The WBC continues to circle the wagons
Last week, Boxingtalk reported that the WBC reversed its position and decided to allow Danny Williams to fight for its heavyweight championship after president Jose Sulaiman said that Williams promoter and/or manager Frank Warren had agreed to make a donation to the WBC’s coffers. The article has caused quite a stir, with responses coming from Mexico, South Africa and now Australia. The latest reply comes from the WBC’s ratings chairman and OPBF president Frank Quill of Australia. In order to present all sides of this dispute, Boxingtalk is publishing Mr. Quill’s letter, even the portions it disagrees with. Shockingly, Mr. Quill sees nothing wrong with the WBC accepting donations from promoters whose boxers the WBC claims to rank impartially. Referring to the South African promoter who issued a press release disclosing the donation, Quill asks, “Is there anything wrong in Branco Milenkovic donating $10,000 to the WBC?” Boxingtalk’s response is yes, there is something very wrong with that. The WBC may soon have to decide if it will strip Marco Antonio Barrera of his hard-earned championship if he fails to fight Mzonke Fana, one of Milenkovic’s boxers. We at Boxingtalk strongly believe the donation (which Milenkovic now denies) puts the WBC in a huge conflict of interest, but we will print Mr. Quill’s response in its entirety to let our readers decide for themselves.
FRANK QUILL WROTE:
After reading Boxingtalk’s December 13 piece titled“WBC Soliciting Payments From Promoters”, co-written by Scott Shaffer and G.Leon, I am asking your kindness to publish (in full) these observations, which are offered on a personal and WBC-unofficial level and are in no particular order of importance. First, two points:
One- You have the WBC's official response, in which President Jose Sulaiman wrote (in part): "We have never asked for, nor have we ever accepted, any income in exchange for a favor, whether in ratings or in any other matter, nor will anybody be permitted to remain in our organization if their compliance to this rule is not absolutely respected."
Two- I am not suggesting that a number of factual errors in your story were anything else but journalistic mistakes. Nor am I suggesting that the wording of some sentences and paragraphs - perhaps unintentionally offering inferences at odds with the facts- were designed to mislead Boxingtalk readers. Before going on, thank you for saying in your story: "The WBC is arguably the most prestigious title among the four major sanctioning bodies ..." You are simultaneously correct but also quite incorrect in saying the WBC "made" millions of dollars over the years in
sanctioning fees. The word "made" implies profits. Please let me respectfully inform you "collected" is the right word. The WBC is a non-profit, charitable organisation. Apart from head-office staff, employees of the WBC, no-one gets a salary. None of its officers,
committee chairmen or members of the Board of Governors receives any payment. Rather, it costs them money. WBC revenue, after operating expenses, goes to various charitable or benevolent areas. Over the years, these have included around US$1 million in donations to UCLA Medical School for research. As well, the WBC sponsored the First World Boxing Medical Congress, in Aruba, with the second congress to be in Mexico next year. The WBC has sponsored world seminars for referees and judges. There are many other philanthropic areas to which WBC funds
were directed. One of them is the WBC Friendly Hand Foundation, help unpublicised (to protect the dignity of the recipients). FHH support over the years included monthly payments to some 40 former world champions who, since their glory days, fell on hard times. While you will never know the names of these recipients, I can tell you that the list includes some of the "greats" of recent times. Other examples of FHH work include covering medical treatment for ex-boxers - and paying for funerals. Even, going back many years, extending some support to the dying widow of Joe Louis. I could go on and on, at considerable length.
Meanwhile, I think it would be obvious to the meanest of intelligence that no sports organisation (or any commercial business, such as yours) can exist without revenue to at least cover operating expenses. Just as Boxingtalk sells advertising space and charges subscribers, so the WBC has sanction fees. There is nothing untoward, per se, in the WBC levying sanction
fees. I take issue with you over a clause in your December 13
story: "...one could easily conclude that donations (to the WBC) yield results in the ratings." This is an interesting structure of words, not directly stating anything but offering a fairly obvious implication. I chair the ratings committee and can tell you, with certainty, that this is not one of the ratings criteria. It doesn't happen.
Now, your specific statement that South African promoter Branco Milenkovic received a letter from Ruben Martinez, soliciting funds for the WBC. Mr Milenkovic (whom I have known for some years)
states he received no such letter. I do not doubt Mr. Milenkovic's word, and would not do so until receiving evidence to the contrary. More to the point, the Boxingtalk story says that the Milenkovic-promoted South African boxer Mzonke Fana "though he has legitimate credentials ... has done nothing to merit being the mandatory challenger to the great Marco Antonio Barrera". Please allow me to make a few observations. Fana was No. 1 in the WBC October ratings and is No. 2 in November, behind Erik Morales, after his loss to Barrera. In the most recent WBA ratings I saw (for October), Fana was No. 2. Let's source-date things a little bit by picking an early 2004 month, February, when Fana was WBC 1 and Suico was WBC 2 (now WBC 3). On May 28 in Soweto, South Africa, Fana won a split decision over Suico in a title-eliminator bout to decide the mandatory challenger for the WBC super-featherweight title. Respectfully, I suggest this history is not consistent with Fana having "done nothing" to merit "being the
Also, I think it is important to point out that at the WBC's Board of Governors meeting in Kiev in July this year, Fana was confirmed as mandatory challenger for the WBC super-featherweight title, considering his win in May over No. 2 Suico. This was re-confirmed at the Phuket WBC convention. It would be a mistake, of major proportions, to regard Phuket as anything else but confirmation of what was decided in Kiev, with no evidence in the interim to change that situation. Similarly, it is an nonsense to suggest that any offered donation to the WBC by Branco Milenkovic had any influence at all. It didn't.
On the point of donations, what is wrong with that, intrinsically? A small part of the reason for asking this is that in conjunction with the WBC convention in Phuket there was a meeting of the OPBF, one of the WBC's continential federations. At this OPBF meeting
we had a "whip-around" (as it is termed in my home country, Australia) to raise a few dollars to help alleviate the WBC's financial problems. And we raised a small amount. Was that wrong? I don't think so. Indeed, if tomorrow I won $10 million in Tattslotto, I would immediately pay off the WBC full debt. Would that make me corrupt?
Similarly, is there anything wrong in Branco Milenkovic donating $10,000 to the WBC? Or anyone else making a donation, big or small, to help? I just hope that, in future, Boxingtalk.net would look more to facts in its reports on this subject, or any other, rather (partly or largely) hinting at corruption where no corruption exists, or "editorialising" or offering to its readers inferences which do not, reasonably, have any substance.