By Thomas Hauser
Sources in Albany report that New York Governor George Pataki intends to appoint Jerry Becker as the next chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. Becker would replace Bernard Kerik who has shown no interest in the position he assumed in June of this year.
"It would be wrong to call Kerik a disinterested spectator," says one NYSAC employee. "Spectator" implies that Bernie at least goes to the fights, and he doesn't."
Nor has Kerik played any meaningful role in the operation of the commission.
Becker is a former Bronx Criminal Court and Family Court judge who has been active for years in the Conservative Party. He is currently chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency and one of three NYSAC commissioners. The third commissioner is Marc Cornstein (the son of a wealthy Republican Party contributor who has given tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Governor Pataki).
On Monday afternoon, Becker denied that a change in commission leadership was in the works. "It's absolutely one hundred percent not true," he said. "Bernie has no intention of leaving. Besides, I'm chairman of the HFA. That term doesn't expire until 2005, and I wouldn't take two chairmanships."
Becker has supervised the day-to-day operation of the NYSAC since the resignations of former chairman Ray Kelly and executive director Charles DeRienzo earlier this year. "I'm pleased with the way things are going and I'm proud of the work we're doing," he said. "Everyone at the commission understands that our first priority is the safety of the fighters."
However, each new show under Becker's leadership has brought complaints that the commission is unknowledgeable with regard to boxing, insensitive to fighters, and without proper ethical standards.
The two most recent professional fight cards in New York were held on October 13th at the Regent Wall Street Hotel in Manhattan and October 18th at the HSBC Center in Buffalo.
October 13th saw the reappearance of Dr. Rufus Saddler as a commission doctor. Saddler, fight fans will recall, was the ringside physician assigned to Beethavean Scottland's corner on the night Scottland was beaten to death by George "Khalid" Jones. During that bout, there were numerous cries for the fight to be stopped. But Saddler examined Scottland only once. He went to the fighter's corner to check on a cut after the fourth round.
There will always be an asterisk next to Rufus Saddler's name because of what happened to Beethavean Scottland. As one fighter said on October 13th, "His being here is an insult to all fighters."
Also on October 13th, Tokunbo Olajide was knocked out by Epifanio Mendoza in a bout that raised questions as to whether commission personnel understand the antiquated nature of their own rules regarding the interlocking roles of promoters, trainers, managers, and advisors.
The October 18th fight card in Buffalo featured Joe Mesi versus David Izon and Lawrence Clay-Bey versus Sedreck Fields. One of the judges appointed by the New York State Athletic Commission was Guy Jutras.
Why is that significant?
On October 16th, the World Boxing Association held an open hearing in New York to defend its ratings practices. The meeting was occasioned by the fact that Senator John McCain had sent a letter to the Attorney General of the United
States asking that the WBA be investigated for phony ratings and the State of California had withheld the WBA's sanctioning fee for a recent title fight.
The first speaker at the WBA damage-control hearing was none other than Guy Jutras, who vigorously defended the integrity of the sanctioning organization. It should be noted that Mr. Jutras is chairman of the WBA Officials Committee. And for good measure, he lives in Montreal."
Joe Mesi is rated No.14 by the World Boxing Association; his highest ranking among the four leading sanctioning bodies.
Why is a WBA official who lives in Canada judging fights in New York?
"I think he's a good judge," said Becker. "I don't have much of a crew in the Buffalo area, and I intend to keep using him. If WBA officials are indicted or there's a similar development, I might rethink it."
Here, it's worth noting that, when Joe Dwyer became chairman of the IBF Championship Committee, he voluntarily relinquished his license to judge fights in New York. Dwyer understood that there are standards regarding conflicts of interest that government employees should follow.
Right now, too many people at the NYSAC fall into one of two categories: (1) those who think they know what they're doing and don't; and (2) those who don't care at all.