Work in Sports
Indictments handed down for bribes
IBF President indicted on rackerteering charges
Posted: Friday November 05, 1999 11:42 PM
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Many in boxing are hoping that reforms will follow a sweeping indictment in which the head of one governing organization was accused of soliciting and taking bribes to rig rankings.
A 32-count racketeering indictment was announced Thursday against IBF president Robert W. Lee Sr.
Unaffected by the legal action is the Nov. 13 rematch in Las Vegas to unify the heavyweight title between the IBF and WBA champion, Evander Holyfield, and WBC champion Lennox Lewis of England.
"We will let the legalities run their course," said Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. "We will deal with all the sanctioning bodies."
Ratner added, though, "It's unfortunate for the sport to keep getting these hits. Every time something negative happens, it hurts."
Said boxing promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events in Totowa, "I'd hate to see them go to all this trouble and have no effect."
"It doesn't get us home, but it's the right direction," she added.
Larry Hazzard, commissioner of New Jersey's Athletic Control Board, would not comment on the indictment, said Rhonda Utley-Herring, his executive assistant.
The two cable networks that air the bulk of U.S. boxing matches, HBO and Showtime, also had no comment regarding the indictment.
The charges were not unexpected in the industry, following a two-year federal grand jury inquiry.
They came as Capitol Hill is poised to send President Clinton legislation that would regulate a broad range of boxing activities, including requiring financial disclosure forms from sanctioning bodies.
The indictment outlined a 13-year conspiracy in which IBF rankings were bought, prompting a federal prosecutor to call the IBF's claim of fair ratings "a bald-faced lie."
Upon leaving court Thursday, Lee said he and his colleagues were innocent. Messages left Friday for Lee and the attorney for the IBF were not returned.
Main Events repeatedly has battled the IBF in court, alleging its fighters were being denied title bouts and proper rankings in violation of the IBF's own rules, said Duva, chief executive officer of Main Events.
The indictment referred to seven promoters and 23 boxers involved in briberies only by number.
Duva acknowledged Friday that one of the boxers in the indictment is IBF junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas, who is promoted by Main Events.
The indictment said Lee in May 1998 solicited $25,000 from a promoter to make Vargas, then No. 5 contender, to No. 1. Lee and others made the change the next month, and in December 1998, Lee accepted $25,000 from that promoter, the indictment said.
The promoter was Main Events president Dino Duva, who is now on leave, according to a person familiar with that aspect of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The IBF threatened it would ignore its rules and deny Fernandez the No. 1 spot, the source said. The Duvas approached the U.S. attorney's office after the payment, the source said.
Kathy Duva was married to the late Dan Duva, who is Dino's brother.
She maintained that Vargas had earned a title shot, asserting, "There's a difference between bribery and extortion."
She declined to say whether she or her brother-in-law testified before the grand jury, but said, "We've cooperated with them fully in every way they asked."
Heavyweights have few mentions in the indictment, but it does charge that Lee and others took $100,000 from a promoter in 1995 to allow a bout between a heavyweight champion and a previously unranked boxer.
There was only one such fight that year, when George Foreman defeated Axel Schulz to retain his title.
The indictment also charged that Lee and others took $100,000 from a different promoter in May 1995 to mandate a rematch between the two heavyweights. Foreman later refused to give Schulz a rematch and was stripped of his titles.
Schulz's promoter, Cedric Kushner, did not return messages seeking comment.
Foreman promoter Bob Arum has said he testified to the grand jury and that he did not pay Lee.
Arum said he would like a judge to appoint an overseer to rehabilitate the IBF. "This could end up being a very good thing for boxing if the IBF is placed in receivership and operated properly," he said.
A ranking member of the U.S. attorney's office here, Robert J. Cleary, said that while remedial measures are best imposed by government of the industry, prosecutors will "evaluate our options."