The Hearings Impaired
It might surprise Congress to learn that boxing is more than Don King, no matter what the wild-haired old light promoter would like to have engraved on his tombstone. But King is very visible, of course, and an easy target for every politician looking to get his name in the paper, which is just what several members of the Senate subcommittee on investigations did last week during its two days of hearings on corruption in professional boxing.
This was supposed to be an investigation into the business of boxing—which could certainly use a couple of trips through the car wash—though even this inquiry would not have happened if a pug named Dave Tiberi lived someplace other than Delaware. Last February, Tiberi lost a controversial decision to middleweight champion James Toney. That upset a few folks, including William Roth, a Republican senator from Tiberi's home state, who has introduced legislation calling for the creation of a federal boxing commission.
Next thing you know, Roth is dragging the sport before his subcommittee, which really isn't a bad idea since plenty of fighters get ripped off by those alphabet bandits—the WBC, the WBA, the IBC, the IBF, etc.—as well as by other shady characters. A lot of people have long hoped that Congress might actually do something about these so-called sanctioning bodies, but congressmen never do much in these periodic boxing probes except ask questions that rarely get answered.
They did ask a lot of people if King was a mob guy. Michael Franzese, a former captain in the Colombo crime family, testified that he met with King in 1983 about copromoting fights. But that wasn't news. The FBI has been trying to nail King for years. (In fact, according to law-enforcement sources, federal agencies are currently investigating allegations of mail fraud involving King.) For his part King, when asked to give a deposition, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, which is what people like King do when a congressman asks them a question.
Focusing on King is like staring at a burning match in the midst of a forest fire. Instead the senators should have asked the WBC and the WBA a couple of questions: How do you get away with being classified as nonprofit organizations? And what do you do with all the tax-free millions you collect from boxers? The subcommittee did call in Bob Lee, president of the IBF, but he copped the Fifth quicker than a drunk in a liquor store.
About the only one who asked the right question at the hearings was Sen. William Cohen (R., Maine), who said, "Is this something federal regulation should correct?"
The answer is yes. But first Congress has to pass laws that protect fighters from the notorious alphabet bandits. If Congress would do that, guys like King and Lee would be out of business. And the Senate wouldn't have to hold any more useless boxing hearings.
After his victory at the British Open last month Nick Faldo thanked the fans at Muirfield. "I owe you all a big Scotch," he said. "Maybe a bottle of Johnnie Walker to every pub in Scotland."