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Obviously distressed that a champion would dare speak up, even to a rival organization, Mendoza then decreed that the WBA would sanction only a 12-round fight. It mattered not that this was in direct contravention of the WBA's 15-round rule. Nor did it matter that Sulaiman had agreed to ignore his own new rule by allowing Hagler to fight 15 rounds in each of his two defenses following the Scypion challenge.
Enter the United States Boxing Association, or, more correctly, its hastily put-together offshoot, the USBA/International. "You are our world middleweight champion," said the USBA/I, an organization that, minus the slash and the I, had Scypion as its United States middleweight champion. "If you want to fight 15 rounds, we'll sanction it."
That's all the boxing world needed: a third organization with a third set of ratings and, more than likely, a third set of champions. Said Bill Brennan, the USBA/I's championship committee chairman and former president of the USBA, "We'll be O.K. if we can keep our people honest, keep their hands out of other people's pockets."
For his part, Hagler was more than happy to have the USBA/I's blessing. He said, "I won the title in a 15-round fight, I've defended it six times in 15-round fights, and I'm going to defend it this time in a 15-round fight."
Pat Petronelli, Hagler's co-manager, was more direct: "We're fed up with the WBC and WBA dictating terms to us. How can they sanction this fight for 12 rounds and the next two for 15 rounds? It's bad for the sport. We're taking a stand right now. Marvin is disgusted with both organizations. They keep saying, '[We're going to] strip, strip, strip [you of your title].' And we're saying to them, 'If you want to do it, go ahead and do it.' Marvin Hagler will still be the world champion regardless of what they say."
When the fight was postponed from May 13 to May 27 because of an injury to Hagler's left knee, Arum asked Mike Jones, Scypion's co-manager, "You in or out?"
Jones asked for 24 hours to confer with his man. The next day Jones said, "When you get down to the nitty-gritty, one fact stands out: Marvin is the undisputed middleweight champion. How could any governing body deny that? And when Wilford wins the title, he will be the undisputed champion of the world."
Two other facts stood out: When Scypion upset Frank (The Animal) Fletcher in February, he earned the shot at Hagler and the $350,000, including training expenses, that went with it. If Scypion (26-3) refused to fight. Arum had the option of bringing in a substitute. Given the choice between $350,000 and the future blessings of the WBC and WBA, Scypion wisely opted for the cash.
Sulaiman had two moves left in his repertoire. On May 18 he wired Mike Malitz of Arum's office: "WBC emergency committee voted certification of Hagler-Scypion 15 rounds based on contractual agreement. Our officials will be Arthur Mercante, referee, and judges Tony Perez, Tony Castellano and Mr. Fishenbaum."
"Mr. Fishenbaum" was Stuart Kirschenbaum, the chairman of the Michigan athletic commission, who had already been appointed a judge by the USBA/I. Along with Kirschenbaum the USBA/I had selected Referee Frank Cappuccino, and judges Larry Hazzard and Joe Cortez. A Telex went back to Sulaiman: "Suggest you contact Robert W. Lee, president of the USBA/I." A rough translation: "Drop dead."