The first time Mike Rossman and Victor Galindez fought, five months ago in New Orleans, Galindez wound up losing on a technical knockout, the result of cuts. Last Saturday in Las Vegas, Rossman and Galindez both were TKO victims, stopped, in effect, by a telegram from Venezuela. Rossman was in town to defend the World Boxing Association light heavyweight championship he won from Galindez in the Superdome, but the fight never took place because the Nevada Athletic Commission refused to give in and allow WBA officials to officiate, rather than its own judges and referee.
At fight time the television cameras were ready, the champion was in the ring, the challenger was in his hotel room, and ABC, with Howard Cosell at the controls, was questioning whether the demise of boxing was at hand.
The trouble began when WBA President Mandry Galindez—no relation to the challenger—shipped in a corps of neutral officials to handle the fight. The WBA does this for mandatory title defenses—that is, bouts in which the champion is required to meet the No. 1 challenger rather than getting a pay day with some stiff. For the WBA it was a calculated power play. Only a month earlier Barney Shackman, the WBA counsel, had assured the Nevada commission that if it joined the world body, the WBA wouldn't object if the state used its own officials for the fight. "That in itself was extortion in its simplest terms," says Sig Rogich, a Nevada commissioner.
A few days before the fight Bob Shields, the Nevada commission chairman, called Shackman to ask if the WBA's promise still held. It did, Shackman assured him. The following afternoon, however, after a conversation with Tito Lectoure, the Argentine promoter who advises Victor Galindez, Bob Arum of Top Rank, which was promoting the fight, sensed a shift in the WBA's thinking. For one thing, Victor Galindez was not happy about fighting an American in the U.S. with four U.S. officials. More important, Lectoure indicated, Mandry Galindez was very sympathetic to the ex-champion's fears.
Arum called the WBA president at his home in Venezuela, and was told conditions had changed. Mandry Galindez, ignoring his pledge to Nevada, now wanted the usual complement of WBA neutral officials.
"You can't do that," Arum screamed into the telephone. "If you do, the fight is off."
But all was not lost, yet. In relays, Arum, Lectoure and Rodolfo Sabatini, an Arum associate from Italy, argued with Mandry Galindez, who finally offered a concession. The WBA president said he would be agreeable to a neutral referee, two neutral judges and a Nevada judge. The three neutrals would all be Latins.
"I think I can get that," Arum said, not without inner reservations.
Top Rank was playing for high stakes. ABC television was paying $300,000 to carry the fight on its Wide World of Sports. And Caesars Palace, where the fight was to be staged, had plunked down another $250,000 for the live gate and resulting publicity.
Out of that Rossman would be paid $140,000; Galindez $75,000. Another $35,000 or so would be spent on the preliminary card. This left a neat profit after other operating expenses.