Are boxing matches fixed?
Of course they are.
You don't have to go to the fights to know that. All you have to do is watch "60 Minutes" on CBS-TV.
Last Sunday "60 Minutes" did a segment on the ring rise and fall of ex-New York Jet Mark Gastineau. The show was an embarrassment to a lot of people, including the Jets.
Gastineau KO'd one opponent after another. It looked as if he might be going somewhere.
The show interviewed one of Gastineau's supposed victims, a palooka who stood there on national TV and admitted: "It was strictly a fixed fight. I got $600 to take a dive."
When Gastineau finally met an opponent who knew how to fight, he was stopped in the first round.
The Gastineau piece was an interesting lead-in to the week of a heavyweight championship fight. Tomorrow night Evander Holyfield will risk his International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association titles against Michael Moorer in Las Vegas.
What was unsettling about "60 Minutes" was its revealing that six states have no boxing commission and its claim that many of the states that do have commissions "have very little control over what goes on."
What the devil is going on?
Doesn't Maryland have a commission? Are fights fixed here?
Is the Holyfield-Moorer fight fixed?
"Boxing has been crooked for 2,000 years," says feisty D. Chester O'Sullivan, chairman of the Maryland State Athletic Commission.
O'Sullivan is in his 35th year on the commission. At the age of 89, he recently has been appointed to another six-year term.
"When Lyndon Johnson was president," says O'Sullivan, "he asked me to become boxing's national chairman. I told him, 'Mr. President, do yourself a favor and forget the whole idea. If you create a national body to govern boxing, two years from now the sport will still be as crooked as ever.' "
"I don't see boxing the way '60 Minutes' sees it," says Al Flora, who has been in the game for a half-century as fighter, promoter and now member of the Maryland commission.
"I don't doubt the Gastineau thing, but there aren't many fights being fixed today. That was the old days.
"A ways back, a fight would be fixed and the fighter wouldn't know about it until he got in the ring. His manager might say to him, 'This isn't the fight we're worried about, Kid. The one we want is the next one.' Sometimes fighters made their own deals and the managers didn't know about it.
"But today? There's too much money at the top to fix this Holyfield fight."
Benny Alperstein, also a member of the athletic commission, is in the University of Maryland's Hall of Fame through his boxing exploits in the '30s.
"I saw '60 Minutes,' " says Alperstein. "Gastineau can't box a lick. Maybe he can fight, but he can't box. There's a difference. The only place I'd fight him is in the ring.
"I don't know of a single heavyweight title fight that was fixed. They talk about Jess Willard when he shaded his eyes from the sun against Jack Dempsey [in 1919]. They talk about Sonny Liston and the phantom punch against Muhammad Ali in Maine. That wasn't a fix. That was Liston's business.
"It's true that some states have no boxing commission. If they have no commission, they shouldn't have boxing."
Dennis Gring, the 43-year-old executive director of the Maryland commission, cites the case of a man who fought here not long ago.
"The guy was knocked out in the second round," says Gring. "The next night he fought in North Carolina and was knocked out in the first round.
"Each state has a different commitment to boxing. Maryland is more strict than most. We use Fight Fax, a computerized service that has the records of thousands of fighters going back for years. If a fight looks like a mismatch, it's no go. We want a fighter to leave here and go back to his family and have a nice life."
"We've disallowed a fight because a fighter came up with the wrong Social Security number," says Benny Alperstein.
Stu Satosky has been promoting fights in Baltimore for seven years, including a successful show last week at Martin's West that drew a standing-room-only crowd.
"Gastineau is a rare, isolated case," says Satosky. "I work with managers and promoters all over the country and I've never been approached about having a fighter lay down."
They had better not try it with D. Chester O'Sullivan around. The man puts up with no monkey business.
No nonsense. Abide by the rules. It's too bad all states aren't the same way.