By Jake Donovan
Promoter Leon Margules knew to expect immediate backlash from the moment he made the decision to pull Donovan George out of his scheduled fight from Librado Andrade.
That doesn’t make the veteran fight personality feel any different on the subject, even after having time to think about it since Saturday’s fallout.
“There is no reasonable standard under which a 15’ ring is accepted,” Margules insisted while explaining the reasons for telling his fighter to not go through with Saturday’s main event in Cozumel, Mexico. The decision was made mere hours before the fight, leaving the fans on hand – as well as both fighters involved – disappointed over the change in main events.
As this goes to print on Monday afternoon, Margules is still troubled over the thought of tears forming in George’s eyes when he was told that he wouldn’t be able to fight. Gone were month of training for what was undoubtedly the biggest opportunity of his young career to date, just for his trip to Mexico to turn into a full vacation, rather than being afforded the opportunity to mix business with pleasure.
The promoter is well aware that had he left it solely up to his fighter, that there would have been a fight that night. But he firmly believes that it’s his job as a promoter to protect his fighters in instances such as this, when he feels that his side isn’t being given a fair shake.
“We had a contract that says the fight would take place in a 20’ ring,” Margules told Boxingscene.com Monday morning. “When you have a contract from Golden Boy that says a 20’ x 20’ ring, you expect that to be the case when you show up to the venue. What can I do but protect my fighter?”
The bout was to decide a mandatory challenger for the alphabet title currently held by Lucian Bute. Andrade has already twice fought the Canadian, losing by a decision in Oct. ’08 and then by body shot knockout 13 months later. The Mexican also came up short in a title bid against Mikkel Kessler in March ’07, when both fighters were unbeaten.
George (22-1-1, 19KO) has never had the chance to fight for a major title. The closest he’s ever come was in his only career loss to date, dropping a technical unanimous decision against Francisco Sierra in a regional title fight last July.
The Chicago-based super middleweight has since won two straight to work his way into title contention. A win against Andrade would’ve given the 27-year old contender the opportunity of a lifetime and by far his biggest payday to date.
Suffice to say, nothing at all was gained by George being forced to pull out of the fight, a fact not lost on his promoter when deciding to pull the plug. There also wasn’t much to be gained by accepting the fight in Mexico, but a term to which George’s team agreed for the sake of avoiding a purse bid and further issues.
“We had no problem taking the fight in Mexico,” Margules states. “We did that because we didn’t want the fight to go to purse bids, where if I was outbid and they won, that we’d have no rights. We agreed to terms such as fighting in Mexico, just because I wanted other provisions in the contract. One of them being a 20’ ring, which is what Donovan prepared for while training for the past few months.”
The insistence by the local promoter working on behalf of – but not on orders from – Golden Boy Promotions was that it was the only ring available. They used the same ring for a media workout session earlier in the week, but didn’t reveal at the time it would be the same ring used on fight night.
A concession offered by the promoter was to adjust the ring – one foot. But doing so would have extended the ropes to the edge of the ring apron, thereby creating a safety hazard.
What wasn’t offered by anyone on hand was ownership in failing to live up to the contracted terms. This, more than anything else, is what troubled Team George, especially considering it was one of the few requests they made.
“They treated us well during our time there. They apologized,” Margules points out. “But somebody should be held accountable. If it was 18’ ring that was used, I’d have been disappointed, but would’ve still stood by and watch the fight happen. A 15’ ring isn’t anything other than a sparring ring. They’re big guys; even the ref (Earl Brown) is a big guy. That doesn’t leave any room for the fight.”
Those circumstances, left everyone without a fight, or at least the one the fans paid to see.
“Donovan is disappointed. Financially for me it was a disaster. I advanced him funds for the fight and have to make good on the purse. It wasn’t a good night for me financially, but I did what thought was best for my fighter. It wasn’t about this fight, but the payday for the next fight. It’s the next fight that changes his life. I did what I thought was right.”
All parties will now have to wait out whatever decision is made by the International Boxing Federation (IBF), who sanctioned the scheduled eliminator. It’s possible that George is dropped from the rankings since Andrade was the one willing to fight. There also stands to reason that since the agreed upon terms weren’t honored by the local promoter, the contract becomes null and void and a new eliminator is reordered by the New Jersey-based sanctioning body.
Whatever ruling is ultimately handed down, Margules firmly stands by the decision he made on Saturday and will do everything in his power to ensure that George is given another opportunity – whatever that may be – and under the fairest of terms.
“I haven’t been given a rational explanation as to why I should’ve let them fight. If I let them fight, it creates a situation where think they can abuse. It wasn’t easy, but I don’t regret the decision I made and would do it again in the same situation.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]