Petruzelli Fights Controversial Statement

By Loretta Hunt Oct 8, 2008
Only thirty-six hours after the biggest victory of his life, Seth Petruzelli was already sweating from the intense heat of public scrutiny.

The 28-year-old Floridian snuffed out Internet brawler-turned-MMA superstar Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson in 14 clear-cut seconds Saturday during an EliteXC event in Sunrise, Fla., but it was comments Petruzelli made Monday morning on an Orlando radio talk show that had him in hot water.

Asked whether he wanted to avoid Slice’s standup game, Petruzelli insinuated much more than he ever meant to.

“I knew I would do all right, actually, standing up with him, but the promoters kind of hinted to me and they gave me the money to stand and trade with him,” Petruzelli said over the phone to a room full of radio hosts. “They didn’t want me to take him down -- let’s just put it that way. It was worth my while to try to stand up and punch with him.”

The statement -- which Petruzelli said he made hung-over and on little sleep -- implies that EliteXC compensated him to keep the fight away from the mats where the more experienced fighter had a clear advantage over Slice. The inference has raised questions of impropriety for a promotion struggling to keep its head above water. And since Monday, Petruzelli has been zealous in trying to reverse his words.

“It was my own wanting to get the knockout bonus,” he told Tuesday. “It wasn’t them saying, ‘I don’t want you to take him down, I want you to stand with him and I’m going to give you so much money just to stand.’ It was, ‘We have a knockout bonus. There it is. If you want it, take it.’”

Petruzelli said he was offered the bonus in his locker room after he’d accepted their last-minute offer to step in for a medically suspended Ken Shamrock. The show already underway, Petruzelli was warming up for a light heavyweight preliminary bout with Aaron Rosa when EliteXC reps approached him. Petruzelli refrained from naming the EliteXC officials.

Though his radio interview also seems to imply the fighter adjusted his game plan at the promoter’s behest, Petruzelli contends that EliteXC had no part in his choice of strategy.

“I do really good against traditional boxers at my gym, so I kind of wanted to stand up for the first little bit to feel him out and if it got hectic, I was going to shoot in on him,” said Petruzelli, who’s only other brush with stardom came from a stint on “The Ultimate Fighter 2” in 2005. “The plan from the beginning was to stand up and just play it by ear, see how I feel. If I was getting caught, then I was going to shoot in.”

Jeremy Lappen, Head of Fight Operations, has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

“Obviously we didn’t pay [Petruzelli] to stand,” Lappen told Monday. “Kimbo had trained for months to fight a guy who’s fighting on the ground. We don’t care if people stand or take people down or what. It doesn’t matter to us. All we want is an exciting fight.”

CBS, which aired the fight live Saturday night and garnered a healthy rating of 4.56 million viewers, stood by the promotion.

“I don’t believe there was any impropriety whatsoever,” said CBS Primetime Senior Executive Vice President Kelly Kahl.

Calls to Thomas Molloy, head of the Florida State Boxing Commission, which oversaw the bout, were not returned Tuesday.

Promised at least one more guaranteed bout with EliteXC in the future, a remorseful Petruzelli admits his statement was misleading.

“I didn’t even think I was saying it that way when I said it,” said Petruzelli. “It was me basically just saying I wanted to have a standup fight, then they offered a knockout bonus to do it, so I took it. I’m sorry that I created this controversy. I didn’t mean to do it at all.”
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