By Scott Shaffer and G. Leon
Shortly after Marco Antonio Barrera defeated Erik Morales to win the WBC junior lightweight championship (and general recognition as the world’s best 130 pounder) last month, Barrera’s promoter, Golden Boy, received a letter from the WBC informing that Barrera had a mandatory title defense due against South African boxer Mzonke Fana. The notification to Barrera was preceded by a $10,000 "donation" apparently given to the WBC to help defray financial obligations the sanctioning body incurred defending and settling a multi-million dollar lawsuit with ex-boxer Graciano Rocchigiani. The WBC’s letter to Golden Boy said that the Barrera-Morales bout was sanctioned “under the condition that the winner would fight Mzonke Fana next.”
Golden Boy executive Richard Schaefer takes issue with the WBC’s letter. “Barrera did not agree to go and fight this guy. We were never told there was this condition. There are clearly flaws in the way he was appointed the mandatory. You can’t collect the fees and then inform us afterward that the mandatory is due,” Schaefer told Boxingtalk. The WBC took about $70,000 out of Barrera’s purse as a sanctioning fee in addition to a percentage of Morales’ purse. Although Fana defeated Randy Suico by split decision in a WBC eliminator, Schaefer does not feel that makes him a legitimate mandatory contender. “He should have to fight an A level opponent to become the mandatory. Someone like Carlos Hernandez, Joel Casamayor or Jesus Chavez.”
Still, Schaefer is a wise businessman and he stopped short of saying Barrera would refuse to fight Fana. “I am going to meet with Marco in January and we have to see if he wants to keep his title. We have reserved May 7 for him on HBO and for a fighter like Marco, you have to look at your plans for the whole year. Maybe we will go live on HBO [as opposed to pay-per-view] and get all the exposure against a non-marquee opponent to build for the end of the year. That might be the right way to go. But if Barrera says he wants to fight Morales or Manny Pacquiao again in May, it might be different.”
Boxingtalk also spoke to the Golden Boy himself and Oscar De La Hoya was a little less diplomatic. "I've always expressed a great deal of respect for the WBC and I've always supported the WBC, but frankly speaking with you, I'm a little ticked off,” De La Hoya
said. “I'm a bit disappointed at the WBC. Marco Antonio Barrera just won his WBC championship against Erik Morales and if Barrera wants to fight a big fight with somebody else, he should be allowed to. He shouldn't be cornered down to fight a guy that nobody knows.”
Boxingtalk initially learned about Branco Sports’ donation from an unidentified press release posted on boxrec.com which read, “in a major show of loyalty, a large group of the affiliated promoters -- including a $10,000 pledge by Branco Sports Productions -- made donations to the WBC in the wake of the financially crippling legal battle with Graciano Rocchigiani.” Branco Milenkovic, the principal of Branco Sports saw Boxingtalk’s story and sent an e-mail stating “I categorically denied that I have paid any 'donation' ever to the World Boxing Council, or any other boxing organisations for that matter.” However, Boxingtalk has now been supplied with an e-mail sent on October 12, 2004 from the same address (firstname.lastname@example.org) used by Milenkovic to write to Boxingtalk this week. The October 12 e-mail, virtually identical to the boxrec.com story’s entitled “Subject: Boxing WBC Presser. WHAT'S NEW @ BRANCO SPORTS PRODUCTIONS. Branco flies SA flag high at WBC.” Thus, while Boxingtalk cannot verify whether the $10,000 was actually paid unless it gets to inspect actual bank records, we now see that the same e-mail address that denied the donation in December was boasting of it in October.
The point of this story is not to denigrate Mzonke Fana, who has a good record and is rated #10 in the world by Boxingtalk. However, it would be outrageous for the WBC to take $70,000 from Barrera and $10,000 from Fana’s promoter, and then strip Barrera unless he fights Fana, someone who is clearly not the most qualified contender in the world. This is especially true since Barrera, if he passes on Fana, is likely to fight someone at least as accomplished than Fana if not more so.
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