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By controlling rankings and the sanctioning of title fights, the WBA and the WBC hold a firm, if shared, grip on boxing. By controlling many of the best fighters, promoter Bob Arum and his chief rival, Don King, are able to apply leverage of their own. The machinations of the WBA-WBC-Arum-King axis take different forms. For example, Arum claims in an interview in the May issue of The Ring that to get "anything you want done in the WBA," it's necessary to "pay off" Pepe Cordero, a Puerto Rican promoter whom Arum describes as the "bagman" for the WBA. In testimony last week at a congressional subcommittee hearing on a bill to create a federal boxing commission, Arum repeated the charge, claiming he had to pay "tribute" to Cordero to get opponents for Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, whose fights Arum promotes. For his part, Cordero denied these accusations in an interview with SI's San Juan correspondent, Connie Lepore, and called Arum "an ass, a liar and a rat," adding, "and he's jealous because the WBA doesn't let him do what he wants."
Whatever the truth of Arum's allegations about having to pay off the WBA, it should be noted that top promoters like King and he are in a position to exact tribute from the WBA and WBC in return. A case in point is the difficulty three-time world champion Alexis Arguello has had in getting WBA sanctioning of an envisioned rematch this summer with junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor, who stopped Arguello in the 14th round last November. The WBA has ruled that Arguello must have a tune-up with a ranked contender before it will sanction a rematch. Considering the frightening ending to Arguello's first bout with Pryor—he lay on the canvas for four minutes after the fight—it isn't out of line to suggest that he work his way up to a rematch. But the only reason the WBA is able to order that he do so is that Arguello, strangely enough, is unranked by that organization.
That's only part of the curious situation. Acceding to the WBA demand for a tune-up, Arguello has arranged a fight in June with ninth-ranked WBA contender Akio Kameda of Japan, but only after coming under pressure from the WBA to fight instead 1Oth-ranked Miguel Montilla, a boxer from the Dominican Republic under the control of the ubiquitous Cordero, who has co-promoted fights with Don King. Dan Duva, the promoter for Arguello's recent fights as well as the hoped-for rematch with Pryor, said he was told in late March by Rafito Cedeño, a Venezuelan promoter with close ties to both Cordero and the WBA, that a Pryor rematch would be sanctioned only if Montilla were to receive a staggering $150,000 as his purse in an Arguello fight and only if King were co-promoter of both that fight and the subsequent title go with Pryor.
The implication is that Cedeño and the WBA were trying to help Cordero and King horn in on a couple of big promotions and to create a bloated payday for Montilla. A spokesman for King disclaimed knowledge of any such maneuverings, and Cedeño challenged one of Duva's allegations, saying he hadn't discussed the size of Montilla's purse with Duva. What lends credence to Duva's assertions, however, is the acknowledgement by Cedeño and other sources close to the WBA that the organization did indeed try strongly to push Montilla on Duva. Nor does the matter end there. Duva says that Cordero still has visions of an Arguello-Montilla fight and is now using his influence to try to persuade Kameda to back out of fighting Arguello.
Not to be outdone by the WBA in throwing its sanctioning weight around, the WBC has refused to approve Bobby Chacon's planned defense of his junior lightweight title on May 15 against Cornelius Boza-Edwards of Uganda, even though the latter is the top-rated WBC contender. Instead, the WBC wants Chacon to fight Hector (Macho) Camacho, who's ranked lower than Boza-Edwards. Why the leapfrogging of Boza-Edwards? It appears that Chacon, besides having a contract with Boza-Edwards, also has one for his next three title defenses with Don King, the man who's trying to put together the Camacho fight; King has Camacho tied up, too. Chacon's contractual entanglement is now in the courts, but WBC President Jose Sulaimán supports his friend King on the grounds that King promoted the bout last December in which Chacon won the title against Rafael Limón and that WBC rules entitle a promoter of a championship fight to an option on the successful challenger's first defense. "The rules must be respected," says Sulaimán. The trouble with this argument is that the rule in question is a bad one, because it unnecessarily rewards the promoter—a favored one of the WBC in this case—to the detriment of the sport, and also creates a situation in which the WBC's own ratings are thrown out the window. Of course, that rule is hardly the only thing bad in boxing at the moment.
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