Roone Arledge, president of the American Broadcasting Company's news and sports departments, defends ABC's contracting with Don King for another fight before the net work's investigation of the currently suspended U.S. boxing championships are completed.
"Nothing has been proven against King," said Arledge, whose network announced last week it will televise the King-promoted Ken Norton-Jimmy Young fight on Nov. 5 in Las Vegas.
"I expect the investigation will end in a couple of weeks, well before the Norton-Young about," Arledge said.
The ABC tournament, promoted by King and funded by ABC for about $1.5 million, was allegations of payoffs being required for boxers to participate, records being falsified to help some boxers qualify and ratings being rigged by Ring magazine, which was engaged to seed ranking fighters.
A federal grand jury in Baltimore began an inquiry after a bout in Annapolis, in which Scott LeDoux contended he was done out of a decision over Johnny Boudreau because some of the boxers in the tournament were controlled by associates of King and ring officials were biased in favor of those boxers.
After suspending the tournament, ABC engaged special investigator Michael Armstrong to make an independent evaluation of numerous charges.
"Our investigation, before we engaged Armstrong to conduct his inquiry, showed up personal wrongdoing by King, "Arledge said. "The Young Norton fight is clearly is an attractive, legitimate one. It is the best one to be made without Muhammad Ali being involved. Thereis no question about it being a good match like there was about Ali and Alfredo Evangelista.
"We (ABC) figure we have protected ourselves. I'm not goingt o say what it is, but the language in our contract with King for the Young-Norton bout would protect us if the situation changes."
It is understood that ABC has stipulated that it will be permitted to withdraw from the telecast of the Young-Norton bout if the network deems that the results of Armstrong's, or a federal grand jury's investigations, justify such action.
Arledge says he has not consulted special investigator Armstrong about that prospect.
"I don't know what he has turned up," Arledge said. "We selected Armstrong because of his track record, his stature, his independence. We know he will do a thorough job despite having no subpoena power like a law enforcement agency, which is inhibiting."
Armstrong's the former chief counsel for the Knapp Commission, which exposed police corruption in New York City, former Queens County district attorney and onetime chief of the securities fraud unit of the U.S. attorney's office in New York. He is conducting ABC's investigation out of his law offices.
Is ABC in a no-win situation, with the network vacing accusation's of a whitewash if Armstrong's inquiry finds no wrongdoing or its integrity tarnished if the investigation does suggest evidence of scandals?
"If Don King or anyone else under investigation is not guilty of anything, intelligent people will not say it is a whitewash," Arledge said.
"If someone is guilty, intelligent people will not say Armstrong did a hatchet job. We almost didn't do the Young-Norton bout because of our concerns.
"We have already turned down several fights (since the allegations of scandals connected with the tournament) out of fear of even technical wrongdoing."
ABC is paying Norton $1.5 million plus $100.000 for training expenses; Young $1.1 million plus $100,000 in expenses.
Caesars Palace reportedly is paying King $250,000 for the rights to the live bout, which is the main reason Capital Centre was shut out.