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Jorge's Corner
The Voice of Boxing in Central and Northern California


Santa Clara University
Feb. 26, 2005

The heart and soul of boxing is the amateur program.  Anyone who loves boxing is indebted to the thousands of amateur coaches who dedicate their lives to this game. Nothing in boxing would be possible without these individuals. I have been privileged to work as an amateur judge, timekeeper, and referee.  These are all difficult, challenging positions requiring tremendous dedication, expenses, and very little thanks.

The politics in amateur boxing would give a professional politician headaches.  I’ve had the misfortune of running afoul of several of the Association presidents, not because of my behavior, but because of my questions. Many of these men are completely unqualified. Anyone with a group of friends can get elected regardless of qualifications, or lack of them. Most have no experience as administrators, and even less as diplomats. Others simply do more harm than good.  Worse, anytime someone questions them, they take personal offense. The uses of foul language, threats and even fistfights have been used.  Allegations of theft, cooking the books, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, and more have been made, some with merit.  I was shocked and disillusioned to discover, the old timers, who think age gives them privilege, are as corrupt as the younger guys, who refuse to admit there is more than one way to solve a problem. Everybody wants to be in charge. Nobody wants to listen, and it seems most of them think they no longer have anything to learn. Foolishness is not harsh enough to describe such behavior.

I have also been privileged to meet some of the finest individuals I’ve known in my life. I have not always agreed with their methods, or their coaching.  I have, never the less, always respected their efforts.  Sitting ringside as a professional sportswriter, I have met many fine athletes, their coaches and some of the referees.  I have been impressed with some of the referees.  I was at Santa Clara University to interview Dave Nelson, one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met.

Dave Nelson and I first met while I was refereeing amateur boxing matches in the Central California Association. He impressed me with his humble, yet dignified manner.  His easy smile and his good nature made it easy to request an interview. I am proud to call Dave a friend, as well as a colleague.

I made the two-hour drive to Santa Clara University to attend a college boxing contest.  I did not expect much, especially after witnessing the terrible performance at the police games held in Stockton in 2004. Those guys were awful. I doubt if many of them trained more than a couple of weeks. It was such a poor performance, I had to wonder if these guys really were the boys in blue, who have allegedly sworn to protect and serve.  After witnessing their terrible performance, I had not expected much from a bunch of college boys. I am happy to report I was wrong. I was very wrong. The college boys were ten times better than the cops. They were better trained, better conditioned, and better mentally prepared.  I was also impressed with them individually. All of them were respectful, polite and behaved in a manner that would have made their parents proud. I salute Dave Nelson and Ross Malinowski the coaches of the boxing team. I also want to mention Candy Lopez, the coach for the San Jose State Boxing Team.  Candy, Dave and Ross are a credit to boxing. I am proud to call them friends.

I learned after my arrival the event was held in memory of Dodge Ackerman, a national champion, who was diagnosed with cancer and died shortly there after.  The show was held at Pat Malley Center.  A young man from San Jose state, named Yutaka Hosoai impressed me He was matched with Jermaine Waltemeyer from Cal Berkeley. Both of the contestants moved towards each other with serious intentions.  Jermaine jabbed several times, threw a right, missed then jabbed again. Yutaka slipped the jab and countered with a solid right hand that dropped Jermaine to the canvas in less than 30 seconds of the first round.  I had not expected to see this degree of proficiency, pose and timing. Yutaka displayed both. I also witnessed another first in my sportswriter career. I watched a young man dislocated his fibula when he threw a wild punch that missed. His name was Mike Harvey; I believed he might have won the bout.  I recently watched Carlos Zepdea, a professional boxer break his arm in Stockton, now this. Amazing. Congratulations to Patrick Gilligan for a hard earned win against Zach White of Cal Berkeley. I want to congratulate the rest of the Santa Clara boxing team for a fine display of sportsmanship. Good job guys.

I interviewed Dave Nelson in the Alumni building on the Santa Clara University Campus. I was impressed with the entire event. Everyone was very helpful, polite and a pleasure to be around. I want to thank everyone who helped host the after fight party. I was impressed with the respect demonstrated towards Dave by his boxers. Dave has been coaching boxing at Santa Clara University since 1962. He is highly regarded and very well respected. His quite, unassuming manner makes it easy to compliment his efforts.

I asked Dave to share some of his experiences. Dave began by saying he’d grown up poor, living in a 16-foot trailer with his parents, who struggled to make ends meet.  He’d learned how to fight in the Santa Clara Valley.  He grew up rough, having to work along side migrant farm workers.  Having grown up the same way, I can personally testify, fighting was a required skill, something everyone took seriously. He stated he’d had a lot of fun as an amateur. He’d boxed as a Cub Scout, and high school as well. He’d gotten along with most of the pickers, but sometimes they’d end up fighting in the orchards. He said they fought hard, then after the brawl, look at each other, and laugh. He also boxed at San Jose State University.  He had has two hundred and five fights, loosing only five. Much to my surprise, he didn’t remember the names of the boxers he’d lost too. I remember every guy who ever beat me in the ring.

I first met Dave while he was refereeing in the amateurs, then one day I saw him at a pro show. According to Dave, someone suggested he could be an excellent professional referee. After taking the exams and getting his license he’d been assigned to work a ten round fight. This was uncommon for a new referee, however his mentor believed he could handle it. He also received a valuable piece of advice, which he still carries with him today. His mentor told him. “Remember Dave, people who come to the fights don’t pay to watch the Referee”, and that's the way I believe a referee should do his job.   Dave added he has seen referees stomp there feet, wave their arms, and do all sorts of antics.  Jokingly, he added, “If someone wants to see me, they can come to my house or give me a call”. Dave has a great sharp sense of humor. You gotta stay alert, or you’ll miss the punch line.

What is the most important thing a referee should keep in mind while refereeing a fight? “The most important thing is safety. This is a dangerous game and someone could get hurt. If someone is hurt it’s his job to stop it, before serious injury can occur”.

What would you do different?  “I think I’d do what I’m doing now. I try to do as well as I can.  You should keep in mind boxers have spent hours, days and weeks preparing. It’s not right for someone who does not know what’s going on, to be in there with them. If someone doesn’t know, isn’t prepared, or has preconceived ideas of who should win or loose, they should not be in there.  This is someone’s life you have in your hands.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a referee?   “A referee needs to go to a gym and practice refereeing, under someone’s supervision. They should practice. If he makes mistakes, he can correct them there. Every referee should be required to do this.  A training program should be instituted and every man should be judged on his ability to do the job.”

How much time should a referee train?  “Well that’s an individual thing. We have referees who claim to have boxed, and know a lot, but they don’t know diddli-di. It’s not right for a referee to take a young fighter’s future in his hands and ruin it, because of his lack of knowledge or personal feelings. That’s not right.  You gotten be honest, and call it like it is”.

What advice would you give a young professional fighter? “You should know the rules and follow the referee’s instructions.  Don’t get the referee upset, I’ve seen them jerk guys apart, and push them around, that’s not right. They should talk to them before the bout, and explain things so that everyone gets the same message. This is especially important in the pro ranks. Everyone should be made to attend a meeting before the bout, with all the trainers, corner men, and fighters. If someone is late or misses, they should be fined. It’s simple if you break the law, you face the consequences”.

Was the written test difficult? “Well its not difficult if you studied the book and know the sport .”

What would you tell a wanna be professional referee? “I’d tell them to attend as many fights as possible.  There used to be a rule that you had to referee amateur bouts before you became a profession. That's changed, now there are some amateurs rules I don’t agree with, like the clickers they use to score the bouts. I don’t know who made up these rules. Hey, what are you gonna do if you made a mistake?  You can’t erase the click. You should give a guy credit for putting pressure on someone, or not getting hit, but now you can’t. It’s all about the clicker and the system is not working.”

What was your opinion of the American Olympic Team? “I wasn’t too pleased with them, but it’s a different situation now. I was on the team with Muhammad Ali, things were different then.   My daughter met him on a flight, and after speaking with him, he said he remembered me. It was an honor”.

What would you change about professional referees? I would develop an evaluation system where referees were judged on their performance. They should be assigned work on a rotating basis, it should be fair.  As a disabled veteran and college graduate, I believe everyone deserves to be treated fairly. Although this is not always the case.”

I offered Dave an opportunity to make a final statement. “I’d like to see more boxing in prisons, inmates who box have a lesser chance of returning to prison than those who didn’t box. Boxing teaches a person more about himself than any other sport. It teaches you about the ups and down of life, when life knocks you down, a fighter always gets up. Loosing, surrendering, giving up or quitting is never an alternative. Boxing teaches you to keep fighting. “I love boxing and its men like Dave Nelson that help keep it alive.  It’s not the promoters, the referees, or the commissioners, they are just middle managers. Boxing belongs to the fans, not the big shots like Don King or Oscar De Hoya.  It’s the little guy who keeps boxing alive. It’s the amateur coaches and officials who dedicate their lives to the sport.  Most importantly, it’s the boxers themselves who make boxing what it is today.

Currently, we have an alleged non-profit organization that is imposing a monopoly over amateur boxing. In doing research, I discovered USA Boxing Incorporated out of Colorado Springs, a nation wide organization, is now attempting to impose control over thousands of amateur boxers, coachers and officials.  Why would it do so, if there was no money involved?  Lets hope graduates of Santa Clara Law School will pose these questions to people in authority. We cannot permit amateur boxing to be dominated by one organization.  Monopolies have always been bad for everyone, except those who pull the strings.

Boxing fans across the country should write their political representative and ask them to initiate a full and complete investigation of current polices and procedures imposed by USA Boxing Incorporated.  We cannot surrender to apathy. Nor can we allow some fat cat, whose only goal is making money, to monopolize amateur boxing in the United States. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We are currently fighting a war to help grant and protect freedom to the Iraqis. Fans of boxing, participants, and parents deserve the same protection.

I’ve been curious of what a professional referee would say about working for the current commissioner.  I’ve asked several, and all of them have refused to reply fearing the repercussions.  One brave soul admitted that doing so would be suicide. “It would mean immediate termination”.  It seems the commissioner runs the commission, a public agency, as his own personal kingdom.  Those that dance his tune get the better fights, those who challenge his authority or don't genuflect, are punished.  I have written many articles in which I expressed concern on how the commission conducts its business, but as I stated before, it is a closed public system.  There seems to be no way in. I even volunteered to work for free and was turned down.  I wrote my congressman, and state representative and still no dice. I’ve been blowing this whistle for years, yet no one has paid any attention. I have never had any of my questions answered, or any of my concerns addressed. It appears this public agency funded by our taxes, is controlled by two or three people. None of which are known, or answerable to anyone. There are also seems to be a lot former cops and correctional officers working for the commission. This may explain the secrecy of which cops are notorious for. This concerns me. Anytime right wing, ultra conservatives get together, it is always spells trouble for the little guy. It stinks of back room deals, kickbacks and dirty money.  I don’t know if this is a conflict of interest, or if it’s double dipping in the state system.   I intend to dig a little deeper and get some answers.  My only course is to contact the ACLU.  I believe The Freedom of Information Act should cover it, or at least stir up some interest.   I’ve contacted the LA office and met the same attitude. Whoever runs the commission feels confident enough to ignore my repeated questions.

Maybe some of the law students from Santa Clara University Law School would be interested in helping me. My only goal is to locate whoever is responsible and accountable. I’d like to know how The Commission is run. Who makes the decisions, how are referees assigned work. Who picks them and why. Who counts the money and who gets to keep it? Where is going and who decides who gets how much? I don’t believe these questions are improper. It would be an interesting class project in case anyone is interested, contact me. I am still very proud to be a part of this All American Sport.  I believe that unless the alarm is sounded, we may be allowing greed, corruption and monopolies to weaken and ultimate destroy the best sport in the world. Yet, even as I look at this uphill battle. I Thank God For Boxing.

Always in Your Corner,

Jorge A. Martinez