The sport of boxing has had it's fair share of bizarre moments. From the infamous Fan Man dropping in uninvited and interrupting the heavyweight rematch between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe, to Mike Tyson mentally snapping and biting a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear off, there's no telling what can happen at a boxing event. This past Saturday, FightHype.com experienced our own bizarre moment at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Promoters, managers, and publicists beware...be on the lookout for JASON CRUZ, a boxing fanatic who was somehow able to get his hands on credentials, sit ringside in press row, and launch into a verbal assault that likely made Saturday night's HBO Boxing After Dark card very uncomfortable for those seated near him.
FightHype's own James Alden was responsible for covering Saturday's event. Upon his arrival, he made his way to press row and quicky found his seat by reading the conveniently placed nametags that are affixed to the tables. As is customary for most members of the media who arrive early, he quickly glanced at the other nametags beside him to see who he would be seated next to. Come to find out that the person on his left was one Jason Cruz, who according to the nametag was there on behalf of "Fight Hype". Excited about the possibility of covering the event with another writer from FightHype.com, James quickly contacted me to ask for Cruz's phone number to let him know that he was already ringside. That's when the night got extremely interesting for both myself and James.
Around 6:30PM ET, I received a text message from James that read, "Hey, I didn't know I was sitting next to Jason Cruz of FightHype. Do you have his contact so I can reach out to him." Knowing that I only gave James permission to cover the event, I promptly replied, "Who? Who the fuck is that? We don't have any Jason Cruz that works for FightHype." At that point, James sent me a picture of the nametag next to him, and sure enough, it read "Jason Cruz FIGHTHYPE". Obviously I was confused, but I didn't want to jump to any conclusions, so I instructed James to politely ask Cruz who he was covering the event for whenever he showed up. When Cruz did finally show up, he informed James that he had been writing for FightHype.com for about a year and he was indeed there on behalf of our website.
At that point, I knew something fishy was going on, so I called James and asked him to put this Jason Cruz on the phone with me. When James informed Cruz that I wanted to speak to him and handed him the phone, Cruz took off, claiming he had to use the restroom. Several moments later, Cruz would return to his seat, telling James, "Man, when you gotta go, you gotta go." He then began periodically visiting FightHype.com on his laptop, as if to give the appearance that he was indeed working for the site. Furthermore, he informed James that he would be sending pictures from the fights directly to me. "So are you sending the pictures to Ben," James would ask Cruz, who was literally standing on chairs taking numerous pictures like a fan, something that's typically discouraged of members of the media seated ringside. Cruz replied, "Yeah, I'm sending them to Ben...Let me get your email afterwards. I got a bunch of great pictures I'm going to give to you so you can put them up on the site. Ben's going to really like this."
Naturally, James was keeping me abreast of everything that was going on, so upon hearing the latest developments, I promptly told James to inform Shannan McNair of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Public Affairs, who was responsible for approving credentials for the event, that they had an imposter amongst them. When McNair was informed that Jason Cruz had never worked for FightHype.com, obviously she was confused and not pleased, but she also admitted that was an error on her part. James was told that Cruz would be removed from press row, so understandably, he was reluctant about returning to his seat, assuming that there might be a scene once Cruz was instructed to leave. Nevertheless, James went back to his seat, only to realize as the night progressed that no action would be taken on Cruz. When James informed me that he was still sitting next to Cruz, who continued to display actions unbecoming of a member of the media, I became concerned that his presence may reflect poorly on the site if people assumed he was affiliated with FightHype.com. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Knowing that it's typically frowned upon for someone in press row to get up and leave in the middle of a fight, I called James after round 3 of Darchinyan vs. Del Valle and simply told him to hand the phone to this Jason Cruz character. The conversation went exactly like this:
Ben Thompson (BT): James, just hand him the phone.
James Alden (JA): Okay Ben. Hey, Ben wants to talk to you.
Jason Cruz (JC): Hello?
BT: Yo, since when did you start working for FightHype.com?
JC: I don't work for FightHype.com and this wasn't my fault, so don't yell at me.
BT: How are you there on a FightHype.com credential?
JC: I, listen, I was told to come here, I was told that I was going to be given a credential. I wasn't told that I was going to be getting a FightHype.com credential.
BT: Who told you that you were going to be getting a credential?
JC: Listen to me! I was told to come here and that I was going to get a credential.
BT: Who told you that you would be getting a FightHype.com credential?
JC: Nobody told me that I would be getting a FightHype.com credential. When I got here, that's the credential that I got.
BT: Well that's funny because Bob Trieger and Shannan McNair are also wondering how you're there on a FightHype.com credential right now.
JC: Listen, I showed up today, okay, and I got a FightHype credential. It wasn't the credential I thought I was going to get.
BT: How did you even get a credential? You can't even get a credential unless you tell somebody who you're working with.
JC: Listen to me, first of all, you gotta calm down, dude. I'm not fucking the one for you to yell at.
BT: Oh, this is calm, brotha; best believe this is calm.
JC: You don't know about me, motherfucka, because I'll come to the Midwest and smash your fucking face. Don't you ever come to New York you motherfucka. [click - phone hangs up].
Although my conversation with Mr. Cruz ended at that point, from what I'm told, he continued with his verbal threats, which got the attention of virtually every single member of the media in the row directly in front of James. "I'll go to Ohio. I don't give a shit. I don't care if he knows Jiu Jitsu. I'm from the streets. I'll Brooklyn Brawl on his ass. I'm ready to fight somebody now," Cruz reportedly continued. "I'm ready to fight somebody now. I don't care, dude. I'll go to Ohio and I'll smack somebody with a Louisville Slugger."
After hearing those comments, James felt extremely uncomfortable and informed me that he would likely leave after Darchinyan vs. Del Valle, deciding to forego covering the main event and the post-fight press conference for fear of an incident taking place. That, however, did not sit well with me. There's no reason why a legitimate member of the media, who was in attendance to do his job, should feel threatened by someone who did not belong there in the first place. I told James to put Shannan McNair on the phone with me, which after some work, he was able to do. After explaining to McNair how uncomfortable James felt regarding the situation, she assured me that Cruz would be removed from press row. Several minutes later, James, who had decided to watch the main event from a distance, informed me that he saw Cruz having a conversation with McNair before packing his belongings and eventually leaving press row. Sure enough, I was then contacted by McNair and told that Mr. Cruz was no longer in press row and that it was now safe for James to return to his seat.
Now, I tell this tale not for the safety of James Alden or myself (although I would hope that this Jason Cruz character is smart enough to reconsider his threats now that they've been made public). I do, however, tell this tale to point out the serious flaws that exist when it comes to security at an event. I place no blame on Shannan McNair, who was simply fooled by a con man in Cruz that was able to take advantage of a situation...something that I believe he may have done on other occasions with multiple websites. That being said, in the future, I would hope that all parties responsible for approving credentials do a better job of letting the right people in...and that's not limited to the actual events. That also includes any other activity involved with a fight. Far too many times, I see people not affiliated with any media outlet who were somehow able to sneak their way into the media section of press conferences and weigh-ins. Jason Cruz is just one of many examples of fanatics who are somehow able to gain access to media-only activities. Case in point, to this day, we're still wondering how Mustafa Ameen, also known as "the mystery man", was able to freely strole around ringside and allegedly affect the judging of Peterson vs. Khan.
Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to promoters and venues. Not every person that says they work for a website or a radio show is who they actually claim to be. Heck, in this day and age, not everyone should even be allowd to call themselves media just because they have a website or a radio show, something that pretty much anyone can start for free (a lot of shows on BlogtalkRadio come to mind). Please, do your due diligence to look into the background of those you allow into your events. As for Jason Cruz, if there was any doubt as to whether or not he was actually a member of the media, I think a post that he recently made on his Twitter page should answer that question once and for all....
Even creepier, this Jason Cruz character actually has a picture of me, ripped from my Facebook profile, posted on his Twitter account. What's up with that?