Boxing: How Hatman ended up ringside for Khan fight
Ameen's role still unclear but he should not have got so close to judges, writes Steve Bunce
Monday 09 January 2012
The man in the hat at ringside last month when Amir Khan lost his two world titles to Lamont Peterson in Washington DC is no longer a mystery but he remains a disturbing, enigmatic figure, whose presence has still not been fully explained.
It has emerged that his name is Mustafa Ameen and that he is one of a growing and alarming group of people who "work"' with fighters and fight people, and have an association with a sanctioning body. Ameen has a role within the International Boxing Federation but it is not clear exactly what he does. It has been confirmed that he was not working for the IBF at Khan's fight last month.
The IBF, which is based in New Jersey, had initially refused to comment on the "Hatman", as Ameen was dubbed, but they have now made it clear that they know him and that they had asked the local commission to issue him with credentials for the fight.
On the night, Paul Artisst was the IBF supervisor but for some reason Ameen arrived at ringside before the first bell and decided to sit in the empty seat reserved for the World Boxing Association's supervisor, Michael Walsh. He was later asked to move, which he did. He sat nearby and slowly, round after round, he moved into a narrow gap at Walsh's elbow.
The mystery has persuaded the WBA to promise an immediate rematch, according to Khan's promoter, Richard Schaefer. The governing body will decide later this month whether to strip Peterson of the titles, declare the fight a no contest and therefore hand its belts back to Khan.
Ameen is one of a group of men in America, and often in Britain, who wander the gyms and fight venues and attach themselves to fighters with a succession of sweet promises and bold claims. I wrote about them in The Fixer, my 2010 novel set in the boxing world.
Ameen "works" with American amateur heavyweight Michael Hunter, who has dreams of fighting in London at the Olympics this summer but will first have to qualify at a tournament in Brazil in May.
Freddie Roach, who trains Khan and has a deal to work with the American amateur boxing squad, has said that he threw Ameen out of a coaching session last year because he was talking to the fighters.
There is clearly friction within the American amateur system, especially surrounding Hunter, because people such as Ameen claim to be managers of fighters and attempt to dictate terms. Robert McCracken, the GB squad coach, has to deal with the same sort of characters at his base in Sheffield.
It now seems that last month Ameen was given accreditation by the Washington DC commission, a body of relative novices when it comes to big fights, and that, having gained access to the arena, he decided to take up a position at ringside.
He worked his way closer and closer to the canvas. Asif Vali, Khan's business manager, heard him explaining to security that he worked for the IBF and had a seat at ringside.
It seems he is local and therefore it is logical to assume that he probably knew a lot of the officials at the various ringside positions. There is nothing wrong with what he had done – talking your way into a better position is not a crime.
It is understood that all video from the night will be examined in an attempt to chart Ameen's movements, which could have included a visit to Peterson's dressing room before the fight.
There still remains some confusion over Ameen's relationship with Peterson's trainer, Barry Hunter, with suggestions that they share managerial duties with various amateurs; however, amateurs do not have managers and the reality is that Ameen has a role placing amateurs with a promoter or a manager of record. Again, that is not a crime.
The immediate ringside area for a world title fight is meant to be sterile, with only judges, supervisors, doctors, timekeepers and local commission officials in the best and closest seats. The front row of the normal seating, on three sides of the ring, will be promoters, guests, and the heads of the various governing bodies, sprinkled with officials from earlier fights.
The fourth side will be packed with the media in order of cash outlay – TV, then radio and then the scrum that is an American press pit.
Ameen took up a seat immediately in front of Khan's father, his promoter and his business manager. He was on the only side not to have a judge on a high chair, obscuring the view of other ringside punters.
Ameen has the WBA's supervisor on his right, the DC commissioner next to him and the IBF's man next along. Those three form a triumvirate of power that should never be interrupted during a championship fight.
On the other three sides of the ring, and against the ring apron, are the three judges, the timekeeper, the doctors and often the men who climb up between rounds to peer over the shoulders of the fighters and make sure that the cornermen are not using anything illegal.
The actual ringside area is a place that should never be invaded and it remains equally odd that nobody in Khan's entourage asked Ameen to move.
In Las Vegas or London, the men in charge of the local commissions would have spotted the man in the hat and, having made an inquiry or two, would have made sure he was ejected in style.
In Washington DC, a city starved of world title action for nearly 20 years, it seems that Ameen fitted right in and nobody found it odd. It needs to be said again and again that Ameen could not have possibly interfered with the scores, but his annoying presence is enough to raise suspicions – and possibly get Khan his two belts back.
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