Desperate to find an easy opponent, Cordova, then in the last of three one-year terms as president, turned to the Orient. Junior middleweights in Japan and Korea are like heavyweights in Mexico: not very good. Selected for Gazo's first defense was Koichi Wajima, a 34-year-old former champion who hadn't had a fight since being knocked out 13 months before. No problem. Despite that defeat and Wajima's inactivity since then, the WBA ranked him No. 6; the light-punching Gazo stopped him in 11 rounds. Wajima never fought again.
Gazo's next opponent was Kenji Shibata, a fairly decent Japanese fighter but one who had lost three of his last 11 fights. The WBA ranked him No. 8, and in September 1977 Gazo, despite looking like an amateur, defeated Shibata on a decision. Although Kalule was now clearly the leading contender, and was so ranked, the WBA chose to ignore him. Instead, Cordova tapped a Korean, Lim Che-Keun, who was rated No. 8 under the name of Jaekeun Yim, to fight Gazo. The alias wasn't a WBA deception so much as an indication of its indifference to accuracy. Lim, or Yim, lost a split decision on Dec. 18, 1977.
For that fight, Gazo was paid $80,000. By now the WBA had been taken over by Galindez, an accountant with the Venezuelan Ministry of Transport and Communication, and Gazo's protective blanket came unraveled. In August 1978 Masashi Kudo, a Japanese possessed of slight skill but considerable courage, surprised everyone by defeating Gazo on a split decision.
Kudo's victory came 10 months after Kalule had been named the leading contender. No WBA junior middleweight champion had made a mandatory defense in the previous 22 months, not since Castellini had won the title in a mandatory fight against Jose Duran on Oct. 9, 1976. Galindez had come in as Cordova's hand-picked replacement. While Sanchez remained in charge of ratings, Cordova took over Galindez' old post as chairman of the championship committee. Galindez turned out to be a rebel (see box page 36), but one point they all did agree on was that Kudo's first defense would be against a Korean named Ho Joo, who had just been stripped of his Oriental & Pacific Boxing Federation title for running out on a scheduled OPBF defense. Ho Joo, previously ranked No. 7, was elevated to No. 6 by the WBA, and the title fight was sanctioned for December 1978 in Japan.
In Denmark the fuming Palle had had enough. Kalule's manager fired off the first of more than 100 cablegrams to the WBA. Before he was through, Palle would spend $20,000 on cables, telephone calls and travel expenses in his fight to have the WBA recognize Kalule as the mandatory challenger.
In response, when the September 1978 ratings were issued, the WBA arrogantly replaced the still undefeated Kalule as the leading contender, with Gert Steyn, a South African of no great ability who had been rated since July 1977. The WBA has a fondness for South African fighters—on the whole, a courageous lot but woefully trained—and for luxurious trips to the land of gold and diamonds and racial unrest.
If Steyn's rise to the top came as a surprise, Kalule's demotion was even more stunning. From the time he was first named the leading challenger until his demotion, Kalule had won 10 fights, seven inside the distance, without a loss. In the same period Steyn had won three, none against a world-class opponent. This was the same Steyn who, at the end of 1976, had been knocked out by Mike Nixon, an American club fighter.
Spang Thomsen, general secretary of the Danish Boxing Commission, was so incensed at the WBA's act that he wired Galindez: "We find no justice and sporting spirit among WBA officers...disgusting politics."
Galindez wrote back to say that the WBA had realized it made a mistake in moving Steyn ahead of Kalule. "I shall inform the Chairman of the Ratings Committee to clarify this situation," Galindez replied. "Sometime a lack of information create confusion and a boxer is moved up or dropped without any apparent reason."
Kalule was re-ranked as No. 1 challenger in January 1979. After the ratings were released, the Danes received a cable from Mike Mortimer, a South African who had been named head of the championship committee after Cordova had resigned to make an unsuccessful bid to unseat Galindez in the 1978 WBA presidential elections. The wire read: "If Kalule holds this position [No. 1 contender] at the time compulsory defense due will naturally enforce his right." The compulsory defense had been due since April 1977, 18 months before Mortimer sent that cable. No mention was made of that oversight.