Minority boxing officials are filing a civil rights claim against the State Boxing Commission alleging that they are conducting discriminatory practices. Three Hall of Fame officials came forward to explain how the Commission did not assign as many championship fights to them compared to their White counterparts.
Raul Caiz Sr., Wayne Hedgpeth, and Raul Caiz Jr. are some of the officials that are represented by attorney John E. Sweeney, who has a long record of representing civil rights issues. He observed the number of championship fights the three officials were given in California compared to opportunities they received in other states and countries. The information that he gathered can be found on the website boxrec.com.
“The claim that we filed against the state of California requests damages in the amount of $100 million,” Sweeney said. “We believe that this is a multimillion dollar lawsuit once the lawsuit is filed.”
Between the years 2013 to 2017, Caiz Sr. refereed 12 championship fights in California and 22 championship fights outside of California. Hedgpeth only did two championship fights and four outside in that time frame.
“What’s very disturbing to me about this situation is the idea that the National Boxing Federation asked for [Hedgpeth] to be a referee on a particular championship fight,” Sweeney said. “The California State Athletic Commission stepped in and said “No, we want to assign our own referee.””
The lawsuit also shows the number of fights the three members have in comparison to White referees.
“According to the website that tracks [boxing matches] one White referee—and we’ll name that person in the lawsuit—from 2013 to 2017 in California, he got 18 championship fights,” Sweeney said. “Outside of California, he only got four.”
Another White official did 23 championship fights in California during that span of five years. Sweeney noted how the executive director once told Raul Caiz Sr. that he is consistently ranked the top boxing referee in California.
Hedgpeth was also inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame for his boxing and referee career. Caiz Jr. is a well known referee who has done fights in several countries including England and Japan.
Officiating championship match give referees opportunities at different commissions, according to Sweeney.
“Championship fights are the ones that pay the most money and that are on TV and that get you publicity so that you become a well-known official,” Sweeney said. “You become a celebrity official by doing championship fights.”
Early in his career, Sweeney was mentored by Johnnie Cochran. He hired Sweeney to work at the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office after Sweeney graduated from the California College of Law.
“He would be 20 years ahead of the game,” Sweeney said. “He instilled in me a dogged determination and pursuit of justice.”