Work in Sports
Caught on tape
Jurors see videotape evidence of 'Christmas cheer'
Posted: Friday May 05, 2000 07:30 PM
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- After hearing four weeks of testimony and audiotapes that IBF founder Robert W. Lee took bribes, jurors on Friday got their first glimpse of Lee getting what prosecutors claim was just one of a long series of cash payoffs to manipulate boxer rankings.
A black-and-white videotape made from a camera hidden in a hotel suite showed Lee's longtime ratings chairman, C. Douglas Beavers, removing a package from his ankle and giving it to Lee on Dec. 19, 1997.
"Christmas cheer," Beavers said, using a code word for bribe that they used regardless of the season.
"What, how much is this?" Lee responded.
"This is five thousand" in cash for Lee and his son, their share of a $10,000 bribe from a Colombian boxing manager to move two boxers higher in the ratings, Beavers told his boss.
The remaining $5,000 was split between Beavers and a fellow Virginian, IBF championship committee chairman Bill Brennan, Beavers said.
The money from manager Billy Chams, in the form of two money market checks, had been delivered a month earlier to Beavers in Virginia by the IBF's South American representative, Francisco Fernandez of Colombia, Beavers had previously told Lee.
Beavers and Fernandez had arranged in October to take $10,000 to improve the IBF rankings of two Chams fighters in Colombia, welterweight Hugo Pineda, the No. 6 contender, and junior featherweight Victor Llerena, No. 3., Beavers has said.
The next month, Pineda advanced to No. 3, while Llerena became the No. 1 contender. All IBF ratings were done by Lee and Beavers, despite the existence of a ratings committee, Beavers has testified.
The Colombians are among 23 boxers who benefited from payoffs made by seven managers and seven promoters, according to documents filed by Beavers.
None of the boxers, managers or promoters have been charged, although prosecutors describe promoter Don King as an unindicted co-conspirator, and Beavers says King made regular payoffs so his fighters got special consideration.
King, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., has denied that.
The 80 audiotapes and three videos being played for the jury were made with Beavers after he began secretly cooperating with FBI agents investigating the East Orange-based IBF.
As one of boxing's three major sanctioning organizations, its rankings play a big role in determining whom a boxer fights, and his purse.
Lee, of Fanwood, was indicted in November with three other IBF officials, accused of taking $338,000 in payoffs to rig rankings and provide favors since 1983, when he founded the IBF.
The 66-year-old Lee and his son, Robert Jr., 38, of Scotch Plains, are the only defendants on trial. They face multiyear prison terms if convicted on conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and tax charges.
Brennan, 86, of Warsaw, Va., past president of the U.S. Boxing Association, a group that became the IBF, was severed from the trial due to ill health. Fernandez remains at large.
While watching the videotape Friday, jurors heard several references to 'Fuzzy' and 'Fuzzy Wuzzy,' code for King, the dominant promoter in boxing. As Lee and Beavers review ratings, they take note of King's boxers.
They also muse about getting what Beavers considers more payoff money from King:
Beavers: "I hope Fuzzy sends us a Christmas turkey."
Lee: "Hey man."
Beavers: "It wouldn't be Christmas without a turkey."
Lee: "That's right, that's right."
The trial is expected to last at least another two months.
Beavers, 56, of Portsmouth, Va., succeeded Brennan in 1981 as executive director of the Virginia Athletic Commission, the agency that until 1995 regulated boxing in the commonwealth. That function is now contracted to a private company owned by Beavers, the Virginia Boxing and Wrestling Association Inc.