Charles Conwell, who represented USA Boxing at the 2016 Olympics, told ESPN he faked a hand injury on the advice of his manager, David McWater, in order to withdraw from an April 8 fight that was slated to headline an NBCSN show.
The junior middleweight contender was set to fight Ivan Golub in a Ring City main event at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. When Conwell pulled out of the fight, the entire card was canceled. His half-brother, Isaiah Steen, was scheduled to fight Kalvin Henderson in the opening bout of the three-fight telecast.
Conwell said McWater, who signed him out of the Olympics, told him to feign the injury so that he could fight on the undercard for Triller in a June 19 event in Miami featuring Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos. That fight would have paid Conwell $80,000 against an easier opponent, Mark DeLuca, while the Golub bout would have paid $40,000.
“We said hand because that’s the hardest to prove,” Conwell said. “I didn’t really think twice about it. I just said all right.”
McWater, who manages Lopez, Steen and Golub, said there was no reason for them to lie because they didn’t have a signed contract for the April fight. “We could have pulled out for any reason,” McWater said.
“I asked if I can fight on both cards so I can get both of the money,” said Conwell, who trains in Detroit. “He says ‘too close to it and don’t want to risk injury so we’re going to just do the one fight.’ I was just following the advice from my manager.”
The Lopez-Kambosos title fight moved from June 5 to June 19. Days before the event, it was postponed altogether when Lopez tested positive for COVID. That meant Conwell missed out on a potential payday of $120,000 from both fights.
“I have bills. I have a daughter,” Conwell said. “You know how it is not getting paid. … It’s some strain. I haven’t fought in no meaningful fights.”
With the Triller event postponed, Conwell stayed busy with a June 26 decision win over Silverio Ortiz in Ashland, Kentucky. He earned $8,000 for the untelevised fight held at a community college. His previous fight was in December, a ninth-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Madiyar Ashkeyev, a career-best performance in his greatest exposure to date.
The fight headlined a Ring City USA event on NBCSN and paid him $30,000. Conwell hoped to carry the momentum into another appearance on the platform months later.
“I did feel bad because I wanted to fight both times,” Conwell said. “When I heard the whole card got canceled it was really a bad look. … I didn’t mean for the whole card to get shut down. I know Ring City put in a lot of work.”
“We are disappointed to hear this,” a Ring City USA official told ESPN.
Conwell especially felt bad because his half-brother Steen, 24, was set for a career-high payday of $15,000 in the opening bout of the three-fight telecast. Steen (16-0, 12 KOs) returned last month in the ShoBox co-feature with a decision win over Henderson, the same opponent he was slated to face in April. The purse was $15,000 for the Showtime appearance, the same amount the 24-year-old was set to make on NBCSN.
“I got a call that the kid was hurt and I responded accordingly,” said Conwell’s co-promoter, Lou DiBella. He also promotes Golub. “I was disappointed because it took another one of my fighters off the show. Charles didn’t fight and I missed the payday. Getting claims that someone is injured is the course of business on a daily basis.”
“Charles Conwell is a great kid, he was caught up in confusion,” said Tony Holden, who co-promotes Conwell and Steen with DiBella. “I stand by this young man. He was given bad advice.”
Conwell actually broke his hand during the first year of his pro career. He’s set to fight Juan Carlos Rubio on Aug. 29 in Cleveland (his hometown) on the non-PPV undercard of Jake Paul’s boxing match with Tyron Woodley.