Cheats not part of boxing bets

Mar 3, 2009 5:05 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

At last some breathing room in the midst of the hectic schedule. With nothing on line, I’ll finish up on the Antonio Margarito case.

Not the particulars, just the big picture. The one that most affects GamingToday readers. I have little doubt that Margarito’s corner was trying to cheat against Sugar Shane Mosley. I have little doubt that this was not the first time, nor the last that someone tries to cheat at sports.

We give awards to films like "The Sting," make heroes of bank robbers. I do not take the pulpit to preach morality, though. The question for us players must be how the cheating affects our bets.

Boxing, of course, has a somewhat shady reputation. The "red-light district of sports," Jimmy Cannon called it. "Sport? They’d hold it in sewers if there was head room," wrote Rod Serling in "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Teddy Brenner and Barney Nagler entitled their book, "Only the Ring Was Square."

You think there might have been some bribery involved in the ratings of fighters? The WBCrooks and IBFelons are strictly on the up-and-up when it comes to that and figuring out championships. Same for the others.

And there’s a lot more cheating in the dressing rooms than has met the eyes of state commission inspectors. Most of the evil-doing is kept under wraps, of course.

But most of the cheating done is not to hurt the opponent – it is to protect the so-called cheater. There was one famous case where a heavyweight champion – okay, let’s not mention Larry Holmes’s name – who was feeling ill before a title defense against Mike Weaver and needed a shot in the butt from the ringside physician.

Cheating? You bet. But it matters not to you, dear reader, or about your hard-earned honest dollars.

Most of the cheating – even the rare flat-out dive – is not done to screw the gambler. When Richie Melito benefited from a splash by a stiff named Thomas Williams in 2000, there was no betting. Hell, the doors to the arena weren’t open when Williams plunged to the canvas in the opening round.

Word had gone around backstage at the Paris Las Vegas that there was something fishy about the fight. It was just a case of someone trying to build up Melito’s record, not trying to cash in on a betting coup. Same thing happened three years earlier in New York.

Word had gone all around the city that the venerable Bert Cooper was going to take a splash against Melito in a bout at Madison Square Garden’s Theater. Even the New York State Athletic Commission had heard about it and went into Cooper’s dressing room to warn him to behave.

Dive? What dive? Cooper came out and knocked out Melito in the opening round.

One bout after the Williams fiasco, with a record of 27-1, Melito apparently retired. His last victory, as recorded by was by disqualification over an opponent, and I quote the record-keepers verbatim, "apparently for hitting Melito in the face."

If there was any cheating by the Margarito corner, it was not to cash in chump change at the windows but to set up more seven-figure purses. Same thing happened in the previous biggest bad-gloves scandal, when Luis Resto fought without padding to cushion the blows and broke up the face of Billy Collins Jr. back in 1983.

There was no action on the fight.

No, gambling on boxing is relatively clean. I say relatively. It is quite apparent that all ringside judges may not have 20-20 vision and all referees are not as neutral as they should be.

Dubious decisions, though, are more often the product of incompetence than corruption.