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Everything began on a positive note for the “out of town opponents,” as the airline flight arrivals went smoothly. Poul Gaardbo was punctual and efficient, as usual, greeting the visitors and making them feel welcome. He made several trips on Wednesday, February 10, between the airport and hotel, making sure everyone was comfortable. A fitness center was available, within the hotel, and a proper scale to check weight. The hotel staff was superb and friendly, answering questions and going out of their way to make sure everyone was accommodated. Neils Krabbe was especially helpful in handling a few minor problems and was much appreciated. He even went out of his way to add to Dennis Black’s, (American manager of Jimmy Hagar), son’s coin collection.
The weather was very cold but the visitors didn’t have to venture out too often or far. There was a large indoor mall nearby and several great pastry shops. A 7-11, around the corner, provided twenty-four hour convenience. The weigh-in was handled properly on February 11, no one had any problems with weight. There was one disappointment as local star Fredrik Alvarez was left without an opponent and did not fight.
The only major problem during the entire trip was the deliberately dishonest and horrendous job of officiating by hometown referee Freddy Christiansen. He should be permanently banned from boxing, as he will single handily undermine and destroy the fine promotions of Mogens Palle. His name is already infamous around the world and his “protection” of the Danish fighters is not needed, as the Danish have fine fighters.
The evening began with a great light heavyweight brawl between transplanted Cuban Ivan Camacho and Cleveland, Ohio’s Larry Prather. During the first round Prather was hit extremely low and Camacho was properly warned. However, Prather was not allowed to recover–he could have had up to five minutes, but the referee forced him to continue boxing immediately. The fight was exciting, and featured several crisp exchanges, which made the crowd roar. Suddenly, a left, right combination and Camacho was down and in trouble. He survived only to deck Prather with another hard, blatant low punch. As Prather fell, clutching his groin, the referee moved in with one finger raised and everyone thought he was taking a point from Camacho. Incredibly, he continued, “two, three…,” to the mandatory eight calling it a knockdown against Prather, and then took a point, calling it a foul! How could the same low punch be called both a knockdown and a foul? Prather, upon rising from the low blow, and in pain, saw Camacho swarm in trying to end the fight and land two more low blows in the process. Hurt and shaky from the South of the Border tactics, Prather reached for Camacho to tie him up and fell forward as Camacho pulled back. A punch was not thrown, but referee Freddy Christensen had seen enough and called the fight off, signaling a fourth round KO for Camacho. It was especially sad for Prather, as he trained hard for this fight and had dedicated it to the memory of his mother, who had died. What was also sad was the fact that the fans had been treated to four rounds of exciting boxing and then were deprived of the final two rounds without the opportunity to see who the real winner would be. What was equally surprising was the decision of the Danish Boxing Commission President, Jorgen Huusom, M.D. It was requested that the fight be ruled a “no contest” and a rematch ordered. Huusom said, “Camacho should have been disqualified by the referee, but since he was not, the KO stands. “I cannot overrule the judgement of the referee.” There was no “judgement” here, only a blatant and deliberate disregard for the rules of boxing.
This bout started a chain reaction for the evening, as Dennis Black, manager of undefeated (14-0) Jimmy Hagar, was scheduled to have a showdown with undefeated (11-0) Dane, Rudy Markussen. Black said he would not allow his fighter to enter the ring unless he had a different referee. He told the commission he had no idea of the local rules and wanted to know what they were, “a standing eight count? Three knockdown rule, etc.? He was told, “I don’t know, it depends on the referee.” At that point, the entire show was in jeopardy, as no one wanted to fight under those circumstances. The Danish Commission reluctantly agreed to allow a Finnish referee to work the Hagar/Markussen fight and it was acceptable with Black.
Later, as American Henry Hughes entered the ring to fight Frank Olsen, Freddy Christiansen was in the ring as referee and Hughes’s lead cornerman, Mike LaQuatra, threatened to pull out. Christiansen went over and told him, “This time I’ll do a good job,” with a smile on his face. He was told he better or he would be in trouble. He did.
As stated previously, the Danish have good fighters, Robert Mittleman, U.S. agent, does an excellent job of matchmaking, and Mogens Palle and his staff do an excellent job of promoting. The country of Denmark is very accommodating, and the people friendly and helpful. They don’t need to have this destroyed by dishonest officials. The fans know it and as foreign fighters find out, the good fighters won’t go, only inept opponents looking for a payday, not a fight, will show up. This will destroy boxing in Denmark, who must import fighters.
I must say, other than the problems stated above, everything else was great. Jesper Jensen not only retained his title, but celebrated the birth of his son, David, on the morning of his fight. Mikkel Kessler (10-0), was very impressive stopping Jaime “Rocky” Balboa (64-26-1). Kessler will develop into a genuine star, as he is one of the greatest prospects in boxing today. The other local fighters all were impressive with victories and look forward to bigger and better things. Heavyweights Brian Nielsen and “Hurricane” Peter McNeeley treated the fans to three rounds of excitement as McNeeley showed tremendous heart and courage before finally succumbing to a third round TKO. It must be noted that American referee, Wayne Kelly, did an excellent job in the IBC title fight (Jensen vs. Luna). The final fight of the night, Jimmy Hagar vs. Rudy Markussen, was one of the best, with Markussen winning a six round split decision. A first round knockdown of Hagar being the difference in an otherwise even contest, Markussen winning the first three rounds (closely), and Hagar winning the last three (handily). There was also an exciting female bout between England’s Michele Sutcliffe and local Sengul Ozokcu. Sutcliffe received the short end of a poor decision, and the local fans booed loudly. Sutcliffe thought she won the first five rounds and lost the last round, but said she “rather expected the decision to turn out like it did.”
One of the highlights of the trip was a fine meal at the “Cafe Parisien,” down the street from the Radisson SAS Falconer. The food was delicious, service excellent, as was the waiter, who translated the menu into English for us. The cost was reasonable. This restaurant is highly recommended. We wish continued success to Mogens Palle and the Danish fighters, but hope the commission and officiating problems get cleaned up. Mogens, “Thank you!”