Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is the biggest name in boxing, but is he bigger than the Nevada Athletic Commission?
At 37, Mayweather is undefeated and one of the greatest earners in Las Vegas history. Forget Hagler and Holmes. When it comes to packing the house, Mayweather ranks with Sinatra and Elvis. Add his Showtime stardom and pay-per-view popularity and new media omnipresence — he has 5.35 million Twitter followers — and there’s no one bigger on the Strip.
It’s undisputed that Mayweather’s a huge draw. But that shouldn’t mean he rates a pass from the athletic commission in the wake of civil allegations that he forced an amateur fighter at his gym to suffer abuse during a sparring session that included a 31-minute round against pro boxer Donovan Cameron. The commission, after all, is duty bound to enforce boxing regulations in the state.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 16 in District Court on behalf of former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman’s sons, amateur fighters Hasim Rahman Jr., 23, and Sharif Rahman, 18, alleging battery, tortious assault, false imprisonment, unjust enrichment and negligence in hiring, training and supervision.
The challenge for all parties is this: The incident was included in a Sept. 6 episode of Showtime’s “All Access” program in the run up to Mayweather’s Sept. 13 fight against Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand, the casino resort that has figured so heavily in the champion’s rise and reign.
On the show, Mayweather mugged for the camera and said, “Guys fight to the death. It’s not right, but it’s doghouse rules.” The lawsuit states that Mayweather “refers to certain sparring matches at the Mayweather Boxing Club as the “Dog House” and that in the Dog House, “rules are you fight til (sic) whoever quits.”
Subpoenaed by the commission, Mayweather on Sept. 23 testified that the Showtime “All Access” segment was faked in an attempt to boost pay-per-view sales. It wouldn’t be the first time a TV segment was overhyped in an effort to boost a boxing event, right?
But Mayweather’s not just any fighter. He’s a megastar, a promoter, and gym operator and a pugilist whose clout in the fight game is unquestioned. The truth about the show shouldn’t be difficult to find.
But speaking of unquestioned, for some reason the commission failed to put the boxer under oath prior to his September testimony. Nor did it put Mayweather under much pressure. Commissioners Bill Brady and Pat Lundvall rose to the controversial champion’s defense. As the founder of Brady Industries, which does plenty of business on the Strip, Commissioner Brady certainly understands the importance of Mayweather’s marketing magic to the bottom line.
As part of the state’s Department of Business and Industry, the commission has always been challenged to balance the regulation of the sport with the promotion of it. This is one of those times regulation must trump promotion.
During the marathon sparring round, the lawsuit alleges, “At one point, a bystander just told Sharif to just leave the ring, as he could no longer compete with Mr. Cameron.
“Defendant Mayweather responded by telling Mr. Cameron and others that if Sharif left the ring to beat his ass outside the ring.
“Sharif feared for his safety and was forced to continue to fight.”
The good news is, this might all be able to be cleared up by subpoenaing the tape of the “All Access” segment. If it reflects the facts as Mayweather’s already rendered them, the matter’s closed.
From Mayweather’s perspective, it also would throw water on that lawsuit, and he’d be able to return to big business as usual.
The trouble, of course, is what might happen if witnesses and tape don’t corroborate the champion’s testimony.
Under the leadership of Chairman Francisco Aguilar, the athletic commission needs to act quickly and speak with authority.
After all, more than “Money” Mayweather’s financial health is at stake.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.