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Articles of 2002

'Spinks Jinx' Charmed and Unparalleled at Light Heavyweight

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When Michael Spinks won an Olympic gold medal at the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal as a middleweight, he was overshadowed by his older brother Leon who also won a gold medal as a Lt. Heavyweight. When Leon won the Undisputed World Heavyweight title from a severely eroded Muhammad Ali, once again, Michael was overshadowed. Yet when his career was completed, Michael Spinks would be the first light heavyweight champion to challenge and defeat the heavyweight champion at the time ( Larry Holmes ). His brother Leon who would suffer some personal and career bad breaks would retire a forgotten journeyman fighter with a barely above .500 record.

Spink's brilliant career came close to never being realized. Coming out of the 1976 Olympics, boxing was the third priority for Michael Spinks. First was maintaining his job at a chemical plant to help take care of his mother in St. Louis. There were no big contract offers waiting for a signature to turn professional. Second was to help his brother Leon who came out of the Olympics with more promise and expectation. Those who followed the brothers amateur careers more closely felt Michael had the more promising career ahead as a pro . They felt Michael's style was more suited for the pros. However Leon was streaking his way to becoming a ranked heavyweight contender, and was becoming a television staple of ABC sports. ABC was capitalizing having broadcast the summer Olympics and show casing the five American boxers who captured gold medals. So Michael's career was pushed to the back burner. Convinced by flamboyant boxing promoter Butch Lewis in 1977 to begin a professional boxing career, Spinks turned pro. On April 17, 1977. Eddie Benson would be the answer to a trivia question as to who was the first fighter Michael Spinks Ko'd as a pro. History would look back to Benson as being the launch pad for one of the most productive and successful boxing career's in the history of the Lt. Heavyweight division. Spinks brought to the division a style that could be a real pain if you were fighting in the Lt. heavyweight division. He was 6'2 1/2' with a seventy eight inch reach, only two inches shorter than former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. He had a good long hard jab, his left hook and left uppercut were devastating punches. Let's not forget the Spinks jinx in the right hand. He scored some devastating knockouts ( Marvin Johnson, Yaqui Lopez, Jerry Celestine ). Spinks could also box from the outside as well, ( Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qwai, formerly Dwight Braxton ). Plus he was extremely awkward.

After blazing through his first sixteen fights which included knockout victories over former two-time Light heavyweight Champion Marvin Johnson and veteran Lt. Heavyweight contender Yaqui Lopez. He was now the top ranked contender for WBA Lt. Heavyweight Champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad ( formerly Eddie Gregory ). On July 18th, 1981 Spinks fought the counter power punching Mustafa Muhammad. Mustafa was by far the most formidable opponent Spinks had faced in his career at the time. The usually unmotivated Muhammad showed up in tremendous condition to face the up and coming undefeated Spinks. Muhammad started off very fast taking advantage of his vast experience and his cunning boxing skills. Spinks fell behind early in the fight and was being shut out going into round five. From the fifth round on Spinks controlled the bout by forcing the champion to follow him setting him up to be hit with all the punches in the Spinks arsenal. Spinks was now controlling the bout landing uppercuts and overhand rights to the pressuring Muhammad. Having the champion cut and bleeding over both eyes Spinks lands his calling card punch, the overhand right known as the “Spinks Jinx” in the twelfth round and puts Muhammad down. Muhammad rises but, loses his title by unanimous decision to the new champion Michael Spinks. From November 7, 1981 through September 18, 1982 Spinks makes five defenses of his WBA title scoring five kayo's. These K.O.s were over some of the divisions best. Angelo Dundee's undefeated top ranked contender Vonzell Johnson, the tough Murray Sutherland and the never been stopped third ranked Johnny Davis, who owned a victory over current WBC Lt. Heavyweight Champ Dwight Muhammad Qwai, (formerly known as Dwight Braxton ).

On March 18, 1983 WBA Lt. Heavyweight Champ Michael Spinks and WBC Lt. Heavyweight Champ Dwight Muhammad Qwai meet for the Undisputed Lt. Heavyweight Championship of the world. This was without a doubt one of the most anticipated Lt. Heavyweight title bouts in history. Both fighters creamed the entire division scoring impressive wins over the best of the best. Spinks was undefeated and the once beaten Qwai hadn't lost since dropping a six round decision to Johnny Davis in is third bout as a pro. Qwai had won the title scoring a tenth round TKO over reigning champ Matthew Saad Muhammad. Since winning the title Qwai had made three successful defenses scoring Ko's over Saad Muhammad in a rematch, and knockout victories over third ranked Jerry “The Bull” Martin and fourth ranked Eddie Davis. Not only did this bout have two fighters with legitimate claims as to being the champ. They also possessed contrasting styles. The 6' 2 1/2″ Spinks preferred to work from the outside behind his long sharp left jab, using it to set up his devastating uppercuts and Spinks Jinx. The 5' 8″ Qwai did his best work inside ripping the body with bone jarring hooks and right uppercuts to the chin. The two fighters styles also offered many contradictions, Spinks could really punch and Qwai was an underrated boxer. Spinks went on to capture a 15 round majority decision to claim the undisputed Lt. heavyweight championship of the world. Spinks shows his versatility against the best opponent he has ever faced. Boxing and using the ring without running, and stopping to plant to unload the Spinks Jinx when Qwai slows. In this fight Michael Spinks puts on a clinic on how to use the jab, he uses his jab as an offensive weapon as well as using it defensively keeping the hard charging Qwai from coming at him with impunity. Spinks goes on to make 4 successful defences of his undisputed Lt. heavyweight title cleaning out the entire division over the next two years. Having run out of worthy challengers in his true division, and having one of the most complete careers in Lt. heavyweight history having never suffered a defeat and defending his title 10 times Spinks hears the call of the Heavyweight dollars.

Looking to build upon his legacy Spinks relinquished his Lt. heavyweight title to challenge the current undefeated heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. Spinks was ridiculed and laughed at for abandoning a division he dominated for eight years and clearly could've continued to dominate with no one on the horizon who would be considered a threat to his title. Having accomplished what former legendary Lt. heavyweight champ Bob Foster failed to, go undefeated at Lt. heavyweight, ( Foster lost a decision to Mauro Mina as a Lt. heavy ). Spinks set out to achieve another milestone that had never been done by a previous Lt. heavyweight champion, win the heavyweight title. Heavyweight champ Larry Holmes had ruled the heavyweight division for seven years and had a gaudy record of 48-0 and was on the heels of tying the immortal Rocky Marciano who retired 49-0 and was the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated in boxing history. On September 21, 1985 exactly thirty years to the day of Marciano making his last title defense against Lt. heavyweight champion Archie Moore, Spinks would challenge for Holmes title. At age 35 Holmes was aging but was still considered a big favorite to defeat the former Lt. heavyweight champ and equal Marciano's record.

On the same night Spinks made history and denied history by capturing Holmes tittle via a fifteen round decision to become the first Lt . heavyweight champion to win the world heavyweight title. Spinks having endured a torturous training regime transformed himself into a 200 pound fighter. Spinks out quicked and outmaneuvered the champ and was able to keep Holmes from dominating with his jab, and moving in and out just enough to keep the bigger man from getting inside. Holmes was outraged at the decision and in a fit of anger made his infamous comment and said “Rocky Marciano couldn't carry my jock strap”. Holmes wanted a rematch and the public wanted to see if the transformed Lt. heavyweight could do it again.

Holmes promised he would get Spinks in the rematch and he almost did, coming out hard and aggressive he had Spinks in trouble in the early going. Once again Spinks with his speed and awkward mobility survived and managed to stabilize the fight by the middle rounds doing some effective boxing while keeping the aging Holmes from imposing his strength and will. It wasn't until the fourteenth round that Holmes had finally caught Spinks with the biggest punch either had landed, a bone jarring straight right to Spinks chin knocking him across the ring and almost out. Again the cagy and crafty Spinks survives and comes on with a flurry in the last round and is awarded a split decision by the judges to retain the title.

Having defeated Larry Holmes twice for the title Spinks and his promoter Butch Lewis decided to by pass the heavyweight tournament that HBO and Don King productions were putting together to come up with an undisputed heavyweight champion. Spinks and Lewis chose a different route. After being stripped of the IBF title he won from Holmes, Spinks signed to fight the hard hitting Gerry Cooney who was making a comeback after a two and a half year retirement. Once again Spinks was an underdog to the once beaten Cooney. After one postponement Spinks and Cooney would finally meet in Atlantic City in a bout that was billed the liner heavyweight title. Once again the clever Spinks would endure some rough patches early in the fight and goes on to TKO Cooney in the fifth round. Two months later the new force in the heavyweight division Mike Tyson would win the HBO tournament by decisioning Tony Tucker. This set the stage for much debate as to who was the real Heavyweight Champion. By this time Tyson was clearly at his peak and Spinks was showing signs of being on the wrong side of the hill. However the public demand to see the two undefeated fighters face each other was growing. After months of build up Spinks and Tyson would meet in Atlantic City, the town where both had scored some of their biggest career wins.

The fight wasn't even a contest. It was painfully obvious that Spinks didn't want to be there with a true heavyweight force who was in his absolute prime. Within less than two minutes Tyson was able to do two things to Spinks no fighter had been able to, put him down and out. At almost 32 years old Spinks announced his retirement and would never fight again. Spinks turned down many multimillion dollar offers to comeback, some were for him to fight the current heavyweight champ at the time Evander Holyfield.

It is the opinion of this writer that the Tyson defeat has caused many so-called boxing experts to overlook and under appreciate the unparalleled career of Michael Spinks. When evaluating his career it becomes quite clear that he could do it all. He could box using the ring utilizing his jab and reach. He could punch with either hand having the ability to score knockouts with the hook or uppercut, and the right being the Spinks jinx was the closest punch the Lt. heavyweight division has seen to instant death since the left hook of Bob Foster. He thoroughly ruled a stacked Lt. heavyweight division, not the weak division that Roy Jones dominates today. He never suffered a defeat at Lt. heavy something no other Lt. heavyweight champion in history can claim including legends Bob Foster and Archie Moore and todays current champion Roy Jones Jr. He moved up to Heavyweight and won the championship something all of his peers failed to do and Roy Jones won't try.

 Spinks career is overlooked because of the Tyson defeat. However history looks fondly on Billy Conn who was knocked out by Joe Louis in a failed attempt for the heavyweight title. Archie Moore failed against Rocky Marciano and Bob Foster was destroyed by Joe Frazier in the same fashion Spinks was by Tyson. Conn, Moore and Foster never achieved what Spinks did at Lt. heavyweight or heavyweight. Spinks didn't meet his match until he was 3 years into his career at the bigger weight. Why is he forgotten when mentioning hall of fame champions and all-time great fighters? If he was fighting today he would have a picnic with the Lt. heavyweights, Jones included. And outside of maybe a few heavyweights he'd have his way in that division as well. Oh yes Michael Spinks is with out a doubt one of the two or three most underrated and least appreciated champions in history.

Articles of 2002

$*%@#!

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Walk the dog, stroll through the park, have a picnic at the lake.
There are safer things for IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov to do this month than defend his title against James “Lights Out” Toney.
Barbecue, play softball, fish, visit the zoo. Thank his lucky stars.
Jirov, who lives in California, won’t be fighting Toney on HBO on Jan. 25.
Something to do with his insides.
Ask Toney why Jirov pulled out of their fight and he’ll tell you it was Jirov’s heart that let him down, his backbone that went soft, not his banged-up ribs. Ask Toney and he’ll tell you about heartbreak and lies and revenge and fighting anybody in the universe if it means another title. Jirov claims he suffered the damage while sparring. Maybe. But it’s the fourth time Jirov has found a reason not to fight Toney. How many times you got to be told to go home before you realize the guy doesn’t want to come outside and play? How many times you got to be bit by the same dog before you realize it wants to be left alone? Jirov has more excuses than a politician caught with a hooker on his lap.
In his own eloquent way, Toney recently described how disappointed he was in the cancellation of their title fight on the undercard of the Vernon Forrest – Ricardo Mayorga welterweight title fight.
“The @#%$%*&#@,’’ Toney said after learning of the postponement on Christmas Eve. “Jirov can @&%$#% and then he can @%$#@#$. He’s nothing but a #$%#@#.’’ That said, it doesn’t brighten up the New Year in the Toney household.
“I’m done with it,’’ said Toney, sounding like a guy who finally gets tried of being stood up by the same girl.
As of Dec. 30, there was still no word of an opponent for Toney, though he’s still making regular trips to the gym.
Merry Christmas, James. Have a Happy New Year.
“Bah, humbug,’’ said Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen. “We didn’t have much of a Christmas. I got the news on Christmas Eve. But you just have to bounce back.’’ Funny thing about fighters. Some make excuses, some fight through them. You get the feeling Toney could have cracked five ribs and his right tibia and still climbed into the ring against Jirov.
It raises a lot of questions. What’s Jirov got against fighting? After a busy 2001, he hasn’t fought since last February. How do you hold a title after you’ve gone into retirement? Just who is this guy and why does he like to hide? Is there really a Vassily Jirov out there, or is he a creation of the IBF, a shadowy figure who won the title and decided it was too big a risk to keep defending it? The bottom line is, Toney may be left with a lot of unexpected free time on his hands if they don’t find him another fight, though he knew better than to mark the date on his calendar in ink. There are no promises in boxing. When dealing with a guy like Jirov, all bets are off. But Toney can still hope. The name O’Neil Bell – the WBC’s No. 1 challenger – has been knocked around, and Toney said he doesn’t care what contender or champion he knocks out on Jan. 25. “#@#$%$#,’’ Toney said.
You can say that again.

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Articles of 2002

New Year's Resolutions

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A new year is upon us, which means it's time for new years resolutions. Yeah, never mind that most resolutions are broken, oh, around the third week of January; everybody still makes them.

Here are my resolutions that I'd make for some of the luminaries in the sport of boxing.

* Floyd Mayweather: No more excuses. Anyone else sick of listening to 'the Pretty Boy' whine about what ailments he came into the fight with? Whether it's his fragile hands, a bum shoulder or his squabbles with his promoter Bob Arum, he always has an alibi. Hey Floyd, nobody cares, you get paid plenty to perform and those that buy tickets don't care that you might have a hangnail; they want nothing but the best effort out of you.

Mayweather reminds me of former Los Angeles Dodger slugger Mike Marshall, who's second home seemed to be the disabled list. The bottom line is this guy is lucky to be a boxer where he only has to perform once every 6 months- he simply couldn't handle the rigors of an NBA, NFL or baseball season. Ask any athlete if they are ever 100-percent healthy after the first day of training camp or spring training and they'll laugh at you.

Injuries and ailments are a part of the job, overcoming them is what makes a true professional. Mayweather still hasn't grasped that concept.

* Jim Gray: Respect. I guess this little weasel is whom Aretha Franklin was talking about in her song. Think about it, have you ever seen a guy be so disrespectful to fighters in post-fight interviews like this guy. Don't even mention HBO's Larry Merchant- he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions like a true journalist and he's consistent. Gray looks at boxing as a secondary gig and looks down on boxers in general.

Don't believe me? Just compare and contrast his softball interviews that he does for NBC and the hatchet jobs he does on Showtime.

* Max Kellerman: No more over-hyping New York boxers. Look, I get along and respect Max, but when you look up the term 'East Coast Bias' in Webster's, his picture may be used as the definition of it. From Zab Judah to James Butler and to Tokumbo Olajide, he'll have you enshrined in Canastota if you come out of the Big Apple.

What's worse are the excuses he'll come up with for his New Yorkers when they fall on their faces. Max is great for boxing but he's gotta realize New York hasn't been a player on the boxing scene for at least 20 years.

* Crocodile: A new catchphrase. You know Crocodile, right? He was Mike Tyson's hype-man for all these years…the guy with the menacing shades and the army fatigues who used to scream, “GUERILLA WARFARE” at the top of his lungs over and over again.

I've heard that enough and it's about as played out as 'Whoop, there it is' and it's time he came up with a new one. All the great ones can add to their repertoire.

* HBO: Admit they acknowledge the titles. Stop being the Hypocritical Boxing Organization and just stop saying that you don't recognize these organizations. The latest example of their double-talk? Well, for years they dogged John Ruiz and his WBA title, suddenly Roy Jones challenges Ruiz and HBO is hyping this up as some sort of historic challenge of a light heavyweight trying to capture a heavyweight title.
Yeah, the same title they had basically trashed for years.

* Joe Cortez: No more over-officiating. His line is that,' He's firm but he's fair'. I'd argue about that the last couple of years but my biggest gripe with him is that he seems to make himself waaaaay too visible during fights and gets too involved. Nobody is there to watch him and he should just let the fighters fight.
Too often I see these fights with Cortez lose their flow as Cortez continually interrupts the action with his admonishments and warnings. Joe, take a step back and let us watch what we came to see.

* Don Turner: Stop living off of Holyfield-Tyson I- If you ever talk to this guy, he'll talk as though he invented boxing. And his big coup was co-training Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson. 'The Real Deal' upset Tyson and suddenly Turner was being hailed as the new Chappie Blackburn and he became a media darling.

My question is this, did he suddenly teach Holyfield how to fight 35 fights into his career? Also, I contend that my mother and I could work Holyfield's corner and he would whip Tyson everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And ask yourself this, when was the last time he was in the winning corner for a big fight?

* Newspaper writers: Start crediting the Internet. Ok, this is a sore subject with me, but too many times I've seen stories from the major newspaper scribes who amazingly have stories that are eerily similar to stories that I've read on the internet (or that I've written myself) and use quotes that I got in one-on-one interviews and they don't attribute their sources- the internet.

When I take quotes or info from a story I make a point to give credit where it's due. Now, I just wish these guys would do the same.

* Roy Jones: no more hip-hop entrances. Roy, you're a magnificently gifted prizefighter, you can also play just a bit of hoops, but your rhyming skills are that of Shaquille O'Neal. In other words, you're doing street nursery rhymes not Nas.

Please, oh please, stop embarrassing yourself and the sport with your cheesy as nacho's attempt to become a hip-hop performer. His last entrance/performance reminded me of one of those really bad Sir-Mix-Alot videos of the early 90's.

* Panama Lewis: an exit out of the game. You remember Lewis right, the guy who gave Aaron Pryor the mysterious white bottle before the 14th round of his bout against Alexis Arguello, which seemed to give 'the Hawk' a sudden burst of energy that enabled Pryor to brutally KO Arguello. Afterwards, Pryor would skip out on his post-fight drug test.

Then there was the fight with Luis Resto, where he would tamper with his gloves between rounds, and bearing the brunt of this tomfoolery was Billy Collins who's faced was turned into a bloody mess. Collins, in the aftermath of this brutality committed suicide. For this, Lewis was banned permanently from working a corner. But that doesn't mean that he can't go into the gym and train fighters and even attend fights.

The bottom line is simple, this man has no place in the game of boxing and boxing shouldn't tolerate him in any way.

* Cedric Kushner: no more gimmicks. This guy has tried everything from the disastrous 'ThunderBox' to one-day $100,000 heavyweight tournaments- and all have failed miserably.

He can put on a boxing version of 'Survivor' or 'Real World' if he wants but the reality is, boxing fans want good fights and interesting fighters, nothing more, nothing less.

Stop with the shenanigans and stop with the junk.

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Articles of 2002

Dream Fights of 2003

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Hey, we can all dream, right? Isn't it our God-given right as boxing fans to think about fights that should happen – but often times don't?

And not just fights that have the highest profile or the biggest names – because sometimes those fights, like Lewis vs. Tyson – are nothing more than high-profile mismatches. I'm talking about fights that are evenly matched between the game's best and are the most intriguing inside the ring.

Here are some fights I'd pay to see in the upcoming year; full well knowing that most of these fights are pipe dreams as the business end of the sport would bog these fights down quickly. But hey, we can dream right?

* Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera: Name me another fighter that has never won a world title belt that is better than Marquez? You can't and this guys been ducked and dodged long enough. On February 1st he takes on Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title and it says here that he should face one of the game's best known 126-pounders, either Morales or Barrera. Marquez is a master boxer with great counter-punching skills and his hand-speed would give either one of his Mexican compatriots fits. There are some in the industry who have been saying for a while that Marquez is already the game's premiere featherweight; I'm not inclined to disagree that strongly.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: With Barrera, not good, as Ricardo Maldonado sees no real upside in this match-up and would most likely take an easier fight on HBO for about the same amount of money he could make facing Marquez.

With Morales, the logistics are much less complicated. Both of them are promoted by Bob Arum and there is some talk that they could face each other in May if a Morales-Barrera III isn't made.

* Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones: Not only because it's a match-up of two of the very premiere fighters in the world, but Hopkins needs to resume his career with some meaningful fights and Jones should be fighting guys like 'the Executioner' instead of participating in novelty acts like his proposed bout with John Ruiz.

And don't think for one minute that this would be a blowout. Jones couldn't blowout a green Hopkins in 1993 and won't be able to do it now. Hopkins, unlike most of Jones' opponents, isn't in total awe of Pensacola's finest.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not good, Sharon and Arafat will find a common ground regarding the Middle East before these two proud and stubborn men find one in contract negotiations.

* Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vernon Forrest: For fans of pure boxing and strategy this is a fight that can't be missed. Both men have strong jabs and match-up well physically. 'The Golden Boy' has the better left hook and 'The Viper' has a more effective right hand. Between these two well-schooled boxers you can expect a tense and tight boxing match with subtle momentum swings round by round.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: For 2003, not very good because it looks like Oscar will be fighting once in the upcoming year – a September rematch against Shane Mosley – and Bob Arum has stated that Forrest simply brings nothing to the table promotionally. This can be interpreted as another way of saying that he's not Latin, too dangerous or just another black fighter who can't sell a ticket. The bottom line seems to be that unless Forrest raises his profile in the upcoming years, De La Hoya will be facing guys that make economic sense.

* Floyd Mayweather vs. Kostya Tszyu: This would be a face off of the sport's premier lightweight against the game's best jr. welterweight. 'The Pretty Boy' would bring speed, quickness and boxing ability to the dance. While Tszyu would bring a decided edge in strength, size and punching power. They say styles make fights and you have two contrasting ones here.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not likely. This is for a couple of reasons. First, Vlad Wharton who promotes Tszyu, is seemingly deathly afraid to take any risks with Tszyu, who's basically his cash cow. Secondly, Mayweather got a reality check from his two bouts with Jose Luis Castillo, who at 135 pounds was able to muscle him throughout their 24 rounds they fought in 2002. And Tszyu is faster, sharper and just as strong as Castillo. I'm not sure Mayweather is in any rush to make the move up to 140-pounds.

* Lennox Lewis vs. Wladimir Klitschko: The industry is always better off when there is action in the heavyweight division. So why even mess around by having Lewis take on 'the other' Klitschko or knock out Tyson again; getting right in there with the man most pundits are claiming is the heir to his throne in Wlad Klitschko?

The time is now, Lewis is getting up there in age and really doesn't have that much left in his gas tank anyway and it would be prudent for him to face Klitschko now before he gets any better. Remember, that's the tact they took in facing Michael Grant when they did – but it has to be noted that Klitschko is much better than Grant.

Lewis would have the advantages in experience and savvy, but for one of the few times in his career he would be facing a disadvantage in size and perhaps power. The two best big men on the planet squaring off, what else could you ask for?

CHANCES OF HAPPENING: Actually pretty good, since Lewis himself has stated his plans to take on both Klitschkos in between his rematch with Tyson. But with Don King now making a full court press to garner the services of Lewis, who knows what direction he goes to now.

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