SI Vault
December 13, 1999
Jocks Stand UpStar-crossed Columbine High wins a state title
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December 13, 1999


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ESPN likes to boast that it provides a national stage for little-known teams, and often it does. Just as often, however, it helps the rich get richer. The network clearly favored the sexiest programs during last week's ACC/ Big Ten Challenge, and despite the fact that Kansas has made just one Elite Eight appearance in the past five years, the Jayhawks have appeared in the Great Eight four times in that span. It's a pattern that leaves schools like Oklahoma feeling like wallflowers.

"If you want an event for schools with the best traditions and you sell it that way, fine," says Sampson, "but don't call it something it isn't."
—Seth Davis

Rank Rankings

We've all heard tales of poor kids who worked their way to the top. Nowhere are those inspiring stories more common than in boxing, a sport in which champions routinely rise from the slums to achieve immortality. To reach the golden city at the end of boxing's Rocky road, you have to let the blood, sweat and tears flow.

Another means to the same end allegedly involved letting cash flow. Last month a federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted Bob Lee and three other IBF bosses for soliciting payments to rig their rankings and accepting bribes totaling at least $333,000. Twenty-three boxers, along with 14 promoters and managers, are alluded to in the indictment, but none is mentioned by name or charged with any crime. By cross-referencing information in the indictment and the IBF's past rankings, however, SI has deduced the identities of many of the boxers who benefited. The indictment is silent on whether the boxers knew of the alleged bribes.

The biggest alleged payments were to arrange fights for or improve the rankings of heavyweights George Foreman, Axel Schulz, Francois Botha and Joe Hipp. After Foreman shocked Michael Moorer to win the IBF heavyweight title in 1994, his camp paid the IBF $100,000 to allow him to face the unranked Schulz. After Foreman won a decision, Schulz's handlers gave the IBF another $100,000 to order a rematch that never came off (SCORECARD, Nov. 15). Botha and Hipp also moved into title contention, thanks in part to payments of $10,000 and $20,000, respectively.

The indictment also alludes to two current IBF champions, junior middleweight Fernando Vargas and junior welterweight Terron Millett. The IBF allegedly solicited $25,000 in May 1998 from someone the indictment identifies as "Promoter Number 6" to rank Vargas as the No. 1 contender. The indictment says Promoter 6 made the payment, and indeed Vargas was moved up to No. 1 the next month.

A January '98 bribe of at least $4,000 from "Promoter Number 5" allegedly boosted Millett from No. 9 to No. 5 in the IBF junior welterweight rankings (and also improved the ranking of junior welterweight Freddy Rojas). Three fights later Millett got his shot against champion Vince Phillips and won. Millett says he knew nothing of any bribe: "I thought I moved up by beating people."

According to the indictment, the IBF took five bribes totaling $18,000 from "Manager Number 5" to push Miguel Julio up its lightweight ladder and fix the rankings of several other boxers. A sixth payment of $5,000 was to guarantee that the IBF would compel Oscar De La Hoya, who had won the lightweight title, to fight Julio. But De La Hoya ignored the IBF and defended his WBO belt against Genaro Hernandez.

Although No. 1 rankings were arranged for as little as $2,000, in at least one respect the IBF was a bastion of virtue: It apparently strove to protect the integrity of its system of bribery. According to the indictment, after agreeing to a $10,000 bribe to move super middleweight Reginaldo Andrade from No. 10 to No. 2, the IBF dropped him from its rankings five months later when the money didn't arrive.
—Tim Graham

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