An investigative report released yesterday concludes that there was a good deal of unethical behavior by individuals involved in the organization and administration of the U.S. boxing conduct that would warrant criminal prosecution.
The investigation was made for the American Broadcasting Company, which funded the tournament for about $1.5 million. ABC suspended the bouts on April 16 after reports of alleged irregularities.
Michael Armstrong, fromer chief counsel to the Knapp Commission which investigated police corruption in New York City, made the investigation for ABC. Armstrong noted that several individuals refused to be interviewed and that others were cooperative in varying degrees.
The eight-page synposis by ABC of Armstrong's 327-page report clears of "any wrongdoing" James A. Farley Jr., who served as tournament committee chairman while still chairman of the New York State Atlhetic Commission.
He resigned the state job under criticism that his dual role involved a conflict of interest.A spokesman for New York Gov. Hugh Carey said that Farley had been "wined and dined" by Don King pomoter of the tournament.
The report stated that the tournament not be continued in its present structure.
A tournament to establish United States champions is a "sound and laudable" concept and would have a beneficial effect on boxing, the report noted. The concept of such a tournament, perhaps under the supervision of a blue ribbon committee with rigidly enforced rules, ought to be pursued.
Armstrong says he was unable to find any evidence that King was involved in kickbacks, false ratings or other similar irregularities.
"The most disturbing action by King for which we were able to acquire direct evidence of personal involvement was his clearly improper payment of $5,000 to John Ort (associate editor of Ring magazine), which seriously comprised the integrity of the selection process (of qualifying paricipants for the tournament)." Armstrong reported.
"King's explanation for his payment was that it was for Ort's assistance in formulating the concept of the tournament, his work in connection with the tournament and other past services unconnected with the tournament."
The report did point out, "There can be no doubt, based upon the facts set forth in our report, that the tournament was disorganized in several material respects and was, on the whole, poorly administered.
"The responsibility for the failure of Don King Productions to assemble the proper staff must rest with King, its chief executive officer. King clearly did not pay sufficient attention to the supervision of his associates. On the other hand, he contributed his undeniable energies and promotional skills to the tournament."
Ort fold the Associated Press he was hired by King to help organize the tournament. "I figured I was entitled to something. I did nothing unethical - just public relations work and supplying past performances," Ort said.
"But ABC dislikes me because I was fighting them all the way," Ort said. "I'm just a little guy, 17 years in the business and nobody knows who I am.Now, all of a sudden, I'm a thief, a crook and everything else ABC can think of to call me."
Nat Loubet, editor and publisher of Ring, said part of the problem resulted when ABC and King engaged in a power struggle for control of the tournament.
"King wanted to end up owning everything and wanted to end up being able to rule the roost," said Loubet. "When ABC discing able to rule the roost," said Loubet.
"When ABC discovered what a good thing they had, ABC wanted to end up owning it.
"And so we wind up in the middle of this mess, trying to keep it going," Loubet said. "You spend a lifetime on something and don't do anything any differently that you did before," he said, "and suddenly its just like the move 'Network' - they're trying to destroy somebody to save their own skins."
King was not charged with any wrongdoing in the many allegations, except indirectly because of charges against some of his associates.
ABC, and later Armstrong, earlier had passed most of their findings to a federal grand jury in Baltimore, which investigated some aspects of the tournament after bouts at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Copies of Armstrong's report have been sent to the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, whose office conducted the inquiry for the grand jury: the Federal Communications Commission and the House subcommittee on communications, which plans to hold hearings soon on the relationships between the networks and professional and amateur sports.
Among the report's principal conclusions is that "there was no conduct in connection with the tournament which would warrant criminal prosecution" although "there was a good deal of unethical behavior by individuals involved with the administration and organization of the tournament (unnamed in the synopsis).
The report concludes "None of the fights in the tournament was 'fixed,'" but is goes on. "In several cases there are reasonable grounds to suspect that rankings by Ring magazine of tournament participants or alternates were 'improperly or unduly influenced."
"In a number of cases, unqualified fighters were invited to participate because of associations with the tournament's organizers while qualified fighters were excluded."
The network's synopsis says that before Armstrong was engaged, "The ABC Sports (department's) investigation had uncovered false records in Ring magazine of some of the fighters who participated in the tournament and questionable payments by at least three fighters to gain entry into the tournament."
In that connection, Armstrong's report says, "The evidence shows that there is no basis to believe that ABC personnel engaged in any conscious wrongdoing in connection with the tournament.
"Nor have we found support for allegations that ABC personnel engaged in any effort to 'cover up' irregularities and wrongdoing relating to the tournament, or that ABC personnel are chargeable with gross negligence in the manner in which they responded to reports of problems with the tournament."