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Business of Boxing: Should Amir Khan Protest “Non-Neutral” Officials?

Posted on 12/20/2011

by Charles Jay

In the wake of the IBF’s denial of Amir Khan’s appeal for an immediate rematch in a neutral venue against Lamont Peterson, we ask the following: are you one of the people who believes Khan (please don’t confuse with the Great Ahmed Khan) got ripped off as a result of “home cooking” by the officials when he fought Peterson?

Photo: Hogan Photos

I wish I could tell you to write the congressman for the jurisdiction, but alas, even though the District of Columbia’s representative calls herself a Congresswoman, she is only a non-voting delegate, and despite having a great name for boxing – Elanor Holmes Norton – I bet she couldn’t care less about the inner workings of a boxing commission.

The guy who was pretty much at the center of the controversy was one Joseph Cooper, a referee from nearby Virginia. I imagine most people figure it’s pretty easy to smell the cookin’ from just over the Key Bridge.

But Khan was not going to get anywhere protesting the judgment of the referee, which is what this comes down to. The IBF, not to mention boxing commissions for the most part, leave that to the discretion of the referee, and as we pointed out after the fight, the conduct of Khan during the fight itself (lots of holding) was probably not going to inspire a lot of sympathy.

Khan’s protest might fare better if it dealt with something that is much more concrete.

The concept of putting hometown officials in place at a championship fight is something that was debated at the WBC Convention last week. Leading the charge there was Don Majeski, a veteran agent and matchmaker who has long been an advocate of neutrality in officiating.

“Every other country in the world agrees to assign a neutral referee and judges for world title fights – the United States is the only country in the world that does not,” said Majeski, who I believe to be as authoritative as anyone. “Jose (Sulaiman), one of the problems you have is that you’re 100 steps ahead of everybody else. You need to be only five steps ahead of them so they can catch up.”

Okay, there’s a certain amount of patronization there, but in general, he’s right. The ABC insists on giving local commissions all the leeway in the world to make their own policies regarding this, and it is a direct slap at the sanctioning bodies – something that deserves a lot more space to explore as we proceed with these “Business of Boxing” stories. I don’t know if it’s important, but it bears mentioning that this year’s ABC convention was held in Washington, with the District of Columbia Boxing & Wrestling Commission playing the “hosts.”

Both the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) are rather clear in their rules about the presence of neutral officials, a particularly important issue when a fight takes place in one man’s native country. However, they often step aside for the local commissions on that count, either because they are bullied into it, or just want to go along to get along.

As for the International Boxing Federation (IBF), unless I’m completely overlooking something, I don’t see a reference to neutral officials in any of their rules pertaining to title fights. And please take note that this was an IBF title fight, as well as what is referred to as a “WBA Super” championship.

Technically, if none of the officials were from the District of Columbia itself, they were not from the same official jurisdiction as Peterson. But as far as the WBA is concerned, a fight between Khan and Peterson should have necessitated officials from countries other than the United States or the United Kingdom.

Maybe if Khan was going to protest, he might be better served going to the WBA instead, and on the issue of neutral officials, not the conduct of one of the officials in particular.

Then again, maybe not.

After all, they let it happen, and he’d probably lose, because the sanctioning bodies are walking a fine line. They may want to protect the “brand,” as Jose Sulaiman is so fond of saying about his WBC, but at the same time, these guys want to do business, and along the way they don’t want to piss off the wrong people.

So maybe your best bet IS to write a congressman, or perhaps the mayor (in the case of D.C.), and your governor’s office (in the case of everywhere else). If you feel that strongly about it, let them know that neutral officials, not hometown officials, provide for the best justice inside the ropes.

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