Down For The Count

Colorado boxing continues to take a beating--for now.

The enthusiasm that Conde expresses about the futures of his fighters is not shared by others. Walsh, who has been following boxing in Colorado for eleven years, has harsh words for what he calls the "Mexican slave trade." According to Walsh, as well as several others who testified before the House committee last month, unscrupulous trainers and promoters often bring young, inexperienced fighters up from Mexico who have dubious credentials. Their fight records often mean nothing. "Twenty dollars can buy you ten wins in Mexico," Walsh claims. "These fighters get in the ring and are victims of what amounts to child abuse at the hands of experienced boxers."

The question then arises: Why were these young, inexperienced fighters allowed to participate in the January 22 show, at which several members of the CBA were present? Woody Kislowski explains that the CBA can do only so much. "The CBA is a private corporation," he says. "Our volunteers have done a good job, but the truth is that we have no teeth to enforce things like payment, rules and medical supervision. All we could do [before the McCain bill passed] was not sanction the fight, and without our sanctioning, the results didn't count. A lot of the responsibility fell on the respectability of the promoter."

Promoter respectability has been a hit-and-miss issue throughout the years. Members of the CBA say that although they don't always see eye-to-eye with Andy Lee, one of the biggest promoters left in Denver, they have found him to have the best interests of the fighters in mind. However, as Dan Goossen of America Presents (a promoter that relocated to Denver from Nevada six months ago in hopes of cashing in on the city's high-profile sports market) pointed out before the House committee, there are plenty of shady characters in the boxing game. "One hundred and fifty dollars can buy you a promoter's license," Goossen testified. "You can get into this business with a song and a dance."

As for the boxers themselves, they're primarily concerned with getting more exposure and having their Colorado bouts officially sanctioned by someone--anyone. Lavon Lopez, wife of 13-0 middleweight Manuel Lopez, says the lack of a commission is hindering her husband's career. "Boxing has no recognition in Denver," she explains while sitting ringside at the Great Room between rounds of her husband's bout. "Sponsors just don't seem to be willing to take a chance on a Colorado boxer." She thinks a commission would help, but she is skeptical after her past efforts to lobby for a commission were met with defeat. "It seems almost pointless to ask for it," she says.

Manuel Lopez doesn't feel as strongly as his wife does about how his career is being negatively affected. While his trainer unwraps his fists in the basement of the venue after his six-round victory, he says he's getting plenty of fights. He doesn't worry about a commission, he says, because "I have no control over it. All I want to do is fight."

Two-time Olympic Festival champion Shane Swartz, a native of Fort Collins, pointed out to the House committee that the lack of a boxing commission is detrimental to the future of fighters based in Colorado. However, Swartz added an element to his testimony that other boxers didn't bring up: Not only is he worried about his financial security and chances for national recognition, he's also worried about his physical well-being.

Swartz testified that he fought in Mississippi the previous week and felt much more at ease because a state official supervised all the pre-fight taping of his and his opponent's hands, examined their gloves and verified his opponent's weight and record. "I felt safe," Swartz testified. "I knew it was me against him...I knew who I was fighting."

Both the CBA and local promoters complain that the McCain law has caused a whole new set of problems in Colorado boxing. Since the law was passed last July, the CBA can no longer act on the authority of the ABC. The law requires that a representative from a state with a sanctioned boxing commission be present, but individual promoters can decide which state commission they bring into town. According to Andy Lee, this choice can depend on any number of things. Lee says he brought in a representative from Arizona for his show at the Great Room because the airfare between Phoenix and Denver was cheap. Officials at other fights have been brought in from New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada and California. And each state brings with it its own boxing rules.

"Take AIDS testing, for instance," says Rex Walker. "One week you could bring in a state commissioner that requires boxers to be tested, and the next fight, you've got a different commissioner who doesn't."

Other problems were demonstrated last December during fights in Ignacio, in southwestern Colorado. Kislowski calls the boxing situation that night "as bad as anything that's ever occurred in Colorado--the type of thing that wouldn't have occurred if we had our own state commission."

For the Ignacio show, the promoters contracted with the New Mexico boxing commission, which sent commissioner Stan Gallup, who seemed to have enormous difficulties determining who was eligible to fight and who was not. One fighter, Ricardo Galvan, was allowed to fight even though, according to Kislowski, he had been knocked out in front of the same New Mexico commissioner a month earlier during a Fort Collins bout. (Most fight doctors say that a fighter who has been knocked out should not even spar for at least thirty days to six months, depending on the severity of the blow, to avoid permanent brain damage.) "Apparently they didn't recognize him this time," says Kislowski disgustedly. (New Mexico commissioner Gallup didn't return phone calls seeking comment.)

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