A Look at the Apparent Lack of Residency Requirements for “Regional Titles” in Professional Boxing
Undefeated junior middleweight Alantez (Sly as a) Fox might be a solid prospect, but he is not a resident of New York. He is a resident of Maryland and has been ever since Standing 8 Court first heard about him when he was making noise in the amateur ranks. Nonetheless, Fox’s excellent eight round draw with fellow undefeated prospect Frank Galarza in the co-main event of the inaugural boxing show at Resorts World Casino at New York’s Aqueduct Raceway on September, 22, 2012 was billed as being for the New York State light middleweight title. One week later, Vic (Raging Bull) Darchinyan, the multi-division world champion who was born in Armenia and has reportedly resided primarily in Australia since his appearance in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, won the vacant North American Boxing Federation (“NABF”) super bantamweight title with a 10 round thumping of Luis Orlando (Orlandito) Del Valle on HBO. The “A” in NABF does not stand for either Armenian or Australian, but nonetheless Darchinyan, who also apparently has a residence in Glendale, California, was sanctioned to compete for its title. While Fox’s and Darchinyan’s professional credentials for the bouts that they engaged in are unquestionable, the fact that they were allowed to compete for regional titles for regions in which they are not regular residents begs the question of what the purpose is of regional titles in the first instance and how it was that these two boxers came to fight for titles outside of where they live.
The Purpose of the New York State and NABF Titles
It would appear to be self-evident that the purpose of a New York State title would be for its holder to defend against another professional boxer in the same weight class who resides, or is originally from, New York State. The purpose of the NABF title, a continental federation associated with the World Boxing Council (“WBC”), is not as self-evident despite its facial regional limitations on eligibility. The NABF’s rules provide that “[r]esidents of Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America may be approved as challengers or champions for an NABF championship; alternatively, other boxers may be approved as challengers or champions for an NABF championship provided that they agree to depend their NABF championships in such time and place as may be required or approved by the NABF.” In sum, while the NABF title is theoretically a regional title that is primarily contested by North American-based boxers, a boxer from elsewhere can box for it as well, provided he agrees to defend it wherever the NABF mandates him to do so. It is thus irrelevant whether Darchinyan is a still a resident of Australia or whether he is now a resident of California.
Why Would a Boxer Compete for a Regional Title Outside of Their Region?
For Fox, it would appear that the opportunity to test his potential against a fellow undefeated prospect was reason enough to compete in a New York State title fight as a Maryland resident. Darchinyan’s rationale, however, is not as clear. Part of that may be due to the fact that there was some talk that he was simply being used as a step-up fight for Del Valle (which was something of a miscalculation in retrospect), and the fact that the NABF title was at stake was simply incidental to the purpose of the bout. Generally, however, it appears that the winning of certain regional belts results in an elevated ranking within a given world sanctioning body’s rankings. If that is the case, why not exploit whatever loopholes there are to get around the residency requirement of a given regional title? And from the point of view of a given sanctioning body, why not let a non-resident of a given region compete for its regional title so long as they are provided their sanctioning fees? The lesson: Money doesn’t just make the world go ‘round, it also allows professional boxers to be treated as residents of anywhere in the world that they wish if the boxers and their teams don’t mind investing a few dollars in creating an exception for them to compete for a regional title.
2012 Proves to be a Year of Interesting Questions for the New York State Athletic Commission: The New York State Athletic Commission has had some interesting matters to contemplate this year. To begin, this coming weekend, local fight fans who have opted to take a pass on the fourth installment of Pacquiao-Marquez, or have simply decided to watch it on replay, will have the opportunity to see the long anticipated professional debut of 46-year-old Rob Garris, who will be returning to boxing after 27 years, at the Resorts World Casino in Queens. Garris, the founder and president of Throwaway Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization created for the benefit of foster children, took the first step towards his return to boxing on May 20, 2011 with a charity exhibition match at the Dole Center in Mount Vernon, New York. Garris’ professional licensure was no sure thing given his age and years away from the sport, but the New York State Athletic Commission has now given him the green-light after many months of discussion.
A week before Garris’ anticipated debut was the second comeback fight of Brooklyn-born middleweight Danny Jacobs. Jacobs, 24-1 (21 KOs), was one of the most highly regarded amateurs to turn professional out of New York in a long time. He was well on his way to living up to expectations when he experienced two very well-documented bumps in the road; a July 31, 2010 fifth round TKO loss to Dmitry Pirog for the vacant WBO Middleweight Title and (more importantly to this column) paralysis from waist down as a result of spinal cancer. Jacobs could have died had the cancer not been discovered and was never expected to walk again, never mind be licensed to box again by the New York State Athletic Commission. However, after surgery and extensive rehabilitation, Jacobs has now boxed twice in 2012 with the approval of the Commission.
Finally, one week before Jacobs began his miraculous comeback with a first round TKO over Josh Luteran on October 20, 2012 at the Barclays Center, the Commission gave light heavyweight upstart Michael Constantino the opportunity to turn professional despite his own disability. Constantino has what was described in the New York Daily News as a “narrow, angular nub” in lieu of a right hand. Nonetheless, with the Commission’s approval, Constantino became the first one-handed boxer to turn professional in the history of the sport on October 27, 2012 with a second round TKO over Nathan Ortiz at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn. Standing 8 Court gives kudos to the New York State Athletic Commission for licensing each of these noteworthy boxers despite the potential concerns raised by each.
Page Fails to Write New Chapter to His Boxing Career Following Prison Stint: On November 17, 2012, former WBA Welterweight Champion James (The Mighty Quinn) Page endeavored to begin a comeback after nearly 11 years in prison for bank robbery against the non-descript Rahman Yusubov only to lose by second round KO. While it is unclear at this time if Page, now 41-years-old, will seek another bout, his most recent incarceration, as well as prior ones for robbery and drug offenses, should prompt any manager or promoter who takes him on to include a morals clause in their agreements with him. If a decade or so out of circulation has not scared him straight, perhaps a management or promotional agreement that allows his handlers to pull the plug on their contractual relationship in the event of any further arrests or convictions can at least make his team feel comfortable that he has an extra incentive to stay focused on the task at hand.
“Magic Man” Makes Himself Disappear Following Suspension: It was reported in early October that the California State Athletic Commission upheld the one-year suspension of 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, former light heavyweight champion, and Showtime commentator Antonio (Magic Man) Tarver, which was originally doled out following his 12-round draw with Lateef (Power) Kayode on June 2, 2012. Tarver, who was removed from the Showtime commentary team covering the Victor Ortiz-Josesito Lopez bout later that month as part of the immediate fall-out, has not been back on Showtime since. In his absence, the similarly nicknamed Paulie (Magic Man) Malignaggi has taken his place on a few telecasts. While it is unknown to Standing 8 Court what the status of Tarver’s relationship with Showtime is at present, it is recalled that another long-time Showtime commentator and former light heavyweight champion, Bobby Czyz, met a similarly inglorious end to his duties following a 2003 DWI conviction.
Chavez, Jr. Proves Grass Doesn’t Always Make You Greener: Whether marijuana should be treated similarly to performance-enhancing drugs is a debate for another day, but Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. has given us the most recent demonstration in boxing of the greenery costing greenbacks. Following his memorable bout (or at least memorable 12th round) against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in September, Chavez’s post-fight urine sample came back positive for marijuana. When last addressed in the press, Chavez had already been fined $10,000 by the WBC, told by the WBC to enter rehab, and was facing the prospect of a substantial fine (as much as his entire $3 million purse), a suspension, and/or a revocation of his license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That is a sizeable cost for a little smoke. Chavez would be better served next time by saying to himself a catchy little slogan that someone in my fourth grade class once put on a poster for an anti-drug program my elementary school hosted: “I don’t wanna marijuana.”
Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq. is a New York-based health and sports law attorney. He is also a New York State licensed boxing manager and the Chairman of the Sports Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association