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IBF’s Jersey Boys Accused of Corruption Again

Posted on 02/27/2013

By Ivan G. Goldman

The IBF is being accused of corruption again – ranking a fighter for nefarious reasons and then firing a whistle-blower who dared to object. So far the accusation has been made only in a civil case, but you can bet the U.S. Justice Department is keeping an eye on the situation. It’s taken the New Jersey-based IBF into criminal court before.

The International Boxing Federation has the bad luck and poor planning to be the only one of the four biggest alphabet gangs to be headquartered in the continental U.S. That makes its books and records easier to reach. The WBO is in Puerto Rico, the WBC in Mexico City, and the WBA in Panama, though it was founded in the U.S. If you want to commit white-collar crimes and have to maintain some sort of files, it’s a big advantage to keep them at a Third World address where they’re harder to reach with audits, subpoenas, and other standard legal weapons.

William James, former ratings chairman of the International Boxing Federation, claims in a lawsuit he filed on Feb. 11 in New Jersey, that in 2011 featherweight Luis Franco, formerly of the 2004 Cuban Olympic squad, mysteriously received a top 10 ranking that he hadn’t earned. James says he objected as soon as he found out about it, that he was warned by his bosses to cool it, and that when he didn’t, he was fired after two years on the job. That was in June 2012. He’s suing for punitive damages.

Franco is promoted by Gary Shaw, also of New Jersey, who was an inspector for the state commission before he turned promoter. Shaw, who signed Franco in 2010, called him “incredibly talented.” Shaw denies any wrongdoing.

Franco’s record is not spellbinding. He’s 11-1 (7KOs). In his last outing, on October 13, he lost a split decision to Mauricio Javier Munoz in Argentina. That was an IBF title eliminator. If you check IBF ratings, you will see Munoz is now its Number One contender. Franco, a 31-year-old fighting out of Miami, is no longer listed in the top ten. The IBF’s champion is Australian Billy Dib. Dib, 35-1 (21 KOs), is scheduled to defend his title March 3 against Evgeny Gradovich at the MGM Grand in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

The IBF used to be in such hot legal water that for four years its operations were supervised by a federal overseer. That started back in August 2000 after a jury in New Jersey convicted founder and president Bob Lee on six of 38 counts of racketeering. He was videotaped taking bribes to fix rankings and sanction fights. The convictions were for tax evasion, money laundering and interstate travel in aid of racketeering.

During the trial, promoter Bob Arum admitted on the stand that he paid $100,000 in bribes to Lee in order to get him to sanction a bout between heavyweight titlist George Foreman and Axel Schulz of Germany. Arum said he was guilty of poor judgment.

It’s always interesting to see such dealings exposed, sort of like turning on a light and watching the roaches head for safety. Another key moment was back in 2003, when the rival WBC sanctioning body, after fighting a lawsuit for five years, was ordered to pay $31 million in damages to German light heavyweight Graciano Rocchigiani, who convinced a New York jury that he was unfairly stripped of his title. In that one, the WBC after the fact decided its title fight between Rocchigiani and Michael Nunn wasn’t a title fight after all.

After losing the judgment, the WBC promptly declared bankruptcy. It made some sort of payments deal with Rocchigiani, and like the IBF, it continues doing what it does.

Reading Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable {Permanent Press, 2012) is a fine experience the author wishes for each and every one of you. So buy it. Information HERE

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