By Ron Valderrama: The state of affairs regarding Arizona boxing is concerned is in good hands thanks in part to Arizona Boxing Commission Executive Director, Dennis R. O’Connell.
For years boxing in Arizona was flat, almost dead and full of controversy. The era of former. Director, John Montano had come to an end in the midst of the newly implemented employer sanctions law requiring all foreign boxers to present a work visa, a cost that few fighters could even afford. To add to the misery, Mr. Montano was facing legal issues with the World Boxing Organization (WBO) which he served as a Regional Vice President. Mr. O’Connell was appointed by the Arizona Boxing Commission in 2009 and together with the commissioners has somehow managed to restore order and respect. From the judges; referee’s and even the physician; they have all worked hard for the good of Arizona boxing.
Today’s Arizona Boxing Commission runs like a well oiled machine, it’s apparent at the weigh-ins and the fights. O’Connell lays out the ground rules, the do’s and don’ts if you will. O’Connell has managed to gain the respect of everybody from the fans; boxers; fighters and even the media. O’Connell knew he had some big shoes to fill and a mountain of issues to deal with after the departure of Montano, after all Montano was a legend and despite his legal problems he was well respected across the country.
Dennis O’Connell arrived on the Arizona scene in 2003 from Michigan, two years after retiring as a senior trial attorney for Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. He was very active in Michigan boxing as an official for amateurs and pros. In 2002 he was appointed to the Michigan Boxing Commission by then Gov. John Engler. After arriving in Arizona, O’Connell was licensed as a professional boxing judge and has officiated many title bouts and a world championship, not to mention judging over 300 MMA bouts. Dennis O’Connell is certified by The Association of Boxing Commissions not only as Boxing Judge, but a Referee as well.
Since his appointment as Executive Director for the Arizona Boxing Commission, Mr. O’Connell has played a key role in restoring Arizona boxing and even some respect along the way. He gives credit to Commissioners, Michael Preston Green; Scott Fletcher and Joe Pennington as well as the entire staff. O’Connell said Montano did a good job with the clients he had to work with and I (O’Connell) just tried to capture the vibrant past that used to be Arizona boxing. He also said that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is growing and his goal was to understand it,
"There’s Boxing and There’s MMA", said O’Connell, who also regularly attends seminars on boxing and MMA. His experience from a boxing standpoint helps him understand MMA, as well as the promoters that to regulate, "we have to lead this train" for the safety of the boxers and the MMA fighters, said O’Connell. This writer asked him if it’s hard to manage MMA.
O’Connell said, for example that Rage In The Cage is a significant promoter in that they have promoted over 150 events which is probably one of the largest promoters in the United States even though they are local and regional. Many of the men who fight in UFC have come through Rage In The Cage and MMA, and many of them through Phoenix. I asked O’Connell if it is hard to manage based on the past issues before he assumed the job of Executive Director. O’Connell says the mis-conceptions about the commission whether true or not.... "we just had to deal with it", but what he is most pleased about is the activity between boxing and MMA. There about two MMA shows to every Pro Boxing Event, we have more promoters involved now. Promoters like Reggie Demic; Michelle Rosado and Gerry Truax, "that is vibrant", says O’Connell.
This writer asked him about the Bare Knuckle Fight events at one of the casinos here in Arizona which are not regulated by the commission. O’Connell said he is so disappointed, it’s tragic and there are two elements, and statswhy. One is safety, if you injure your hand you can’t work or function properly, second and more importantly it disrespects the sport. He admits that the commission has no jurisdiction over it, however every professional boxing match must be regulated whether on tribal land or non tribal land, and has to have a boxing or athletic commission. O’Connell said he hopes the tribe has a commission, but it’s not one that the Arizona Boxing Commission has certified.
Boxing in Arizona is back thanks to the new stable of fighters; promoters and Boxing Commission staff. Credit also has to be given to the existing staff at the Boxing Commission who "stuck it out" during the lean years of Arizona Boxing, if not for them who knows where boxing would be today in Arizona.
October 6, 2011