I always thought of Keith Kizer as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan or George Clooney as Batman.
You know. Miscast in an important role.
Kizer on Friday resigned as executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, saying it was time for him to return to his job as an attorney.
He was hired as executive director in 2006.
I’m not sure he ever fit the position or it him.
It didn’t help that he was Gene Bartow following John Wooden, that he was Ray Perkins following Bear Bryant.
Kizer replaced Marc Ratner as executive director, the latter a man who held the spot for 14 years and who understood the role like a veteran Italian chef might the exact spices that make for a great sauce.
Ratner knew best that as executive director, one must wear many hats, that you are owner, general manager, coach and beat writer all rolled into one. It is a job that has become as much about public relations and cultivating personal connections with promoters and fighters as it is developing a culture of safety and fairness.
Kizer seemed to struggle with these truths.
He really struggled with the part about cultivating relationships.
I would assume he was the smartest guy in most rooms he walked into during his tenure. Problem was, Kizer acted like it.
But smart people ask questions to answers they don’t know.
I’m not sure how many questions Kizer ever asked.
I’m not sure how often he admitted to things he didn’t know much about.
There was an arrogance to his decision making, a smugness to how he went about continuing to assign judges to more major fights after they had failed miserably in scoring previous ones.
In this realm, however, the commission too must be assigned great blame for not debating Kizer’s choices more. It rubber-stamped most of what Kizer brought forth and then threw him under the bus following the C.J. Ross judging disaster that were her scorecards for the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley and Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez fights.
Kizer and the commission perpetuated what many have believed to be true for years, that in not broadening the scope when searching for and assigning competent referees and judges, the “good ol’ boys network” of Nevada was alive and well.
Here’s the thing: Kizer did a more-than-admirable job in important matters such as generating financial success for boxing and mixed martial arts in Nevada, and pushing for stricter drug-testing protocols and tightening safety regulations.
All good stuff. In terms of health and safety for fighters, Kizer was terrific.
But the public, above all, needs to trust what it’s watching. Kizer thought his way of choosing officials was best, refusing to be more open-minded about the process. It stained his tenure and angered major players within boxing and MMA.
You don’t have to be, as an executive director, best friends with the Bob Arums or Dana Whites of the world. But you need to have good working relationships with them. You aren’t beholden to their every request, but it’s important the lines of communication always are open.
It’s the same when dealing with media. I would assume Kizer would resemble a confident, comfortable, extremely competent professional in a courtroom. But the world of combat sports is hardly your everyday chamber of mahogany desks and railings.
Being an executive director means getting along with people, even those you might not admire or care for much.
If anything, Kizer’s tenure should give the commission, assuming it’s willing to open its collective mind about changing how things are done, a blueprint for who to seek next.
Short of convincing Ratner to return to the position — I’m guessing those at Zuffa understand his value to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and don’t intend on losing him — someone with a deep knowledge of athletics should hold the executive director’s job.
Someone who understands the importance of consistently holding clinics and seminars to better train and produce capable officials.
Someone with an open mind.
Someone who accepts that being close to fighters and promoters and refining those relationships doesn’t mean it comes with sacrificing one’s integrity or honor.
Keith Kizer resigned from a position Friday that he at times struggled to understand and will return to one in which he owns a high level of expertise. He never received a raise above cost of living as the executive director, but you have to believe that won’t continue as an attorney.
Good for him. It should prove beneficial for all involved.
But he never fit as executive director.
He was Vince Vaughn playing Norman Bates.
Miscast from the opening bell.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.