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Cyber Casino Raises The Bet In 'Fighters Helping Fighters' Campaign

Los Angeles, July 10, 2002 -- The Retired Boxers Foundation--founded by Alex 'The Bronx Bomber' Ramos, former USBA Middleweight Champion (1984), 1986 California Middleweight Champion, member of the USA Boxing Team (1978-80) and one of NBC's Tomorrow's Champions--is dedicated to ensuring that boxers are taken care of after their professional careers are over.

Many consider boxers to be the most well-trained, dedicated athletes competing today. Yet only the top few such as Lennox Lewis or Evander Holyfield ever, in their relatively short careers, reap the financial benefits of their battered and bruised bodies. Unfortunately, boxing promoters, venues, and television networks absorb most of the millions of dollars that boxing matches generate. As a result, many fighters end their careers owing back taxes and live with damaged bodies and damaged minds. Some are unemployed and don't have money to feed their kids, others require ongoing medical treatment, and some are even oblivious to their own misfortune, walking the streets in a stage of Dementia Pugilistica--the medical term for being 'punch drunk.'

Prominent online casino company responsible for all the body billboard tattoos appearing on the backs of high-profile boxers in the past year--recognizes the importance of the RBF and the noble cause it supports. So much so, that the casino giant is bankrolling the RBF's 'Fighters Helping Fighters' campaign by donating 2.5% of all upcoming fighters' sponsorship (back tattoo) fees. The more fighters tattoos, the more money the RBF receives. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved. receives a huge amount of publicity from the tattoos, and fighters that make an endorsement deal with the casino now, get immediate compensation while at the same time investing in their future and the future of their industry.

The tattoo controversy began in September of 2001, when Golden Palace tattooed their website address on the back of Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins during his title match against Felix Trinidad. The result was the most innovative marketing campaign in years. Golden Palace has since tattooed over 30 fighters, and in doing so has made a lasting impression on the boxing and entertainment industries.

'It's like freedom of speech is like something that no one can tell me what I can do to my own body,' said Hopkins after the match. 'This is my own domain. This is my own kingdom.'

On February 13, 2002, the Nevada Athletic Commission attempted to ban the casino's ads on the grounds that the tattoos are 'demeaning' to the sport, distracting to the judges, and pose a health hazard. Golden Palace representatives countered by saying that this ban violates the boxers' freedom of expression, and that they are entitled to commercial sponsorship. Furthermore, there is no health risk since all tattoos are completely natural, non-toxic henna, which has existed for over 3000 years.

District Court Judge Mark Gibbons granted a temporary restraining order against the NAC, prohibiting them from enforcing their decision to ban fighters from wearing temporary ad markings in the ring. Attorney Paul Larsen, who represented Golden Palace, said the judge found that the ban was an improper 'ad hoc' regulation, and that it was an 'overbroad' infringement of free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

On March 5, 2002, District Court Judge Valerie Vega made it official, ruling to allow Golden Palace to continue putting their advertisements on boxers' backs. The court found 'no evidence that temporary body markings, including temporary tattoos, are distracting, or would be distracting to boxing judges during a bout'. The judge went on to say that the ban was a violation of the boxers' First Amendment rights and therefore could not be enforced.

'It's a victory for free speech, and a victory for boxers everywhere,' says Larsen. 'This is simply a new form of advertising. Boxers have a short career, and choosing to wear these tattoos adds to their income opportunities. This is a valuable decision because the (commission's) ban violated boxers' rights. Now those rights are being protected.'

Some television networks have expressed concern with the ad tattoo because they feel the sponsor (Golden Palace) is obtaining 'free advertising'. Sports staple ESPN has even gone so far as to forbid the tattoos altogether. There seems to be a double standard here. Networks single out boxers, while athletes in other professional sports are allowed to wear brand names sponsors on national television all the time. All professional athletes should have the opportunity to receive endorsements for their talent, regardless of their sport.

On May 11, 2002, a group of boxers sent a message to ESPN and the whole boxing community stating that they should be involved in decisions that affect their livelihood. Prior to the scheduled bout between Kassim Ouma and Jason Papillion, Ouma and several other fighters including former WBC and WBA world heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, and retired world middleweight champion Vito Antuofermo, entered the ring and disrobed in unison, revealing temporary tattoos on their backs despite the ban by ESPN (which televised the fight on its ESPN2 network). Along with the '' tattoo on Ouma's back, the other men sported slogans such as 'Free Speech' and 'United We Stand'.

Ouma, Witherspoon, Antuofermo, and other notable boxers who wore their personal messages on their backs were Clarence Adams, Zab Judah, and Dale Brown. They hoped to unify boxers in a collective agreement. All six signed a 'Boxers' Emancipation Declaration', a document proclaiming the rights they feel every boxer should be entitled to.

'I have a big family in Africa which I need to support,' said Ouma, who is originally from Uganda. 'If I can make a little extra money by putting an ad like on my back, it's nobody's business except for mine.'

The stand made by Ouma and his fellow boxers was supported by the Boxers Organizing Committee, an association that is committed to putting the boxer in the forefront and on a level playing field with other professional athletes. The BOC is not alone. They have the support of the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, National Football League Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, National Basketball Players Association, National Hockey League Players Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Teamsters, amongst others.

'Boxing executives and promoters are making business decisions all the time without consulting the boxer,' said Paul Johnson, a former professional boxer and chairman of the BOC. 'All other professional sports organizations have a voice for its players. Boxers need one too.'

Numerous fighters have also stepped to the forefront in support of the BOC, including great champions Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Shane Moseley, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Arturo Gatti and Johnny Tapia.

The back tattoo marketing campaign has been, and will continue to be, mutually beneficial to Golden Palace and boxers alike. The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and other major sports leagues all have players' associations whose main focus is to ensure their athletes are taken care of during their professional careers and, more importantly, after their careers are over. The RBF intends to provide boxers with the same peace of mind that other athletes enjoy. Casino representatives have many more fighters selected to be 'backed' and the corresponding contributions to the RBF will help the boxing industry as a whole for many years to come.

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