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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 26, 2005

In-fighting has boxing on ropes

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

No sooner had the Hawai'i State Boxing Commission decreed a historic cessation to amateur bouts Tuesday, than, at the other end of its meeting room table, it looked like there might be need for the services of a referee to settle down at-odds parties on another front.

Though you might not know it by the indefinite ban the commission put in place, there is a lot of fight left in local amateur boxing.

Unfortunately, these days it seems like most of it is from within and takes place behind the scenes. Too much of it is in words, shrill charges and counter charges.

Among USA Boxing Hawai'i chapter president Ralph Martin, his backers and their detractors, including Golden Gloves leader Carl Phillips, there are allegations of people being frozen out and favorites being played. There are claims of dubious weigh-ins and back-room deals. There have been suits, threats and harangues.

Too bad, too. For the sad part about the boxing commission shutting down the amateur game until a new license is granted is that boxing already has more than enough problems to surmount here.

The pro game is just barely alive, giving little encouragement to budding amateurs. On the amateur level, the numbers of fighters are low, the cards are few and too far between and public interest is on the wane.

In short, what boxing needs now, most of all, is a united front from those involved in it and those who care about it. What it screams for is consensus that allows it to move forward. Instead, it has internecine warfare. It has finger pointing and discord born of power struggles and turf wars that stagnate it.

To be sure, there are a lot of good, well-intentioned people in local amateur boxing, folks who have invested 20, 30 years or more in the sport. They are people who, for the most part, want to give back to another generation some of what they have received. And they must do it for the love and satisfaction because there sure isn't much money to be made or fame to be garnered.

Recent events, however, suggest the priorities, which should be to benefit the boxers involved, have gotten lost in the personalities and posturing.

Meanwhile, the commission's action is about more than just ordering officials to come up with overdue paperwork and produce financial reports. It is about pausing to take stock of where amateur boxing is and where it should be.

The national USA Boxing office and state boxing commission have weighed in, where they have jurisdiction. But at some point there is a limit to what outside parties can do by force and that has about been reached. The real healing must come where the strife has been, from within.

Or else amateur boxing is left with the situation that now exists, one in which everybody loses. The fighters most of all.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.