LAS VEGAS – For more than 40 years, a majority of the world's most significant fights have been held in this gambling town. They're frequently lavish events that attract the best and brightest from sports, entertainment and business and give another reason for the red carpet to be rolled out.
Big-time boxing is a way for casinos to lure their best gamblers back to town and further line their coffers.
For all of those 40-plus years, the Nevada Athletic Commission has come under scrutiny for handling promoters and prominent boxers with kid gloves.
Sometimes it's justified, but often it's not. Perception hasn't changed, though: The commission is perceived to be easy on the promoters and big-name fighters because of the money they bring to the state. It doesn't regulate in nearly the stern manner that the Nevada Gaming Commission does.
As recently as a July 23 hearing at the Sawyer State Office Building, that inconsistency was on display for the world to see.
Don Mouton, a largely unknown fighter who had competed three times previously in Nevada, requested a license from the commission to fight on the inaugural BKB card in August.
One of the questions on the form fighters are required to fill out when requesting a license is "Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?"
Mouton checked yes and was asked about it by commissioner Pat Lundvall. He explained it was a 2003 conviction for possession of a stolen vehicle. Lundvall gave Mouton a hard time while she quizzed him about his conviction.
Mouton answered all of the questions and was granted a license, but it was odd he was grilled about an old conviction, particularly since he'd been licensed by the state multiple times in the past and without incident.
Later in the hearing, the commission debated Mayweather Promotions' request for a promoter's license. A promoter's license is the most difficult license to get from the Nevada Athletic Commission, and licensees have to submit detailed financial reports, undergo a background check and fill out a lengthy application.
Lundvall lavished Floyd Mayweather, the company's principal and the star boxer who brings mega-million dollar events annually or bi-annually to the city, with praise for the thoroughness of his application. She repeatedly told him it was one of the best applications she'd ever reviewed.
Never did she ask him about his convictions. Mayweather actually served time in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, and had had several other incidents in the past.
While Mouton was grilled about a 2003 conviction, not a word was mentioned about Mayweather's.
It was grossly unfair, even if Mouton served time on a felony and Mayweather pled down from a felony to misdemeanor domestic violence.
In the interest of fairness, shouldn't Mayweather have been subject to the same type of questioning as Mouton?
That, of course, led unmistakably to the perception the commission went easy on Mayweather and didn't ask about the domestic violence because of his status as the sport's biggest attraction and the money his fights would bring into the shops, restaurants, taxi companies and, of course, casinos in the state.
Lundvall is a very sharp woman and top-rate attorney who has largely served with distinction on the commission. She's prepared and she's willing to probe deeply into most issues. She has been one of the state's better commissioners since the day she was appointed.
That, though, was not her shining hour, and it led to much criticism.
The commission has made a great turnaround in the past year, despite the July 23 incident.
Promoters were outraged by the commission and were, in many cases, at wit's end regarding a number of issues. UFC president Dana White erupted after UFC 167 in which the judges gave Georges St-Pierre a decision victory that many, including White, felt belonged to Johny Hendricks.
That followed multiple eruptions by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who famously requested the Nevada attorney general's office to investigate the scoring of the 2012 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
Promoters, large and small, had grievances, large and small, with the commission.
But last year, Francisco Aguilar took over as chairman and has done a marvelous job in shepherding it through difficult times.
He's worked doggedly to root out the use of performance-enhancing drugs, even though the state's budget for such issues is a laughable $3,000. Yes, that's right, $3,000, which wouldn't last a day if there was a real serious testing plan in place.
Aguilar has done wonderful work leaning on promoters to pay for more and better testing. He's also led a search for funding to allow the commission to surprise test more fighters more regularly.
He's cleared up many officiating problems. He brought back referee John McCarthy, who hasn't worked in Nevada since 2007 even though he's regarded as one of the three best MMA referees in the world.
Las Vegas is the Fight Capitol of the World and it was beyond ludicrous that a referee as highly regarded as McCarthy wasn't officiating in the state for seven years. He'd been critical of former executive director Keith Kizer, who angrily wouldn't license him.
He's been accountable for the work of his referees and judges. Aguilar and executive director Bob Bennett regularly appear at post-fight news conferences and make themselves available to promoters, managers and media for questions or complaints about the officiating.
Aguilar has made scores of other improvements, but the biggest testament to his leadership was his decision Thursday to haul Mayweather in front of the commission at its meeting next week.
On Episode 2 of Showtime's All Access series previewing the Mayweather-Maidana rematch, there was a scene in which two boxers sparred one continuous round for 31 minutes. That was preceded by a clip in which an overmatched 18-year-old was allowed to take a vicious beating from an older, stronger, more experienced opponent.
At one point, members of Mayweather's "The Money Team" were shown making wagers on the outcome of the 31-minute sparring session between Hasim Rahman Jr. and Donovan Cameron.
It was egregiously bad with no regard for fighter safety. Hopefully, it was just for show and happened only because Showtime's cameras were rolling.
Still, many serious fighter injuries occur during sparring in the gym. No commission is able to properly regulate sparring, though Nevada has always sent its inspectors or its executive director to the gyms occasionally to observe and try to prevent situations like this.
Aguilar didn't let Mayweather's status bother him. He ordered him to appear at the Sept. 23 hearing to face scrutiny for what happened in the gym that day.
Several commissioners were also outraged by scenes in All Access in which several of Mayweather's girlfriends are shown rolling joints and apparently smoking marijuana while the fighter is in the room. At one point, Mayweather sends an employee to buy more joint paper.
That's unlikely to come up or, if it does, be much of an issue, but Aguilar is absolutely doing the right thing by making Mayweather come in and answer for the actions in his gym.
It's a reason why Gov. Brian Sandoval should reappoint Aguilar as the commission's chairman. The momentum he's started in improving officiating, increasing the frequency of random drug tests and making the testing more sophisticated shouldn't be stopped.
The chairman has great say over the agenda and deciding the direction the five-person board will take. Sandoval is also expected to reappoint Skip Avansino to another term as chairman and to appoint Anthony Marnell to a full term. Marnell was appointed earlier this year to fill the term of T.J. Day, who passed away.
History has been that the chairmanship has rotated among commissioners. But given Aguilar's performance, he clearly deserves another term.
Because there is no national commission, the actions taken by Nevada are frequently emulated by other commissions around the country. When Nevada decided to no longer issue a therapeutic-use exemption for testosterone-replacement therapy, virtually ever other regulatory body in the world followed suit within a few weeks.
Hopefully, Sandoval doesn't turn this into a political game and appoints the best man for the job.
That is, at this stage, unquestionably Francisco Aguilar.
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