|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire|
February 7, 2001
Silly Florida Commission rule is not a rule after all.
And they never said it was. Maybe.
By Joe Bruno
Former Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association.
The basic rule of thumb for all is: "Donıt open your mouth unless you know what you are talking about." This is doubly true if you are dispensing information to the press, which will be written in publications, that will lead the public to think the people you work for have rocks in their heads. This happened (or maybe not) last Friday night, February 2nd, at the Robarts Arena in sunny Sarasota, Florida.
Local favorite heavyweight China Smith was facing Mike McGrady in the scheduled 10-round main event. In the first round, McGrady went down three times, from either slips or punches, not that it really made a difference. From ringside, it looked like the last knockdown couldıve been as a result of a clash of bodies, but make no mistake, McGrady was hurt and the fight shouldıve been stopped, as it was by referee Max Parker Jr. Smith dominated the fight from the opening bell and if the fight wouldıve continue any further, McGrady couldıve gotten seriously hurt.
The official time and reason for the stoppage was given by the ring announcer as 1:55 of the first round, due to the three knockdown rule. Members of the press were allegedly told the official ruling by a person later identified as the timekeeper Phyllis Garry, whoıs main job is to ring the bell, count three minutes, then ring the bell again. For as many rounds as her services are required.
Garry allegedly told the press, as was reported in the Sarasota Herald Tribune the following day by sportswriter Jason Swancey, "According to the three knockdown rule, if any part of the boxerıs body touches the canvas, itıs a knockdown regardless, even if itıs the result of a slip or charge."
In other words, a slip is a knockdown and if it happens three times in a round, the fight is over.
Now with 25 years of experience in this unscrupulous boxing business, if somebody in boxing tells me the moon is made of green cheese, or that there actually is a moon, I usually check to find out if the information is correct. But frankly, sometimes in boxing the ridiculous becomes truth and reality. Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfieldıs ear in the ring, and even though he was on parole at the time for rape, he was not arrested in the Sin City of Las Vegas, seemingly because his felonious act of maiming another human being took place in a hallowed boxing ring, and in boxing I guess anything goes, the rules of society be damned.
You canıt blame Swancey for writing what a commission member tells him. Swancey was on deadline and he had to get his story out in minutes. And it was a Florida Boxing Commission member who had allegedly (that word again) given him the pseudo information in the first place. In fact, Scott Hayes of the Scott and Jake Show, on 1320 the Sports Animal radio sports talk show in Sarasota, heard Phyllis Garry dispense the same dope, and he mentioned this "slip is a knockdownı rule on his radio sports talk show the following Monday. Again, Hayes had no reason to doubt the words of a commission member either.
Hayes said, "A blond lady who was the timekeeper came over to us and said the fight was stopped under the three knockdown rule. And she also said exactly what Jason Swancey wrote in his story. She said, "According to the three knockdown rule, if any part of the boxerıs body touches the canvas, itıs a knockdown regardless, even if itıs the result of a slip or charge." Thatıs what I heard, and Doug Fernandes (a columnist for the Sarasota Tribune) heard the same thing."
This was the same exact sequence of events that Swancey remembers.
"A blond lady rushed over to me after the fight and said, so there is no confusion, sheıd tell me the exact ruling." Swancey said. "And I wrote exactly what she told me."
This hardened 25-year boxing veteran smelled something was rotten, not only in Denmark, but also in the state government of Florida, where State Supreme Courts rulings are wacky enough to be overturned two times by the hallowed Supreme Court of the United States of America. Not to mention a proliferation of pregnant and dangling chads, whomever that gent may be.
A call to the Florida State Athletic Commission in Tallahassee was returned by Jason Penley the assistant executive director. Penley said, "Thereıs is no rule that a slip is a knockdown in the state of Florida. That would be a ridiculous rule. There are some gray areas, where if someone is off balance and they receive a blow, then thatıs the referees call."
Ah, but then the plot then thickened.
At my request, Penley contacted Phyllis Garry, whose husband referee Brian Garry was the sitting next to her and was the knockdown timekeeper for the Smith-McGrady fight, as to her version of the conversation she had with the press after the fight. (Brian Garry was also the referee of last yearıs Teddy Reid-Emeliano Valdez fight in Venice that left Valdez in a coma of which he had still not emerged.)
Penley called back and said, "Phyllis Garry said that the press approached her after the fight and asked why the fight was stopped. She said she told them that the fight was stopped under the three knockdown rule. She denied that she ever told them that a slip is considered a knockdown."
So the official ruling of the referee Parker was that Smith won by TKO due to the three knockdown rule. Parker apparently ruled that all three times McGrady went down it was as a result of a punch.
I have no problem with that ruling. The last time McGrady went down, it seemed to be after he and Smith bumped bodies. But a punch landed scant seconds before, and it seemed to be a delayed action of that punch that couldıve caused McGrady to collapse to the canvas when Smith rushed him to finish the job.
That happens in boxing all the time. A fighter lands a hard blow to his opponentıs head. His opponentıs legs buckle. The fighter charges forward, bodies clash and the hurt fighter falls to the canvas. Thatıs called a legitimate knockdown almost every time, even though the clash of bodies was the last thing to occur.
The real problem is the allegation that a person working for the Florida Boxing Commission could possibly give erroneous information to the press. Penley said, "The official position of the Florida State Boxing Commission is that if there are any questions by the press they should come to either Chris Meffert, the executive director, or myself. This is to avoid confusion."
Thatıs fine and dandy, but most unfeasible to the working press, who need a ruling quick so that they can meet their deadlines. Countless times I have interviewed referees in the ring, on the way to the dressing room, in their dressing rooms and once even in the refereeıs shower. (I did get splashed a bit. And no, I didnıt look below his waist.)
Looking for a specific person to give the official results of the fight at ringside is not practical for the working press, and the suggestion, frankly is downright ridiculous. If you canıt trust the referee and the official timekeeper sitting at ringside to give you the correct ruling, then how much can you trust the people who hired them and supposedly supervise them?
The ringside press gets information the best way they can, and if this information turns out to be erroneous, itıs the fault of the dolt who gave them the wrong scoop.
But of course Phyllis Garry denies she said a knockdown was a slip (or was it that a slip is an ladyıs undergarment?), and obviously the three respected members of the Sarasota ringside press are hearing impaired. She also said the press approached her after the fight and not the other way around.
Yeah. And the moon is made of green cheese.