Brother's Keeper

Phoenix boxing great Michael Carbajal says his big brother and manager, Danny, stole every penny he had

But famed Las Vegas fight promoter Bob Arum took a chance on Michael after the Phoenix fighter captured the imagination of boxing fans during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, giving the 21-year-old a substantial signing bonus shortly after the Games.

Arum's instincts about Michael proved right.

The little kid from Phoenix gave off a vibe as strong as his potent right hand; it said he intended to fight to the finish as if his life depended on it.

Michael Carbajal on the shoulders of his brothers Danny (left) and Angel (right)
Stephen Dunn/Getty images
Michael Carbajal on the shoulders of his brothers Danny (left) and Angel (right)
Boxing champion Michael Carbajal in 2006.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Boxing champion Michael Carbajal in 2006.

Danny was by his brother's side always, coaching, coaxing, complimenting, and, occasionally, chiding.

The two were inseparable despite the age difference, and national sportswriters honed in on their closeness, first at the Olympics and then as Michael quickly moved up the ladder after going pro in 1989.

As a banker, Sally Carbajal was the natural choice to intially manage Michael's growing pot of money, and Danny's 25 percent of the take as manager/trainer also became considerable. She quit her job soon after Michael became a professional.

Sally and Danny soon started investing Michael's money in the now-contested neighborhood properties, and in retirement and bank accounts. During his 2004 deposition, Danny said he and Michael had agreed at the start to the 75-25 split of Michael's boxing earnings.

None of this, he said, was put in writing.

"We were family," Danny testified. "Everything we did, we did by just our word . . . Sally was the one that set all this up."

But, according to Michael, Danny always knew exactly where all the money was going, during and after his boxing career. Those responsibilities included more than making investments on Michael's behalf.

Danny and Sally also took care of paying all of Michael's bills and giving him walking-around money, an arrangement that continued with Danny after the couple separated in 1997 until earlier this year.

In an August 2002 minute entry during Michael's divorce from then-wife, Merci (the mother of three of his four children), Superior Court Judge Richard Gama wrote:

"Michael testified that he has no knowledge or understanding regarding any of his financial information and/or investments, if any . . . Michael testified that his brother [Danny] always managed his fighting career, and all of the prize money earned during his successful boxing career. Further, Michael testified that whenever he needs income, his brother simply makes the income available to him . . . His brother also pays a monthly automobile purchase payment, automobile insurance, and other monthly living expenses on [Michael's] behalf."

In a 1997 story on Michael, written after the champ, then 29, ostensibly had become a millionaire, he told New Times ("A Long Day's Journey," April 10, 1997), "I don't know much about money and investments. I don't even like to think about it. Danny and Sally do what's best for me."

Besides going down in boxing history as a terrific fighter, Michael Carbajal always will be known as the first little guy to earn $1 million for one fight, his second of three battles with Chiquita Gonzalez at the Forum in Los Angeles on February 19, 1994.

But as Michael's boxing career took an inevitable downward turn in the mid- to late-1990s, his previously pristine reputation also took a hit. Run-ins with cops and the occasional citizen, alleged gang affiliations, the murder of a buddy on the front lawn of his East Fillmore residence, and other negative moments — many of which made front-page news — dulled the luster of Phoenix's one-time golden boy.

Still, after Michael's boxing career ended on a high note in 1999 with the knockout of Jorge Arce in that Mexican bullring, he soon became an honored "elder statesman" in the fight game, at age 32.

"Michael is a very decent guy and loyal as they come," says ex-boxer Ruben Castillo, who wants to speak at Danny's November 30 sentencing.

"People who know him know that, and people who don't know him can feel it. He never has lived fancy, and everyone knows how he left it all out there in the ring when he was fighting. Sure, he's had problems. So has everyone else. As for the money, he just figured Danny was making sure that his family was being taken care of. Instead, boom!"


Michael Carbajal's troubles with the bottle are no secret to anyone who has been around him in recent years. Plainly put, he's an alcoholic.

That's not to say he's a bad guy or a mean-spirited person, because he's not. Actually, he is courteous to most people he meets, though he remains shy, a bit withdrawn in public.

Clearly, Michael has yet to find a true niche in his post-boxing career, be it in his family's gym or something else.

Michael's girlfriend, Laura Hall, who uncovered many of the latest revelations involving Danny's alleged scams, swears that Michael hasn't been drinking nearly as much in recent weeks.

She says he knows that the filing of his lawsuit and the publication of this story are going to have an immediate and great impact on his life, and he wants to stay strong. But the pressures, especially the awful realization that his brother seems to have fleeced him, have been overwhelming.

Michael chose not to attend last June's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in New York. He didn't want to be around his brother Danny and nieces Josephine and Celia, all of whom attended the festivities, basking in the hard-won glory that once was Michael's.

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14 comments
Arturocarrasco75
Arturocarrasco75

mikael..keep your head up brother. Its a real shame your own blood did this to you.like i told you in your face...you have always been my idol, long before we met. and im proud of you and lucky to have shaken your hand that made you a true champion. arturo carrasco sr.

maria Sanchez
maria Sanchez

how much sympathy can anyone really have for Michael. He is not a victim in this case. Do you think Danny didn't get paid for training? Come on people, your not that dumb. Danny has to have his own money and so did Michael. this shows how blinded fans can get when someone they admire makes bad decisions. Michael tries to use the sympathy of his fans, which are limited now. If you look at Michael's history with police and his violent , loud behavior you will see that he is not the innocent man that never spend any money he claims to be. It's sad he is using his fans admiration to go against his brother. Those two were so close that I believe Michael knew where all of his money was going. You can't fool this ex-fan.

9st vp
9st vp

Hey Maria Sanchez you got a big mouth and if you knew the truth you wouldnt be commenting like that..... danny have you believing he is not guilty.... Michael is my uncle and i know the truth i see and witness so do your research before opening your FAT mouth.... you were never a fan because a true fan would stick by his side... i am telling you this so you're not having Michael as the "bad guy"..........

Diamondjohnson317
Diamondjohnson317

Hey DUMB IDIOT, you are as stupid as your uncle. I heard all about his faggot ass. He was picking up a hooker on Van Buren by your hood and found out it was a man. He liked the man but the pimp beat up your uncle cause he did'nt want to pay. Hell nah, that's low and I think Maris has a point and sounds a lot more smarter than you. You need to research about you uncle on Vanburen. Sounds like he is a bad guy...sorry.

Trickedoutscion06
Trickedoutscion06

hey 9st vp would u be able to email me if possiable trickedoutscion06@yahoo.com

Lori
Lori

Wow, what a sad sad story...too many times things like this happen in families and it just shows that blood is not thicker than water...to stab your own brother in the back...how does he look at himself everyday..very sad for Michael...I hope he find happiness, God Bless.

Ed
Ed

I've met Michael several times at Mecca Lounge (now razed). when he got drunk, he became abusive. i guess that was why he always had friends who drank with him(he bought). If you're stupid enough to be taken, then you get taken. Danny saw an easy score and took it. you can meet Danny now at that bar on 16th street drinking Michelobs with Mike's money.

Davey Altamirano Jr.
Davey Altamirano Jr.

Danny and Michael were the men who taught me how to really throw a punch. They trained me for some time in the jr. middleweight division at the 9th st. gym. It was the best experience of my life and im truly saddened by this whole incident cause i talked to them about fighting all the time cause i always looked up to them. I feel sorry for michael and what he is going through, i pray for him and the family. god bless, AKA Little Big Head.

Ralph R
Ralph R

Everyone in boxing is talking about this story. Please follow it up

Micho
Micho

I knew some of the Carbajal's and I remember when Angel would get of the Bus and walk down the street and he would buy Ice Cream for us. But to hear all of this is sad, especially for Michael and Mary. I looked at quit claim deed and Mary is spelled with two rr's and I think she would know how to spell her own name. The more stuff that comes out about Danny the more I suspect he is guilty of these heinous things. One thing though, Michael should have always kept his financial adviser, when it comes to money, it will tear even brothers with a strong bond apart. Michael should get on the wagon rebound and focus on training the next crop of Arizona champs.

Luis Lopez
Luis Lopez

Danny and his daughters ought to be ashamed of themselves. This boy needs to go away for a long, long time....Unbelivable

Roland Parks
Roland Parks

I was a big big fan of Michael's and remember all of your great stories on him and his family from way back when. I also read your story a few years ago about the murder and couldn't believe it. This is just so sad. I can see how Michael got taken for a ride because if you can't trust your brother, who can you trust? I hope he survives all this.

MaryK Croft
MaryK Croft

My family was there in the late '80's and our band, Side Effects, did some fund-raisers for Michael in 1987. We thought they were a class act, the whole Carbajal family. How sad this whole thing is! What I most hope for is that Sally gets vindicated. Michael will simply continue to live and may or may not get over it, but Sally, a domestic violence victim, doesn't even have that much.

David Lopez
David Lopez

This is a fucking amazing story. Wowwwwwwwwww....Son of a bitch

 
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