01.01.04 -By Keith Terceira: While many were ringing in the New Year, the Joint Association of Boxers Union founder Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was ringing me in the late evening. Eddie is preparing for a two week swing thru the eastern seaboard to sign fighters who have contacted him for union membership. JAB currently has a membership of 300 boxers, including David Tua, Derrick “Smoke” Gainer, Wayne Braithwaite, Duncan Dokiwari, and Vivian Harris. With the support of Senator John McCain and the IBT, International Brotherhood of Teamsters with General President James Hoffa Jr., a Boxers Union is no longer fiction but fact. Eddie weighed in on Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao and several other issues surrounding boxers.
“This is BS, how does a guy with a contract for $700,000 walk away with $80,000 dollars. This needs to be investigated and something done to protect standup guys like Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao. This promoter is not Manny’s friend, this fighter puts his life on the line every time he steps into the ring and performs. Freddie Roach uses his vast knowledge to help these fighters and then gets screwed. Forget that, Manny should be getting $700,000 no less, if it’s $699,999.99 its still wrong and bad for boxing. Bad for fighters. This promoter and others like him are killing this sport. We are losing our farm system now with ESPN and USA stepping back from its previous support. Boxing has the highest level of competition than its ever had and its at its lowest level of respectability. We have become a red light district sport, and not because of boxers.”
Keith: What do fighters need to do to prevent this from happening to them, Eddie.? What prevents promoters from circumventing the union and importing fighters from outside the country and the union? Where does JAB get the strength from to have teeth to protect your boxers?
“First of all this is an American market, fans won’t support that kind of crap. Secondly we are assembling arbitrators and setting minimum salary scales like SAG and AFTRA. Every other major sport have long benefited from collective bargaining. Boxing may be the last, but we are here to stay. You keep saying when, let me interrupt, there is no when it’s a done deal. If Manny Pacquiao wants help from JAB all he has to do is call me and we will our resources behind him. This the organization of the Manny Pacquaio’s of the world, fighters are organizing for fighters not for anyother reason.”
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad continued to answer the remainder of the questions with such passion that I needed to leave out some of his descriptive language.
“Fighters need to stop supporting some of these promoters. You think that if they break a leg or get injured that these great friends are going to support their families. We work hard in the gym (we fighters) but them that get screwed, well that trickles down to everybody on that team. They get screwed to. They are taking food out of our kids mouths, clothing off our kids backs. That is so messed up. I applaud Oscar De La Hoya for the job he is doing, you don’t hear all those fighters he signed up saying, well, Oscar screwed me, Oscar did this and that, Oscar is a hell of a promoter and he is a hell of a smart guy.”
Keith: It truly seems that Oscar runs a good business and has put in place a top level organization that is run at a superior professional level. What is your experience with Oscar?
“I have known Oscar for a long time. My hat is off to Oscar and I wish him continued success . We need promoters like Oscar De La Hoya cause he has shown the other guys how to do it, how to make guys comfortable knowing if I’ve got seven hundred thousand dollars coming to me, I got seven hundred thousand, not six ninety nine ninety nine. I want Oscar to know, you keep your charge going and I’ll keep mine going and we will clean up this mess, fighters fixing and working for fighters. Guys like Oscar de la Hoya are going to help boxing and JAB clean this sport up, period. I will fly any where to sit with guys like Oscar, to sit with guys like Roy Jones Jr., Tito Trinidad, and say you are the one guys that made it to the top what about the other 99% of boxers. Where are their health benefits, where are their retirement benefits? They get screwed and the prime example is Pacquiao, look what they are doing to this kid, and this is a supposed to be a rising star. All, I’m saying again, is if I got a deal for $700,000 how in the world am I going home with 80,000.”
After a long pause to collect himself a bit, Eddie sighed an went on.
“You know I commend Freddie Roach, he is a guy that stands up for his principals, for his convictions. It’s only 70,000 dollars out of 700,000 but you are going to give me my money, if it was me. If I have worked hard in the gym and you have come to me for that knowledge when I could have spent that time playing with my kids, you know nurturing and bringing up my children. If I’m in the gym busting my hump, you are going to pay me, we are professional trainers , you come to us to show you how to kick butt and you screw us, no sir I don’t think so. I think its time for the fighter to stand up! They have a voice now. JAB . Freddie needs to tell them to kiss my butt, it is a low person that does something like that to any trainer, I applaud Freddie for telling them to kiss off.”
Keith: What other plans do you have on the horizon for yourself and JAB.
“Right now I’m getting ready to sign up a ton of fighters on the east coast and then I’ve been asked to go to Africa to talk to fighters who want membership in the union there. I have calls into Bernard Hopkins who is a strong voice for cleaning up the sport of boxing. Bernard have been very outspoken in his views and I would love to talk with him.”
“I was in London visiting, and fighters were approaching me in the streets asking for cards and to sign up and I’ve never spoken there. They got the info off the internet. Its taking off so fast since May that we are all out, working hard long hours. Remember what we do at the end of the day is for those 99% of fighters who may not make it to the top in boxing, we are here for afterwards to get you a job, to get you medical care, to get you retirement funds, we will make sure that you don’t have to have charity dinners to cover your medical expenses, and when people ask you what do you do for a living you can say I was a boxer, I got my medical benefits, my retirement benefits, I’m a straight man. Being a fighter is going to be a job and career that is meaningful. All I got from boxing is my belt, my title and some notoriety. If it wasn’t for movies and SAG, that’s all I would have had. I need fighters to call me if you are not getting paid or if promoters won’t open their books to you, if they are bouncing your checks.”
Every time I mentioned when or if in our discussion about JAB, I was quickly cut off and reminded that it’s a done deal. As a former union member in a couple of different locals, I can tell you that a union is only as strong as its members and its leadership. Some unions bring out the best for its members and some only bring out the best for its leadership. One statement intrigued me the most about the work that JAB is doing and that concerned sponsors and sponsorship. Eddie shed some light on negotiations underway with main street products and old supporters.
“JAB has been contacted by companies other than beer companies, that when JAB is at a higher level of participation by fighters and we continue to clean up the sport these companies will rejoin our ranks and throw their money into boxing. The only reason they abandoned ship was due to the sleazy calls in boxing and they could not be associated or have their products connected to a corrupt appearing sport. I came up on network boxing, I fought on Channel 5, on Channel 9, we had a farm system going where fighters were on television constantly. You didn’t have to have HBO and Showtime running things because we had major companies supporting boxing and buying advertising in boxing productions. As we clean up this sport I have commitments that that will happen again.”
If passion and hard work is the only measure of this project’s success, then Eddie will see this union does what it says it will do. If JAB and its members can bring back and entice major corporate support back into the fold, then there is something for fans to support as well. Whatever the case, the leadership of the Joint Association of Boxers has weighed in on the fight to correct and solve the problems between Pacquiao, Roach and Murad Muhammad and that is what unions are supposed to do. Keep us posted JAB.