In many ways, I have a lot to learn about being a boxing writer. I am still a mere fledgling in the grand scheme. Try sitting next to Steve Kim at a fight and watching who texts or calls him before, during and after. Right now, I am learning how to be an investigator of not just what punches were thrown and why but something deeper, more insidious. I didn’t ask to be the PED guy. It kind of just happened.
A famous and more experienced person than me said told me something some weeks back in May, when all boxing hell had broken loose with Lamont Peterson and Andre Berto testing positive for synthetic testosterone and Nandrolone traces, respectively. He said, “When this is over and you stop writing for a while, the others won’t have anything to write about. At some point, when that happens, if you keep things rolling and keep breaking stories, you will become the story.”
The events of May 2012 and the week leading up to Sunday June 3, proved that person correct, I think. I don’t want to be the focus of this. For me, the whole thing is about fighter safety. The health and safety of each combatant is of the utmost importance to me. I want them in the best shape with the best, most even chance to win. I’ve written about mismatches and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). I’ve written about robberies. I have one coming up on Maurice Harris that I’ve been too busy to write. My track record is proven in this area. Like I said, I don’t want to be the focus of the combat sports drug war. I just want to get to the truth, put all those cards on the table and have a safer, cleaner sport for everyone involved.
But for this article (hopefully only for this article), I get to be a main character. Please indulge me and I will tell you a few stories that end with more questions than answers.
A Clarification of The Correspondence
The above link was the Monday night/Tuesday morning lead on Maxboxing.com, May 29. It capped a banner month for boxing that saw not one but two fighters test positive for banned substances and two highly-anticipated rematches fall by the wayside as a result. May 2012 could end up as the month boxing stopped hoping to clean itself up through extra drug testing and started acting.
The Correspondence has drawn a lot of assumptions. Allow me to clarify.
The story posted on Maxboxing.com somewhere around 10 p.m., PST on Monday evening, May 28. A lot of assumptions have been made of what are essentially PDFs of an email sent to me by Golden Boy Promotions’ lawyer Jeffrey Spitz and an email response sent from me via iPhone hours later. As you can see in the link, the only words that are written outside of those two PDFs are “My response later that day . . . .” (I screwed up the ellipsis). Before we get into events surrounding that story’s fallout, let’s take a look at the contents of the emails.
The first allegation made by Golden Boy against me was that they had “been advised that you have asserted to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that you have received information that Golden Boy attempted to obtain an agreement from Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (“VADA”) not to disclose a potential positive “B” Sample test until after the tested boxer participated in the scheduled fight. You further alleged that Golden Boy had entered into an agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) which contained such a provision.”
That is allegation number one. Is it true? Did I ask questions to various parties regarding information I received from various sources regarding the possibility that such a clause existed? Yes, I did. But not with the specifics Golden Boy’s lawyer provided in the letter.
The day I read the phrase “inadvertent use exemption” in this letter is, to my knowledge and memory, the first time I ever heard that phrase used. If anyone can produce tape or written proof of me using that term, I would be glad to listen to or see it and stand corrected.
Who did I ask about this? Not many people. One of those people is Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer. The conversation was in confidence as it obviously is of a serious nature. I asked him to not mention my name in conjunction with this information. When I received that legal letter, his name was the first that came to mind. I left him an admittedly angry voicemail demanding to know why he had betrayed my trust. Mr. Kizer has yet to return my call.
According to Rick Reeno, owner of www.boxingscene.com and this writer’s employer from May 18, 2012 to June 7, 2012, Kizer told him personally on the phone that he was the one who called Golden Boy and told them all about my inquiries. According to Reeno, Kizer feels I am a puppet for Dr. Margaret Goodman, President of VADA. He also feels, according to Reeno, that I am also the puppet of former BALCO owner and anti-doping activist Victor Conte. Also, according to Reeno, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer feels the same way too.
In fact, the first time I contacted Schaefer regarding the Lamont Peterson positive test, the first thing Schaefer said to me was, “I know you are friends with Dr. Margaret Goodman and (a name I won’t reveal) but I will talk to you.” At the time, it seemed odd since I had yet to connect the two people he met in the way he was implying. It also seemed odd that he would choose to mention two random people I know through boxing.
In truth, I have never met Dr. Goodman in person. I have interviewed her on a number of occasions. We don’t do lunch. We don’t grab drinks. We don’t call to chat idly. Ours is a friendly but professional relationship. I call her for interviews or information because the subjects of PEDs, testing and the health and safety of fighters are important to me. Dr. Goodman has knowledge on all three of these subjects.
Since Peterson first tested positive, Dr. Goodman and I have been in contact just a few times. In fact, I learned from several sources, none of whom were her, that she had been served a similar legal threat from Mr. Spitz. Rick Reeno obtained the documents through what he refers to as “a massive spy network.” It is of public interest to know who sent him the legal letters sent to my email and Dr. Goodman’s.
Was asking Kizer, or anyone for that matter, about the possibility of this clause the right thing to do? As I stated in my response, it is the role of a journalist to pursue stories that involve matters of public interest. According to Reeno, Kizer felt legally obligated to discuss it with Schaefer, who claimed I had never brought that question to him. Schaefer felt I should have. This was relayed to Reeno in what he described to me as an angry rant by Schaefer over the phone sometime between May 31 and June 1 about this writer following the release of The Correspondence.
In fact, I did ask Schaefer as well as Golden Boy employee Bruce Binko about this very issue on two separate occasions. At the Los Angeles press conference to announce the Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto fight, I asked Binko about it. The details of which are in my story Floyd Mayweather and the New Wave of Drug Testing in Boxing, posted on Maxboxing the Tuesday of the Mayweather-Cotto bout.
From the article:
There is also the question of when USADA would release the information. I asked Bruce Binko of Golden Boy, who is a key player in negotiating the anti-doping test contracts for their fighters, what would happen if someone tested positive. Would they wait to release the results or cancel the fight?
“I would love to answer that,” said Binko. “But that is something you would need to check with them about.”
“Who is ‘them’?” I asked.
“Who have you talked to,” asked Binko.
I indicated I had tried to talk in-depth with the Mayweather camp and USADA to no avail. At which point, Mr. Binko reiterated I had to get “their” clearance. It was never discovered who “they” were.
Following Lamont Peterson’s positive test, I called Schaefer initially that first day to get a statement. We had what I would describe as a heated but productive conversation. He was very emotional. He was particularly angry that he was not informed of the positive “A” sample and was even more upset that when the “B” sample was tested weeks later, he was not informed by VADA but by Mr. Kizer. He claims regardless of the allegedly unsigned agreement between his company and VADA, they had an obligation to inform him of the positive test results. VADA claims they did their job, which is to find banned substances in a fighter’s system, should they exist. That issue will likely be cleared up in court.
The second time I spoke with Schaefer, regarding the positive test of Peterson and its fallout, was later that week. This time, Schaefer was much calmer. I told Mr. Schaefer that something was bothering me. He seemed very upset with VADA over their handling of the positive results. Considering that Golden Boy had now been involved in seven fights with extra testing (three from USADA, three from VADA and one handled locally for the Devon Alexander-Lucas Matthysse fight), it seemed unusual that he would be so upset that someone had finally tested positive and a fight had to be canceled.
“What is the difference between your contingency plan with USADA and the one you have with VADA?” I asked.
Mr. Schaefer did not answer the question and what started as an amicable conversation became very tense.
I told Schaefer about my conversation with Binko and added, “Maybe you can answer.”
I finally asked an increasingly angry Schaefer, “I just want to know; what would happen if Berto or Ortiz tested positive? The contract agreement that was not signed in the Peterson case, have you fixed that problem with this VADA tested fight? What would have happened if Floyd or Cotto tested positive close to their fight the way Peterson did?”
Schaefer’s response was to tell me if I asked that question again or mentioned VADA to him again, he would hang up and never take my calls again. “It’s in the hands of our legal department now.” At the time, I did not understand what he meant by that comment.
I said, “Ok. Have a nice day,” and we bid each other a nice weekend as it was Friday.
The second and third allegations by Golden Boy to me: “You have also claimed that (i) Golden Boy entered into a contract with USADA for testing in connection with Floyd Mayweather’s fights which provided for an inadvertent use exemption that would permit a positive test to be excused if the result of inadvertent use; and (ii) that Mr. Mayweather had tested positive on three occasions which were excused under the inadvertent use provision.”
It should be noted that when I asked Keith Kizer if he had heard of a clause that would hold the results of a positive test until after the fight, that is how I described it, that simply. At the time, Kizer kept asking me, “Did you hear that from Dr. Goodman?” and then proceeded to assume I had. I told him, “No,” repeatedly but he didn’t seem to believe it. In my opinion, he did not seem to want to believe it. Later, I was told by multiple sources that he and Dr. Goodman do not get along, dating back to the mid-2000s when both worked for the Nevada Commission.
It should also be noted that Dr. Goodman, who for years wrote a column in The Ring magazine, was recently fired from that publication very quietly. Golden Boy Promotions owns that publication. Her columns were generally on important issues such as fighter health and safety. No official word has been given and Dr. Goodman has yet to inform me of this. Again, multiple sources informed me of this over the past few days. In my opinion, one can assume she was let go due to Golden Boy’s current issue with VADA. However, it should be noted that The Ring magazine has let a lot of staff go as of late as they are re-tooling the publication. A call to their Editor-in-Chief was not returned as of press time.
The allegation that I was running around spreading the rumor about Floyd Mayweather potentially testing positive on three occasions is interesting. I will not reveal if I heard this rumor before I read it in the letter or not. Rather, I ask these questions:
Where did Golden Boy hear this rumor? And from whom did they hear I was spreading it?
All week long since The Correspondence was published, there has been rampant speculation. Readers have asked me to produce the article where I accuse Floyd of testing positive three times. The truth is the article does not exist. The first place that I know of where the words and phrases “Floyd Mayweather,” “tested positive on three occasions” and “inadvertent use provision” appear together is in the letter Golden Boy Promotions’ lawyer sent to me.
Why did I print it? A few reasons. One, I believe in freedom of the press. I don’t believe the questions I am asking are wrong or inappropriate. I don’t approach my job with malicious intent. Because of Floyd Mayweather, Golden Boy now sits willingly on a platform of cleaning up boxing through better testing. That does not make them exempt from scrutiny nor does it make Mr. Mayweather or any athlete who decides to do extra testing free from scrutiny. In truth, what Mr. Mayweather or any other boxer undergoing extra testing is asking for is to be put under greater scrutiny than any other boxer in the sport. True Olympic-style testing (OST) is conducted 365 days a year with the possibility of being tested at any time during the 24-hour clock. USADA and VADA’s boxing testing programs last roughly 14-16 weeks during training camp and just after the fight itself. With the rest of the year untested for participants in boxing’s version of OST, questions should be asked. Proof should be given. In the world of anti-doping, transparency is key.
The second reason I released that letter is that I honestly felt a need to protect myself by being transparent about what was going on behind the scenes. It was not released in order to ruin Mr. Mayweather, USADA or Golden Boy’s reputations. There was no malice in releasing that information. The letter sent by Mr. Spitz, in my opinion, was an attempt to bully a member of the media into silence. We now see the results of that attempt.
In light of the events surrounding this story on Peter Quillin vs. Winky Wright and the aborted extra testing under USADA, I made my final decision to release The Correspondence. I stand by that decision.
On May 18, I tweeted that Andre Berto had tested positive for traces of Nandrolone. It was the second time I had tweeted that an athlete had tested positive for a banned substance in roughly a two-week span. The day before that, after a long courtship and a four-day negotiation period, I agreed to take over as the Los Angeles Contributing Editor for Boxingscene.com. The website, owned by Rick Reeno, gets more web traffic than any other site in the world dedicated to boxing (at least, that’s what Reeno often reminded me of). The deal worked out was for me to remain in my position at Maxboxing.com and continue all my duties there. At the same time, I would be handling all of Los Angeles for Boxingscene.com. Both sides agreed to share my services. It felt like the right move.
On one hand, I could write my long features for Maxboxing.com, a respected site with a long history. On the other, as I saw with the short brief Reeno wrote under my name from my tweets on Berto (I gave him permission to do that), Boxingscene.com would send whatever I wrote worldwide moments after I wrote it. That brief received, according to Reeno, close to 600,000 hits in just a few hours after going live. I had the best of both worlds.
Immediately, I noticed things were not good. Reeno called incessantly and wanted to gossip for hours on end. I had been warned about that and had experienced it before. I tried my best to keep things to myself.
A few days before I received Golden Boy’s legal threat, Reeno called me and said, “A top insider, who you know but don’t talk to, told me that ‘Hiring Montoya was a great move. He is sitting on the biggest story in sports and is going to break it.’”
This may or may not have been news to me. I am always working on four or five stories at once. In terms of my combat sports drug war coverage, that top story, in my opinion, could be any number of things I am researching. I told this to Reeno, who tried his best to get it out of me. It did not work.
“I just want you to break it on Boxingscene,” Reeno said.
I was noncommittal.
I made it plain to him when I was hired that he was not to repeat our conversations, tell people what I thought on any subject or use what I said to him as background. In my opinion, my trust was violated more than once. In our last conversation, early Wednesday, June 6, 2012, he informed me that two people, writers of his, told him what I had said regarding him at a fight in Carson, CA. Here is what I said.
When The Correspondence was released on Maxboxing.com, at first there was silence. Reeno called me and asked why I had released it. I told him to feel free to take the link and run it on Boxingscene if he felt it was newsworthy to do so. Maxboxing’s owners had no problems with me running the story. Reeno seemed concerned that I was making an enemy of Golden Boy Promotions.
On Friday June 1, 2012, I received a text from Reeno stating, “Schaefer was furious when I spoke to him. I think they are going to reinstate the dlh ban.”
“dlh” is Oscar De la Hoya, who had personally banned me from attending any Golden Boy event, receiving emails or credentials to fights or participating in conference calls open to all media. I was not allowed to attend the James Kirkland-Carlos Molina fight in March and a fight card in Anaheim the following week. I was told that De la Hoya threatened to fire employees if I so much as showed up to an event. Golden Boy never told me officially until I sat with Schaefer in his office a month later to work out the details of having it removed. I was informed by a source before they ever started denying me credentials that the ban was on. But attempts to find out if it was true from Golden Boy employees were met with silence.
Reeno explained that Richard Schaefer returned his call on Friday after ignoring his and every other Boxingscene writer’s calls for three days. That is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 writers getting ignored because Golden Boy had an issue with me and what I printed on Maxboxing.com. Schaefer, according to Reeno, was angry about my releasing the letter to the public. He felt betrayed after he had gone to Oscar and had my ban removed. However, our deal was for me to stop satirizing De la Hoya on Twitter. That was our handshake agreement and Oscar’s problem with me. Nowhere in our agreement was it said I could not investigate stories regarding Golden Boy and testing. In my opinion, Schaefer did not know I covered PEDs in boxing until the first time I called him about Lamont Peterson and his positive test.
Reeno informed me that Schaefer had set about ignoring Boxingscene for three days as a form of retribution for being associated with me. Remember, The Correspondence ran on Maxboxing.com, not boxingscene.com. Schaefer again, according to Reeno, vowed to never speak to me again and that no one at Golden Boy would ever speak to me. Schaefer apparently cited Boxingtalk.com owner and boxing adviser Greg Leon as an example of someone he made that promise to and kept it. Reeno asked Schaefer how that would work considering I was now his L.A. editor.
That is a very good question.
When Rick Reeno told me about this conversation, immediately I thought I was going to be fired on the spot. After all, it would be hard to get info from Golden Boy now that no one there was allowed to talk to me. That is true. However, there are a few people in this sport I don’t talk to and I still manage to do my job. I told Reeno I did not need to speak to Richard Schaefer to report on what Golden Boy is doing in regard to upcoming fights. But I got the sense that Reeno was considering letting me go. So I gave him options.
“If I was you,” I said, “I would tell Richard Schaefer that if you ever freeze me out like that again because of a problem you have with one of my writers, I will freeze you out.”
Reeno’s site has more traffic than any other site in the world, according to Reeno. If his site stopped covering Golden Boy, they’d surely survive but it would be significant, in my opinion. Mr. Reeno has bragged to me often over the years about the amount of traffic his site generates. I told him that now is the time to use that traffic as a weapon of defense against what I considered to be not-so-subtle bullying tactics by a promoter.
“The other option is to fire me,” I said, “but I have to warn you. If you fire me because a promoter made it clear he will make it hard for me to do my job effectively, I will write about it.”
This was the story I told that day at the fights in Carson.
Reeno said, “Well, let’s see how things play out.”
On June 3, just two days after that conversation, Reeno left me a voicemail. By his tone, I could tell I no longer was Boxingscene’s L.A. editor. Without listening to the remainder of it, I called him. He informed me that I was not a good fit for the job.
“You’re more of a feature writer,” he said.
Reeno offered to make me the “Friday night into Saturday” feature columnist. The salary we agreed upon would have to be negotiated down by more than half, according to Reeno. Those who understand the news cycle and traffic on the web know that Friday night going into Saturday is arguably the worst time to write anything. It’s the lowest tide for the internet. In my opinion, I was not being fired but rather silenced in a way that would leave Reeno safe from criticism.
Initially, I took the criticism that maybe I was not cut out to be his editor but I had been officially on the job three days. While I had begun working for Reeno on May 18, dropping in a couple news briefs and an interview with Schaefer as well as a piece on Bob Arum, we had verbally agreed my job didn’t truly start until June 1. We also agreed that I would write my PED stories on Maxboxing.com and keep everything on Boxingscene.com to straight “This fight is happening” news. That was fine by Reeno.
At the Carson fights, I was told by two of Reeno’s employees that one of them would handle the non-televised undercard and someone not inn attendance was handling the fight report. The card was a Golden Boy promotion. I had a seat in the back of press row, dead center. What this meant to me was that Golden Boy would not be banning me from events this time. But I could tell no one was going to be talking to me. As I said before, I don’t need to talk to them to effectively do the job I was hired to do.
I did my report for Maxboxing.com with the thought that while I was there to gather news briefs for Boxingscene.com, I was working for Maxboxing under their credential and everything was fine.
Apparently I was wrong. I have since vigorously declined Mr. Reeno’s offer.
Khan vs. Garcia Presser or Suppressor?
From the day VADA released a statement to Maxboxing.com and various news outlets regarding Richard Schaefer’s outrage that no one told him in time about Peterson testing positive (costing his company in the neighborhood of one million dollars), a quiet war has begun against VADA, in this writer’s opinion.
If you thought VADA (who helped not one but two Golden Boy fighters in Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz avoid getting in the ring with fighters who potentially had illegal substances in their systems within the span of a month) would be boxing’s testing agency of choice, you’d be wrong.
At the press conference to announce Ortiz vs. Josesito Lopez, Schaefer told me that while Wright and Quillin were not undergoing USADA testing (a then-false statement as Quillin and Wright gave samples that day and the next, respectively to USADA), “a deal to do future fights with USADA” was being worked out.
As I had been requested by Schaefer, on that day, I did not say the name “VADA” or ask what provisions had been worked out in the event of a positive drug test. Hours later, I would receive Mr. Spitz’s legal threat in my email inbox.
At this past Monday’s press conference to announce Amir Khan vs. Danny Garcia, Khan told me he would be undergoing USADA testing. When I first walked in, Maxboxing.com’s Radio Rahim, our on-camera reporter, informed me that Taz Khan, Amir’s PR manager, had shut down an interview that morning. Here is that video:
Knowing this and observing the watchful eyes of Golden Boy employee David Iskowitz, I decided against asking Khan, “Why not VADA?”
The question would be valid considering his statement in this article published in The Sun in which Khan stated:
“The drug test is in the contract. All my opponents from now on will have to take the tests or there is no fight.
“I signed up with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association before the Peterson fight and they have already asked me if I want to do more drugs testing and I have said yes.
“In fact, for everyone one of my bouts, there will be a clause in the contract to either agree or I will walk away. For every fight now, I am going to insist on drug testing.”
So why the change? I approached Asif Vali, who greeted me warmly, and asked him “What testing are you doing for this fight? Amir just said USADA.”
Asif honestly didn’t know if it was VADA or USADA. He asked Monica Sears, Golden Boy’s head of PR. She didn’t know but did not address me directly.
“David will know,” said Asif, and he proceeded to beckon to Iskowitz, who walked up quickly and stood between me and Vali, essentially ending the interview.
“Are we doing USADA?” Vali asked him. Iskowitz nodded “Yes” tersely but made a gesture in my direction, indicating to me that the interview and line of questioning were over. Iskowitz whispered something to Vali. I did not hear what it was but without ending our conversation, Vali and I stopped talking and I stepped away.
I asked a fan nearby who was watching if he’d seen what just transpired. He said he had and agreed it was odd.
Why is the promoter who committed to do extra drug testing for their fights so secretive about which agency they are using and why?
Why have the documents I requested in The Correspondence not been released?
Why would you not use VADA, which caught Lamont Peterson using synthetic testosterone on the first try with the first sample they collected and tested? That positive test essentially proved VADA’s theory that Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing as a screening tool will be highly effective.
Why stop that interview?
Why block me from asking questions that are pertinent to the issue at hand and asked in a reasonable and respectful fashion?
Mr. Vali had no problems answering my questions. Why deny him that right?
Why hasn’t anyone from Golden Boy responded to my legal response?
Why do they ban media but not tell them directly?
Is this a healthy practice for our sport?
Why did Golden Boy send me that legal threat?
Why did they use language and a rumor they heard- from some unknown source- I was spreading?
Does an inadvertent use exemption exist?
Is there a provision in the USADA contracts with Floyd Mayweather for his fights with Shane Mosley, Cotto and Ortiz allowing for a positive result to be held until after the fight?
I request the following to answer some of the above: If none of what I am being accused of alleging is true, let us see the contracts and test results in their entirety. I say to Golden Boy, USADA and Mr. Mayweather: Release the contracts and every document connected to the testing in the Mosley, Ortiz and Cotto fights. Every email discussing it, every memo, every contract, every test result from the UCLA Olympic Testing lab should be released in order to clear the issues at hand. The process should be very simple and, following that process, all speculation will likely go away.
In the end, the simple question “Did any of the samples taken from Floyd Mayweather Jr. by USADA test positive?” should have a simple “Yes” or “No” answer with ample evidence as support.
On Twitter late last night, @VictorConte asked @FilipinoFlash (that’s Top Rank fighter Nonito Donaire, to the rest of you) and his lovely wife, Rachel (@KnockoutQueen), “Which anti-doping program do you plan to use in the future? Boxing deserves more effective testing.”
@FilipinoFlash responded, “vada all day.” And in his next tweet, said, “we need the most comprehensive testing 24 hours 7 days a week 365 days a year.”
As I tweeted to Donaire last night, those could be the tweets that save VADA. In this writer’s opinion, that is imperative.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.