Two-time world champion Joey Gamache is victorious in his ten-year legal battle against the New York State Athletic Commission. After a five-day trial, Court of Claims Judge, Melvin Schweitzer released his verdict late last week. In a 47-page decision, he held that the NYS Athletic Commission was negligent by failing to carry out their duties and responsibilities by conducting an improper weigh-in of Arturo Gatti and in allowing him to exceed the 141 pound limit at the weigh-in held on February 25, 2000.
Videotape evidence played during the trial of the weigh-in showed then-Commissioner Melville Southard and then-Executive director Tony Russo conducting the weigh-in. The Gamache camp had concern over these two individuals conducting the weigh-in because Bob Duffy, the then-Director of Boxing, who had conducted over 3,000 weigh-in in New York and usually oversaw weigh-ins, was unexplainably replaced by Russo, who lacked experience in conducting weigh-ins. The weigh-in for Oscar De La Hoya, the next night’s co-main feature, was also in dispute, as opponent Derrell Coley and his trainer Leonard Langley protested that De La Hoya did not make weight, but was given a pass by Russo. While Southard offered Coley a re-weigh of De La Hoya, he did not offer such remedial measure to Gamache minutes later.
The videotape shows that once Arturo Gatti stepped on the scale, the needle rose to the top of the beam indicating that he was heavier than the 141 pounds the scale had been set to. With Southard looking on and mere inches from the scale, Russo was seen touching the scale, moving the counter-weight to a heavier position past the pre-set weight of 141 pounds. When what did not settle the needle, Gatti was told to raise his arms, which caused the needle to bounce up and down. It was at that point, while the needle was still in motion, that his weight was called as 141 pounds. Gatti stepped off the scale, immediately began drinking fluids and quickly left the weigh-in room.
The trainer and manager of Joey Gamache immediately raised a protest to Commission members Southard and Russo and pleaded for a re-weigh of Gatti. Their requests were denied. In fact, Russo responded with the choice words of “Shut the fuck up” and “Stop stirring up shit.”
The Commission’s conduct set the stage for a junior welterweight to battle a middleweight. The very next evening, a few hours before the bout, an unofficial weigh-in was conducted that showed that Arturo Gatti weighed an astounding 160 pounds. Gamache was subsequently knocked down twice in the first round, and knocked out in the second round, taking several long minutes before he regained consciousness.
In holding the NYS Athletic Commission negligent, Judge Schweitzer ruled that the manner in which the weigh-in was conducted was equivalent to a “fast shuffle,” that Gatti was given “a pass” and that the Commission was “lax” and “violated their duty of care” to Gamache. He went on further to deem the ‘explanation’ offered at trial by the Commission through the testimony of Southard, as to why Russo was touching the scales during the Gatti weigh-in, to be contradicted by credible evidence and gave it no weight or credit.
He went on to hold that although they were negligent, he would not be awarding Joey Gamache monetary damages because it was unclear if the negligence and excess weight of Gatti was a substantial contributing factor in the overly lop-sided knockout and subsequent injuries sustained by Joey Gamache.
Upon hearing the verdict Joey Gamache said, “I am truly gratified that we officially proved that we had alleged all along. The State was negligent, which they’ve denied for the last 10 years. They allowed for an unfair fight to take place. End of story. It’s never been about the money.”
“While we succeeded,” Gamache continued, “It’s troubling that negligence has been proven, with no punishment being given out. My hope is that my pain and suffering, might have some greater purpose. If it can effect change, so that fewer boxers are not unnecessarily endangered, then this was by far the greatest victory of my life.”
Gamache’s attorney Keith Sullivan of Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP said “Joey’s reaction speaks to the integrity and honor of him, and laid out exactly what this case really meant to him. It was never about the money with Joey. And believe me, for most people it is. For 99.9% of them it is only about the money, I am proud of Joey for his bravery and courage to stay the course the past 10 years in this legal battle against the powerful NYS Athletic Commission. People will look at Joey as a former two-time World Champion and fighter who stood up to the NYS Athletic Commission. That’s going to be his legacy. He came out a champion once again.”
Attorney Lou Fasulo, who assisted Keith Sullivan in the trial, stated, “While we respect the Court’s decision on the damages aspect, we opine that there was more than sufficient evidence to send the commission a clear message that true champs like Joey expect the regulations to be enforced to insure the integrity of the sport and the safety of boxing. The true tragedy here in the decision is it fails to hold penalties for such violation and therefore lacks the muster to insure that the injustice here not be repeated.”
Joey Gamache retired with a professional record of 54-4 with 38 knockouts. Currently, he is training amateur and professional fighters in New York City.