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Former Boxer Details Scam

Torres elaborates in a letter from prison how a 2002 fight in Anaheim allegedly was fixed in his favor.

March 18, 2004|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

A former light-heavyweight boxer and convicted murderer at the heart of a federal boxing investigation has offered new details about what he claims was a fixed fight in the Arrowhead Pond in 2002.

In a letter written from his prison cell and dated March 3, Joey Torres claimed he was assured well in advance that his opponent that night, Perry Williams, would take a dive and that they rehearsed the knockout punch.

Torres also wrote that he informed the fight's matchmaker he might not pass the physical exam because he suffered from hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver, and had only 20/400 vision.

The matchmaker, Sean Gibbons, told him: "not to worry, I'll take the tests for you," Torres said.

Gibbons is one of several boxing executives who worked for promoter Bob Arum and are being investigated by the FBI. He was fired shortly after federal agents searched Arum's Top Rank offices in Las Vegas in January.

"If Mr. Torres ever makes an accusation like this in a court of law, I'll look forward to cross-examining him," Gibbons' attorney, David Z. Chesnoff, told Associated Press.

A source close to the investigation said authorities believed the knockout was choreographed and Torres had hepatitis.

The new allegations were contained in a five-page letter sent to The Times nearly two years after the April 2002 fight.

At that time, Torres was making an unusual comeback. A promising amateur boxer, he had been serving time for a 1979 murder conviction and had gained his freedom, claiming a legal error, after 23 years in prison.

Top Rank agreed to promote him and arranged for Williams to be his first opponent.

According to Torres, things began to go wrong soon after.

When Gibbons told him the fight was fixed, he began training on cognac and cola. The matchmaker later informed him, "your blood test is fixed, your eye exam is fixed," Torres wrote.

Dean Lohuis, chief inspector for the California State Athletic Commission, told AP that records show blood tests were submitted under Torres' name four days before the fight, as were subsequent physical and neurological exams.

Torres described the fighters' meeting in a hotel suite on the morning of their bout: "After all the furniture was moved, Mr. Gibbons then showed my opponent from which punch he should fall, and when."

Also present was a man known as Big Frankie, whom Torres had introduced as a cousin. In fact, by that time Torres was cooperating with federal investigators and Frank Manzione was an undercover agent.

FBI officials had no comment. As a matter of policy, they do not confirm the identity of informants, let alone any information provided.

That night, Williams knocked down an overweight Torres early in the first round but threw few punches thereafter. The crowd chanted "WWF, WWF" as Torres eventually won by knockout in the second round.

State boxing officials investigated the fight but said they could not find evidence of a fix.

Less than six months later, Torres' appeal to remain free was denied and he was returned to prison.

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