Boxing: Mercer on bribery charge

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The Independent Online
RAY MERCER, a gold medallist in the 1980 Olympics, has been arrested in New York on a charge of attempting to bribe Jesse Ferguson during a heavyweight fight on 6 February at Madison Square Garden.

The fighter was stopped by Indiana state police while driving outside Indianapolis on Sunday and was served with a warrant. He appeared in court yesterday and was released on his own recognisance.

Mercer is alleged to have offered Ferguson dollars 100,000 ( pounds 70,000) to lose so that he could then go on to launch a dollars 2.5m challenge for Riddick Bowe's world heavyweight title. Mercer, however, lost the contest on a unanimous 10-round decision.

The District Attorney, Robert M Morgenthau, said: 'Tapes of the fight confirmed that Mercer repeatedly attempted to persuade Ferguson to let Mercer win. The indictment charges that Mercer allegedly used a bribe to ensure a win and a fight for the heavyweight crown.' Morgenthau said the tapes revealed that Mercer first made the offer to Ferguson in the third round and 'it was repeated numerous times'.

Domenick Amorosa, Mercer's attorney, said: 'Mercer has categorically denied his guilt.'

After the upset, boxing authorities launched an investigation to determine whether Mercer, during a clinch in mid-bout, offered Ferguson money to lose the fight. The New York State Athletic Commission's chairman, Randy Gordon, said he had heard rumours of a bribe on the weekend after the fight from the referee, Wayne Kelley. Gordon said Kelley was congratulated for his refereeing after the fight by a well-known trainer. The trainer, said Gordon, also 'asked Kelley if he had heard anything about dollars 100,000'.

'Kelley said he had not, but reported the conversation to me. When I heard that, I decided to take it further,' Gordon said.