Honeymoon Over: Officials, Inspectors, Insiders Turning on California State Athletic Commission
Behind-the-scenes in California, Saturday night’s fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera became a turning point for Andy Foster, the Executive Officer of the Consumer Affairs-controlled California State Athletic Commission. It’s close to a year since he took over the job of Sacramento’s regulatory body. The MMA industry was excited to see his arrival. The boxing types had no clue what to expect and were stunned at DCA’s selection. A year later, the book from MMA insiders is that they like Andy Foster. The book from boxing insiders is that he’s naive, can be easily manipulated, and doesn’t know what he is doing.
Mood of the grunts in So. Cal working for California commission (Andy Foster) is very angry right now about what's happening (JCC/Vera).— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) October 1, 2013
In a state where boxing revenue eclipses MMA revenue, the opinion of those in the boxing scene matters.
There is no way to skirt around what happened on Saturday night with judges Gwen Adair, Marty Denkin, and Carla Caiz of the Caiz clan. It was a total disaster. Bryan Vera won the fight. He didn’t lose it. The worst-case scenario should have been a draw. Instead, Chavez was selected as the winner via unanimous decision. On the surface, Carla’s scorecard could be justified… except she scored the last six rounds in favor of JCC. This pissed off people in the boxing scene big time. It spurred one of our favorite Twitter personalities to produce this graphic:
It’s hard to score a round when you’re spotted on camera not watching the action. Virgil Hunter said he saw suspicious people hanging around the judges at ringside.
When the scores were announced, I wrote the following passage:
It appears that the plan could happen in 2014. As it turns out, Bob Arum got exactly the kind of outcome he wanted on Saturday night with JCC/Vera — hunger for a rematch. Surely with the friendly outcome in California, Top Rank would love to host the rematch in California and pay back the commission… right? Bob Arum told the press that the rematch ain’t happening in California.Andy Foster has his first major image crisis on his hands here. Should Andre Ward get past Edwin Rodriguez in November (in Ontario, California), it would appear that HBO will help set up Ward vs. JCC… and that fight will likely happen in California in 2014 — which makes the events that transpired tonight look even worse than they appear to be on the surface. Bet the conversations between Danny Goossen and Bob Arum will be fun for that meeting.
Thanks, Marty! This was the equivalent of Bob yelling, “So long, suckers!” at Andy Foster. Despite JCC only drawing 5,200 at Home Depot/StubHub Center, California judges gave Arum an outcome ripe to make money with and now he’s running to Texas to reap the rewards. No state income tax, Vera’s home turf, and a rather pliant athletic commission.“Texas. Texas. Texas. I want to do it right in Vera’s home town. At 168 (pounds). I mean, here’s another crazy thing. I just mean so kooky. The guy says, ‘I’ll make the sacrifice and go down to 160.’ What, is he going to cut his arm off? I mean he’s a big kid, how he’s going to make 160?
“Definitely Vera wants the rematch, obviously, and so does Chavez. I don’t care what he said after the fight. That was then… today is today. He wants to do the rematch.”
The outcome has left Andy Foster holding the bag. It’s an uncomfortable spot to be in.
No good, negative response
The avalanche of anger started pouring in. Bryan Vera’s camp was so incensed about what happened that they planned on filing a protest with the commission to get the result overturned or to get a hearing regarding the judges involved in the fight. The response was clear — the commission thought nothing was wrong with the result of the fight. They believed JCC won the fight. So, no overturning of the result. Furthermore, no disciplining of the judges or hauling them in front of the commission next week in Los Angeles and having them suspended or reprimanded. None of that.
The reaction to the non-action from the Executive Officer has been blistering behind the scenes. Many of the new enemies he has made are using this incident as proof to try to convince others to join their side and turn on him politically. Some of Andy Foster’s biggest supporters are nervous and are on-the-fence right now as to whether or not it is the right move to keep backing him in terms of his judgment.
One top Southern California inspector summed it up this way.
“Andy is too dumb to discipline Gwen (Adair) and (Marty) Denkin because of the Hall of Famers baloney.”
When I heard that Sacramento saw no problem with JCC winning Saturday’s fight, I knew it was going to be trouble. These kinds of scandals aren’t simply blips on the radar. They linger. They metastasize. They become a benchmark for competency. To not suspend or fire the judges involved is a reaction of tone-deafness. If the people who are sacrificing the most to help regulate & promote shows in the industry think action is needed, then action should be taken. To not respond and show proactive strength simply hardens the polarization on the ground. The morale on the ground matters. The attitude amongst many of the top Southern California inspectors & officials who work many of the big boxing shows has turned in a hurry against Andy.
As for Bob Arum, he has a lot of reasons to be thankful for Gwen Adair, Marty Denkin, Carla Caiz, and Andy Foster.
Thanks to our friends at FightHubTV.com, Arum elaborated the trials & tribulations of dealing with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the decision win he was gifted.
A lot of people, after Saturday night, not only believe JCC is a screw up but so are the people working for the California State Athletic Commission. The image problem is real.“He won the fight. I don’t give a shit what they (say)… I was brought up in the era where if the fighters are exchanging punches and the punches aren’t doing any damage and one guy belts the other and that punch does damage, he gets the round. He gets the round. Everything else is bullshit. That’s how they used to score and that’s the way they scored. That’s the way they scored this fight. So, yeah, I mean 8-to-2 (Gwen Adair) is sort of little crazy. I thought Chavez could have gotten 6-to-4 or could have been a draw and look at the HBO score. They had Vera leading 5-to-4 going into the 10th round. And Chavez won the 10th round, they gave it to Vera. So, you know, it could have been 6-4 either way I thought and you know they gave it to Chavez because his punches were the most authoritative. It was not a robbery. The one score 8-to-2 was a little crazy. Even Marty Denkin’s 7-3 wasn’t crazy. A little bit of a stretch but, you know, I could see where he was coming from. But 6-4? Yeah. If Vera won 6-4, OK too.
“So, hopefully there will be a rematch and we’ll do the rematch in December and we’re talking now to HBO about the rematch and if HBO is unable to do it because of financing and so forth, I’ll just put it on PPV because the fight, Chavez fight (was) the highest-rated boxing event of the entire year by far, this last one. Why? Because Chavez has a constituency that wants to see him and even though we know that from time-to-time he becomes a fuck up, it’s like a reality show. You know? People are always looking, you know, and the guy that taught everybody that most and really made it because of it was Mayweather! Mayweather became a reality show, right? So whatever bad he said, whatever he was saying, people wanted to tune in to see it. People are curious. People don’t want the ordinary stuff and they don’t want the bullshit about ‘he throws a good left hook, a left jab and this…’ Bullshit! They don’t care about that, they want to be entertained. They want something that really catches their imagination and Chavez, for whatever reason, does.
“Listen, the guy can have all the potential in the world. He can be a natural. If he’s a fuck-up, he’s a fuck-up. The potential never shows. How good is Chavez could he be if he wasn’t a fuck-up? I don’t know. I don’t know. I never saw a fighter train for a fight in his living room. Whatever I say to him, he agrees to. What does that mean? Tomorrow, he’ll still be the same fuck-up.”
While JCC/Vera was happening Saturday night at StubHub Center, there was a Don Chargin fight at Cache Creek Resort & Casino about 45 minutes north of Sacramento. It was a five-fight card that featured two curious bookings. The main event featured then 13-2-1 Paul Mendez (24 year old local fighter) versus then 9-10 fighter Rahman Yusubov. Yusubov ended up with a ruptured ear drum. On the same card, then 1-0 local fighter Darwin Price faced a then 2-19-4 fighter named Johnny Frazier from Las Vegas. There were people at the show who were floored that this fight was approved on the card and expressed concern that the booking should have never happened. Needless to say, Mr. Frazier’s record went to 2-20-4 after the fight. After his loss, Frazier was given a two day mandatory rest suspension by the commission.
Bottom line? The fights shouldn’t have been approved by the front office, but they were.
The irony of all ironies? Che Guevara, the former Chief Athletic Inspector who lost his job resigned due to not fulfilling his job responsibilities, was reportedly in attendance at the event. (He’s relocating to Los Angeles.)
Miserable morale between Sacramento & inspectors, officials
Since the departure of George Dodd and the arrival of Andy Foster, one word best describes what is happening with the grunts on the ground: turmoil.
There is a new wave, a flood if you will, of fresh-faced 20-somethings who are largely inexperienced and ready to take over for many of the more seasoned, knowledgeable athletic inspectors that were either working the B-shows or weren’t getting booked at all due to ignorance or politics. In addition to the purge of various inspectors, there are issues such as not paying full-time state employees time-and-a-half (only a couple will now get this benefit) and refusing to pay travel expenses. California is a big state to travel. If you won’t pay for travel expenses, then it means you’re going to have work shortages. It’s a ‘you get what you pay for’ scenario playing out.
Filling in the gaps now are newbies who are working on a volunteer basis.
On top of that, quietly a stunning admission is being made by the front office. For nearly 18 months, we’ve written articles about Che Guevara not properly training athletic inspectors when it comes to calculating box offices. It cost the state a whole lot of cash. So, the next solution was to teach lead inspectors on how to use an Excel spreadsheet so that the box offices could be calculated on a computer. Apparently that wasn’t a good enough measure because now state workers who have little-to-no fight experience or fandom are being brought in to work shows as inspectors. They will not handle fight-related duties. They will handle the paperwork. Meaning, if a crisis appears from skinned gloves, illegal hand wraps, drug usage, or other kinds of locker room issues… the new state inspectors won’t know what to do in those situations or will have to rely on others to help out.
Like drug testing.
It’s no secret that Andy Foster is not a hard-ass when it comes to doping in combat sports. He and I are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue. He has sympathy towards fighters and what they go through in training since he was a fighter. It was not his call to temporarily halt testosterone hall passes in California — that was the call of Consumer Affairs lawyer Michael Santiago. Regardless of that edict, there have been fighters who have used testosterone (with permission) and some who have not. One person who did not have permission was Lavar Johnson.
When Johnson tested positive, he was given a choice: accept a reduced suspension or take your chances in front of the commission at a hearing in Los Angeles. He accepted a reduced suspension. Only now is the press discussing this:
In this matter, there’s only one person giving out suspensions — Andy Foster. It’s his call. There is nobody else making that call. Nobody else is involved unless a fighter appeals. So, don’t expect announcements to be issued on matters of this nature unless fighters discuss their situations publicly at a commission meeting.
As it turns out, Lavar Johnson's nine-month suspension for elevated T/E (6.6 to 1) was reduced to six mos. by CSAC -- no announcement made.— Steven Marrocco (@MMAjunkieSteven) October 1, 2013
The decision-making process from Sacramento has rubbed some of the top athletic inspectors & officials the wrong way in the state. I’ve heard plenty of complaints from the grunts but nobody wants their name attached to quotes. The irony, of course, is that the fight business attracts some of the biggest cowards who won’t put up a fight when they’re getting wronged. The athletic inspectors had a chance to unionize and they couldn’t agree on how to organize a vote. Unionizing in California is not exactly the hardest thing in the world to accomplish. The inspectors had a chance to sue the state for issues relating to travel pay & time-and-a-half pay and that has gone nowhere because some of the inspectors only care about themselves and have neglected others. So, it is entirely fair to ask why should anyone care about their opinions. The reason is simple: they’re the ones working the shows and see all the ugly details up close and in person.
What changed Saturday night? It wasn’t the volume of internal reaction I received. It was who the reaction came from. It came from some names that I haven’t talked with before. Names of people who are both pro-Andy Foster and anti-Andy Foster. One new contact in particular was adamant about why the officials are concerned about what is happening in the state.
The source finished with this sentiment.“[Andy Foster] knows nothing about boxing, refuses to learn and has no one on his staff with knowledge of boxing in one of the biggest boxing jurisdictions in the world. What is wrong with this picture? If he knows nothing about boxing, then why is he here in California? California is boxing crazy. This makes no sense.
“They are assigning incompetent inspectors and officials to fights. They are making huge mistakes and no one is overseeing their actions, therefore, they are committing the same mistakes over and over again.
“They are breaking every rule and policy in the book, from approving mismatches to improperly assigning officials. There are rules in place to how many officials should be assigned to a championship fight or high profile event which have many bouts & rounds on the card so that there are fresh officials for the co-main and main events. Instead, they are assigning fewer officials than usual requiring the championship or main event officials to have to work numerous rounds on the undercard as well. There has always been a separate crew of officials for championship bouts and this rule has recently been ignored and consistently broken. Their reasoning is they want to entice promoters to come to California by eliminating the much needed extra officials to save the promoters money. CSAC has been approving fights that we as inspectors just cringe when we walk in the dressing room with these fighters as many of them can barely carry a conversation or walk a straight line. They are hurt, beaten and regularly outclassed fighters and the last place they should be is in the ring or cage with quality fighters who can seriously hurt them permanently or worse. No amount of new promotions coming to [California] is worth someone’s life. Not only are these fighters in danger but imagine the liability to the state.”
And my response to that claim is simple — you’re giving Andy Foster what he wants. If he didn’t hire you, then chances are you aren’t going to last much longer. The sooner you quit, the easier you’re making his job. If you believe so passionately in helping protect fighters and that the replacements he’s bringing in to fill the regulator jobs will endanger fighters, wouldn’t quitting now mean the fighters are being placed in a more precarious position for health & safety?“This is not [Andy Foster's] first real crisis. He is facing many. Several qualified inspectors who were unhappy resigned, many are considering or currently in the process of resigning and many of us are ready to revolt against this incompetent individual. There are boxing and MMA officials, ringside doctors and time keepers that are also extremely upset and ready to act against him.
“Inspectors, doctors, ring officials and even timekeepers are afraid to speak up because they have seen how [Andy] Foster, [John] Frierson and [Martha] Shen Urquidez have retaliated against those who have dared to speak up. They have put everyone on notice that you do not ask questions or you do not complain because you will not work and your license might be pulled.”
As for threats of retaliation, hey, John Frierson mistook a person in a parking lot last year in El Monte, California as being yours truly and tried to pick a fight with the poor guy.
Bottom line right now? The grunts working the shows for Andy Foster & the California State Athletic Commission fear him but don’t respect him. Going forward, that’s going to become a bigger problem for Sacramento. He’s having a difficult time reading the temperature of his show crews and needs to come up with a new strategy before he gets politically undermined sooner rather than later.