World Boxing Council News

31.01.04 - From WBC President Jose Sulaiman: "I am very proud of the results of the vacant WBC super lightweight world championship fight where a boxing hero, Arturo Gatti from Canada, conquered the title in a highly competitive and classy fight by defeating the courageous and very good opponent Gianluca Branco from Italy, whose performance shut many mouths.

"This proves, once again and time after time, the excellent level and performance of our WBC ratings, as well as the fairness and righteousness of the WBC Board of Governors to have appointed Gianluca Branco as the official challenger for the division, and for the exemplary performance of our ring officials, a neutral set of officials, all WBC officials.

"My extreme appreciation to Larry Hazzard and all in the New Jersey Board of Control for their cooperation and agreements in all our rules and acceptance of neutral WBC officials.

"This WBC title showed also that a WBC world championship bout is precisely a world title bout, after a TV corporation would not buy Branco and many writers criticized the WBC for such appointment of Branco as No. 1 contender.

"The percentage of WBC quality title bouts in 2003 was: 39% - very good fights; 44% - good fights; 10% - fair fights; 7% - one-sided matches. That, not many sports could claim.

"The WBC is profoundly proud of our new champion Arturo Gatti, just as we are of the WBC officials and Gianluca Branco. Congratulations, also, to HBO for showing this fight."


By Bob Raissman.c New York Daily News, L.P., reprinted with permission. All three HBO boxing voices - Larry Merchant, Emanuel Sterward and, especially, Jim Lampley - owe Guido Cavallieri, one of the judges who worked Saturday's Arturo Gatti-Gianluca Branco fight, a huge apology.

Do it quickly, gentlemen - like the next time you are on the air. It's the right thing to do. It also would be corporately prudent. The three of you might save HBO's parent company, Time Warner, a bunch of money.

After all, if someone - working without a speck of evidence or one single fact - willfully tried tarnishing either Merchant, Lampley or Steward's reputation before a large TV audience, the voices might decide to hire a lawyer and take their beef to court.

Cavallieri, who lives in Italy, did nothing to merit HBO voices questioning his integrity and using his nationality against him. During the fight they basically said Cavallieri was capable of ignoring what was happening in the ring and was scoring the fight in favor of Branco, his countryman.

Hey, even if you bought into Lampley & Co.'s cockeyed theory, you knew Cavallieri might have a problem. Although Gatti was raised in Montreal, he, like Branco, was born in Italy.

Anyway, this all started in the seventh round when Merchant explained how European judges hold boxers, rather than sluggers, in high regard. "... There's an Italian judge, one of the three judges tonight, so that's just a difference in perception about what this game is about," Merchant said.

This was legitimate analysis. Still, Merchant seeded a cloud of doubt. A cloud HBO yackers dangled over Cavallieri's head the rest of the fight. In the eighth round, Merchant said there could be "legitimate disagreement" over which fighter won some of the early rounds. He said it wasn't "out of the question" a judge could have the fight scored 4-3 in Branco's favor. Steward: "You have an Italian judge here, also."

In the ninth round, Lampley discussed the swelling under Gatti's left eye, explaining that "American" judges know Gatti's face swells in every fight. Lampley said the "Italian" judge, Cavallieri, might look at the swelling and determine Gatti is taking a legitimate beating. Did Cavallieri tell Lampley this? Is Lampley a mind reader?

When the final bell sounded, Merchant, Steward, Lampley, and unofficial judge Harold Lederman agreed Gatti had won. "We got judges here from three different countries," Lederman said. "But I like the American style." Lampley: "Would either of you be surprised if the Italian judge had the fight scored for Gianluca Branco?"

None of the voices answered. Neither Merchant nor Steward challenged Lampley. And it was surprising the announcers did not comment on a telling graphic HBO posted before the decision was announced - a graphic HBO should have aired the moment its announcers began questioning Cavallieri's integrity.

The graphic said that before Carlos Gonzalez knocked out Giovani Parisi in the ninth round of a 1998 fight, Cavallieri had Gonzalez ahead of Parisi - the Italian - on his scorecard. Mercy me. Cavallieri, the judge Lampley & Co. portrayed as favoring an Italian fighter, had an Italian fighter behind on his scorecard.

As it turned out, Cavallieri scored Saturday's fight 115-112 for Gatti. Not satisfied with questioning his honesty and integrity during the fight, Lampley chose to patronize Cavallieri after the decision was announced. "... Kudos to the Italian judge for not allowing his nationality to interfere with his view of the competition in the fight," Lampley said.

The HBO voices created a false controversy at the expense of Cavallieri, who did absolutely nothing to deserve being smeared with innuendo. Lampley, in particular, cavalierly cast aspersions on the judge with no regard for the truth.

Would Lampley, Merchant, or Steward like being accused of doing "business" with a fighter because he shared the same nationality, race or religion? Probably not. Now, and forever, they never can complain about someone playing that card. For that's exactly what they did to Cavallieri.

Article posted on 31.01.2004

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