Unfair regulations irk boxing promoter

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

RAMA - Another professional boxing card in Ontario and another boxing promoter on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

By most accounts, Saturday night's fight card at Casino Rama was a success. Not all the fights were great, but the main event, featuring world ranked cruiserweight Troy Ross of Brampton, was action-filled and entertaining.

Still, when it was all over, the card's promoter Robert Waterman found himself ready to howl at the moon in frustration. Leading up to the event, as he worked to put the show together, Waterman told the Toronto Sun that he was close to flipping out.

The province's boxing commissioner Ken Hayashi, Waterman said, was making his life a living hell -- a complaint heard, unfortunately, virtually every time a fight promoter puts on a show now in Ontario. The Sun wrote a piece following a pro event in April at the Royal York Hotel, outlining how the promoter of that show, Jim Gentle, nearly went mad as a result of Hayashi's suffocating regulating style.

And now this.

"I've never had an experience like that before," said the U.K. based Waterman, who has put on pro cards all over the world, including England, the Czech Republic, Monaco and the Ukraine. "I've worked with many commissions and I'm convinced that this is the most severely regulated commission in the world. And I'm not against heavy regulation. The British Boxing Board is very strict. But they're logical, and they have in the mind an interest to support boxing."

It's the same old refrain. Promoters in Ontario complain long and loud that Hayashi is killing them with unfair and unreasonable regulations.

In Waterman's case, Hayashi turned down Ross' opponent for the 10-round main event, the Montreal-based fighter Carl Handy, who was a respectable 24-7-2 leading into Saturday's fight with the 23-2 Ross -- despite the fact that Handy was licensed by the Quebec commission and had passed his medicals there. For reasons not quite understood by Waterman, Hayashi wouldn't accept the Quebec commission's findings that Handy was fit.

"I've never heard that in my life, other than sometimes when tests come in from Africa," said Waterman.

Because he did not want the main event to die, and leave Casino Rama in a lurch, Waterman flew up Florida-based fighter Akinyemi Laleye at the last minute to replace Handy. But then the Ontario commission decided to approve Handy.

"Handy wasn't approved until 5 p.m. the day before the fight," said Waterman, who ended up paying Laleye a booking fee and a percentage of his purse not to fight.

And that was just one of Waterman's many problems, most of which he didn't want to get into because, despite his best judgement, he hopes to promote another show in this province.

"I was angry," said Waterman. "But I don't give up."

Ross' personal promoter, Yvon Michel of Montreal, one of the leading boxing promoters in North America, wrote a letter of support to Waterman leading up to the card to express his deep frustration at what he calls Hayashi's refusal to deal with promoters in a reasonable way.

"Everyday Robert was calling me and telling me how difficult it was," said Michel, a former Canadian Olympic team coach. "He came to near a breakdown at one point, saying I'm not going to do it anymore, it's too difficult."

Michel said there is no reason why Ontario can't have great boxing shows the way Quebec has now, such as the Dec. 18 card in Quebec City featuring world WBC light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal facing fight legend Bernard Hopkins -- a show that Michel originally wanted to bring to Toronto but could not make it happen with Hayashi in charge.

"I don't say Ken's a bad person, but I don't think he likes boxing," said Michel. "So he doesn't care. He's in the position where he has a huge impact on boxing, but he doesn't care."

Again, a refrain heard after virtually every fight card in Ontario.

A call to Hayashi on Sunday wasn't returned.

Like Waterman, Michel said that from all he's seen and heard, there is no commission in the world as difficult to deal with as Ontario's, and that's what has almost killed the sport here.

"I've worked with the British Board of Control and the New York (Commission). They are strict, but they help you. They don't try to go outside the rules, but they help you to facilitate your job as a promoter. And here it seems Ken Hayashi, on the contrary, is putting road block after road block after road block. Which is incomprehensible," said Michel.

Michel believes that the excitement and anticipation felt by mixed martial arts fans in this province, now that that sport is legal here, may turn out to be just wishful thinking because both he and Waterman believe that there's no way an outfit like the UFC will put up with what the boxing people have had to in Ontario.

"If Ken is working with the same rules, his own rules, for MMA, that he's doing for boxing, there will never an MMA fight in Ontario. Never, ever," said Michel.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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