Report into fixed fights tarnish boxing

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More than 30 prizefights have been fixed or tainted with fraud in the past 12 years, according to The Miami Herald.

More than 30 prizefights have been fixed or tainted with fraud in the past 12 years, according to The Miami Herald.

The admissions come from boxers who fought and lost to George Foreman, Eric "Butterbean" Esch and other fighters. Some negotiated payments to throw matches. Others were not bribed but fell down merely to avoid injury and get an easy paycheck.

Tony Fulilangi, once a world-ranked heavyweight, told The Miami Herald that he faked a second-round knockout by Foreman on 27 October 1998, in Marshall, Texas.

Fulilangi, who received $30,000 to fight Foreman, said nobody asked him to throw the bout. The fight ended when Fulilangi ducked under a punch and hit the canvas.

"I went down just to get the money," he said. "I went to the airport with a smile on my face."

Foreman laughed when told of Fulilangi's comments. "That happened to me all the time," Foreman said. "If they're getting a whipping, it's up to them to decide if they want to continue."

Former heavyweight Andre Smiley said he made thousands of dollars faking 14 knockouts from 1990 to 1997. "I made a lot of money throwing fights," he said.

Widely suspected but rarely documented, fake fights threaten the credibility of professional boxing. Some fighters say the sport is plagued with corruption far worse than alleged criminal misconduct now under FBI scrutiny.

"The fix goes to the issue of integrity and trust in the game," said US Representative Mike Oxley, who has sponsored a boxing reform bill aimed at protecting young fighters from unscrupulous promoters. "Nothing could be more American than believing in a fair fight. And if that is not happening, the public has every right to lose faith in the sport."

The Herald reported that boxers said many fraudulent matches were arranged by promoters or matchmakers intent on improving a fighter's record and ranking to earn big-money title fights. Fraudulent fights helped Esch boost his earnings from dlrs 600 a bout as a little-known club fighter to $60,000 as a star attraction, according to two opponents and two boxing commissioners.

According to sworn statements and interviews The Herald did with more than 60 fighters, promoters, trainers, managers, matchmakers and commissioners:

- Two former heavyweights, Smiley and Mike Smith, said they threw fights at the behest of Sean Gibbons, a matchmaker with Top Rank Inc. "A complete lie," Gibbons responded.

- Two other men said they helped a 1991 fight with former NFL star Mark Gastineau. Boxer-turned-matchmaker Sonny Barch said that under instructions from Parker, he bought 10 or 11 victories for Florida heavyweight Mitch Sammons in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sammons did not comment.

- Little-known heavyweight James Calvin Baker said he threw four fights, including bouts against Esch and former world light heavyweight champion Iran Barkley. Esch and Barkley said they have no knowledge of opponents throwing fights.

- Two other Esch opponents, Richard Davis and Bill Duncan, have been suspended by state commissions for taking dives.

A New Jersey grand jury is examining allegations that the International Boxing Federation extorted money from fighters and promoters in exchange for elite rankings. In June, federal agents raided the Deerfield Beach headquarters of promoter Don King, seeking evidence that might link him with alleged kickbacks to the federation.

The FBI investigation does not center on fighters paid to throw matches.