Earlier this week, New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram made the mistake of thinking she could fire the best Athletic Commission head in the United States and no one would notice. And while it’s taking a few days for this story to percolate into a full bodied shitstorm, it’s definitely on the way.
Larry Hazzard not only has a totally awesome name, but he also happens to be extremely competent at his job as head of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission. He was also in charge when New Jersey sanctioned MMA … the first state in the US to do it. It’s pretty rare to have someone heading an athletic commission who isn’t a complete retard, so people are kinda up in arms over this ‘because we felt like it’ firing.
This is a pretty entertaining story, so bear with me while I weave the tale for you. Let’s start with the actual firing, which was tastefully tacked onto a “Our Condolences for the death of your sister’s son” message:
Upon returning Thursday afternoon from the funeral for his 41-year-old nephew, Louis Arenas, who had died of a heart attack, Hazzard was met by Kim Ricketts, a senior administrator with the Divison of Law and Public Safety, which oversees the NJSACB.
“She offered her condolences on behalf of [New Jersey Attorney General] Anne Milgram for my loss,” said Hazzard, who was appointed by Gov. Thomas Kean in late 1985 and sworn in on Feb. 27, 1986. “Then she said, ‘We also would like to thank you for your many years of service.’ ”
With that, Hazzard was told to clear out his office. Security escorted him from the building.
So why exactly was Hazzard fired? “It was time for a change” said Anne Milgram. But you dig a bit and you find out something a bit more interesting:
In a letter sent to the governor on Oct. 23, a copy of which was obtained by The Star-Ledger, Hazzard’s attorney, James J. Binns, claimed his client was told “not to document the malfeasance and misfeasance” of a board employee even though it “jeopardized the welfare of contestants.” Among the concerns, Binns wrote, were the employee’s decisions to sanction mismatches in mixed martial arts contests, to okay a fighter who failed to test negative for HIV and to allow promoters to “shop” for medical approvals for their fighters.
Hazzard’s attorney also complained about a decision by the Attorney General’s Office to transfer “an individual with no experience” to the state Athletic Control Board by creating a new title that paid $90,000 a year.
Nothing like the government firing someone for writing up an overpaid, no experience AG lackey for almost letting a fighter with AIDS in the ring. This is the kind of shit you expect in Russia 10 years ago, not New Jersey.
This is definitely only the beginning of this story, but the one thing we know for sure right now is that boxing and MMA have lost a key figure in the most forward thinking and well run athletic commissions in the country. Lets just cross our fingers and hope Hazzard isn’t replaced by someone like Armando Garcia.