The CyberBoxingZone News

Bruno on Boxing
Joe Bruno

November 5, 1999

Bruno On Boxing
By Joe Bruno
Former vice president of the Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association

The headline read: IBF officials indicted in corruption probe.

The only question I have is "What took them so long?"

The 32-count indictment, handed up on November 3 by a federal grand jury includes charges of conspiracy and racketeering. IBF president Robert W. Lee Sr., 65, was indicted along with his son, Robert Lee Jr., 38, who is liaison to the president. Also Indicted were former Virginia boxing commissioner Donald William Brennan, 86, a past president of the U.S. Boxing Association, a group which became the IBF; and Francisco Fernandez of Colombia, also known as "Pancho" or "Pacho," an international commissioner of the IBF who served as the South American representative of the IBF. The indictment said seven promoters and managers were involved, as well as 23 boxers.

"The defendants completely corrupted the IBF ranking system," Robert F. Cleary, first assistant U.S. attorney for New Jersey. He also said the scheme began almost with the IBF's inception in 1982.

That statement I can definitely vouch for.

The IBF was started in 1982 by Bob Lee Sr. The premise of the New Jersey-based IBF was that the American public was tired of rigged fights and rigged ratings perpetrated by the foreign based WBA and WBC. So the All-American IBF was going to be the knight-in-shining-armour dashing to the scene to save the sport of boxing from those corrupt organizations.

I believed that right up until the first annual IBF Convention.

The International Boxing Writers Association, founded by Marc Maturo of the Gannett-owned Westchester/Rockland Newspapers (I was the vice President), had been formed with the intention of assembling a sports writer ratings system similar to the one used by the Associated Press to rank the NCAA college football teams. The IBWA had fifty boxing writers from all around the world, including Asia and South Africa. The co-chairman of the IBWA ratings committee were Mike Katz, then of the New York Times, and Steve Farhood, then of Kayo Magazine.

This was 1982. There was no Internet, and a scarcity of fax machines. Katz and Farhood sent out ratings forms to all the writers to be mailed in at the end of each month. Sometimes, in a pinch, the telephone was used to call in the ratings. Katz and Farhood compiled the votes, and at the beginning of each month the IBWA Ratings were sent out to the Associated Press for all the world to see.

The problem was, nobody cared. Not even a little bit.

The WBA and WBC ignored the IBWA Ratings completely. HBO head-honcho Seth "The Shrimp" Abraham threw Maturo and me out of his office when we were so insolent enough to try to pitch the IBWA rating to his short majesty. Hey, no big deal. Iíve been thrown out of better places, but not by smaller creeps

Then I received a phone call from Dan Duva of Main Events, and another one from Mickey Duff, who was Frank Warren in Great Britain before anyone knew who Frank Warren was. Both men insisted that Maturo and I attend the First Annual IBF Convention in the New Jersey, for the purpose of pitching the IBWA Ratings to Bob Lee, who was considered by them to be the savior of the sport of boxing, with his newly-founded, sparkling-clean International Boxing Federation of the good old U.S of A.

Maturo and I showed up, and with the assistance of Duva and Duff, we offered Lee the IBWA ratings as a way of showing the world that the IBF was going to be starkly different from the WBA and WBC. That is, actually honest.

Lee listened quietly, smiled, then shook his head. "Sorry gentlemen," he said. "But we have our own ratings committee."

I looked at Maturo. He looked at me. We both shook our heads. It was deja vu all over again.

Surprise. Surprise. Itís now almost 18 years later, and Lee is arrested for cooking up the IBF ratings.

Like I said before. What took them so long?


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