The recent passing of former WBA heavyweight champion Greg Page was the sad conclusion to a story I had developed a close connection with over the course of time. I think it is safe to say that what I observed as a result of his unfortunate saga was the catalyst that drove me headlong into an investigative, anecdotal journey into boxing that lasted through three different, full-length e-books: Operation Cleanup: A Blueprint for Boxing Reform, Operation Cleanup 2: Unfinished Business, and Body Shots.
My involvement began when I got a call one day from Jacqui Richardson, the co-founder (with Alex Ramos) of the non-profit Retired Boxers Foundation, who explained to me that Greg’s girlfriend Patricia – who later became his wife – needed help. Knowing that I had just finished an expose about the Florida Boxing Commission, Jacqui thought I might be interested in something that was perhaps more egregious.
When I spoke to Patricia, she explained that other than some superficial coverage by ESPN and some local newspapers, no one had really taken the time to communicate anything about what happened that fateful night in Kentucky back in 2000, when Page was knocked down in a fight with Dale Crowe and rendered irreparably brain-damaged, because there was no ambulance or paramedics in attendance at the fight. There was certainly nothing substantive, and very little to call the guilty parties to task.
It sounded like an intriguing story to me, and even more so when I started to research some of the details. When I figured I had a pretty good working knowledge of what had gone on, I called Nancy Black, who was the chairman of Kentucky’s athletic commission. The first sign that I was going to have a significant story on my hands was the indignation she demonstrated at the fact that I had her cell phone number (it was in the public record, by the way). During the phone call, I was frankly a little shocked to discover that she had no awareness whatsoever of the fact that there was a federal law regulating certain parts of boxing (the Federal Boxing Safety Act), nor did she have much of an idea what was in her own state law regarding fighter safety and proper procedures to implement. Generally, she was evasive. I had certainly taken her by surprise.
The others were not particularly interested in any surprises. Jack Kerns, the commission’s executive director who served in the supervisory capacity at the Page fight, wouldn’t talk to me, on the advice of his attorneys (he rightfully saw what was coming).
After all I was able to find out eventually, I can’t say I blamed him.
To make a long story very, very short, Kerns, along with the other members of his commission who were in attendance that night, huddled before the fight when they were made aware that there wasn’t an ambulance, a team of paramedics, any oxygen equipment or even a stretcher on the premises, all of which were required by either state or federal law. They consciously decided to go forward with the fight anyway.
As it turned out, the “doctor” who was attending (Manuel Mediodia), as I discovered later, was not only not licensed in the state of Kentucky, he was under suspension in the state of Ohio, and the very act of his being the doctor at the fight was cause for further suspension and/or revocation of his license to practice. He had nothing on hand to properly administer to fighters, and at the time Greg Page was hitting the canvas, he had already run out the door and had to be brought back into the building, this according to the very witness – a police officer – who went out to get him.
By the time Page had received any proper medical care, which was sometime later, when you consider it took an ambulance 22 minutes to get there, it was too late. Page was in a coma, and had suffered significant brain damage.
Yes, I started to develop an emotional attachment to this story. Yes, I became biased. Yes, I was mad as hell.
And no, I don’t apologize for it in the least.
Knowing the kind of danger a bunch of idiotic commission assholes were capable of creating was what eventually led to Operation Cleanup.
I followed with countless stories about Kerns, Black, the bad doctor, Mediodia, and the Kentucky commission throughout my bouts with the ABC (which embraced Kerns in particular), then the civil suit against the commission and promoters, for which Page won a $1.2 million settlement. I visited with Greg and Patricia, and like to think there was some awareness created in the end about the horrific behavior of these public officials.
Today Kerns and Black are out of a job (at least anything boxing-related), and things seem to have changed, although I’d watch closely since the governor of that state is an abject moron.
There is also something else I wish would change.
Dale Crowe, a journeyman heavyweight, has continued to carry the burden of knocking out Greg Page that night, and he probably always will. He feels guilty, but he shouldn’t. He’s not responsible.
No, it was Kerns, Black and Mediodia – none of who felt too badly – who contributed the most to killing Greg Page.
And for that, they should all go straight to f**king hell.
In the interests of making sure people don’t forget, and because a lot of time has passed, I would like to declare the rest of May and June to be “Greg Page Month” here at Boxing Insider, and what I will do is re-purpose all of the stories I wrote about this tragic and unnecessary episode to be posted right here on these pages. In case you’re not familiar with it, I hope it will give you some insight into what has gone on, and what might still be going on, to differing degrees, within the so-called “expert” regulatory community.
Read it for yourself – and for Greg Page.