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Catching up with Paul Spadafora: A New Beginning for the ‘Pittsburgh Kid’?

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Paul Spadafora finished his career with a record of 49-1-1 that included an 8-0-1 mark in world lightweight title fights. It’s a record that smacks of Marciano and Mayweather and yet when someone mentions his name to someone that follows boxing, the first thing that comes to mind is his extensive rap sheet. Many boxers had their demons. Paul Spadafora had them in spades.

Nowadays, Spadafora, the erstwhile Pittsburgh Kid, can be found in Las Vegas where he spends a portion of most afternoons at the DLX Boxing Club tutoring his 17-year-old son Geno in the finer points of the sweet science. “Paul’s doing great,” says Spadafora’s former trainer Jesse Reid who also oversees the training of Geno who has four amateur fights under his belt.

“If it wasn’t for boxing, I would be dead by now or spending my life in prison,” says Spadafora who turned 47 earlier this month. And, we might add, if he were dead, the circumstances of his demise would have undoubtedly been very messy. But let’s start at the beginning.

Spadafora, one might say, had boxing in his blood. His father Silvio was a regional amateur champion as was Paul’s older brother Harry who took it a step further. As an amateur, competing as a light middleweight, Harry achieved a #3 national ranking. He was 3-0 with 3 kayos as a pro before quitting the sport to concentrate on raising his family.

Paul Spadafora’s maternal grandfather Eugene Pelecritti also boxed and get this: the late Joey Maxim, the former light heavyweight champion who is in the Boxing Hall of Fame, is an uncle.

Scientists will tell you that a thirst for boxing cannot be passed on genetically, but some people are apparently genetically predisposed toward addiction. Paul’s father Silvio, a crane operator by trade, was only 33 when he passed away. The papers said he died of a heart attack, but Paul, who was nine years old at the time, is certain it was an overdose.

A younger brother, Charlie, passed away at age 40. Charlie, says Paul, was smoking crack when he died. And Paul says his mother Annie, now 72 years old, has been a drug user most of her adult life.

Paul Spadafora dabbled in cocaine, but his preferred drug was alcohol which his lips first touched at age 6 when he shared some Italian wine with his father. Alcohol was involved in his first serious brush with the law. He and some friends went out drinking. Paul, then 19 years old, was riding in a car that ran a stop sign, begetting a high-speed police chase that ended when the car crashed into a telephone pole, whereupon one of the pursuing officers took out his handgun and fired one shot point-blank into the front passenger side of the car. The bullet lodged in Paul’s left calf.

In his fighting days, Spadafora was a binge drinker. When preparing for a fight, he was as abstemious as a monk, but each victory was cause for celebration and when he celebrated the booze flowed freely.

Some drunks are happy drunks and stay happy until they fall down; others go from happy to surly where they are prone to lash out at someone at the slightest provocation, including the gendarmes if someone happens to call the cops. Spadafora once skirmished with a bevy of cops and, needless, to say, he took the worst of it. “I got Rodney Kinged,” he told the noted British boxing writer and podcaster Tris Dixon, employing a very clever euphemism.

The year after he took a bullet in his calf, Spadafora was arrested for underage drinking. Other alcohol-infused arrests would follow, including arrests for disorderly conduct and public intoxication. But these were small potatoes compared with an incident in the fall of 2003 that would shadow him for the rest of his life.

Shortly before dawn on the morning of Oct. 26, 2003, at a gas station in the gritty Rust Belt western Pennsylvania town of McKees Rocks, Spadafora shot his girlfriend Nadine Russo in the chest with a handgun that he snatched from Nadine’s purse. The incident, of which Spadafora has no memory, was ignited when Nadine drove over a median and flattened two of the tires on his Hummer.

Russo wasn’t mortally wounded – the bullet lodged an inch below her right breast – and when she refused to testify against him, the charge against him was reduced from attempted murder to aggravated assault.

Earlier that year, Spadafora had fought a spirited fight with Romanian/Canadian tough guy Leonard Dorin on HBO. The bout was ruled a draw which enabled Paul to keep his IBF belt and his undefeated record. That would prove to be his final title fight. He had two bouts as a junior welterweight while awaiting his sentencing. The last leg of a 16-month period of confinement was spent in a military-style boot camp where Paul and his fellow inmates were required to work toward their high school equivalency diploma and undergo counseling for drug and/or alcohol abuse. While he was away, Nadine gave birth to Geno.

Spadafora’s reckless behavior outside the ring was incongruent with the dedication he showed to his craft. “You have to throw him out of the gym to get him to leave,” said his amateur coach P.K. Pecora. A natural right hander who fought as a southpaw, Spadafora was so obsessed with boxing that he once shadow-boxed for 24 straight hours. “It was just me and the mirror,” he told this reporter.

Spadafora believes that the policeman who shot him robbed him of much of his power, but that it was a double-edged sword as it forced him to become more of a pure boxer. His strong suit was defense. Indeed, few were as slippery. “Boxing enthusiasts in the Pittsburgh area began comparing Spadafora’s defensive skills to those of the great Willie Pep,” said a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Spadafora’s lightweight title reign began in August of 1999 with a 12-round decision over Israel Cardona. The title was vacant, having been abandoned by Shane Mosely who left the weight class to chase a fight at 140 with Oscar De La Hoya. In winning, Paul became Pittsburgh’s first world boxing champion in more than 50 years, achieving parity, as it were, with the original Pittsburgh Kid, Billy Conn.

The underdog in the betting, Spadafora out-classed Cardona, winning all 12 rounds on one of the cards and 11 rounds on the others. His first title defense against Australia’s Renato Cornett was even more one-sided. The Pittsburgh Kid won every round before the fight was stopped in the 11th with the Australian a bloody mess.

Spadafora’s bout with Cornett was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company which commemorated his achievements by putting the boxer’s face on cans of Iron City Beer. Only a handful of local sports celebrities were accorded this honor before him, notably Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jack Lambert, coach Chuck Noll, and the club’s iconic owner Art Rooney. (This is a cool collectable. When asked if he had saved any, Spadafora sheepishly said, “nope, I drank ‘em all.”)

iron city beer

Iron City beer can

Jesse Reid, who came on board before the Cardona fight, would be the longest-tenured of Spadafora’s pro coaches. At various times, other notables – e.g., Emanuel Steward, Buddy McGirt, Pernell Whitaker – assumed the role of head trainer. None, however, left a more indelible impression than P.K. Pecora. The glue of Pittsburgh’s amateur boxing scene, Pecora, a World War II veteran, was more than a boxing teacher; he was a surrogate father to Paul and other kids from the school of hard knocks. Sometimes when Spadafora talks about his relationship with Pecora he is reduced to tears.

Pecora passed away in 1997 at age 68 from a stroke. In tribute to him, Paul had the initials P.K. stitched on his boxing trunks. He would later have the initials inscribed on his body. (Paul Spadafora has this thing for tattoos. Journalist Sean Hamill conducted a census for a 2009 story and counted 24. Each tattoo has a story behind it.)

Paul in his younger Days

Paul in his younger days

After his release from prison, Spadafora added 10 more “W’s” to his ledger before suffering his first and only defeat, a 12-round setback to Venezuela’s Johan Perez in a bout framed as a WBA 140-pound eliminator with the winner ostensibly owed a crack at Danny Garcia. One of the judges, Glenn Feldman, had it a draw, but the decision was deemed fair. Paul would have one more fight, leaving the sport on a winning note after winning an 8-rounder on a low-budget show at Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino.

Boxers are by nature notorious alibi-makers. Every defeat has its roots in an extenuating circumstance. When we asked Spadafora what went wrong in the Johan Perez fight – a pre-existing injury, perhaps, or maybe dissension in his camp — we were surprised by his response. “Nothing went wrong,” he said. “Everybody did their job right, except me. I just lost, that’s all.”

Paul Spadafora had one ring engagement that has achieved cult status. In December of 1999, shortly before his match with Renato Cornett, he sparred six rounds in headgear with Floyd Mayweather Jr at a gym in North Las Vegas. The session was recorded and although we have never seen the tape, we will accept as gospel the oft-repeated story that the Pittsburgh Kid was clearly superior.

“I believe that cost me a fight with Floyd,” says Paul. “He learned that there were easier options out there.” Other potential mega-fights never materialized because, in his words, “I kept self-sabotaging myself.”

Is it too late to reprise another Spadafora-Mayweather match-up? How about an exhibition with oversized gloves? If Floyd is going to continue his charade of fighting obscure Japanese MMA fighters and intrepid you-tubers, perhaps he owes it to the fans to man-up once in a while and have a go with someone who just may prove to be in his league. Granted, nobody with any sense wants to see boxers in their mid-40s taking more blows to the head, but Paul and Floyd, steadfast gym rats, are in remarkable shape for their age and there is a precedent for it. When future Hall of Famers Jeff Fenech and Azumah Nelson concluded their trilogy in a legitimate 10-round prizefight, Fenech was 44 and Azumah almost 50.

Our interview with Spadafora accorded him an opportunity to call out Mayweather and potentially get the ball rolling, but he wouldn’t take the bait. “It would be a privilege to get back in the ring with one of the best boxers, if not the best, in the history of the sport,” he says matter-of-factly, “but I’m not a ‘call-out’ kind of guy.”

—-

Paul Spadafora’s travails continued in retirement. In December of 2016, he stabbed his half-brother Charlie in the leg during a fracas at the home of his mother. No one came forward to post his $100,000 bail and he spent Christmas in the Allegheny County Jail. More recently he was arrested following an altercation at a tavern in the blue-collar Pittsburgh suburb of Crafton.

His relationship with Nadine seems to have mellowed after years of tumult. She was in Las Vegas for seven years working in a wellness clinic before Paul quit his job as a tree surgeon and came west to join her. The four of them — Paul and Nadine and Geno and the family dog, a very large pit bull that Paul named Tiny – are living under the same roof once again.

Who knows what the future holds for Paul Spadafora, but at the moment he seems to be in a good place. This story may yet have a happy ending.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” has rolled off the press. Published by McFarland, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clash-of-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

 

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Rodriguez vs. Estrada: A Closer Look at Saturday’s Dream Match-up in Phoenix 

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The meeting of Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (19-0) and Juan Francisco Estrada (44-3) in the Footprint Center, Phoenix this Saturday night is a generational clash so satisfying as to feel improbable. When Estrada, the 115lb lineal champion, turned professional Jesse Rodriguez was eight years old. By the time Rodriguez turned professional, Estrada had already been matched for alphabet belts on seven different occasions, winning six. By the time Rodriguez picked up a strap of his own in early 2022, Estrada had been the legitimate lineal champion of the world for three years. This is the king Rodriguez seeks to topple this weekend, one of boxing’s royal bloodlines, and until recently, one of her greatest champions. 

But King Estrada has been inactive, the poison of post-COVID 19 boxing, and generally inadvisable for a thirty-four-year-old super-flyweight. Estrada has been waiting for the perfect money fight, the right contest to bring him out of hibernation and into the arena, but that arrangement is the cousin of retirement. If a fighter is refusing to budge for less than a given amount, he’s really saying he might not fight again, an important psychological step. Estrada has spent all of 2023 and some of 2024 with his feet up and he hasn’t made weight since December 11, 2022. He hit 115lbs dead on the nose and the following day boxed his in his most recent contest, against fellow sub 118lb legend Roman Gonzalez. 

Everything Jesse Rodriguez needs to know about Estrada is contained within these twelve rounds of boxing, the good and the bad, the reason to be cautious. Leaping straight to the twelfth round and the reason Rodriguez should be cautious: beaten and having lost every one of the last five rounds on my card, Estrada rallied to win the twelfth on pure heart. His three-time opponent, the man with whom he shared the best trilogy of the twenty-first century, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez was naturally more robust than Estrada. Being hit bothers him less than all but a tiny handful of fighters and that more than anything drew him close to victory over his old foe. Estrada resolved to contest the line he had been breaking before Gonzalez in that twelfth round and he did so while dealing some of the highest-class left-handed work that can be seen in boxing today. In the twelfth, as in the first, he jabbed, led with left hooks to the body, pierced with a lead left-uppercut and tied on a final punch, the riskiest punch, to all his combos where he had been stepping out earlier before. It won him the round and the fight; if he’d balked in that twelfth round the fight would have been a draw and the fourth between Gonzalez and Estrada would now have been boxed, to what result is anyone’s guess.   

What Rodriguez sees in that twelfth round is the part of Estrada that has been unbreakable. It might be easier to change his mind with punches than it is to change Roman’s, but it is Estrada who is in possession of the truly unbreakable chin. Nobody has even been close to stopping him and when it seemed that Gonzalez had strategically broken him, he found it in him to win the fight’s most important round against the run of action in ninety seconds that may have done more to define his career than any other thirty-six minutes. Estrada must be completely broken to be broken at all. 

More, if Rodriguez watches the first half of that fight, he will see style that does not please him. Estrada spent the first six rounds against Gonzalez controlling perhaps the finest ring-general of his generation bar Floyd Mayweather. Estrada’s left-hand is a delight, a paradigm of variety. He will lead with the left hand to the body, probably the second riskiest punch from the orthodox stance, and he will throw it all the way across himself to the far hip of his opponent if the front quarter is properly guarded. Behind this, all punches are possible, hooks and uppercuts abound, and the division’s best power jab is a punch that he must not be allowed to settle behind if he is to be beaten. 

Fortunately for Rodriguez, it is a punch that can be disrupted, not least because Estrada wants to throw more hurtful punches in many moments. If he settles behind his left jab he will win, but he has many more routes to victory and he is no slave to that punch. Certainly though, Rodriguez has the tools to disrupt Estrada’s offence generally and his jab especially. I am ready to dismiss Estrada’s jab as a factor in this fight – that is how good Rodriguez is. 

The Footprint Center is a venue that has been kind to Rodriguez. He was brilliant there in February of 2022 for his arrival in earnest at the top of the sport, out-pointing veteran Carlos Cuadras over twelve rounds to lift an alphabet strap at 115lbs. It was not a close fight; I gave Cuadras three rounds, one of them arguable, and two of the judges saw it the same way. What most impressed about Rodriguez was the very thing that Roman Gonzalez used to his advantage in his third war with Estrada, his indifference to the punishment the supposedly bigger man and puncher, Cuadras, inflicted. Indeed, Rodriguez made a strategic error in spending too much time in the pocket fighting it out with Cuadras, when his greater successes were either at range or moving in to close range and then moving straight back out. He was indifferent to Cuadras and his hitting for the most part, punching all the while. 

Rodriguez worked this charm with excellent footwork, taking advantage of his natural excellence in balance to pivot right and open up new vistas for his punches.  After losing the first round to Cuadras, Rodriguez won a close second and then in the third stamped his authority on the fight. Cuadras cannot say he wasn’t warned; after landing a good southpaw uppercut in the first thirty seconds of the round, he landed a second only moments later, and Cuadras was deposited neatly on his backside.  

This will not work against Estrada – he’d read the runes on the first punch and change the distance or the angles. Estrada doesn’t have quite the talent for balance that Rodriguez does, but he understands where he is in the ring as well as anyone. That is why even Gonzalez couldn’t trap him along the ropes early in the third fight, Estrada was always ready to retaliate or move. That said, Estrada, the slower man, might find himself vulnerable to these pivots and changes of fortune, especially as he’s trying to develop his jab early in the fight. Estrada has an interesting strategic choice to make early in this contest: will he give ground or try to hustle up? Rodriguez has shown a certain vulnerability to infighting ostensibly larger men at the 115lb limit but Estrada has shown brilliance in drawing aggressive fighters into space and punishing them savagely. He could mix these strategies but history has shown that Estrada prefers to box with a real clarity of plan. It may not be wise to compromise that clarity at this late stage. 

Assuming Estrada goes with his preferred method of dealing with quick pressure, giving ground and countering the man and the space, he may find himself being out-sped and out-hit; a slow start would be disastrous for him so if he finds Rodriguez is able to make his way in to range and land while Estrada is waiting to counter, he will need to stand his ground and we will have a war on our hands. Either way this feels like a fight that cannot fail to deliver.  

I feel quite strongly that Estrada’s time has come. That he has the wrong amount of wear on him, over too many years and now with eighteen months of inactivity making matters more uncertain, he’ll get found out in the second half of the fight and find himself dropping a clear decision in the region of 116-112.   

I will be very happy to be proven wrong though. Estrada is a modern wonder and I’ve loved every moment of his hard-charging ambitious career, and I do think that the 2020 version would have been too much for even this summitting Rodriguez. 

For the winner, a top five pound-for-pound slot. 

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The Hauser Report: Ryan Garcia and the New York State Athletic Commission

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On June 20, the New York State Athletic Commission announced that it had reached a settlement with Ryan Garcia.

Garcia defeated Devin Haney by majority decision at Barclays Center on April 20. But his triumph was soon tarnished. On May 1, it was revealed that urine samples taken from Ryan by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) on April 19 and April 20 had tested positive for ostarine – a banned performance-enhancing drug that helps users build muscle mass, lose fat, and increase stamina. The two “B” samples taken from Garcia were subsequently tested at his request and also came back positive.

The June 20 settlement between the NYSAC and Garcia provided for the following:

(1) Garcia’s victory over Haney was changed to “no contest” on each fighter’s official record.

(2) Garcia was fined $10,000 (payable to the NYSAC).

(3) Garcia’s official purse, which was less than what he was actually paid for the fight, was forfeited and returned to Golden Boy (his promoter).

And most significantly;

(4)  Garcia’s professional boxing license was suspended until at least April 20, 2025, at which time he will be able to resume his ring career provided that he provides satisfactory evidence to the NYSAC (including the result of at least one PED test) that he is medically fit to fight.

As part of the settlement, Garcia waived his right to a hearing and any appeal of the Consent Order which embodied the terms of the agreement.

The announcement marked an end to an unfortunate series of events that occurred primarily on the watch of former NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler who, citing family and health reasons, had announced her resignation on May 7.  Sumbler lived in Canada and was out of the commission office far more than she was in it during her seven-year tenure as executive director.

Let’s put the issues in perspective.

I

THE NEW YORK STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION SHOULDN’T HAVE ALLOWED RYAN GARCIA TO FIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE

In the months leading up to Haney-Garcia, Garcia (who has acknowledged having mental health issues in the past) posted a series of conspiracy-theory rants on social media that focused on satanic ritual sex, aliens, time travel, and demons. He predicted that an earthquake would destroy Los Angeles on June 6 and recounted being tied down and forced to watch middle-aged fat men raping young boys in Bohemian Grove. He referenced his own crucifixion, spoke in tongues, and told his followers that PRIME (a sports drink backed by KSI and Logan Paul) contains cyanide and that anyone who drinks PRIME is “working for Satan.” His conduct at press conferences to promote Haney-Garcia was also bizarre.

Garcia’s behavior was so troubling that attorney Pat English (who would represent Haney after Garcia’s positive test result was announced but wasn’t working with Devin before that) decided to telephone Kim Sumbler to suggest that the NYSAC undertake a thorough psychiatric evaluation to determine if Ryan was fit to fight. English tracked Sumbler down at a motorcycle rally in Florida and voiced his concern. Sumbler, in his words, “was non-committal on the subject.”

Thereafter, Garcia was asked to participate in a short Zoom session with two NYSAC representatives (neither of whom was a mental health care professional) to discuss his situation and sign a HIPAA waiver that allowed a small number of medical documents to be released to the commission. Then, in an act of absurdity, the commission required that Haney submit to a similar “psychiatric evaluation” to “even out the process.”

One might note here that when the Nevada State Athletic Commission conducted a hearing to determine whether Mike Tyson should be licensed to fight Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas after he bit Lennox on the thigh at a promotional press conference, the Nevada commission didn’t require Lennox to undergo a similar evaluation. However, it did deny Tyson a license to fight, after which Lewis-Tyson moved to Tennessee.

Having been licensed to fight Haney in New York, Garcia acted throughout fight week in a crude profane manner that brought disrepute on boxing (if such a thing is possible). He missed the specified contract weight for the bout by three pounds and, as noted above, was later found to have an illegal performance enhancing drug in his system. In recent weeks, he has been arrested in California and transferred by the authorities to a psychiatric facility for observation. He was later allowed to return home.

Just because a fighter is physically fit to fight – and wins a fight – doesn’t mean that it isn’t psychologically damaging for him to fight. I don’t think the NYSAC should have allowed Garcia to fight on April 20. I’m not a mental health care professional. But the two people who spoke briefly with Ryan on behalf of the commission prior to his being licensed, aren’t mental health care professionals either.

II

RYAN GARCIA AND HIS LAWYERS ACTED ABYSMALLY IN RESPONDING TO THE PED TEST RESULTS

Garcia’s statements on social media and elsewhere regarding his PED test results speak for themselves:

*        “It’s straight bullshit. It’s a con job . . . I’m going to find out who paid who to create this lie . . . These guys are probably pedos.”

*        “Do not believe the hype. They’re trying to set me up. F*** them all. This is some bull-****ing-shit. These mother******* are known cheaters. They know how to cheat and they know to taint shit because they just tainted my greatest victory. One-hundred percent, it’s the devil, bro. I would never, ever take steroids in my life. I don’t cheat in video games.”

*        “It’s a fake. Fake. Completely fake. It’s fabricated. It’s the most fake shit I’ve ever seen in my life. They’re faking it. I’m clean all the way through. F*** them. They can suck a big one.”

Much of Garcia’s rage has been aimed at Victor Conte, the former BALCO mastermind who has since become a forceful advocate for clean sport. After claiming (inaccurately) that Conte was affiliated with VADA and had manipulated his urine sample analysis, Ryan proclaimed on social media, “I’M SUING VADA and victor conte. I’m taking this to court !!!!!! Be prepared. ITS WAR!”

Garcia’s allegations were so off base that Memo Heredia (Conte’s archrival) took to social media and posted, “As much as Conte & I have differences, I like to say he has no access to urine samples. He doesn’t perform any sample analysis or control laboratories for any bias matter. Ryan just trying to mislead and create doubt.”

Meanwhile, as the drama unfolded, Garcia’s attorneys were throwing so many red herrings into the mix that it recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln who counseled, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. And if the fact and the law are both against you, pound the table.”

After both of the “B” samples collected from Garcia by VADA also tested positive for ostarine, Ryan’s legal team said that he had submitted hair follicles to a Paris clinic and that these samples had been found to be negative. In part, their statement read, “Soon after being notified of his positive test, Ryan voluntarily had his hair collected and shipped to Dr. Pascal Kintz, the foremost expert in toxicology and hair sample analysis. The results of Ryan’s hair sample came back negative, meaning Ryan has never intentionally taken Ostarine in the last six months.”

But that didn’t put the issue to rest since the aforementioned Dr. Kintz had authored a study in 2017 that concluded, “Hair testing should not be considered as an alternative to urinalysis but only as a complement in [a] positive case, and it must be clear that, in case of positive urine results, the negative hair result cannot overrule the positive urine result.”

Shifting gears, Garcia’s legal team then cited what it called the “ultra-low levels” of ostarine in the urine samples taken from Ryan on April 19 and 20 – “in the billionth of a gram range [that] point to Ryan being a victim of supplement contamination and never receiving any performance-enhancing benefit from the microscopic amounts in his system.”

However this “billionth of a gram range” was sixty times the amount of ostarine allowed to be in Ryan’s system under the rules of the New York State Athletic Commission.

Hence, the Garcia legal team advanced yet another argument: “We are certain that one of the natural supplements Ryan was using in the lead-up to the fight will prove to be contaminated. We are in the process of testing the supplements to determine the exact source.”

Lo and behold! On May 30, Garcia’s legal team announced that two supplements (NutraBio SuperCard and Body Health) that Ryan had ingested prior to fighting Haney had been tested by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMARTL) and had tested positive for ostarine.

“This confirms what we have consistently maintained,” Paul Greene (one of Garcia’s attorneys) said. Ryan was a victim of supplement contamination and has never intentionally used any banned or performance-enhancing substances.”

But – and this is an elephant-sized “but” – both supplements had been sent to SMARTL by Team Garcia in unsealed containers. That violated the most basic testing protocols and left open the possibility of tampering.

“This is nonsense,” Victor Conte declared. “Look at the chain of custody. No reputable commission would accept open containers. Garcia’s people have to get the lot numbers for the supplements he supposedly took and send several containers, unopened and untampered with, to the commission for testing. And by the way; isn’t it odd that both – I repeat, both – supplements tested positive?”

Paulie Malignaggi lacks Conte’s scientific pedigree but came to the same conclusion, noting, “A substance that’s not that common, very rare, winds up in two different batches of two different companies and both of those batches out of all the places they could have went to in the world, both wind up in Ryan Garcia’s house. This is what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about Mega-Millions lottery numbers. If it turns out that this excuse is as false as it sounds ridiculous, does your lying prove intent because obviously you’re trying to cover something up?”

The supplement companies weren’t happy about the allegation of contamination either, since it had the potential to impact negatively on sales of their products.

Thus, on June 14, Nutrabio founder and CEO Mark Glazier issued a statement that read, “Nutrabio categorically rejects the reckless claims made by professional boxer Ryan Garcia and his team that the Nutrabio supercarb product caused Mr. Garcia’s positive test for ostarine. Nutrabio has never manufactured a supplement with ostarine and has never brought ostarine into our manufacturing facility for use in any product, ever. A retain of the Supercarb in question has been tested for ostarine by Eurofins and BSCG, both of which are leading independent third party testing providers. The testing confirmed there was no ostarine detected in the product. Further, the miniscule amount of ostarine allegedly in the open container of Supercarb [provided by the Garcia camp to its own testers] does not explain the amount of ostarine identified in Ryan Garcia’s urine which, at 6 ng/ml, is 60 times the testing limit. We take any claims against our company extremely seriously and stand by our process for ensuring the quality, safety, and security of our products.”

In sum, as Victor Conte noted, “Test results from unsealed containers provided by the athlete himself can’t possibly be authenticated. And Ryan Garcia’s lawyers know that. This is an attempt to influence the New York commission with wave after wave of publicity that would be regarded as ludicrous if it wasn’t repeated so often by con men and idiots.”

III

THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE NEW YORK STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION RESOLVED THE RYAN GARCIA MATTER EXPOSED SERIOUS FAULT LINES AT THE COMMISSION

The Ryan Garcia debacle happened on Kim Sumbler’s watch. Following her departure from the commission, former director of boxing Matt Delaglio was named acting executive director. Delaglio is respected throughout the boxing community. He’s a hard worker who understands the sport and business of boxing and performed much of the nuts and bolts work for the commission that should have been handled by Sumbler during her tenure.

Delaglio is a capable public servant. But the NYSAC needs an overhaul at the commissioner level.

New York law provides that five commissioners should oversee the NYSAC. One of these positions has been vacant for years. The other four are filled by people who, for the most part, have little or no understanding of the intricacies inherent in combat sports from a competitive or business point of view.

None of the four NYSAC commissioners even attended Haney vs. Garcia.

The settlement negotiations that led to the Consent Order agreed to between the NYSAC and Ryan Garcia were conducted over a two-week period. Three of the four commissioners were aware that negotiations were going on but did not participate in them or vote on the resolution. The fourth commissioner was completely out of the loop.

The Garcia matter also exposed holes in NYSAC drug testing protocols since the commission’s own fight-night test on Garcia’s urine came back clean. How could that be? Because, to save money, the commission sent Garcia’s urine sample to Quest Laboratories rather than to a WADA-accredited lab. And Quest doesn’t test for ostarine. Later, the commission arranged for a WADA-accredited lab to test its Garcia B-sample (which came back positive).

The settlement between the NYSAC and Garcia was orchestrated almost completely on the commission’s side by David Mossberg, who has been a supervising attorney with the New York State Department of State since 2006.

Pat English (who Haney retained to look after his interests once Garcia tested positive for ostarine) says that the NYSAC refused to send him copies of correspondence and other documents exchanged between Garcia’s legal team and the commission, even though he was entitled to see them given Devin’s standing in the matter.

English also recounted a 75-minute conversation with Mossberg on June 18 and complained, “Mossberg didn’t know the facts. There were a number of legal points that I don’t think he understood. He kept saying things that were just plain wrong.”

English was also offended by the fact that Samantha McEachin (the attorney assigned to the NYSAC by the Department of State) repeatedly failed to return his telephone calls.

Paul Greene (who represented Garcia in the negotiations) suggested to the NYSAC that his client receive a six-month suspension. That was unacceptable to the commission, which was readying to temporarily suspend Ryan and schedule an administrative hearing when a bargain was struck.

The resolution could have been worse from a public policy point of view. It also could have been better.

Garcia’s victory over Haney was changed to “no contest” on each fighter’s official record. That was the correct resolution.

And Garcia was fined $10,000, payable to the commission, which was the maximum involuntary fine that the NYSAC could have imposed (although Ryan could have consented to a larger amount).

The problems begin with the forfeiture of Garcia’s “official purse” – the amount that Ryan received on fight night as paid to him by Golden Boy through the commission. Initially, the official purse was to have been roughly $2,000,000. After the penalty that Garcia paid for missing weight (believed to be $600,000) and other deductions, the “official purse” dropped to approximately $1,200,000.

But the forfeiture penalty has the feel of smoke and mirrors. The $1,200,000 is to be paid by Garcia to Golden Boy – not to the commission. That means it could be an unearned windfall for Golden Boy. Or quite possibly, Golden Boy has promised to give the money back to Ryan as a quid pro quo for his agreeing to the Consent Order.

It’s Golden Boy’s money. They can do what they want with it. With one limitation.

Under the terms of the bout contracts, Haney is entitled to 47 percent of the profits from the event. Logic dictates that Devin would claim that he’s entitled to 47% of any purse forfeiture that Golden Boy receives from Garcia.

And Haney might go further, filing suit against Garcia on grounds that there was ostarine in Ryan’s system (not hard to prove), that Garcia knowingly or negligently ingested it (harder), that the ostarine affected the outcome of the fight (harder still), and that Devin’s marketability has been adversely affected by what happened in the ring on April 20 (a slam dunk).

Now we come to the biggest issue – the length of the suspension negotiated between the NYSAC and Garcia. Some penalties should be eased by mitigating circumstances. Here, there are exacerbating circumstances such as Garcia blowing off the contract weight and his overall conduct in advance of the fight.

Garcia’s professional boxing license has been suspended until at least April 20, 2025, at which time he will be able to resume his ring career provided that he provides satisfactory evidence to the NYSAC that he is medically fit to fight. There’s a school of thought that two years would have been a more appropriate suspension. But the NYSAC didn’t want to go through litigation and what could have been a long embarrassing process.

The fly in the ointment is that the drug testing provision in the Consent Order (which relates to Garcia’s medical fitness) could be a sham. Prior to having his license reinstated, Garcia must submit one negative urine test result (not blood, only urine) from a WADA-accredited laboratory to the NYSAC. Garcia may choose the testing agency and the time frame for this one test. The agreement doesn’t specifically state what he must be tested for or the type of tests required. It only calls for “a urinalysis which does not indicate a positive result for illegal and/or prohibited substances as mandated by the Commission, including a negative result for Anabolic Agents.” This means that Garcia, hypothetically, could use banned performance enhancing drugs for the next eight months before cycling off and being tested and then have his license reinstated.

The Consent Order does state that the medical evidence must be “to the satisfaction of the Commission.” But a blind man could drive a large truck through that hole without putting a dent in the vehicle.

So what’s likely to happen next?

As Chris Algieri notes, “It’s a two-tiered legal system. It depends on who you are and how much money you’ve got. This is not really going to affect Ryan Garcia. Yes, it takes a win away, but Ryan Garcia doesn’t really care. He’s made a ton of money. He’ll probably be back in the ring by the beginning of next year.”

Correction . . . He’ll be back in the ring if —

IV

RYAN GARCIA NEEDS HELP

In recent weeks, Ryan Garcia has indicated numerous times on social media that he’s retiring from boxing:

*        “Y’all may catch me out and about but, as far as boxing, I don’t know. I’m over it. I may do acting or singing. I’m hurt and I’m done with it and everyone. The sad part is I’m a great boxer. And I entertain and knock people out. I’m sad bc I love boxing.”

*        “Boxing will be alright without me. But sucks. I was fun in the game. And it was fun to punch people. Forget I existed everyone. I’m outty”

*        “I’m officially retired.”

Few people take these posts seriously. Garcia is unlikely to retire from boxing of his own free will. But mental health issues might preclude him from fighting in the foreseeable future.

On June 8, 2024, Garcia was arrested at the Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria Hotel and charged with felony vandalism after allegedly causing $15,000 worth of damage while having a meltdown. According to media reports, he was held for psychiatric observation for three days before being released.

On Sunday, June 9, Darin Chavez (a member of Ryan’s legal team) released a prepared statement that read, “We are aware of the recent arrest. This comes at an extraordinarily challenging time for Ryan, as he has been grappling with devastating news regarding his mother’s health. First and foremost, we urge everyone to respect Ryan’s privacy during this difficult period. Ryan has been open about his struggles with mental health over the years and at this time he is dealing with an immense emotional burden. The support and understanding from fans and the public are crucial as he navigates these personal challenges. We are working diligently to provide Ryan with the resources he needs. Our team is committed to ensuring that he receives the appropriate help and care to address both his immediate and long-term well-being. We ask for continued support and compassion as Ryan focuses on his family and his health at this time.”

That statement rubbed some people the wrong way. Soon after it was issued, I received an email from a fan who wrote, “What a child to act out and feel sorry for himself and blame his mother for his actions. He should stop thinking of himself and learn to think of her and how to be helpful to her. I’m not trying to claim moral superiority. It’s just that, when so many people have so little yet act with respect towards others, it is hard to watch.”

Or phrased differently, most of us have suffered grievous losses at one time or another in our lives. We didn’t respond by going out and trashing a hotel lobby.

Yet the enablers won’t be stilled. One day after Garcia entered into his settlement with the New York State Athletic Commission, Chavez and Guadalupe Valencia (another of Ryan’s attorneys) issued a statement that (with my comments in brackets) read:

“There is a lot of misinformation being disseminated [by Ryan Garcia and his legal team] about Ryan Garcia, However, the undisputed facts [they’re very much in dispute] are as follows. His positive test was the result of contaminated supplements [unlikely] of which he was unaware. The subsequent lab testing of the supplements proved to be in the billions of a gram [it was sixty times the legal threshold in New York and the supplements sent to the lab had been previously opened by Team Garcia]. And the two positive tests were in the billions and trillions, that every expert will attest to had absolutely no performance benefit [experts that Garcia’s attorneys hire aren’t ‘every expert’]. To be clear, Ryan Garcia’s sole advantage over Devin Haney was that he is simply a superior fighter [Ryan also had a significant size advantage as a consequence of not making weight and an illegal PED in his system on fight night]. Rest assured, there are multiple agendas [now we come to paranoia} that have been at play since Ryan’s clear and convincing win against Haney, and all those agendas have been aimed against King Ryan [enough said].”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – MY MOTHER and me – is a personal memoir available at www.amazon.com/My-Mother-Me-Thomas-Hauser/dp/1955836191/ref=sr_1_1?crid=5C0TEN4M9ZAH&keywords=thomas+hauser&qid=1707662513&sprefix=thomas+hauser%2Caps%2C80&sr=8-1

          In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Denny and Crocker Win in Birmingham: Catterall vs Prograis a Go for Aug. 24

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Matchroom was at Resorts World in Birmingham, England today with a card topped by an EBU European middleweight title fight between Tyler Denny and Felix Cash. Denny was the defending champion and had home field advantage, but Cash, undefeated heading in (16-0, 10 KOs) went to post a consensus 9/4 favorite.

A member of the Irish Traveler community, Cash was making his first start in 18 months. As noted by Tris Dixon, he had a number of distractions during his hiatus, including a bitter divorce. Tonight, he looked rusty and he never did get the chance to establish a rhythm.  In the second round, he suffered a cut on his right eyelid from what was ruled an accidental clash of heads. The cut deepened, and in round five the referee stopped the action and had the ringside physician inspect the wound. On his advice, the bout was stopped.

Owing to the derivation of the cut, the bout went to the scorecards. Tyler Denny was ahead on all three cards: 49-46 and 49-47 twice.

Denny, who improved to 19-2-3, won his second straight inside the distance, an oddity as every one of his first 17 wins went to the scorecards.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker advanced to 21-0 (11) with a unanimous but unpopular 10-round decision over Wolverhampton’s Conah Walker (13-3-1). The judges had it 95-94 and 96-93 twice. There were no knockdowns, but Walker had a point deducted in round nine for low blows.

The crowd’s dissatisfaction with the decision (Walker was clearly the busier fighter) was tempered by the fact they got to see a doozy of a fight. At times, notably in the last two rounds, the action was furious.

A rematch is in order, but all indications are that Crocker’s next fight will come against Paddy Donovan who was in attendance. A Top Rank signee from Limerick, Ireland, Donovan is 14-0 as a pro after a decorated amateur career.

Before the main event, Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn announced that he had come to terms with Jack Catterall and Regis Prograis who will lock horns on Aug. 24 at the new Co-Op Live arena in Manchester, England. In his last assignment, Catterall comprehensively out-pointed former unified 140-pound world champion Josh Taylor while avenging the lone “L” on his record, a highly controversial setback to Taylor two years earlier in Glasgow. Regis Prograis, a two-time world title-holder at 140, has had only bad showing, but that came in his last start when he was thoroughly outclassed by Devin Haney.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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