Arena officials clash over fight

Members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority nearly came to blows Saturday night while attending the Extreme Fight Night event at the Bell Auditorium.

 

On Sunday night, board member Richard Isdell spoke about what he described as an "embarrassing" incident that occurred in front of patrons attending the fight.

Mr. Isdell said he and fellow board members Jack Usry and Harry Moore were in the lobby when he noticed Mr. Usry and Mr. Moore having heated words, he said.

Mr. Isdell said the disagreement centered on a recent announcement that Augusta boxer Rayonta Whitfield's Aug. 1 fight will be held at the Bell Auditorium and broadcast live on ESPN.

Mr. Isdell said Mr. Usry was disappointed that he and other board members weren't told about the agreement with ESPN. But Mr. Moore said that he, coliseum General Manager Robert "Flash" Gordon and Mr. Isdell were contacted by Mayor Deke Copenhaver and City Administrator Fred Russell about the opportunity to broadcast the event in Augusta.

Mr. Isdell said the mayor and Mr. Russell said a quick decision was required because fight promoters were considering taking the fight to a Mississippi or New Orleans venue. Mr. Isdell said a short window of about "45 minutes" was available to make a decision.

As board chairman, Mr. Moore said he and Mr. Gordon have the authority to make such decisions.

Mr. Isdell said he, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Moore all were assured by city officials that the fight would be a win-win opportunity for Augusta.

When contacted at home Sunday night, Mr. Usry refused to comment about the incident.

Mr. Moore said he's certain the disagreement occurred because Mr. Usry feels he should have been notified about the decision to hold the boxing match.

"There's no way I could've called Jack, and I'm sure that's what he wanted," Mr. Moore said Sunday night. He said the decision was made Wednesday afternoon in the midst of a powerful thunderstorm that resulted in an Augusta man being killed by a fallen tree.

Mr. Moore, a Georgia Power engineer, said he was handling several emergency calls and was unable to make additional calls outside of his work duties.

He has no regrets, he said.

"If I were faced with the same situation all over again, I'd handle it in the same fashion," he said.

Had there not been a storm, he said, he would've contacted Mr. Usry along with assistant board Chairman Janice Jenkins.

Mr. Isdell and Mr. Moore said they are confident the board will not lose revenue by staging the fight in Augusta.

"This is a big deal. Nationally televised on ESPN? This is big. Ray is a local kid and this is our way to support him," Mr. Isdell said. "The mayor and Mr. Russell said they'll try to offset any costs we incur. They said they'll try and help us."

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

A special called Coliseum Authority meeting could be held this morning at James Brown Arena. Members might discuss the Aug. 1 boxing date.