Boxing commissions holding WBA's 'feet to the fire' with scathing letter, threatening not to sanction belts

·Combat columnist
·5 min read

The head of the Association of Boxing Commissions sent a letter to Gilberto Mendoza, president of the World Boxing Association, expressing concern over the way the WBA has conducted business recently.

The most recent controversy erupted over the scoring in a fight for an interim title Saturday in Minneapolis between Gabriel Maestre and Mykal Fox. Maestre won a hotly disputed unanimous decision in a bout for the WBA interim welterweight title.

After the verdict was announced, it was learned that one of the judges had sent out racist tweets. Gloria Martinez Rizzo, who was recommended by the WBA, had referred to former First Lady Michelle Obama as “monkey face,” among other vile tweets. Fox is Black.

After speaking to ABC president Mike Mazzulli, Mendoza told Yahoo Sports the WBA will issue a resolution condemning Rizzo’s racist tweets.

He also said that he’d ordered a rematch between Maestre and Fox and agreed that if the bout happened to be a draw, the title would be vacant.

Judge John Mariano, who scored the fight 115-112 for Maestre, sent a text to a WBA supervisor after controversy erupted around the fight. He wrote, “My recent fight assignment was a difficult fight to judge with close rounds. I saw Fox running more, landing the lighter punches while Maestre was moving forward cutting the ring off and landing the harder punches.”

Rizzo has yet to make a public comment. She has been ill and Mendoza said he planned to talk to her soon.

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 04:  A detailed view of the WBA belt of Middleweight World Champion Claressa Shields on display before her workout for the media at 5th Street Gym on April 4, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Shields is training to fight WBO Middleweight World Champion Christina Hammer for the undisputed middleweight world championship April 13. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 04: A detailed view of the WBA belt of Middleweight World Champion Claressa Shields on display before her workout for the media at 5th Street Gym on April 4, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Shields is training to fight WBO Middleweight World Champion Christina Hammer for the undisputed middleweight world championship April 13. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The WBA has also been criticized for creating a slew of championships, including super champion, regular champion, interim champion and gold champion.

In the letter to Mendoza from the ABC, Mazzulli asked Mendoza to explain the proliferation of WBA titles, writing it “is misleading to the public and the boxers.”

Mazzulli also asked Mendoza to be more conscientious in his recommendation of officials. Mazzulli also noted that there was an allegation that Marcelino Castillo worked Maestre's corner and that Castillo is closely affiliated with or employed by the WBA. If that is true, it would be in violation of U.S. law, Mazzulli wrote.

Mendoza told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that Castillo has never been employed by the WBA. Mendoza said that Castillo has contributed news items and photographs to the WBA website.

Veteran trainer/cutman Rudy Hernandez worked Maestre’s corner Saturday as the cutman. He told Yahoo Sports that Castillo did not work the corner and said he did not see Castillo near Maestre’s corner. He said the only ones in the corner were himself, trainer Jorge Zerpa and Mike Rodriguez.

Mazzulli wrote that if the WBA failed to take satisfactory action, the ABC’s Board of Directors would recommend to its membership:

• Not to honor the WBA belt as sanctioned within the U.S.

• Not to accept WBA official recommendations.

• Not to allow a WBA supervisor in the controlled area around the ring.

If it got to the step of the ABC recommending not sanctioning the WBA, it would essentially put the body out of business. It makes the bulk of its money from sanction fees it collects from boxers fighting for its titles, which is typically three percent.

Given the vast majority of the largest shows are in the U.S., it would cripple if not financially ruin the WBA if it were not permitted to sanction shows in the U.S.

“I don’t think it’s going to get to that point,” Mazzulli told Yahoo Sports. “Mr. Mendoza has stated publicly that he’s going to reduce the number of belts, and what we’re doing now is basically holding his feet to the fire.”

Prior to publishing a story on the WBA on Monday, Yahoo Sports had spoken to more than six people in professional boxing who all said that Mendoza manages many of the fighters from Venezuela, including Maestre. That information was not included in the Yahoo Sports story published on Aug. 9 because it could not be verified.

But on Wednesday, Mendoza denied having any financial stake in any fighter.

“If you’re going to say [I manage] Maestre, you have to talk about [Jorge] Linares and Marcos Maidana and a lot of other kids, as well,” Mendoza said. “I have helped them and their families with money out of my own pocket. But I have never taken a cent from any of them. Ever. I know that’s out there. [Top Rank chairman] Bob Arum said that I have more fighters than he does.

“That’s funny and I got a kick out of it, but it’s just not true. I haven’t denied helping them and their families and if they want to box, I admit that I’ve pointed them in the right direction. But I have nothing to do with the judging and whoever wins, wins. And I haven’t taken a cent from any of them.”

Mendoza said the WBA’s plan to streamline the number of titles it offers will go into effect in September, and he shared an early draft of the plan with Yahoo Sports.

It would effectively end the gold and interim titles and put restrictions on who could fight for a super championship.

ABC Letter to the WBA by Jay Hart on Scribd

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