Despite its all-encompassing title, the World Boxing Association is more parochial than catholic. It is, in effect, a fraternal club for Latin Americans, with its base of power in Panama. A few auxiliaries have been granted conditional licenses in South Africa and the Orient, but for only as long as South Africans continue their unswerving support and the Far East provides a steady cash flow. Complainers are banished to the rear of the line, just behind the U.S.
With the exception of the two years (1978-79) when Mandry Galindez of Venezuela was president, since 1975 the WBA has been in the tentacular grasp of Dr. Elias Cordova and Rodrigo Sanchez, Panamanians who maintain iron control over the only executive posts that matter: the presidency and the ratings committee chairmanship. Everything else is rubber-stamp.
The World Boxing Council at least attempts to present a facade of respectability. Snug in their safe Panamanian haven, the WBA powers care not. They flaunt their excesses: blatantly sanctioning ridiculous title fights while clogging the ratings with fighters who are ranked far higher than they should be.
"These WBA people are all liars," charges Danish promoter Mogens Palle. "Unless you send them mail that is registered, they claim they never receive it. You ask them for the rules, and they say they'll send them, but they never do. You ask for justice and they say be patient. But don't hold your breath. They give you nothing. They don't want anyone to have the rules, so no one will know when they are breaking them. When only the top people have the rules, they can play any game they want."
Palle is the manager of WBA junior middleweight champion Ayub Kalule, 27, a Ugandan who lives in Copenhagen. Kalule will defend his title against Sugar Ray Leonard, the WBC welterweight champ, on June 19 in Houston. For Kalule the difficult part of becoming champion was not his fight against Japan's Masashi Kudo, a titleholder of modest ability easily beaten by Kalule in 1979. His roughest fight was with the WBA, which blocked him from a shot at the championship for 23 months after he became the leading contender. Kalule had qualified for a title fight in November 1977. He was stonewalled until October 1979. What happened in between illustrates almost everything wrong with the WBA.
Before becoming a fighter, Kalule, the son of a Kampala butcher, had been an outstanding schoolboy sprinter and soccer player. Then he read a magazine article on Muhammad Ali and decided he'd rather fight than run. He patterned himself after his older brother, Zaid, a fine amateur boxer. Zaid was a southpaw; Kalule is a natural righthander. Following his brother's lead, Kalule became a southpaw, too—which gives him a tremendous jab and hook.
In 1974, after winning British Commonwealth, All-Africa and All-World amateur titles, Kalule was named Africa's Athlete of the Year. Intense pressure was put on him to remain an amateur for the greater glory of Uganda, but like most African fighters of quality, he eventually left his homeland for Europe and lucrative purses.
Early in 1976, while touring Scandinavia with the Uganda team, Kalule met Palle, who offered him a professional career. Within a month, Kalule had returned to Denmark with his wife, Ziyada, and their daughters, Marian and Zajida; another daughter, Dauswa, and a son, Sadat, have since been born.
Kalule made his debut on April 8, 1976, winning a four-round decision over Kurt Hombach in Copenhagen. Since then his life-style, which is frugal, has changed little. Every morning he runs at least two miles, and he trains twice a day, once in the morning, again in the afternoon. Kalule is an outstanding boxer and a respected if not heavy puncher. By late 1977 his pro record was 12-0, with three of the victories having come over former WBA champions: Spain's Josè Luis Duran, Brazil's Miguel Castellini and the Bahamas' Elisha Obed. In November 1977 Kalule became the WBA's leading junior middleweight contender, which meant that the champion, Eddie Gazo of Nicaragua, should have been ordered to fight him. It's a WBA rule that a champion must fight the leading available contender every six months.
The powers of the WBA, however, weren't about to throw one of their own, especially one as inept as Gazo, in against a Kalule. The Nicaraguan had taken the title from Castellini, who had won it from Duran. All were mediocre at best. Kalule had already knocked out Duran and later he would knock out Castellini. Gazo would have been a certain third victim.
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.
On Dec. 7, 1978, Kalule had defeated Kevin Finnegan, a tough British middleweight, to run his record to 25-0. Palle immediately cabled Saburo Arashida, promoter of the Kudo-Joo fight, with an offer to fight the winner. Six days later Kudo defeated Joo on a split decision. (Just 64 days thereafter Kalule would knock out the appallingly bad Joo in the second round.)
On Dec. 23, 1978, Arashida cabled Palle: "Masashi Kudo fight already contracted. Will take place against Manuel Gonzalez (Argentina). Will consider negotiation after this fight." Gonzalez was ranked No. 5.
The angry Danes filed an immediate protest with Galindez, who three days later wired: "Kudo-Gonzalez fight not approved nor rewquested [sic]. Sanction February 8 mandatory fight date." Said Palle, "Can you believe this liar had the nerve to send me such a cable?"
As the Danes would discover quickly enough, the Kudo-Gonzalez fight, of course, had been requested and it had been approved. Mortimer was in Japan for the Kudo-Joo fight. While there he had advanced the possibility of Kudo fighting Steyn. The Japanese were horrified. Japan belongs to both the WBA and the WBC, and the latter group, by personal command of Josè Sulaimàn, its president, forbids fights against South Africans because of that country's apartheid policy.
The Japanese rejected Mortimer's offer. And as Mortimer' would confirm later, on or about Dec. 16 it had been agreed that Kudo would fight Gonzalez—a month before Galindez, as WBA president, solemnly told the Danes by cable that no such fight had even been requested. He would later repeat that statement to them in person.
On Jan. 17, 1979 Palle and Galindez met in New York City. Once again the WBA president swore that there would be no fight between Kudo and Gonzalez. "Kalule will have his mandatory fight in March," Galindez promised. In February, as Kudo continued to duck Palle's attempts to negotiate a Kalule fight, the Danes cabled Galindez to ask what was happening. The WBA president wrote back: "As you must know, he [Palle] met me...in New York and everything regarding Kalule situation was smoth [sic] solved. ...You are on the way when believe I strictly stick to my word and rules." Six days later Mortimer cabled the Danes that he'd just been notified by Japanese officials that Kudo had contracted to fight Gonzalez in Tokyo.
By now the compulsory defense was 22 months overdue. Playing out the fraud, Mortimer concluded, "My telex to championship committee reads as follows: Masashi Kudo compulsory defence against Steyn...could not take [p]lace for political reasons. Kudo agreed 16th December to fight Manuel Gonzalez for title in Japan 14th March 1979.... Kudo now asks sanction fight against Gonzalez as commitment entered in good faith...and before Kalule available."
The italics in Mortimer's cable are ours. The date bares the lie. The second italicized passage is an outright falsehood. Galindez had already admitted that moving Steyn ahead of Kalule had been a mistake. Now the WBA was using its own mistake as a device for ignoring Kalule's reign as top challenger since November 1977.
On March 14, 1979, Kudo defeated Gonzalez on a controversial decision. Nine days later Mortimer told Palle that Bill Miller of the U.S., a WBA executive who was the official observer at the fight, had, because of the controversy, recommended an immediate rematch. Palle sent a cable of protest to Mortimer, Galindez and Ron Hayter, a Canadian who is chairman of the WBA's grievance and appeals committee.
Early in April the WBA clan met in New Orleans. In executive session they sanctioned the Kudo-Gonzalez rematch. Only Hayter, who in disgust had threatened to pull Canada from the WBA unless it cleaned up its act, backed Palle's protest. He wrote Galindez, "I find it absolutely incredible that Kalule, unbeaten in 27 professional fights, should be treated in this fashion. He deserves a shot at the title. It is long overdue."
Galindez ignored the letter and recommendation. Instead, on May 2, he wrote Palle: "All the championship matters...are handled by the committee and I only back up their decisions if has been taken in accordance the rules. I only want you maintain your faith on the WBA and its leaders. Trust is the basis of a real friendship relationship...."
Then Galindez met with his friend, Ramiro Machado, a Colombian promoter who was also the manager of his countryman, junior middleweight Emiliano Villa, to discuss plans for Kudo's first fight following the Gonzalez rematch. The bout was not to be with Kalule, but with Villa.
Galindez wrote the Japanese that he not only approved a fight with Villa, but that he also would personally sanction it. It would prove to be his Waterloo. On June 29, 1979 Kudo stopped Gonzalez nine seconds into the 12th round. This time there was no controversy. A few weeks later a wire-service story out of Bogota, Colombia reported that Kudo would next defend his title against Villa in Tokyo. Palle wired Mortimer to ask if this were true. Mortimer answered that Kudo was going to fight Kalule next and that no other fight would be sanctioned.
Then after months of trying to negotiate to fight Kudo, on Sept. 14 Palle received this cable from Japanese promoter Munekatsu Kawaragi: "The contract...between Kudo and Emiliano Villa...has been already approved by the president of the WBA and the title match has also been already scheduled."
It was an extremely irate Palle who stormed into Miami Beach a week later for the opening of the WBA's 1979 convention. There he found unexpected allies in Cordova and Sanchez, who wanted the WBA power base returned to Panama. After his unsuccessful bid of the year before, Cordova this time had decided to see if Sanchez could unseat Galindez.
"Who the hell do we vote for?" asked a dismayed Richard Farah, a boxing promoter and manager representing the Trinidad-Tobago commission. "What is the difference: Galindez or Sanchez? One is a deep river, the other an ocean. One is full of piranha, the other full of sharks. They give us a hell of a choice: we can vote for incompetence or we can vote for corruption."
"This man Galindez is a ridiculous person, a liar," said Palle. "He kept telling me to be patient, that the Villa fight hadn't been approved when he'd approved it himself."
On Sept. 25, 1979 the case of Palle vs. Galindez went before the WBA executive committee. Galindez said, "There is nothing better than compliance with the law." During the preceding week the WBA had urged Palle and the Japanese to work out a solution. Now Mortimer was asked by Galindez if anything had been resolved. Mortimer said no. One of the Japanese stood up and waved a document. "We have a contract to fight Villa duly signed by a representative of the WBA," he said.
Uncertain of his command of English, Palle had asked Bob Arum, the American promoter, to speak for him at the meeting. Now Arum demanded, "Who signed the contract?" The Japanese replied, "Mandry Galindez." Those in the room looked at Galindez, who was impassive.
Turning back to the Japanese representative, Mortimer said, "The championship committee voted nothing for you. Our recommendation still stands that you fight Kalule." At this the Japanese sighed. Then with quiet dignity he said, "The Nippon commission approved this contract and I'll tell you why. They approved it because it was not signed by just any one person but by the president of the WBA. It's not the intention of the Nippon commission to accuse any one person. We are used to keeping our word."
With the president trapped, the executive committee tried to bail him out. Said Bill Miller, the executive secretary, "Look, the reality is that men are human and make mistakes. Let's let the two parties talk until Friday, and if they haven't reached a solution by then—then we'll make it for them." Faced with that ultimatum, the Japanese had no choice but to let Kalule fight Kudo. The bout took place on Oct. 29, 1979. With Kudo running and Kalule chasing, it was no contest. Kalule won a very easy 15-round decision. And Sanchez won the election by four votes. So the sharks had retaken command.
Cordova was a highly respected general surgeon in Panama City, now retired. Sanchez is a minor employee of the Panama government. In April last year Sugar Ray Leonard, after negotiations for his first WBC welterweight title fight with Panama's Roberto Duran were stalled, offered to first fight Pipino Cuevas of Mexico, then the WBA's welterweight champion. The Panamanians were less than happy with the thought that their beloved Duran was about to be bypassed for a Mexican under their control.
Just after nightfall on April 10 last year the telephone rang in the Mexico City home of Lupe Sanchez, manager of Cuevas. The caller identified himself as Colonel Ruben Parede, commander of the Panama National Guard, one of the most powerful men in the country. Colonel Parede has no official connection with the WBA. Still, he told Sanchez that there would be no Cuevas-Leonard fight. "If you fight him and even if you win," he warned, "it will mean nothing, because we will strip you of your WBA title." A few days later Sanchez announced that, because of cuts suffered by Cuevas in his last fight, he would be unavailable for Leonard. With a single stroke a Panamanian colonel had effectively killed a legitimate fight between an American and a Mexican that would have been promoted by an American (Arum), televised by an American network (ABC) and fought in an American city.
York Van Nixon, the chairman of the Washington, D.C. boxing commission, sits on the WBA executive committee. As a member of the committee, he was assigned to go to Houston and act as the official observer at WBA featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza's defense against Ruben Olivares on July 21, 1979. Pedroza is a Panamanian. Once one of the world's great bantamweights, Olivares, a Mexican, was nearing 33 and reduced to fighting journeymen. The WBA had Olivares ranked as No. 8.
In the final hour before the fight Pedroza's people suddenly demanded that they be paid their purse of $110,000 in cash—in advance. After a lot of arguing, Van Nixon finally got the money from the promoter, who had gotten it from the box office. Under police escort, Van Nixon rushed six blocks to the Ramada Inn where Pedroza was staying.
"I didn't realize until after I got to the hotel that Dr. Cordova and Sanchez were the spearheads behind the whole thing," Van Nixon says. "I told them it was one hell of a time to demand $110,000 in cash. There is nothing in our regulations that requires a fighter to be paid in advance." Seeing the money, Pedroza left for the arena and an easy victory. Now there was a problem of what to do with that much cash. The Ramada desk clerk refused responsibility. At Sanchez' suggestion, the money was placed in a hotel safety deposit box, with Van Nixon to hold the key until the next morning. Sanchez hired a guard to stay at the hotel all night. "I couldn't believe it," says Van Nixon. "Here was the president of the WBA hiring a guard to protect somebody else's money."
At seven the next morning Van Nixon returned to the hotel, where, he says, Sanchez demanded the key to the safety-deposit box. "No," Van Nixon says he told him. "The money belongs to the fighter, and I'll only give the money to him or his manager."
According to Van Nixon, Sanchez continued to demand the key. Van Nixon telephoned Bob Busse, chairman of the Texas Boxing Commission. Rushing to the hotel, Busse called Santiago del Rio, Pedroza's manager, from his room and fined him $1,000 for the prefight demand for the purse. Van Nixon says he handed Del Rio the key, and Del Rio in turn gave it to Sanchez. The WBA president went off to collect the money. After retrieving the $110,000 in cash, Van Nixon says, Sanchez peeled off $1,000 and gave it to Busse. He said it was to pay the fine.
Van Nixon says he recalls thinking. "Something stinks."
Not long afterward, in his role as head of the D.C. commission, Van Nixon was faced with another WBA pretitle-fight purse demand. This time he balked.
The fight was to have been in Washington between Ernesto Espana, a Venezuelan fighting out of Puerto Rico, then the WBA lightweight champion, and Leonidas Asprilla of Colombia. Espana is managed by Pepito Cordero, a traveling companion and confidant of Cordova and Sanchez. In February 1964 Cordero was convicted on two counts of burglary in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was sentenced to two-to-five years on one count, five-to-10 on the other. He was pardoned in the early 1970s by Rafael Hernandez Colon, then governor of Puerto Rico. Cordero moved into boxing right after that, hitting it big by owning pieces of four world champions: Espana, Angel Espada, Esteban de Jesus and Samuel Serrano. Before the Espana-Asprilla fight Cordero approached Van Nixon and demanded that Espana's purse be paid in advance—or, as in Houston, no fight.
"Then I learned that Sanchez and Dr. Cordova were in town but ducking me," says Van Nixon. "I could see the same thing happening that had happened in Houston: Sanchez and Cordova taking the money." Van Nixon suspended Espana and there was no fight.
Sammy Serrano of Puerto Rico won the WBA junior lightweight title on Oct. 16, 1976 and successfully defended it 10 times before being knocked out last August by Japan's Yasutsune Uehara, an incredibly bad fighter. Serrano is a good boxer, but his style is awkward and he lacks any kind of a punch.
However, he's managed by Cordero, and the only thing better than that is being allowed in the ring with a baseball bat. Cordero spent a lot of time in boxing's cemeteries digging up Serrano's opponents. The officials were selected with equal care: in at least six of Serrano's defenses, Larry Rozadilla, an American, worked as either the referee or as a judge, and he was always backed by at least one Latin-American official. In two of Serrano's fights that Rozadilla didn't work, all three of the officials were from Puerto Rico.
There has been no suggestion by anyone that any official is paid more than the customary fee, which is ample. The WBC now pays each official $2,400 for working a heavyweight title fight; $1,200 for other weight classes. For all fights the WBA pays a straight $800 to its referees, $400 to judges. And Rozadilla, as are many of his peers, is a competent official. The trouble is, some officials have been told, either subtly or directly, that either they lean in the right direction or the excellent pay and the all-expenses-paid trips around the world will go to more cooperative judges and referees. This is as wrong as a straight buyout.
In a period of 42 months after he won the title, Serrano made just three mandatory defenses—for an organization, remember, that by rule demands that its champions defend against the top contender every six months.
Even those mandatory defenses were little more than farces. The first was against Oh Young Ho, a Korean ranked as a lightweight until two months before fighting Serrano, when he suddenly popped up as the WBA's No. 1 junior lightweight. Serrano, eight inches taller, was ahead all the way, stopping Ho in the ninth round. The officials were a Venezuelan, a Nicaraguan and Rozadilla.
The second mandatory defense was against Happy Boy Mgxaji, a South African with the right political connections. As a further accommodation to its South African friends, the WBA put the fight on in Capetown. Although Serrano was a notoriously light hitter, after seven rounds Mgxaji refused to leave his corner. The officials were a Panamanian, a Venezuelan and Rozadilla.
In February 1978 Serrano won a 15-round decision over Mario Martinez, a Class B fighter from Nicaragua who had been slipped into the ratings only a month before as the No. 8 contender. Serrano won 15 of 15 rounds. All the officials were from Puerto Rico.
A year later Serrano made a voluntary defense against Julio Valdez of the Dominican Republic, who was ranked No. 9. The fight surprised everyone, even championship-committee chairman Mortimer, who thought Serrano was to fight Mgxaji next. The Mgxaji fight had been signed and sanctioned. No one bothered to tell Mortimer, whose committee is supposed to sanction all title bouts, that Serrano was slipping in an extra fight. Although it was against the rules, Galindez had personally sanctioned it. Farah, the Trinidad-Tobago fight commissioner who has been battling WBA injustices for years, was incensed when he learned of the bootleg title match. He met with Galindez in New York City. "How can you permit this fight?" Farah asked. "Serrano hasn't made an honest mandatory defense since he won the title and he's supposed to fight Mgxaji next. You haven't even told your own championship committee about the Valdez fight. It's breaking every rule."
"What are you worried about?" Galindez replied. "It's got nothing to do with you."
Returning home, Farah wrote Mortimer and informed him of the Valdez fight. Just nine days before the bout Mortimer received a cable from Salinas Sports Promotions, Cordero's company, requesting a sanction. Mortimer cabled his answer: "Serrano due to meet Mgxaji next as leading available contender April 7. Serrano mandatory...is nine months' overdue. Am not prepared to recommend sanction...repeat fight is not sanctioned and cannot proceed as WBA world championship fight."
Under heavy pressure from the WBA hierarchy, Mortimer gave in three days before the fight. He was so disgusted that he threatened to resign. Farah talked him out of it. "Stay and fight from within," Farah advised.
Then Farah got a telephone call from Cordero, who asked, "Who the hell do you think you are, the attorney general of the WBA?"
"I'm an interested party."
"But who the hell are you? We never heard of you."
"I'm a member of the WBA," Farah said.
Cordero was puzzled. "But you've got nothing to do with this fight," he said. "We are trying to figure out what you want. What do you want?"
Said Farah, "I want you and everybody else to follow the rules of the WBA. You're running it like a personal business. It's not right. You have too much power."
According to Farah, Cordero replied. "You will see how much power. I will fix you at the next convention. You'll be sorry you ever interfered in the business of the WBA."
Serrano beat Valdez easily. He was paid $150,000 for fighting a nobody in his own hometown with his manager as the local promoter. The officials were a Venezuelan, Rozadilla and another American.
In this issue and the previous one, boxing's international ills have been set forth in brief. For every misdeed cited, dozens of others have been documented—and probably there are as many again as yet uncovered. The inescapable conclusion is that the WBC and WBA are failures. What's to be done? For the U.S., at least, the answer, in the minds of many observers, is to put boxing under federal control, for throughout its history the sport has proved all too clearly that it cannot police itself.
Only a strong federal boxing commissioner empowered to supervise all state and local commissions, the argument goes, can bring the sport to the high level of honesty and respect it deserves. The federal commissioner must be armed with a clear-cut set of rules and have the legal muscle to penalize abusers. He might well have the power of sanction over every fight held in the U.S.; certainly he should control all title bouts, which should be conducted under American rules with highly qualified American officials. If the WBA and the WBC demur, say the federalists, let them take their title fights elsewhere.
In addition to responsible control, the adoption of the following is advisable:
•A requirement that promoters be bonded, for the protection of fighters' purses.
•Adherence to a new and realistic set of boxer rankings, which might well be those of The Ring magazine, now highly respected.
•The upgrading of standards, for all handlers and officials working fights.
•The "grading" of boxers, as done in England, to eliminate mismatches. A boxer would advance through, say, grades E to A to reach world class.
•Retirement and disability programs, as well as hospitalization and life insurance policies for every fighter.
The crisis is real. It is time to act.
Owed a title fight, junior middleweight Kalule was obliged to cool his heels for 23 months while the WBA wheeled and dealt.
Panamanians Sanchez (right) and Cordova exert iron control over the WBA, alternating as president and chairman of the ratings committee.
Mortimer: in the middle in the Kalule affair.
Smelling a rat, Van Nixon called off a fight.
GALINDEZ AND THE SCRUTABLE ORIENT
Even boxing men hardened to the cavalier ways of the WBA are sometimes surprised. In 1977 a Japanese promoter of a title fight winced when Dr. Elia Cordova, then the WBA president, informed him that to sanction the bout the WBA would need seven round-trip air fares to Tokyo, plus first-class hotel and dining accommodations. When the group arrived, it included Cordova and Rodrigo Sanchez, chairman of the ratings committee; their wives; Pepito Cordero. a Puerto Rican fight manager-promoter: and two additional WBA fight observers.
"The promoter complained to me," said one of the officials there to work the fight. "I asked him why he didn't just say no. He told me that if he complained he wouldn't get the sanction. Then the next day the promoter had to take the whole group to a Tokyo discount house where they picked out pearls, jewel boxes and silk kimonos. The promoter paid for everything in cash."
Then there was the manager in Colombia, the land of inexpensive emeralds, who was desperate to have one of his fighters rated but was short of cash. "No problem," he was told by a WBA official. "My daughter collects emerald earrings." The fighter was rated—and the daughter had a new set of earrings.
Shortly after Mandry Galindez was elected president of the WBA, he took a tour of the Orient. Although he has his weaknesses, he also has certain standards. While in Korea he encountered a parade of managers and promoters, all trying to put money in his hands. One manager asked. "Are you the man we now pay for the ratings?" Galindez was so angry that as he prepared to return home to Caracas he called ahead and ordered Cordova, then the executive council chairman, and Sanchez, still head of the ratings committee, to meet him at the Panama City airport, where he had a stopover. At the airport Galindez accused the pair of taking payoffs, which they denied. "But why did those people keep offering me money?" Galindez wanted to know. Not satisfied with Cordova's and Sanchez' answers, Galindez then called a summit meeting of top WBA executives, including Barney Shankman, then the organization's legal officer. Again Galindez accused Cordova and Sanchez of taking payoffs. Finally, Cordova demanded a full investigation, and just to ensure that it was carried out correctly, he told the group, it would be under his personal supervision. The findings of the investigation were subsequently presented to the executive council.
"The whole thing was absurd, nothing but a joke," said a man who was at that meeting. "Dr. Cordova came in with a pile of letters from Korea and Japan. They all said the same thing. They all said: 'Dr. Cordova is not a crook.' "