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"Who are you?"
by Ewan Whyte
August 13, 2006


Beneath the headline "Tell me: what, what is your name?" (the title of a game show), La Voz del Interior published on Thursday two photographs side by side: one, they told us, was of a certain Carina (or Karine) De Souza, who was TKOd last year by Patricia Quirico when the two met in San Carlos de Bariloche in 2005, and the other, of the woman described as Liliane Balles, who performed so lamentably ("giving the impression of never having been in the ring before") against Carolina "Chapita" Gútierrez last Saturday in Córdoba. After comparing video of the two fighters, the paper was in no doubt that the two were in fact one and the same person. Juan E. Brignone of Boxeo.org was of much the same opinion: "If they aren't the same person," he concluded, "they are remarkably alike."

Another who was adamant that they were in fact the same person, and that the woman in the ring in Córdoba was not the Liliane Balles the Argentinian public was led to believe they were watching, was Patricia Quirico, who had fought both of them. "There's no way that was Liliane Balles — at least, not the Liliane I fought in Gualeguaychú (Entre Ríos). The girl fighting in Córdoba was Carina De Souza, whom I fought in Bariloche over a year ago,” she declared. The affair became public when a journalist asked Quirico, who lost on points to Balles but TKOd De Souza in three: "How could you possibly have lost to a no-hoper like that?" Her reply, of course, was that she hadn't.

The obvious conclusion — certainly the one reached by most of the Argentinian media — was that De Souza must have "stolen Balles's identity" (as Infobae put it) and forged her documentation in order to obtain a fight her record didn't warrant; but according to today's La Voz del Interior, the truth is stranger still. "I went to see her in her dressing room," recounts Daniel Bergher Fucs, Vice-President of the Confederación Brasileña de Boxeo, "and began speaking, but she didn't understand; she didn't understand Portuguese, so I realized something was wrong. Then I asked her the same question in Castillian. This time, she did understand."
Not only was the woman not Lillian Balles, who was at home in Curitiba minding her own business, but she wasn't even Brazilian! According to La Voz del Interior, her real identity is Karina Britos, who until a few months ago lived in the barrio Cristo Rey of Posadas (Argentina) before vanishing, leaving no forwarding address.

The documentation she was using in Córdoba was forged — that much is clear — but the real scandal centres on the fact that "Chapita" Gutiérrez herself fought a "Karine De Souza" as recently as December last year. If it was the same woman, using a different alias, how could she, and her manager, the highly-rated Carlos Tello (who currently has four world champions under his charge), and Tello's son, who was responsible for the undercard, not have recognized her? Even if, as Tello maintains, her documents were forged, his claim that "we, too, were deceived" seems pretty hard to swallow.
As of this morning, all three — along with Argentino García, President of the Municipal Boxing Commission of Córdoba — were sticking to the same story: the two women were not the same: the woman Gutiérrez fought on Saturday was, as García put it, "15 centimetres shorter and a litle stockier than the one she fought in December"; but whilst no photocopy of the documentation presented by the woman who fought Gutiérrez in December has been retained ("It wasn't necessary at that time," says Tello), there is a photo, and it shows the fighter wearing the same outfit as that worn by Britos on the one occasion she fought under her own name as an amateur.

The defence advanced by García and Tello that "her papers appeared to be in order" and that they aren't trained to detect forgeries (Roberto Vidal, the president of the boxing commission of Bariloche, who approved the "De Souza"-Quirico fight, was the first to advance that argument) is also open to objection on a number of counts: 1) the name was spelt "Valles" instead of "Balles" on the papers presented to the Córdoban boxing commission (a mistake only a Spanish-speaker would make); 2) the logo of the AMB appeared on the letterhead alongside that of the Confederación Brasileña de Boxeo Profesional, which it ought not to have done; 3) the certificate was signed by one Sergio Portugal (of whom no one has any knowledge); 4) when La Voz del Interior tried the telephone number on the letterhead, they were told it didn't exist; 5) the fighter's date of birth was given there as 25th June 1982, whereas BoxRec gives Lilliane Balles's date of birth as the 27th October 1977.

"We confirmed with the Brazilian Boxing Commission Balles's record (5-3) and her date of birth (25-6-82)," claims García; but since both details were wrong (Balles's true record is 1-3-0 according to the sports daily Olé, which investigated the matter last week) you have to wonder who on earth at the Brazilian Boxing Commission they could have spoken to. One of the few facts known about Karina Britos is that her promoter was one Victor Britos Zamudio (her uncle) and that this gentleman, apparently, did not enjoy the finest of reputations in Misiones when he lived there. Is it possible that the fighter gave her uncle's number as that of the Brazilian Boxing Commission and that he was the person waiting on the other end of the line when Señor García phoned asking for confirmation?

We'll find out soon enough. The disciplinary tribunal of the Federación Argentina de Boxeo (FAB) presided over by Aldo Fernández is due to meet on Tuesday and can be expected to issue a statement. The President of the FAB, Osvaldo Bisbal, was quoted by the newspaper Clarín yesterday as saying: "The fighters themselves along with the organizers and those who sanctioned this fight are going to have to come in and face the music — and I don't think their claims of innocence are going to wash." If convicted of complicity, the fighter, her manager and the promoter all risk a twelve-month ban.

Yesterday, Tello told journalists that his fighter was "tranquil" and that she needs to start focussing on her next fight. "For her," he maintained, "the whole experience was positive. It was just like fighting any other opponent."

When she spoke to La Voz del Interior, though, the woman who once said that fame was like a soap bubble seemed to be working herself into something of a lather. "I didn't realize they were the same person," she insisted. "In fact, I still think they weren't. I'm very upset about what has happened because I had nothing to do with it and now I'm getting calls from everyone under the sun. The people responsible are the Córdoban boxing federation. They're the ones that should have established the real identity of this person."

You have to wonder whether "this person", as Gutiérrez calls her, might not be disturbed. "A Brazilian masquerading as a boxer," was the sardonic term Juan E. Brignone used to describe her on Sunday — little imagining that she wasn't Brazilian either! Emiliano Brescia of Al Brode del Ring, who said her style was "more typical of a street fight than boxing as a discipline ", found the first knockdown comical: "The visitor charged forward clumily and Chapita stepped smartly to the side, leaving her arm trailing, which Balles ended up wearing" (they call that a "clothes-line" in wrestling); but there was nothing funny about the second, the result of a blow "delivered by the Argentinian with 100% efficiency that left her opponent dazed for several minutes, not even knowing where she was."

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