IBF's President Takes Leave


IBF president Robert Lee Sr. has taken a leave of absence from the group he founded so he can defend himself against charges he took bribes to rig boxing rankings.

The IBF hopes the move will persuade federal prosecutors to drop attempts to install a court-appointed monitor for one of the sport's major governing bodies.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Braunreuther, lead prosecutor in the effort to get a monitor, had no comment.

"We'll respond in court," he said.

Lee offered to stay on leave until the charges are resolved. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 11 but most likely will start later in the year.

The 65-year-old Lee noted he has a heart condition and complications from diabetes. He said he could not wage a defense and "continue to give the IBF the time and attention it deserves from its president and commissioner."

The IBF said its executive committee unanimously accepted Lee's offer and appointed one of its vice presidents, Hiawatha Knight of Detroit, to serve as president during Lee's absence.

The retired gym teacher and high school athletic coach was a member of the Michigan State Athletic Boxing Commission from 1978 to 1988, the last eight years as chairwoman.

A message left for Knight at the IBF's headquarters in East Orange, N.J., was not immediately returned Monday.

The IBF took the actions Dec. 7, but made no announcement until Monday. IBF lawyer Linda Torres said the organization had been busy preparing legal papers to fight a government takeover.

An indictment and a government lawsuit brought last month accuse Lee and others of taking $338,000 in bribes to change the organization's rankings. The rankings play a big role in determining fights and purses for boxers.

U.S. District Judge John Bissell last month imposed spending restrictions on the IBF while prosecutors prepared their case for a monitor.

Bissell set a Dec. 22 hearing on whether to grant their request for an injunction removing Lee and installing a monitor. If approved, it would be the first time a monitor was imposed on a sports organization.

The IBF said Monday it "should not be singled out for this unprecedented action."

"No other sports group which has gone through similarly difficult times has come under this kind of attack by the federal government not the U.S. or International Olympic Committees, not the NCAA, not any other professional or amateur sports organization where one or more individual members have had similar allegations made against them," the IBF said.

Monitors have been installed a dozen times in the 20-year history of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, generally to cleanse mob-riddled labor unions. Zachary Carter, the former U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, is the choice of prosecutors here to become the IBF monitor.

Prosecutors also want Lee banned from boxing for lif, but that issue probably would not be resolved until after a trial.

Lee founded the IBF in 1983, pledging to bring fairness to the rankings. The IBF gets a share of purses for sanctioning fights, and prosecutors say the group began taking improper payments almost from its inception.

The indictment said seven promoters and managers were involved, as well as 23 boxers. They have not been charged, and the indictment refers to them only by number. The investigation is continuing.

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