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California Commissioners Get Cold Feet after Crossing Mighty Al Haymon

Posted on 07/03/2015

By Ivan G. Goldman

I stand by every word of my June 25 story quoting California commissioner John Frierson as telling me that boxing kingpin Al Haymon, had been blocking preferred Los Angeles venues. It was done, said Frierson, to sabotage the shows of his competition so they couldn’t get the venues when they needed them.

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“He was holding up the dates at the Forum and at Staples Center,” my story quoted Frierson as saying. “We took that away.”

The commission, he added, put a stop to the alleged dirty trick, though he wouldn’t tell me precisely how the commissioners went about this.

After the story appeared, Top Rank filed a suit against Haymon and various entities connected to him in which it alleged precisely that practice – venue squatting. I owe that term to boxing scribe Steve Kim of Steve had gotten wind of it too, but apparently he didn’t get it from the mouth of a California commissioner.

The Top Rank suit names dates and places where this dirty pool was played. Two of the places were the Forum and Staples Center, just as Frierson told me.

Commission chairman John Carvelli, quoted on another boxing news site, took issue with my story and denied there is any commission investigation of Haymon, who runs an entity called Premier Boxing Champions and calls himself a manager/adviser of prizefighters.

The story on the other site also says Frierson is “denying some of items were (sic) attributed to him.”

First, let’s deal with Carvelli. There’s an old debating trick used by deceivers in which they put words in the mouth of their target and argue with statements that the target never made in the first place. And I never said the commission investigated these alleged practices by Haymon.

I might add, however, that if the commission made Haymon stop the alleged practice without investigating first whether or not he’d done it, that would have to be awfully dumb, wouldn’t it? But I’ll let Carvelli address that point.

Carvelli, who holds a day job as director and executive vice president of a dental managed care company, was quoted saying that Frierson “was either misquoted or misunderstood” in my article. Nope. I understood Frierson completely and quoted him accurately. Mr. Carvelli, who wasn’t in on the conversation, is dead wrong.

If Frierson wants to back away from what he said, I can’t stop that. But he said what I said he said.

The day after my article appeared, a well-placed source acquainted with the alleged venue displacement by Haymon told me that Haymon had pulled the same trick in other locations outside California. Unlike Frierson, this source, quite dependable, I might add, spoke off the record. I wrote a second story using the new information and I honored the request not to divulge the person’s identity.

Incidentally, had Frierson made the same request, I would have honored it. However, I probably would have reminded him that he’s a public official doing the people’s business, and he hadn’t told me anything that ought to be hidden from the people who employ him.

On July 1, promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc. filed a federal suit in California in which Haymon and entities in league with him are alleged to have violated the Muhammad Ali Act and anti-trust laws in an effort to form a prizefighting “monopoly.” I quote from Page 3 of that 50-page document:

“Haymon reserved prime locations such as Staples Center and The Forum so that they could not be booked by the competition, and then cancelled after the competitors were forced to seek other locations. The tactic unfairly injured his competitors and deprived consumers of access to events with no legitimate business purpose other than to unfairly harm competition.”

Sounds an awful lot like what Frierson told me several days earlier, doesn’t it? But let me clarify something. I don’t know whether Haymon or his people did these things. I only know that Frierson told me he did, that the Top Rank lawsuit charges him with doing them, and that when I tried to contact Haymon or anyone in his company for a response, no one would reply.

That’s standard procedure for Haymon. If any of his flunkies tell you “No comment,” you’ve gotten way more out of them than most questioners do.

I also tried to get California commission Executive Director Andy Foster on the phone but couldn’t reach him.

About Frierson: he always seemed like a good guy to me, and I’m sorry he got himself into this pickle. People seem to panic when they realize they might be getting themselves on the wrong side of Haymon. But if Frierson’s calling me a liar then I guess he’s not such a good guy after all.

Frierson also said that when he was a youngster, “gangsters ran boxing. Blinky Palermo and those guys. Now it’s a different crew in ties and suits, and they go around the law.” Actually, gangsters in those days also wore ties and suits, but I think most of us can catch his drift.

To tell you the truth, I’d much rather discuss the ins and outs of Canelo Alvarez versus Miguel Cotto (What a terrific match-up), but when stories of this other nature fall in my lap I pursue them, and when I get slandered I have to respond.

Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.

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