Thursday, 15 January 2009

Quarrel in death car: Was Jizelle Salandy exploited?

By Sharmain Baboolal.



Anaemic boxer was his pension but Potts says;
“I took only 30 percent”
"Jizelle handled her own money"

World ranked boxer Jizelle Salandy was anaemic , from childhood, a medical condition which certainly hastened the death of the 21 year old champion who suffered severe internal injuries when the rented motorcar she was driving last Sunday morning veered off the road and crashed into a pillar under the NP flyover just outside Port of Spain.
The holder of ten international belts – gathered in a few years-from the World Boxing Association (WBA) World Boxing Council (WBC) and the International Women Boxing Federation (IWBF) had the life blood literally drained out of her when the main artery in her pelvic area was punctured in the horrific accident in which national footballer Tamar Watson was also badly injured.
The body of the Chaconia Gold Medal awardee and Junior Middleweight Champion was otherwise flawless, except for blue/black marks in her lower stomach area, a gash on one of her thighs and a broken ankle.
Jizelle’s anemia which had already forced the postponement of one bout just under 18 months ago also caused her to complain of feeling tired, one of the classic symptoms of the condition suffered by the well loved athlete.
Unable to compensate for blood loss- like a normal person would- there was no turning back for Salandy who suffered massive internal bleeding by the time firemen, using the Jaws of Life, extracted her from the wreck of the Toyota Yaris.
If she had survived the champion boxer would not have been able to walk given the extent of the injuries in her lower body.
Even worse, the amount of money in her bank account would certainly have not been enough to finance the full recovery of the world’s most decorated women’s middleweight fighter.
“Her pelvis was so severely damaged that it punctured the main artery, so much so that there was a laceration on the liver and no blood in that area,” manager/ promoter ,Boxu Potts, told Mirror Weekend in a wide ranging interview last Thursday, one day after Jizelle was buried in her mother’s grave at Hickling Village , Fyzabad.
Potts- who played a frontline role in Salandy’s meteoric rise to stardom – has been on the receiving end of bitter criticism from people who swear that he got more ,financially speaking, from Jizelle’s boxing than she did- said “Blood was gushing out through the birth canal and anal passage from the puncture that occurred.”
At the time he described her injuries Potts made no connection with the fact that his prized fighter was anemic.
‘When I got her she was like,” he confessed a few minutes later when Mirror Weekend asked how long ago she suffered that condition.
“If she had survived the doctors say the use of her legs would have been compromised and it would have taken her a year, at least, to bounce back and there was the possibility that she would not have walked,” Potts said about the champ who died undefeated with 17 wins including 6 KO's and no losses.
Salandy’s anemia meant she had to exercise even greater discipline in the hurting contact sport for which she had a natural talent and Potts said that Dr Jacob Hadeed was the person mainly responsible for the health of the fighter.
‘He did a great job in topping her up all the time,” the manager/promoter declared.
There was no indication that a consultant hematologist was ever brought in to monitor the health of the champion athlete.
But the manager/ promoter offered: “Dr. Hadeed also worked out a strict diet and medication regimen for Jizelle to follow. When necessary he boosted her with (Vitamin) B12 injections and also structured her menstrual cycle.
“Do you remember the controversy when she did not fight Dakota Stone?” Potts asked rhetorically.
“It is just that her menstrual cycle started on the day before the fight and she was so stubborn that she did not want to step down from the battle even though the doctor advised against it.
“But as God would have it, the physical evidence was there when her blood count ( of red blood cells) dropped after Dr. Hadeed tested her and he told me that he was going to advise the boxing board that the bout could not be permitted from a medical point of view.
“If she had gone into the ring then Jizelle would have boxed four rounds and fallen down on her own,” he recalled.
Sometime later in the interview Potts deflected reports that in spite of the successes Jizelle was tired of the life associated with championship boxing.
“Yes, there was a time, about eighteen months ago- after her first titled defence, when she felt that she was being pushed too much and she said that,” Potts confessed.
“She complained that everybody wanted to own her and wanted a piece of her, but we had to tell her that is what stardom comes with. There is no mechanism in this country to deal with someone who went from zero to hero,” he declared.
It was sometime later in the interview that Potts would lament Jizelle’s lack of “life skills, adding that she was being counseled by Joan Yuille Williams who also saw the need for a social worker to be part of a high powered committee to manage Giselle Salandy.
“There were times when Jizelle locked me out of her room because I was keeping tabs to ensure that she followed the regimen that she was supposed to with the liquids she ingested and the food she ate especially because she was anemic and she asked me to leave her alone.
“Whenever she locked herself in she would just lie down and meditate and I often found her with a Bible on the bed next to her,” Potts said about his charge, whom he later described as an angel for whom the World Boxing Council declared a day of mourning.
Coming into sharp focus, naturally, after her passing, is Salandy’s finances, for which Boxu Potts will have to answer several questions, according to the talk on the ground from angry people close to the boxer.
While the promoter has been crying “bust” and claims that he owes people, ever since he hosted the first news conference on the day following her tragic death, he claims that Jizelle had been handling her own finances.
‘Yes, she dealt with it first hand,” he declared when Mirror Weekend first put forward the question that’s on everyone’s lips to Potts.
“She had that half million dollar insurance policy which will benefit her niece and just born nephew (who entered the world on December 26th on the night that Jizelle successfully defended eight of her titles at the Jean Pierre Complex.) Potts said matter of fact.
And when I asked whether the world title holder had any other money in the bank, including the purse from her last bout on Boxing Night for which she earned US$ 25 000 after defeating Yahada Hernandez of the Dominican Republic.
‘Jizelle would have some money in the bank; I would not know how much it is,” he dead panned when I reported the rumors swirling on the ground about whether she got just due from her bouts.
Sources say she was even thinking of starting a car rental business to prepare for the day when she would not have to endure punishing fights for a living.
While admitting that having ten title belts in such a short career should have made the 21 year Salandy a much richer woman that she was , Potts responded by saying that if the people who showed an outpouring of love after her death had supported her fights , the boxer would have been well off.
Then Potts gave the time worn mantra that he was in the red.
‘We must deal with this thing a holistic manner; maybe we can talk next week when I can get the relevant papers to show you,” he deflected, off the cuff.
Potts was also not in a position to say how much sponsorship money was given to him, on Jizelle’s behalf, by former Culture Minister Joan Yuille Williams under whose tenure millions of dollars were frittered away in grants and scholarships, much of which remains unaccounted for.
Was there a reason for him “bigging” up Joan, so much?
‘Most of the sponsorship was used to develop the platform for Jizelle to box on,” Potts offered, without offering much details just yet.
What was his take from the purse of the record breaking boxer?
“In world of boxing, the manager gets a 30 percent cut while the trainer gets 10 percent and the fighter takes 60 percent, “ Potts explained in a bid to dispel rumors that he covered the greater share of her purse , 55 percent as rumors had it, for all the title bouts.
“I took nothing as a promoter from Jizelle, even though I was supposed to be taking a 20 percent cut off the top.
“I was just building her for the big fight, when I would have been able to recover my loss; that was my gamble” Potts cried, without tears this time.
Then the former jockey listed the money received by Salandy for the six title fights.
For her first bout, the purse was US$ 7000 after which the purse grew progressively to US$ 10 000, US$15 000 for the third and fourth and then $40 000 for her fifth followed by the Boxing Day title defence for which the purse wasUS$25 000.
Granted she had a 60 percent cut as Potts declared, then at least Salandy should have least US$15 000, which translates to TT$94 500 in a bank account, if the cheque was given to her.
Where is that money and to whom will it be given?
Potts did not go into details on Thursday morning except to say that her niece and nephew would have been the beneficiaries of Jizelle’s insurance policy.
By our calculations, however, from the six main bouts Gizelle would have earned an average of US$ 67 200, if indeed she had a 60 percent cut.
That would have left her with TT$423, 360 in her bank account if she was honestly dealt with and if it was not frittered away in the past three years.
Potts played down the sponsorship he received for Salandy saying that he got small money from a few sources, including Ma Pau and the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), which still did not help him cover all expenses.
“I spent almost TT$1.2 million to promote the last fight.
With that he promised to present the accounts- “to give the holistic picture because I do not want to sell boxing short, maybe we will do this thing in another article,” he suggested, while emphasizing “I am half a million dollars in debt, I want that to be known.”
Jizelle was due to face American Angelica Martinez in late January, just four weeks after her successful title-defence against the Dominican Republic's Yahaira Hernandez on Boxing night.
Buxo Potts told reporters after the fight that he had a very busy year for Jizelle and was reported to be drafting a plan for Salandy to fight six times - once every two months - during 2009 with a huge title-defence against the American Mary Jo Sanders being the planned high point of the 2009 campaign which never came off the ground.
Salandy’s mandatory title-defence against Sanders was likely to be staged in March.
All that for an anemic athlete.

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Quarrel in death car

Putting the pieces together from various sources, it is now clear that tension was thick in the car just at the time the champion boxer lost control of the Toyota Yaris which crashed into a pillar on the west bound lane of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway last Sunday.
It was a highly emotional moment, according to close friends who noted that Jizelle was fussing and angry a couple of hours before she crashed the car that had been rented for a week and which she had been driving around the country without any problems.
The evening started when Salandy attended a birthday celebration for Tamar Watson in St Joseph on Saturday nigh, according to promoter Buxo Potts.
Jizelle and Tamar along with Nathalie Pereira returned to Alicia’s Guest House in Cascade during the early hours of Sunday morning.
Potts- who gave this second hand account of what transpired on that fateful morning- swore that she did not drive to St Joseph on that night, even though she is known to have driven the rented car to the UWI Grounds in St Augustine on Saturday morning where she and Watson trained with the National women’s football team.
Potts was wary about giving out details about the last moments and what triggered Jizelle’a decision to leave Port of Spain to drop Nathalie Pereira in Piarco. He promised that Perreira would deliver a statement by next week so that fans of the beloved boxer would get a chance to better understand the last few hours leading to her death.
But sources close to Watson and Pereira say Jizelle was angry and emotional from the moment the trio left Alicia’s Guest House in Cascade heading to Piarco.
Only Pereira knows the real reason and now the mother of Tamar Watson is distressed by widespread reports of her daughter’s relationship with Jizelle whose death has thrown
The scandal that is circulating is also threatening to derail attention away from the immediate needs of the young national footballer who suffered two broken legs and a broken collar bone in the accident and remains at Ward 21 of the Port of Spain General hospital.
While the girls deal with the rumors, promoter Potts is trying to fend off criticism that he was not vigilant enough in preventing her from driving on that morning, after a night of liming out with friends.
While he claimed that he has tried to keep her from driving his car, Buxo eventually let on during our interview that when Jizelle rented the car “she did that transaction for herself,” at the same time dissing reports that the vehicle belonged to his son.
“The designated driver was Randy Hamilton, one of Jizelle’s school mates with whom she was very close. They had each other’s back, so to speak although their relationship was not intimate.
‘Then he stated she used the car to go to St Augustine to train on Saturday morning while I was out doing something else and Randy drove her,” Potts said, even though her friends insist that Jizelle drove Tamar to the training grounds.
“When Jizelle went out, she wasn’t driving on that Saturday night,” Potts insisted, adding “she went to somewhere in St Joseph where Tamar and the football team celebrated Tamar’s birthday,” Potts recalled.
“They returned to the hotel in Cascade- so I was told by all around her – and the plan was that they were going to take a rest and then do other things.
“Jizelle apparently insisted they should drop Natalie home,” he reported.
“You know I noted that all three of them have driver’s permits but she was the one who ended up driving.
“She was a get up and go type of person who wanted to do things for herself, you see.
“Randy did not go with them- for some reason- and I asked him afterwards why he didn’t call me, wake me up and tell me that she was going with the car by herself, Potts said, offering all that he was willing to say about the last few hours of the prized fighter’s life.
“I have asked Nathalie to make a statement next week and that is expected to clear up the reports,” he ended.