Promoter Testifies At IBF Trial
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Boxing promoter Bob Arum told a jury Tuesday he is testifying about payoffs to IBF founder Robert W. Lee because he felt ``it was time to do what I could to end the corruption in boxing.″
Arum, a federal prosecutor in the early 1960s, said he spoke to federal prosecutors and FBI agents without a lawyer and voluntarily testified before the grand jury that indicted Lee and three other IBF officials on racketeering and other charges.
The operator of Top Rank Inc., second only to Don King among boxing promoters, said he did not seek immunity regarding a deal he made to pay Lee $200,000 for a special exemption to sanction the 1995 George Foreman-Axel Schulz fight.
Two prior witnesses against Lee have testified that they have immunity: longtime IBF ratings chairman C. Douglas Beavers, who said he received many of the payoffs; and Colombian boxing manager Ivan Feris Chadid, who said he regularly paid bribes to get good rankings for about a dozen South American fighters.
In the early 1990s, Arum was promoting heavyweight champion Foreman and needed an exemption because the IBF could take Foreman’s belt since Schulz was unranked.
Foreman personally selected the German fighter as his opponent and relinquished his WBA title by not fighting their leading contender, Arum testified.
Arum said he ultimately paid only $100,000 because he was told certain things from Foreman and Foreman lawyer Henry Holmes.
Arum was not immediately permitted to say they told him that Foreman paid an unidentified IBF official $250,000 through another promoter, Butch Lewis, because of a ruling Tuesday by Judge John Bissell.
Bissell barred that information but said Arum could return to the stand if prosecutors lay a foundation through other testimony or evidence.
Lewis is not on the prosecution’s witness list, but Foreman is, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Sierra told the judge. No decision has been made on whether to call Foreman, he said.
Sierra also told the judge that in a meeting with prosecutors, Foreman said he participated in a three-way phone call with Lee and Lewis on Feb. 1, 1995, shortly before the IBF sanctioned the fight.
Another Foreman lawyer, Lawrence Wechsler, observed Tuesday’s testimony. Outside court, Wechsler said Lewis got $250,000 regarding a consulting agreement.
Foreman ``never believed that that money was a payoff″ and does not know if it went to the IBF, Wechsler said.
The IBF sanctioned the fight, and Foreman defeated Schulz on April 22, 1995, in a disputed split decision.
The $100,000 payoff, and a similar sum that prosecutors say another promoter, Cedric Kushner, paid for the IBF to mandate a Foreman-Schulz rematch, are the largest in the indictment against Lee and other IBF officials. They are charged with taking $338,000 to rig IBF rankings and grant favors.
Foreman vetoed the rematch and relinquished the IBF belt. He also testified before the grand jury that indicted Lee.
The rankings and sanctions granted by the IBF, as one of the world’s three major sanctioning bodies, play a big role in determining a boxer’s purses and opponents.
The groups now get 3 percent of a boxer’s title fight purse in return for their approval.
Arum made no secret of his distaste for such fees.
``A $200 belt with a $400,000-$500,000 sanctioning fee _ that’s a real trade-off,″ he said sarcastically.
Foreman has twice delayed paying the IBF all of its requested sanctioning fees, said Arum, who began his 35 years in boxing as Muhammad Ali’s promoter.
Lee and his son, Robert Jr., 38, are the only defendants on trial. They face multiyear prison terms if convicted of conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and tax charges.
Former IBF championship committee chairman Bill Brennan, 86, past president of the U.S. Boxing Association, a group that became the IBF, was severed from the trial because of ill health.
The IBF’s South American representative, Francisco ``Pacho″ Fernandez of Colombia, remains at large.
The Lee trial is in its ninth week and is expected to last about two more months. In the meantime, a court-appointed monitor is overseeing the IBF.