This is not an article about Peter Quillin, 22-0 (16). To my knowledge, he is an upstanding human being, an up-and-coming fighter with a bright future who is one of the truly good people I have met in the sport. Neither is this a feature introducing his opponent Dennis Sharpe, 17-5-3 (4), who Quillin faces on Friday night in Fairfield, CA in the main event on Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo Tecate.”
This would have been an inside look at how the California State Athletic Commission decides which fights happens under its jurisdiction and how matchmakers decide which fighters to use in order to build their prospects and contenders. This article would also have been about why Golden Boy Promotions, in association with Don Chargin Promotions, feels the 35-year-old Sharpe, who has not fought since May of 2007, is on a five-fight losing streak and has not won a fight since May of 2004, is the right boxer to help build the skill and experience level of Quillin. This article would be all about those things, that is if anyone, from Telefutura to Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez, to sometime Golden Boy matchmaker and adviser Don Chargin, CSAC’s executive director George Dodd or the man in charge of approving fights in California, Che Guevara, would have answered any of the calls I made trying to reach them.
“He’s out to lunch,” “He is in a meeting,” “Please leave me a detailed message and I will get back to you,” “Mr. Guevara is not in today.” These are the things I was told or heard on voicemails.
A few weeks back, a press release was issued by Golden Boy announcing the Quillin-Sharpe fight. At first glance, perhaps because we have all been conditioned to not notice, as both boxing fans and media, I missed Sharpe’s record. I put the release aside in my inbox and checked to see who was covering the fight for us. When our own Ryan Maquiñana said he was covering Quillin, I looked at the opponent to see if we should get an interview for full coverage, it being a slow beginning to the year and all. That’s when I looked closer at the record of Sharpe.
It is not unusual for a fighter in his formative years to be built by using a lesser opponent. “Lesser” meaning a fighter who has some losses, inexperience or even one particular skill like a solid chin or power but with enough deficiencies in the rest of his game that the prospect he is facing can focus on neutralizing the one good skill, safe in the knowledge he is in no other danger. This is how fighters are made. At some point, as one matchmaker for a top promotional firm once told me, you have to find out what you have and the fighter is “put in tough.” This happens at different times for a fighter depending on many factors. But generally, after 20 or so fights, you should know what you have.
Quillin is a solid fighter with a lot of upside. He is a middleweight (though he fights a few pounds above it, from time to time) at a time when the division is wide open. He has a pleasing style and solid skills and is with a firm that should be able to move him to HBO sometime soon. So why, at 22 fights, is he fighting Sharpe?
“What is wrong with Sharpe?” you might ask. Looking at his record, he has not fought since May 2007. He has lost his last five fights, two by technical knockout. The losses were to Ronald Hearns, James McGirt, Andy Lee, Pawel Wolak, and Giovanni Lorenzo. Not a bad list of names. Before that, he had two draws against opponents you have never heard of. His last win was May of 2004.
The answer is simple: Quillin, who had been off for a couple years before coming to Golden Boy last year, needs to be introduced to the masses. A main event on Telefutura can do that for him. A highlight reel knockout can help you remember him when you see him next and a 35-year-old inactive for four years-fighter coming off five losses in a row seems like the perfect order to make that happen.
Certainly we are used to seeing mismatches. Every week, it seems Teddy Atlas is on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” talking about a fighter who took the bout on a week’s notice and had been knocked out in one or two fights previously. Looking at the fighter, oftentimes, he looks like a guy about as skilled as I am, which is not very much.
Looking deeper at this card in Fairfield, as I was writing this, newmexicoboxing.com’s Chris Cozzone reported that another Golden Boy prospect, Fidel Maldonado, who was scheduled until today to face TBA, now has an opponent. Who is he facing? Carlos Hernandez, 3-4-2. Looking into Hernandez’s record, he has lost two bouts in a row, both in 2010, following a three-year layoff, one by disqualification for excessive holding and hitting and the other a KO loss to another Golden Boy prospect, Ramon Valadez, in one. Looking deeper, Hernandez turned pro in 2002, winning twice that year as a 130-pounder. The next year, he had two stoppage losses. He sat on the shelf until 2005 and fought twice that year, winning one and drawing in the other. That spurred a two-year layoff. In 2007, Hernandez drew once more. Then he sat on the shelf for three years until his comeback losses last year, this time as a lightweight.
According to one source, it was recommended that Hernandez not be allowed to be licensed to fight in California because he did not have the ability to fight professionally. The reason given was that his conditioning was very suspect. Even still, he was put in with Valadez and brutally stopped in 2:15 of the first round, off shots to his soft midsection. Two months later, he resurfaced on another Golden Boy “Fight Night Club” fight and was disqualified in three rounds. Again, Hernandez’s poor conditioning played a factor in his loss as he was dead tired after one round and began to tackle, hold, headbutt, and other dirty tactics in an attempt to survive the distance. My source informed me that there were again reports stating that Hernandez should not be allowed to have a license to fight professionally. Yet here he is, several months later, with no one checking in on him in the gym to see if he has improved as a fighter in terms of skill and conditioning, fighting yet another unbeaten prospect who has won five fights by first-round stoppage and one other by second-round stoppage.
How does a fight get made in California? Normally it is supposed to go like this:
A promoter sends in an advanced notice of their proposed fights on a card. Normal protocol states that a fight should not be announced until it is approved by a commission but that is rarely the case as a lot of cards get announced with a majority of fights being “So-and-So Prospect vs. TBA.” The commission is supposed to receive a “Fight Fax report” (Fight Fax being an official record-keeper for fighters and cards across the globe). The commissioners check to see if any fighter has an active suspension. If they do, a fighter will not be allowed to fight. Once a medical clearance is done, the promoter’s matchmaker is informed the fights can go forward and they are announced.
This is how it should be done.
Anymore, it seems as if the sport is being “BoxRec’ed,” which is to say the commissioners are lazy and they look at a record on BoxRec.com, cross reference that with Fight Fax and go from there. Another source told me that it is standard for commissioners or inspectors to not go to the gym to check on a fighter nor watch tape to see if the matchup is a fair one or, at the very least, not dangerous to the health of the underdog. Weight history is rarely checked, meaning a fight like the Maldonado-Hernandez fight should be looked at closely to see how long a fighter has been fighting at lightweight and if a move up in weight for a fighter will make the fight even more of a mismatch. Knockout loss history should cause alarm but as you can see in the case of Hernandez, it seems to be nothing more than a way of recognizing that Hernandez will surely be stopped, Maldonado will get his highlight reel KO and the unsuspecting crowd will go away thinking they saw something special. Furthermore, something else that is not looked in to is why a fighter has taken a long layoff. Everything else is seemingly taken at face value.
This problem is not exclusive to California.
This past Wednesday, on a DiBella Entertainment fight card in New York, undefeated Gabriel Bracero fought 35-year-old Christopher Fernandez, 19-12-1 (12). Undefeated 20-year-old Steve Martinez stopped 35-year-old Ishwar Amador, 11-9 (7), in the first round. Amador returned to boxing last year after a five-year layoff. He is 2-5 in his last seven fights, having been stopped twice. Why is he allowed to fight professionally, much less against a dangerous undefeated prospect?
In North Carolina last Saturday, a card featuring five undefeated fighters against questionable opposition was held. When the card was over, the winners’ records totaled 44-2-1 while the losing side came to 15-61-3. An odd fact is that the winners that evening have won 37 times consecutively with one draw. The losers? They have a combined 23 straight losses with 17 of those losses coming by way of knockout.
That same Saturday, in Maywood, CA, Raymond Chacon made his pro debut against the now 0-3 Manuel Machorro, who turned pro in 2005 and was stopped in just one round in that fight. Machorro took off five years only to return last year in a third-round stoppage loss. From my ringside seat on Saturday in Maywood, Machorro looked like a fighter scared to engage, in essence, a very damaged fighter who was matched poorly early on was never ready to be a pro fighter when he relinquished his amateur status. The man who I am told approved that bout, Che Guevara, was not in attendance to see what he had offered. What the crowd got was a terrible fight where Machorro refused to engage and bored the crowd to tears as he retreated and held until the bell ending the fourth round. He lost on every judge’s card.
Next week in San Francisco, Mercito Gesta, 20-0-1 (10), will face a fighter he knocked out in seven rounds in August of 2010, Genaro Trazancos, 22-13-1 (13). Trazancos has lost 10 of his last 12 fights, eight by stoppage.
Speaking to the people on the front lines of boxing (gym owners and trainers), the norm is for inspectors from the various commissions to not visit the gyms and check on the fighters’ abilities or their conditioning. Medical examinations ranging from EKG and EEG to CT scans, physicals and blood work are what are relied on to see if a fighter is physically fit to fight. No one checks to see if the fighters can actually fight, why they lost their bouts, and if they are qualified to be in the ring. What’s more, reports from deputies in the commission apparently are being ignored.
I could verify all this or at least get a response to the accusations from the commissions if only they would call me back.
Why does this happen? There are various theories which would be dangerous for me to posit here because it would be (albeit educated) speculation. I’m comfortable bringing what I have to light but to go further without speaking to the CSAC or the Chicago Commissioners, who also have failed to return my calls, would not, in my estimation, be fair.
As we saw with Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander or more famously Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya, undefeated does not equal a great fight. In fact, there is great potential to have two reluctant fighters in there. But at the least, we know why they are fighting and that they are qualified because we have a deep knowledge of their bodies of work. Now if only the commissions would examine the records and overall activities of the road warriors and last-minute replacements the way hardcore fans follow the stars of the sport, we might get some more competitive fights. More importantly, potential ring tragedies like Quillin-Sharpe or Maldonado-Hernandez could be avoided. Sooner or later, a fighter will slip through the cracks and someone will get killed. A man will be dead, his family devastated, the fighter who accidentally killed him irrevocably damaged and the sport once again will be tarnished unnecessarily.
All that could be avoided if the people charged with minding the store actually did just that.