Ring Magazine Scandal
Promoter Don King went to ABC Sports in 1976 and sold the network on a tournament, the United States Boxing Championships. King intended to capitalize on the patriotism surrounding the United States Bicentennial and the American amateur success at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. The tournament would begin in January 1977 and would crown U.S. champions in eight weight divisions. ABC agreed to finance the tournament with an investment $1.5 million and committed 23 hours of national broadcast time to televise it over six months. The Ring was paid a fee of $70,000 in exchange for providing special ratings of just U.S. boxers, from which the tournament participants would be selected.
It was later established that as a precondition, any boxer invited to participate had to sign a contract giving King an option on three fights should he win the tournament. It was also established that King paid John Ort, the editor at The Ring in charge of the ratings, $5,000 in cash. Subsequently, Ort would falsify records and inflate the rankings of at least eleven fighters in order for them to gain entry into the tournament. The 1977 Ring Record Book contained the fictitious additions to the records of the boxers in question and were never changed. The dubious bouts would continue to appear in subsequent Ring Record Book editions.
There were also charges that fighters had to pay kickbacks to get into King's tournament. The manager of one participant alleged that he was forced to kickback 40% of his boxer's purse.
Eight middleweights were invited to participate, but they didn't include Marvin Hagler. However, three boxers Hagler had defeated were invited to take part. Hagler later charged that he was blacklisted because he refused a demand to hire King associates Paddy Flood and Al Braverman as his managers. Flood and Braverman were also paid $20,000 each to help administer the tournament and act as consultants.
King picked some unusual locations for some of the fights, including a U.S. aircraft carrier anchored in the waters off Florida, the U.S. Naval Academy campus, and a prison, the Marion Correctional Institution. Not only were the locations unusual, but, coincidentally, they were outside the jurisdiction of state boxing commissions.
Underground boxing scribe Malcolm "Flash" Gordon and ABC associate producer Alex Wallau uncovered the shady dealings and encouraged the network to cancel the entire deal. ABC terminated the tournament on April 10, 1977.
The Ring would clean house after the scandal, but no one associated with the fraudulent tournament was ever prosecuted. As a result of The Ring's loss of credibility, the television networks had no choice but to rely on the ratings of the WBA and WBC, thus increasing the power and influence of the sanctioning bodies.
Some of the boxers who participated in the tournament and were given inflated records were:
- Donald (Biff) Cline - given five first-round knockouts in 1976
- Mike Colbert - given three wins in 1976
- Paddy Dolan - given four wins in 1975
- Ike Fluellen - given two wins in Mexico in 1976
- Anthony House - given seven wins in 1975 and 1976
- Hilbert Stevenson - given five wins and a draw with House in 1976
- Four other boxers in the tournament—Greg Coverson, Vonzell Johnson, Floyd Mayweather and Richard Rozelle—were credited with a total of 11 fake wins in 1975 and 1976