The D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission symposium held at the Shiloh Baptist Church yesterday featured seminars on how to judge and referee fights. But in hallways and at lunch tables during intermission, fight fans and officials alike tallied the score cards on Cora Wilds, the chairman of the District's boxing commission who submitted her resignation on Friday.
The decision was unanimous: The allegation that Wilds had double-billed the District government for trips taken to boxing conventions as far away as Bangkok had amounted to a self-inflicted TKO.
"What was she doing in Thailand -- importing kick boxers?" asked John Lawrence, a Washington resident and avid fight fan.
Burtell Jefferson, a former D.C. police chief and the ranking boxing commission member, tried to explain that if you are a member of a boxing federation executive board -- as Cora Wilds was -- you attend their conventions wherever they are held in order to rub elbows with the right promoters, fight officials and underwriters.
But when asked about the allegation that Wilds had been reimbursed twice for the trips, there was silence. It was as if everybody was stunned that yet another District official had been so stupid as to blow a job and further damage the city's reputation -- in return, allegedly, for what amounted to chicken feed.
Just last week, former University of the District of Columbia president Robert L. Green was indicted by a grand jury on charges that he stole a television set and a stereo.
In Wilds' case, she allegedly had taken about $3,000 in travel expenses from an international boxing organization at the same time that she billed the same expenses to the city. Efforts to reach her for comment this week have been unsuccessful.
It was a stunning defeat for a woman who had won so many important boxing victories. When premier fight promoter Don King tried to finagle the D.C. Boxing Commission into underwriting his fights, Wilds knocked that idea right out of the ring.
When she learned that the World Boxing Association would continue sanctioning fights that included South Africa, she simply yanked the District out of the WBA. After six years on the commission, Wilds had earned a reputation as a brawler. Had she been a man, no doubt, her hard-charging style might have been commended. But those who didn't like the idea of a woman running the man's world of boxing often criticized her as being too arrogant, and the more men tried to test her, the more assertive she became.
"She was continually trying to establish and maintain control," said Jefferson. "It was a tough job, but she was tough enough to do it. She worked very hard to upgrade boxing in Washington, and did a lot to bring more women into the sport as judges and referees. I know personally that she spent many unpaid hours at her job."
To Wilds' credit, boxing education and safety programs that she started in the District are considered among the best in the country. Rules governing boxing and wrestling matches are also among the strictest. Yesterday's symposium was one of her ideas, even though she did not attend.
Word on the boxing circuit was that Wilds was beginning to generate interest in the District as a place to hold boxing matches, despite its proximity to Atlantic City -- which is the East Coast fight capital.
After she had taken more than 25 trips to boxing conventions, some say, Wilds' efforts were almost certain to pay off. She had made the contacts with the right fight promoters -- the key ingredient to bringing fights to the city -- and after numerous sparring matches with them, had finally earned their respect.
But this one alleged slip-up may have put an end to all of that.
"She was obviously trying to make a name for herself at taxpayers' expense," said Jacques Chevalier, a local real estate businessman who is seeking appointment to the boxing commission.
But if fight fans are displeased, just think about the disappointment that the young boxers of the city must feel -- they are the ones the boxing commission was supposed to help.