By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, July 22 (Reuters) - A Bulgarian boxer whose California license was suspended for forcibly kissing a female reporter during an interview was reinstated on Monday but warned he faced a permanent ban for any such behavior in the future.
The California State Athletic Commission voted 6-0 to lift the suspension of Kubrat Pulev, a heavyweight fighter known as "The Cobra," after he completed a class on sexual harassment prevention and paid a $2,500 fine.
Pulev, 38, a two-time European heavyweight champion whose on-camera encounter with Jennifer Ravalo in March went viral, apologized during the hearing in San Diego.
"I'm very sorry for this kiss," City News Service quoted him as saying. "And I must to say to Mrs. Ravalo, please, excuse me and sorry for the kiss, because it was my mistake, 100 percent."
Pulev grabbed Ravalo's face in his hands and kissed her during an interview shortly after his seventh-round knockout of Romania's Bogdan Dinu in Costa Mesa, California.
In the video, she initially appears to laugh it off saying, "All right, thank you," as he walks away. But Ravalo later lodged a complaint asserting the kiss was forced on her and unwelcome. She said Pulev also grabbed her buttocks following the interview.
In May the commission suspended Pulev's boxing license, citing him for violating rules that prohibit an athlete from engaging in conduct considered a "discredit to boxing."
In his statement, Pulev said he had been "too emotional" during his interview with Ravalo but has since learned that he must have "more respect for women."
The commission stipulated that Pulev's license will be "permanently revoked if he commits an act similar to his actions committed against sports reporter Jenny Ravalo."
Ravalo said in a statement she had been "publicly shamed nonstop ... by Team Pulev" and his promotion company, Top Rank, since the encounter in March.
"I am being blamed by a man who cannot control himself," she said.
Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, thanked the commission for suspending Pulev but said his promoter, Bob Arum, should himself face punishment for comments he made in a separate IFL-TV interview in which he belittled the agency's actions as "totally crazy" and denied Pulev did anything wrong.
"Mr. Arum spoke on an interview that he didn't believe that a 6-foot-4, 250-pound boxer grabbing the face of a 5-foot-2 reporter and forcibly kissing her with his bloody mouth is sexual harassment," Ravalo said. "I would like to see if he would think differently is a large bloody man did the same to him without his consent." (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
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