After my last fight against Joey De Richardo, whom I dismantled in one round, I was so looking forward to fighting for an IBF eliminator against Ben Rabah. However, two days later I got the news that the IBF had declared me unavailable to contest in an elimination bout, and a decision had been made instead for Ben Rabah and Arturo Morua to contest for that eliminator. Accordingly, I wasn’t supposed to take part in any fight whatsoever prior to the elimination bout as it is a rule of the IBF. Upon hearing this, I wrote a letter to the President of the IBF, Her Majesty Marian Muhammad, explaining why I went ahead with my IBF Pan Pacific title defence on July 01, 2005. This is what I wrote to her:
Dear Marian Muhammad
I am very disappointed to hear that a decision was made about my unavailability to fight for the IBF No.1 position despite my letter of June 09,2005, which I sent to your organization accepting the offer to fight for that position. And also, assuring you that I was available to contend for that position. Despite making some follow-up phone calls I never heard back from Lindsey on whether he received my letter or not. I believe the decision about my unavailability was made after my IBF Pan Pacific title fight on July 01, 2005. When I was first told by Mr. Ray Wheatley about the elimination bout the first thing I asked him was whether I could still go ahead and make a defence of my IBF Pan Pacific title on July 01, and he assured me that it was okay to go ahead, stating that if the IBF does not want me to have a fight in between, they would write to me and advise me not to do so. And, in fact, it was also a good way for me to continue showing my loyalty to this organization. Please note also that at that stage there were no signed contracts for me to fight on that day. In fact, there was never a contract for this fight at all and I could have not participated in this fight had I been informed not to do so.
Initially, I was told that I was to fight Mr. Juan Urango for that eliminator. On Thursday June 30th,2005, at the weigh-in of my IBF Pan Pacific title defence, I was then notified that Mr. Urango was unavailable for the elimination bout and thus I was to fight Mr Noufel Ben Rabah, provided he was available. Please, note that at that stage Mr. Rabah was scheduled to fight on July 03, 2005.Mr. Wheatly then told me that Ben Rabah will only be considered available for the elimination bout if he pulls out of his scheduled bout. That is when I asked Mr. Wheatley again for the second time whether I was required to do the same. And for the second time he assured me that it was okay to go ahead with that bout and that the IBF was aware of that. And if the IBF did not want me to go ahead with that fight they would have contacted us by now. And that is when I decided to go ahead with that fight.
Please note, that the decision to go ahead with that fight was made after some assurances that it was okay to do so by the vice president of your organization (Mr Ray Wheatley) who in fact sanctioned that fight. However, although Mr Wheatley is partly to blame, I believe it was mainly an innocent mistake on his side as I personally believe he made those statements of assurance without any intentions to mislead or cause any harm whatsoever to my career. And he genuinely made those statements without knowledge of their falsity. I consider Mr Wheatley a true friend who takes his job seriously and a fair and honest representative of this organization. Further, the IBF Pan Pacific is a regional title of your organization, which means that this organization was aware of this bout schedule as sanctioning fees where accepted by this organization. No attempt was made by this organization to notify me about not going ahead with that fight, that is, notify me about this organization’s rule that I was not allowed to partake in any fights prior to an elimination bout. As already mentioned above, I tried on numerous occasions to contact your office, and left messages for Mr Tucker, nobody ever got back to me. Part of the reason I made those phone calls were to try and verify the statements of assurance made by Mr Wheatley. When I mentioned this to Mr Lindsey Tucker on July,03, 2005, he told me that he did receive my messages but he did not bother to respond or call me back as part of the rule of this organization is not to communicate directly to boxers about such issues but to their managers and promoters. And thus a letter was sent to my promoter, Mr Dan Goossen. I spoke to Dan about it and he does not recall receiving such a letter from this organization stating that I was not to partake in any bout whatsoever until I fight for an eliminator. Further, any reasonable person or this organization by now should have been aware that I am self-managed, as I have brought this to your attention by way of writing on numerous occasions in the past. Thus, I feel that if such a letter was ever sent out, a copy should have been sent to me as well.
In conclusion, such a decision by this organization to make me unavailable for an elimination bout is unfair and unacceptable. The occurrence of my last bout was of no fault of mine but this organization. In fact, I feel I am being punished for being loyal to this organization. I have mentioned it in the past and I will say it once more that I have the utmost respect for this organization and my dream is to become one of its champions in the future. I was made offers to fight for the WBC and WBA regional titles which I turned down in order to further show my loyalty to this organization. I am not going to let this opportunity bypass me through no fault of mine. I have worked so hard and invested so much of my time to be where I am today. And thus, the decision by this organization to make Mr. Ben Rabah and Mr. Arturo Morua the two available contenders for an IBF No.1 elimination bout is totally unacceptable as it will cause a loss of opportunity on my behalf, the loss of which cannot be reasonably or adequately compensated by damages in an action at law and could cause me irreparable damage and injury. I thus urge this organization to reverse that decision. Failure to do so will leave me no other option but to take some legal action.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
On July 05, 2005, I got a letter of response from Marian Muhammad. In her response she declined to reverse the decision to move on to the next contender to compete in the IBF Jr. Welterweight elimination bout. In her letter she raised the following issues to support that decision:
1. This organization( the IBF) had no reason to think or know by now that I was self managed when I mentioned my management team of Team Fenech in my letter. In other words, it was not prudent or necessary that a copy of the letter they claim to have sent to Dan Goossen should have been sent to me as well.
This does not make any sense since on 14 January 2005 I wrote a letter to this organization and advised it that I was now self managed. Apart from that, all correspondence to this organization has been written by me and signed by me. At no time have any representatives of mine (Team Fenech) contacted this organization. Even if that was the case, wouldn’t it have been prudent for this organization to contact Team Fenech or sent a copy of the same letter to Team Fenech?
2. Mr. Wheatley is not a vice president. He is a member of the IBF/USBA Board of Directors and is responsible for the activity in the Pan Pacific region. If in fact Mr. Wheatley did tell me that I "could still go ahead and make a defense of my IBF Pan Pacific title on July 01," the content of the June 8, letter dictated that I could not. It also baffles her that I state Mr. Wheatley told me that Rabah could only be considered available for the elimination bout if he pulls out of his scheduled bout. Why wouldn't the same apply to me?
Well, it baffled me too Marian. That’s why I took upon referring Rabah’s position to Wheatley and again, he assured me that it was okay to take part in the bout on 1 July 2005. Upon noting her comments that Wheatley was not the vice president of this organization and is only a member of the board of directors responsible for the activity in the Pan Pacific, I took it upon to call Ray Wheatley so he can straighten this, as in Australia, Wheatley is known as the Vice President, a title he holds on his business cards, in numerous newspaper and media reports. Upon calling him, Mr Wheatley, did make it clear to me that he used to hold that position of vice president but now he is only a member of the IBF/USBA Board of Directors and is responsible for the activity in the Pan Pacific region, as said by Marian. This however, does not change anything, as Mr Wheatley is still a person of authority within the IBF.
Thus, as the person responsible for all activity in the Pan Pacific, I rely on Wheatley’s advice, authority and direction. In this instance, I have sought Wheatley’s assistance and advice on more than one occasion and at each occasion I have been assured that I was able to partake in the bout of 1 July 2005 without putting at risk the elimination bout.
Wheatley has sanctioned the bout and has accepted my fee’s for the bout. At no time did he advise me I would risk the elimination bout should I partake in the bout of 1 July 2005.I have relied solely on Wheatley’s advice as a person of authority in this organization(the IBF).
Marian also mentions that the content of the June 08 letter dictated that I could not partake in any other bout whatsoever prior to an elimination bout. I made it clear in my letter that I was never in receipt of such a letter.
I heard about the offer to fight Mr Urango for an elimination bout over the phone though Mr Wheatley who also advised me to write back to Lindsey Tucker and accept the offer within 3 days as failure do so would declare me unavailable for that elimination bout. Upon Mr Wheatley’s advice I wrote to Mr Tucker and accepted the offer. All I knew about the content of that letter was what Mr Wheatley told me. Nothing about the other contents of the letter that I could not accept any intervening bouts if I planned to participate in an elimination.
3. According to Marian I claim that Mr. Tucker did not get back to me when I attempted to contact him. Considering I received no response from him, I should have contacted her just as I did in this instance, she says.
First of all, I am not claiming that I attempted to contact Mr Tucker to try and verify Mr Wheatley’s assurances that the July 01 bout would not affect my chances of fighting for an eliminator. I have telephone records to prove that I made those phone calls. Secondly, with respect, I have always dealt with Lindsay who was responsible for sanctioning the elimination bout. As I could not resolve my issues with Lindsay, I approached Marian(The President). It was not necessary until now for me to bring these matters to her attention.
In conclusion, I reiterate my previous statement that I will consider legal action against the IBF. I have conducted myself in good faith and have relied upon the instruction and direction of one of their organization’s senior figures. As a result of this reliance, I am now suffering from loss of opportunity and loss of future earning capacity. Stay tuned for more to come!