November 20, 2002 Simi Valley, CA: Today, November 20, 2002, the Nevada State Athletic Commission heard testimony from several people concerning the allegations of steroid use by Jr. Middleweight, Fernando Vargas. Pat English, the attorney for Main Events - - the company that promotes the fighter, the image and the talent of Fernando's public persona"El Feroz", represented Vargas. The people sitting on the fighter's side of the dais got to see the heart and private persona of Fernando Vargas, the man. They got to see the pride of a true champion and see the difference between "pride" and "ego". They saw a man that does not make excuses or blame anyone else for his mistakes.
One of those men on the fighter's side of the dais was cut man Jacob "Stitch" Duran (Former IKF Promoter and trainer of several Past IKF Champions) who has earned a spot in the brotherhood of boxing - the brotherhood recognized by the fighters. Stitch is also the man responsible for a film documentary - Boxer's Nightmare - about fighters and safety in the sport of boxing. The film features the good people in boxing-- the people who care about the sport and about the fighters. More about Stitch later in the story
The "brotherhood of boxing" is closed to most of the people who think they are in the inner circle of boxing. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, under the direction of Mark Ratner (Right) is without question one of the best commissions in the sport of boxing. The Nevada Commission seems to "walk the talk" in terms of boxing safety and in ethical treatment of athletes, promoters and ring personnel. An excellent commission is still either exalted or handicapped by the political appointments that make up the commission. Ideally, the appointments would be made after careful consideration of the appointees knowledge of the sport of boxing, integrity, ethics and concern for the improvement of the sport There would be no room for self serving egomaniacs, nor would there be chairs for uptight, bottled up, purse-lipped political donors just waiting for their chance to "rule" the kingdom of boxing. Unfortunately, you cannot buy good judgment, integrity, ethics or responsible decision makers.
It is one thing to be righteous - condemning the actions before the facts are confirmed - and to blabber on about "concern for the sport and the athlete" without regard for anyone's dignity. Luther Mack, (Right) Chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission spoke up loudly and clearly and publicly and often. No question about his position on this day, the day of reckoning for Fernando Vargas - just as he did on the day that Mike Tyson appeared before him on the appeal to reinstate his boxing license. Luther Mack, is one of those "boxing insiders" but to the brotherhood of boxing, he is simply a bureaucrat--a political appointee. Did he - and the rest of the Nevada State Athletic Commission - teach Fernando a lesson? That would be an arrogant conclusion. Most of us human beings, professional boxers included, learn our lessons from the mistakes we make. We choose to accept the consequences or to ignore them. Fernando has been straightforward from the beginning. Even though he is adamant that he did not knowingly introduce steroids into his training regimen, he assumed responsibility. He also accepted the consequences without whining or whimpering. He took it like the man that he is - a real champion.
Fernando sat on the "fighter's" side of the dais with the real brothers in boxing - the ones who have seen the power of the appointed authority - and know the powerlessness of the athletes waiting for their predetermined judgment. They know that their voices are necessary, but insignificant. While they sit awkwardly waiting for their sentence, they also sit in judgment of those before them. There is no power in the rank and file of the professional boxers. There is no union to represent them. There is no equity or legal authority to protect them when they appear before any State Athletic Commission. In fact, the presence of a lawyer who is vocal in pursuit of fairness and legal precision is clearly NOT an asset at a Commission Hearing. So the fighters sit there on the "fighter's side of the dais" and take whatever jabs and hooks the bureaucrats dish out. In Fernando's case, it is a nine-month suspension and a $100,000 fine. Not as bad as some thought, but bad enough to take Fernando Vargas out of the Golden Boy's Junior Middleweight Tournament in April. His suspension won't end until June. The lesson for Fernando has already been learned. The moral of this story is that the bureaucrats can "enforce" their consequences, appear reasonable to the public and expect no lip from the fighter.
The brotherhood of boxing knows the truth. Stitch Duran raised his hand to speak. Luther Mack leanedover to Flip Homansky to ask who this man is . unaccustomed as they are to people on the "fighter's side of the dais" making any overtures. Stitch is allowed to speak and he says he can do it in his two minutes allocated by the Commission. In two minutes, he can convey the most powerful message of the day: Fernando is a good man and one who cares about people. Fernando is no egomaniac. He donates his time to help up and coming fighters and he helps the brothers in boxing who have come before him. He works with charitable organizations like the Retired Boxers Foundation and his own nonprofit organization, the Ferocious Foundation, which is devoted to children, and he appears in the Boxer's Nightmare documentary that Stitch and his partner, John Barnthouse, produced.
Stitch asks for leniency, but like the fighters, expects the consequence. The power of his membership in the brotherhood of boxing is when he asks what happens to the fines levied on the fighters - Fernando, today, Mike Tyson before him. Stitch knows that the fines are more than enough to sustain a dozen charitable organizations that support boxing programs, boxing safety and assistance for retired boxers. He knows that the fine money could pay for the baseline MRI's that the Nevada State Athletic Commission's Ringside physician, Dr. Margaret Goodman is lobbying the commission for. He knows that the fine money could buy the extra computer that the Commission staff could use to set up more efficient record keeping. He also knows that Mike Tyson's $3 million dollar fine after the Holyfield debacle, and now Fernando's $100,000 fine is going to the State of Nevada's General Fund. None of it is going to the Nevada State Athletic Commission or anybody else that can make the sport safer, stronger or more responsible to the athletes that make the sport what it is.
If the brotherhood of boxing had a voice, it would have a seat at the table of boxing oversight and it would include the voice of people like Stitch Duran who has the courage to stand before the bureaucrats and ask them to do the right thing. Stitch would have the courage to ask the State of Nevada to allow the fines levied against the boxers to be used to improve the sport and those who regulate it, participate in it and oversee it.
The time has come for the voices of the brotherhood of boxing to be heard. If the State Athletic Commissions, the Association of Boxing Commissioners and the John McCain's of the world are not hearing the voice of the fighters, they soon will. The Retired Boxers Foundation is working through the brotherhood of boxing to initiate reform from the inside of the game. We are proud to call Fernando Vargas one of our Board Members, just as we are to call Jacob "Stitch" Duran one of our Representatives and Advisors. We are working quietly to unify the voice of the fighters under the banner of "Fighters Helping Fighters." The RBF is representing the true "Undisputed Champions for Dignity - the fighters!"
If you would like more information on the Retired Boxers Foundation, go their page here on the IKF site by clicking HERE or contact Alex "The Bronx Bomber" Ramos (Right) at (805) 583-5890, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask him about the RBF position paper on the Professional Boxers Association (PBA).
The Retired Boxers Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation started by 1984 USBA Middleweight Champion, Alex "The Bronx Bomber" Ramos in 1995 to help fighters in need, is leading a campaign called "Fighters Helping Fighters" to inspire other fighters to help. Ramos started the Retired Boxers Foundation because of what happens to professional boxers once their careers are over. Because boxing is the only sport that does not provide adequate pensions to fighters once they retire, too many of them suffer in the transition from their glorious days in the ring to a dignified retirement. For more information on the Retired Boxers Foundation, "Fighters Helping Fighters" program, call Alex Ramos at (805) 583-5890 or visit their website at www.retiredboxers.org. The Fighters Helping Fighters campaign has assisted over 100 retired professional boxers and their families, including arranging surgery, tax consultation to clear up problems with the IRS, legal services, rehabilitation services, Dignity Bags for homeless fighters and fighters in convalescent homes as well as financial assistance for the families.