of “giving the kid a final payday.”  Hope the story wasn’t true.  But the Twilight Zone tale about “Battling Maxo” wasn’t all fiction.

  9. Casanovita de Ahome 08:04am, 07/25/2018

    Boxing is the Leper Colony of Sport!

  10. Chief Ten Bears 05:21am, 07/25/2018

    One of the best fighters to never win a world title started out fighting on Indian reservations, the Mexican light heavyweight, “Yaqui” Lopez.

  11. ceylon mooney 02:59am, 07/25/2018

    holy smoke. holy smoke that was awful. shocking but not surprising. thank u so much for writing this article. geez, man. brutal world.

  12. Kid Blast 04:38pm, 07/24/2018

    Really fine article. I’ll be quoting from it for certain. Most commissions IMO are composed of political hacks and favorees. Sickening. Even NY is wanting in some respects. Nevada is OK. I like California’s but it too needs some work.

    Fact is, most are just plain awful.

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