LIKE A LAMB TO SLAUGHTER: Promoter Puts Special Olympian in Path of Danger
James Kindred had a dream, but
promoter John Carden almost turned
it into a nightmare
By Charles Jay
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The story I am about to tell you represents perhaps the most egregious and despicable thing I have ever heard of in boxing, and not only have I been in and around the industry for over 30 years, I’ve covered more about corruption and scandal in this sport than anyone alive. What you’ll see below is a condensed version of a much larger series, which will address many pertinent issues related to boxing. Starting on Friday, you’ll be able to read the series, entitled “LOWER THAN LOW IN ST. JOE,” as it is in progress, chapter-by-chapter, as we launch the brand-new CharlesJay.net. We thank our friends at Boxing Insider for affording us the space to present this shorter version.)
March 20, 2018
This involves a an incident that took place almost two years ago, but it is also very much a part of a current event, because the promoter we are about to discuss is planning to do another show on May 26, with a “promotional partner” that, as far as we can tell, has no awareness of the story we are about to communicate to you. WHY they don’t know it, frankly, is puzzling, because I would consider it imperative that such information be brought to their attention. There was obviously much incentive on the part of some people – including members of the local athletic commission – to keep it from them.
So let’s go back in time a little…….
In the days leading up to a show he was promoting at the No Place Bar in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 16, 2016, John Carden, who operated a small promotional outfit under the name of Legacy Boxing, was stuck finding a four-round opponent for Bryan Timmons, a veteran of ten professional bouts (in addition to five more in MMA) who he occasionally booked into fights and wanted to book again. There was a bit of a quandary with Timmons, in that he had lost four times in a row, and if he lost one more, he might have been barred from competing again in any number of jurisdictions. What Carden needed was an “easy touch,” which meant someone who Timmons could use to put in the win column, so that he could go out of town as an “opponent” and get paid a little more money than what a four or six-round fighter might usually make.
Carden had been getting some phone calls from a young man named James Kindred, who told him his dream was to have a pro fight. This isn’t the most unusual thing for a promoter or matchmaker to experience, so Carden made a mental note of the caller. And when he had someone pull out and needed an opponent who weighed in the neighborhood of 147 pounds, he booked Kindred and instructed him to be at a weigh-in that was being held the day before the scheduled bout.
Carden may not have known at that particular time that Kindred was, to use the politically-correct term, “intellectually-challenged,” and that he had in fact been, for a lack of a better word, “certified” as such because he was a competitor in Special Olympics.
But when the young man arrived at the weigh-in, Carden was quickly apprised of Kindred’s condition by Dave Callaway and his son Joey – local people, and in the words of Carden, “good friends” of his, who strongly urged the promoter not to use him because he was a special needs individual and Special Olympian, and that he had no business anywhere near a professional fight.
Kindred had apparently come to the weigh-in without representation of any kind, and there is no evidence that he had ever had gloves on in a competitive situation.
One would expect that at this juncture, there might have been surprise and/or shock on the part of Carden, and that he would have scrapped the fight (he already had thirteen scheduled), or at least sought some counsel by way of the boxing commission, which had regulatory and medical personnel on hand.
Instead, what he did, to the best of our knowledge, was absolutely nothing.
He had received an urgent plea from people whose word he purportedly trusted, yet as far as we know, he did not say anything to the commission. He did not say anything to the opponent, Timmons. As the weigh-in officially ended, John Carden, at that frozen moment in time, was willing to let the chips fall where they may, as the expression goes. He was apparently perfectly comfortable with the idea of letting a poor, defenseless, completely inexperienced kid from the Special Olympics hang out to dry.
And in the 24 hours or so between the that moment and the point when Kindred stepped into the ring, he took NOT ONE STEP to reverse the actions he had undertaken.
James Kindred is a brave young man, with a real zest for life. He has a love for dance, to the extent that he has attended open auditions for programs like “America’s Got Talent.” He has been a participant in Special Olympics for nearly twenty years. And he wanted to be a fighter, just like some of the guys he’s seen on television.
The thing is, a perfectly reasonable argument can be made that he had no understanding whatsoever about what he was about to get into. And in terms of the craft itself, he had not prepared in the slightest manner for it.
In case you were wondering what could possibly have been going through John Carden’s mind during this time, as he was, figuratively speaking, leading a helpless lamb to slaughter against someone who was experienced and aching for an impressive win – well, so were we.
However, we couldn’t get any of that unique insight, because Carden refused to answer any of the questions we have presented to him as it related to this incident.
Another thing he didn’t do was perform anything in the way of due diligence, perhaps because he didn’t care to.
And by the way, we can also say the same thing about the commission, officially known as the Missouri Office of Athletics.
Let me tell you a few things that are particularly frightening about all this.
1- Neither the promoter (Carden) nor the anyone from the commission ever bothered to do the logical thing a reasonable person might do when they want to find a “fighter” who has no professional or amateur experience, which is to perform a simple Google search. And just so you know, yours truly, upon first hearing the name “James Kindred,” was able to find his Special Olympics page through Google in less than a minute.
2 – Tim Lueckenhoff, the head of the Missouri commission and the man who would have been responsible for running a check on James Kindred, was president of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) for FOURTEEN YEARS, which means that among the people responsible for regulating boxing in this country (and MMA, for that matter), he was their leader. SCARY.
3 – Lueckenhoff, either asleep at the wheel or completely incompetent (take your pick), had, under his regulatory supervision, someone for whom expediency apparently trumped ethics, and when the atmosphere is lenient enough that this kind of thing can manifest itself, it is potentially deadly.
So as the fight approached, and these so-called “professionals” had proven to be derelict in their duties (and we’re being very polite with that term), it looked as if it was going to require some divine intervention to prevent James Kindred, Special Olympian, from sustaining a degree of physical damage from which he might never recover.
Thankfully, that’s just what may have happened.
A local woman with no particular interest in boxing entered the picture. She is known to Carden, but didn’t want to be identified specifically, simply because she’s not looking for publicity. So we’ll just call her “Molly Brown,” since her testimony has proven to be “unsinkable.”
She just so happened to show up at the fights on that fateful night.
She just so happened to be friendly with Bryan Timmons and his wife.
And she just so happened to be a long-time Special Olympics volunteer.
Thank God for all that.
When Molly asked Timmons’ wife, “Who is Bryan fighting tonight?” and was directed toward James Kindred, over near the dressing area, she was, in her words, “shocked.” She knew James from her volunteer work, and she knew she had to stave off something that was going to end very badly.
So she rushed over to there to inform her friend as to exactly who he was fighting. And this time it was Bryan Timmons’ turn to be shocked.
Perhaps because he sensed that Carden may have tried to pull a fast one on him, and certainly because he could see the potential danger involved, Timmons’ first instinct was to pull out. He was, as he put it, “highly upset.” So he and Molly went over to break the news to James Kindred that the whole thing was off.
Kindred steadfastly refused to back out of the fight, and was upset to the point of tears. He talked of how he had a dream, and how he didn’t want people to say there was something he couldn’t do.
Well, no one wants to see James Kindred cry. And no one wants him to feel like there’s something he can’t do. At the same time, the professional boxing ring isn’t the place for a special needs individual with no experience to work out these fantasies. So the very likable Timmons had a dilemma, and he endeavored to come to as humane a solution as he possibly could.
“I decided I didn’t want to fight him,” he said, “but didn’t want him to feel not good enough…..and more scared he would try again and who knows what? I chose to fight, but was more nervous than any other time before.”
“He insisted that he needed to do this to prove a point to others and for himself,” says Molly. “We told him he had nothing to prove to anyone. He insisted.”
So ultimately what happened was that Timmons undertook something that, thankfully, happened without Carden’s knowledge or acquiescence. He went into the ring with Kindred, performing what might best be described as a “walk-through.” Timmons may not be the most skilled ring practitioner in the world, but he is aggressive. So it was somewhat out of character for him that he didn’t really throw a punch. He simply couldn’t. He was afraid to.
Molly Brown sat there watching this in tears. Others, who weren’t clued in to what was actually transpiring, looked at it differently. According to one out-of-state official in attendance who was not working the fight, ‘It was the weakest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t get any weaker than that.”
It is probably not a fair assessment to characterize it as a fixed fight, but it was a “sham” fight, for certain. And it was brought to a merciful end, shortly after the start of the second round. On the official commission results sheet, it reads “Indefinite Suspension needs Psychological Evaluation” next to Kindred’s name. Why that notation was placed on this official document right AFTER the fight took place is not known to us, because despite two attempts, Luckenhoff, executive director of the Missouri Office of Athletics, has refused to answer any questions we posed to him about the incident. Timmons does not know if this has anything to do with it, but told us, “I talked to them (the commission) and asked not to allow him to fight again.”
It was better than the alternative, which could have resulted in a tragedy. So we can be happy for James Kindred, although we are distressed about the circumstances under which this had to take place. “In the end I’m glad it was me,” Timmons said. “I hated it at the time, but he could have got real hurt had it been someone else.” You know what? He’s probably right. And that IS distressing.
Indeed, it was a fight that wasn’t really a fight. But that paled in comparison to the skirmish that took place afterward. Some people who knew Timmons found Carden in the backstage area of the venue and wanted to express their outrage at what Carden had done, in no uncertain terms. Our Molly Brown was among them. It got heated enough that it almost came to blows, to the extent that the promoter summoned the security detail. “It was basically myself and a couple of others calling Carden out in front of everyone including other fighters,” Molly recalled. “We were close to getting kicked out but didn’t.”
The next day, more shit hit the fan. Dave Callaway, whose son Joey had been one of the people verbally sparring with Carden, had still not simmered down. As quoted from his Facebook post:
“John, told you last night abought (sic) that boy and you didn’t tell Brian class act glad my boy (Joey) didn’t rip your head off.”
Timmons made a post on his Facebook page in which he wrote, “Last night was truly one of the hardest things for me. I do appreciate everyone and their support.”
A number of people commended Timmons for handling the situation the way he did, considering the circumstances that had been thrust upon him. And then into the thread came John Carden, who made what in effect was a “mea culpa.” Here is a screenshot of that remarkable comment, and please note the rather inflammatory reply from our heroine, Molly Brown, whose actual name is blacked out:
Many of the things Carden expressed had little in the way of credibility.
For example, he writes “I truly didn’t realize until it was too late how limited he was.” We’ll let Molly answer that: “Carden stated in a comment that he didn’t know the situation until it was too late to call the fight…..BULL SHIT!! He had plenty of time.” She’s absolutely right.
He contends that “I just didn’t realize the actual situation,” when in fact it was presented to him at the weigh-in. We asked him why, if the information on Kindred came from “good friends,” that he totally disregarded it. Carden never bothered to answer.
And perhaps worst of all, he said, “I want you to know that the kid’s dream did come true.” He wanted WHO to know? The fact that Kindred realized this “dream” and came out of it in one piece was not BECAUSE of anything Carden did, but DESPITE what he did. For him to suggest that he actually deserves any credit is, to put it mildly, dishonest.
As we’ve mentioned, Carden has refused to answer any questions we have directed toward him. So has Tim Lueckenhoff of the Missouri commission. Likewise for Carden’s associate, Amy Hayes, who was the ring announcer for the fight in question. In the process of her duties, and given the fact that she did not attend the weigh-in, she might reasonably have been expected to make contact with the contestants on fight night, including Kindred, in order to confirm information that was necessary as part of their introductions. If she did, she may have noticed something in his speech pattern that raised a red flag in time to alert the commission. But if that’s what happened, she has been silent about it.
Promoter John Carden and his associate,
Amy Hayes, shortly after Special Olympian
James Kindred narrowly escaped grave danger
Hayes, who was apprised of much of the evidence I had access to, almost immediately after it was uncovered, and obviously dismissed it, is important to this story for other reasons.
In posting the basic facts of the Carden situation, as a hypothetical on my Facebook page in early October, as well as through individual surveys and interviews with a significant number of people connected to boxing, NOBODY, upon being asked, has said that they would ever work for someone who did what Carden did. With one exception, that is. Amy Hayes is the only person we have come across who has indicated that she would – and enthusiastically so, we might add – not only by way of her actions but her words as well. She has referred to Carden as “simply the best” on one particular Facebook post. Her father, who also serves as her “manager,” sent an email my way on her behalf, asserting that:
“Amy will continue to work with ethical promoters like John Carden…..”
I think it’s safe to say that she represents the opposing view.
She illustrates a very critical problem that is, sadly, all too common, and will continue to be a cancer for boxing – the lack of a moral compass on the part of some individuals when there is “something in it” for them.
This “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Get Paid” culture of those who ignore or choose to overlook egregious activities on the part of certain individuals in this sport – for purposes of their own self-interest – has been a major issue in the industry from time immemorial. It has contributed greatly to giving boxing whatever bad name it might have in certain circles, because it creates a systemic “enabling” of these people.
Could there be any end to it? There really needs to be.
Sean Wheelock of the Kansas Athletic
Commission emcees Monday’s press
conference on behalf of promoter
Carden, Hayes and the rest of the crew are operating in Kansas these days, having done a promotion last September under the name “Carden Combat Sports.” They plan to do a show combining boxing and mixed martial arts on May 26 at a ballpark owned by an independent baseball team with whom they are engaged in a “promotional partnership.” The ballclub seems like a very community-minded organization, devoted to delivering family fun. I have no reason to believe they have any knowledge about the story I’ve just told you, because the Kansas Athletic Commission, which is well aware of the Carden story (or, as they maintain, my opinion of the story – OK, fair enough) and – if you can believe it, actually brokered the ballpark deal to Carden’s benefit – has never bothered to tell them, as far as I have been able to ascertain. The team is probably in a continuous process of brand-building, like most sports franchises, but they haven’t yet contemplated the potential damage to their brand that could come with this association, as more and more people become aware of these stories, and if public reaction to Carden is as violent as the response I got from those who saw my aforementioned hypothetical.
And they may not be aware of the possible liability they’d face in the event Carden, through neglect or incompetence, happens to put another fighter’s safety in jeopardy, and someone like Molly Brown DOESN’T show up to save the day.
That might change soon.
What they do next is up to them.
And the investigation continues…….
(To reiterate, Tim Lueckenhoff of the Missouri commission, promoter John Carden and his associate, Amy Hayes have all refused to answer questions related to this story………As mentioned, we’ve condensed this for you. There is much, much more to the story – again, starting Friday, visit CharlesJay.net)