October 25, 2002

Ducheny Makes War In California’s Boxing Commission

(Editor’s Note: Normally during elections we focus on the candidates trying to draw a conclusion as the type of person they are and whether or not they will best represent their constituency and rarely do we talk about the spouse of the candidate. But in the case of the candidacy of Denise Ducheny for the 40th Senate District, her spouse plays a pivotal, aggressive role in her political career, taking advantage of her position, and often times representing Ms Ducheny. When you vote for Denise Ducheny you are also voting for her husband, they are a political team. As such we felt compelled to publish the following story to give a little insight into the other half the Denise Ducheny team.)

By Fiona Manning

A war has been simmering for two years within the official ranks of the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). In one corner is the state’s Medical Director, Dr. Paul Wallace. In the other is commissioner Al Ducheny.

Ducheny, who initially announced he was stepping down from CSAC earlier this year after a controversial two-year tenure to spearhead his wife Denise Moreno Ducheny’s Senate campaign, actually remains on the board.

He is however not currently attending meetings, which is a relief to those who have witnessed Ducheny’s frequent, unprovoked, bizarre and often frightening outbursts at CSAC meetings.

The problem is that he is still on the Commission.

Dr. Wallace, who is also chairman of the American Boxing Commission, Medical Advisory Board (overseeing Health And Safety Standards for all boxing in the United States) is the best thing that has happened to fighters and fighting in the state of California for the last 12 years.

Without Wallace being present, medical standards - if Ducheny were to have his way - would be sub-standard at best.

Wallace is a highly-regarded Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon who just happens to love boxing. He also loves fighters, respects and understands what that they do and believes that they deserve the best medical care regardless of their race, color or socio-economic and educational backgrounds.

Ducheny who seems proud of the fact he never progressed beyond the high school educational level, fights Wallace at every opportunity for no apparent reason.

Following several abusive encounters with Ducheny - many of which were attended by La Prensa and other media groups, Dr. Wallace sent a strongly-worded proposal to Governor Davis asking him not to re-appoint Ducheny to the Commission this year.

Though Ducheny has his hands full right now, after next week’s campaign is over, he’ll no doubt focus his energies on CSAC again.

So strongly does the boxing community feel about Ducheny’s “inappropriate and erratic behavior” in Commission meetings, they had signed petitions and were ready to testify against him at a Senate Committee hearing.

Ducheny who has attended only two fights since his appointment in June 2000, has consistently displayed escalating emotional outbursts at Commission meetings held each month, starting with the very first meeting he attended.

Writer Eddie Goldman was astounded, when three months into his tenure, Ducheny whom he colorfully describes as “56 years old, his gray hair in a pony tail and a drooping mustache” tried to kill the mixed martial arts.

“Ducheny voted against the choke hold, a staple of the mixed martial arts, even brought in a doctor who said it was a deadly hold” but one meeting later, Ducheny had reversed his opinion when two other doctors said the chokehold was harmless.

Many people who usually don’t attend meetings and heard about the amateur theatrics at the first Ducheny meeting, eagerly attended the second, expecting fireworks.

Ducheny was noticeably silent. When his fellow commissioners voted for the hold to remain and Ducheny followed suit.

The prime target of Ducheny’s attacks in meetings appears to be Dr. Wallace, a 12 year boxing official veteran, who last year was named Physician of the Year by the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians.

Ducheny has screamed at Dr. Wallace on several occasions and refuses to allow him to present his medical reports at State Athletic Meetings, even when they are scheduled on the Agenda.

“He doesn’t appear to have much knowledge of the business of boxing or the sport of boxing,” said California’s leading promoter Roy Engelbrecht who promotes fights in conjunction with Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Enterprises.

“It is uncomfortable watching a man of Dr. Wallace’s stature being belittled like that in public. It is embarrassing,” Engelbrecht said. “I’ve often wondered why the Commission hasn’t been brought to order when these incidents have occurred. It has happened on more than one occasion.”

Andrew Kim, a former two-time Commissioner for the California State Athletic Commission said he was “Shocked at Ducheny’s behavior in two meetings that I attended.

“When I was on the Commission, we always had open ears and open minds to medical issues. The safety of the fighters is paramount, but Al Ducheny seems to think the medical issues are irrelevant.”

Several other observers - including current and former Commission officials - who have regularly attended meetings, have now publicly come forward to complain about Ducheny’s weird outbursts.

These encounters have been observed by Ron Arnold who has worked with previous Commissions and helped push HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis testing into state legislature.

“Al Ducheny brags about the fact he has a high school level education and he has power over more educated people,” Arnold said.

“All he has done since has come on board is bully people and demean Dr. Wallace. He obstructs motions and I would say 30% of rules within the Commission guidelines are not enforced.

“Dr. Wallace has been fighting like crazy to change things since he came in. Ducheny has not helped one recommendation into legislature since he came on board. In fact he seems to be hell-bent on doing the exact opposite.

“Ducheny has violated the civil rights of several physicians at meetings. As an agent of the state he could be sued by them,” Arnold said. “The only reason he has his job is because his wife is buddy-buddy with Gray Davis. He is your typical political hack.

“Paul Wallace is the best thing that has ever happened to boxing in California. I am hearing from several ringside physicians that Ducheny has started calling them saying he was going to get rid of Dr. Wallace.

”The person we should be getting rid of Ducheny. What an embarrassment for boxing in this state! Ducheny has done nothing for boxing except to continually say: ‘This can’t be done.’ “

Unbelievably, Ducheny’s attacks are being leveled at a Medical Director who has turned the California commission into a highly-regarded safety-first state for boxing.

“We certainly don’t pay him to take this type of abuse,” said Andrew Kim. “We pay him practically nothing. And if he quits, God help us all, because there’s nobody out there like Paul Wallace.” Ducheny however, has consistently refused to allow Dr. Wallace to speak at meetings - at one point screaming at him: “You doctors think you’re special. No one else has the ability to just talk to the Commission and I’m not going to let you.”

How does Ducheny wield such power? According to writer Goldman, it’s his wife, Denise Moreno Ducheny’s political position.

“The Commission has long been a dumping ground for the politically connected,” Goldman wrote in his excellent internet story “Springtime”, in which he dissects the mysterious behavior of Al Ducheny.

La Prensa has frequently reported Ducheny’s unrestrained antics. Who can forget the turkey fiasco or the more recent motor home incident?

“I am very proud of our safety record here in California and I believe we have a duty to the fighters. We haven’t had a ring fatality since 1983,” said Dr. Wallace, who has tried valiantly to have several issues passed into state legislature. Among them:

1. Ambulances at every fight.

2. Mandatory pregnancy testing for female fighters.

3. Mandatory annual Hepatitis C testing for all fighters.

4. The ability for ringside physicians to present reports at Commission meetings.

“Last year, California had 114 shows, which means more than 700 fights - 4000 rounds. That’s more than any other state,” Dr. Wallace said.

“With that said, we only had six hospitalizations and all of those fighters were released within four hours with the exception of one fighter who had a fractured jaw and required a two day stay.”

Dr. Wallace is in the unusual position of having to deal with a commissioner who categorically challenges each motion he tries to have passed into state legislature.

“I’ve never been treated this way before,” he said. “Even after 16 years as a military officer (US Army), I’ve never been spoken to they way Al Ducheny routinely talks to me.

“The issue of Hepatitis C testing has been debated five times at meetings,” said Dr. Wallace, by way of an example. “Ducheny kept asking for me to explain it, then would I try to explain it in simple terms he would fly off the handle.”

Dr. Wallace recommended testing for all fighters once every 12 months. Hepatitis B, C and HIV are both highly contagious and can only be contracted one of two ways 1)sexually or b) via blood is tested mandatorially in many other states.

Commissioner Ducheny initially suggested that fighters be required to take blood tests before every bout. That could be 10 or more times a year for club fighters,” said Dr. Wallace.

“To test that frequently contradicts customary standard medical guidelines. It would have also for all intents and purposes, destroyed club fighting in California.”

Most recommended guidelines suggest state testing every 12 months.

“This places a terrible financial burden on fighters who don’t fight very often or who are fighting four rounders. They are not only paying their taxes, their managers and trainers, but $100 for blood work as well.”

One official who said he feared being refused fights if he was named as a source for this story, said Ducheny “regularly goes berserk. I suspect he doesn’t understand some of the medical issues and instead of learning about them, goes crazy at Dr. Wallace when he tries to explain them.”

In his letter to Davis, Dr. Wallace wrote: “Ducheny’s behavior at the last official Medical Advisory Board meeting was deplorable.”

“When an appointed ringside physician expressed medical concerns regarding approving a boxer with a potential life-threatening medical condition (pregnancy) Commissioner Ducheny’s threat to prevent any physician from “working ever again” with the Athletic Commission, if he didn’t approve the potentially pregnant boxer is clearly misguided.

“Not only is he attempting to bypass the health and safety of the boxer, he is coercing the physician to forego their fiduciary responsibility in medically approving or denying a boxer for participation in an Athletic Commission sanctioned fight.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Wallace continues to do business as best he can.

Calls placed to Ducheny’s San Diego office and messages left at the CSAC Sacramento offices were not returned this week.

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