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Articles of 2002

FIRST THING TO UNDERSTAND:

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For the past seven years or so, representatives of the federal government, most notably Senator John McCain of Arizona, have sold people on the fact that they are concerned enough about the sport of professional boxing to investigate its ills and enact legislation that is designed to “clean up” the sport.

Some positives, I suppose, have resulted from this – the Professional Boxer Safety Act of 1996 set up certain Federal guidelines by which promoters, commissions, sanctioning organizations, etc. must comply with.

Then the Ali Act, spearheaded by McCain, served to amend the existing Federal law and add more guidelines, including those that relate to “coercive” (i.e., option) contracts.

A wonderful start for legislation aimed at bringing some order to a sport that is fundamentally chaotic, right?

Well, as the people at Hertz are famous for saying – not exactly.

That's because even if a law had been put together that “covered all the bases”, it is useless because it is not enforced, certainly not by most of the regulators across the country who have the responsibility to “police” boxing in their individual jurisdictions. There is no effective direction given to them by the national trade organization (the Association of Boxing Commissions), and of course, there is really no apparatus of enforcement set forth by any of the politicians involved with constructing the Ali Act, who must have been too busy posing for pictures and issuing press releases to consider the most important point about ANY bill that is passed into law – IT'S NOT THE QUALITY OF THE LAW THAT MATTERS, IT'S THE QUALITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CHARGED TO ENFORCE IT.

This coming week, the United States government's sideshow continues. On Wednesday, May 22, the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation's subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Commerce, and Tourism will once again bring forward several more boxing-related people to offer five-minute statements about all the horrible ills of the sport – statements that will be benign for the most part – and once again, they're likely to miss the mark entirely (with the possible exception of one panelist, which we'll discuss later).

And once again, we'll have legislation that, as a result, misses the mark as well.

The most fundamental thing you must understand about all of this, right from the outset, is that, quite simply, THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T REALLY CARE.

Don't get me wrong – I'm sure the people in Congress would love for things to fall perfectly into place for them, so they can record their “slam dunk”, take the credit, and send everybody home. Boxing reform, however, is a complex issue that going to take a lot more work than has been done, and I'm not quite sure anyone in Washington is inclined to put forth that effort.

When push comes to shove, they don't really care about the welfare of boxers, or that of the industry. I mean, when you look at the big picture, why would they, when this very committee, chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan, has bigger items on its plate, like investigating the massive scandal at Enron?

Reforming boxing, by any measure, certainly takes a back seat to accounting reform, in terms of the public interest.

Let me tell you what the government DOES care about, vis-a-vis the boxing issue:

* A photo opportunity with someone like Muhammad Ali, who is being brought in just for that purpose.

* The opportunity for a few senators to tell people they were amateur boxers.

* An opportunity to score cheap points against an “opponent” that is defenseless. Unlike virtually any other issue Congress could possibly debate, whether it be health care reform, foreign policy, school vouchers, even campaign finance reform, there really isn't another side to the boxing issue. Oh sure, you could have the “state vs. Federal” argument, but essentially, there's no convincing argument AGAINST regulation, is there? I mean, how could the “institution” of boxing actually stand up, with a straight face, and contend that it is better NOT to be regulated? In that way, boxing reform and regulation is a SAFE issue for the politicians to hitch their wagon to.

* An opportunity to pander to McCain, with very little political cost. Let's put things squarely in perspective here. Boxing flies too low to show up on the national radar. To the VAST majority of people, it doesn't mean anything at all. It follows that it doesn't mean that much to most legislators. Therefore, there's no loss in political ground, regardless of party affiliation, to make any and all concessions to McCain with regard to what is generally considered to be one of his “pet” issues. Then, when someone else's pet issue arises down the line, McCain and those he can influence might constitute the difference in a committee or floor vote. It's nothing more than a “quid pro quo”. Politics as usual.

Use your head for a moment. If the government really cared…………

– You'd have heard some truth by now, not the endless parade of misinformation or non-information spewed by guest panelists that have been brought before the committee for little more than their “name value”.

– You'd have already seen legislation that would have addressed the needs of the rank-and-file fighter, not just that which concerns the high-visibility star, and in turn, creates the most publicity for a politician's special interest.

– You wouldn't have a problem in a state like Kentucky, which doesn't require ambulances or portable oxygen equipment to be at ringside.

– Indeed, you'd have seen Kentucky commissioner Jack Kerns dragged before the committee, and made to answer questions as to how he could possibly have allowed for the circumstances that are primarily responsible for former heavyweight champion Greg Page being in a wheelchair today.

– The committee would be quizzing Russell Peltz about just how, in his dual role as ESPN network representative and independent promoter, could he NOT be contributing to the restraint of trade in the boxing industry.

– You would see a public forum in which anyone who had something worthwhile to say about this issue could step up and present a case, instead of restricting free speech to a select group of people through whom they feel they can control the flow of information that is put forward.

– You'd have already seen something substantive in the way of effective, airtight legislation to deal with the nationwide implementation of boxing regulation. I don't think it's too much to ask; after all, the Congress has been at it in one way or another for over 35 years (during this process, we'll actually examine a bill which was deliberated way back in 1965).

Frankly – and I'm not being arrogant about this – if the government really cared about any of this, someone would have contacted ME by now, at least as a cursory measure. After all, no one has devoted more time to the out-of-mainstream issues of boxing reform as TotalAction has, and, truth be told, there has never been a better demonstration for the need for national regulation than our series, “Horse Manure Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky”, which exposed the deplorable and illegal behavior of the Kentucky State Athletic Commission in unnecessarily endangering the life of former heavyweight champion Page.

When I say I figured “someone” would have contacted me, I mean perhaps someone like Kenneth Nahigian, the minority counsel for the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation as it concerns the subject of boxing regulation and regulation. Nahigian, who works with McCain, is supposed to put some legal “teeth” into the Ali Act, so it can actually wind up accomplishing what it purportedly sets out to do.

Instead, in my one and only contact with Nahigian, which I initiated, and in which I offered to put forth any ideas in whichever way I could (including a lot of the stuff you'll see over the course of this special report), the message he communicated to me, in so many words, yet in no uncertain terms, was that not only is he completely uninterested in availing himself and his committee of any constructive, progressive, or imaginative methods of affecting boxing reform, but that he is even less interested in fielding any kind of feedback from interested parties who have not been hand-picked from his limited list of “sources”, which, for all I know, could be manipulated by some outside influence.

I have talked with some boxing commissioners in this country who have met with the same kind of indifference out of his office.

Why would the committee be interested in stonewalling input from “outside” sources? Well, in my case in particular, part of it may be that I don't fall into his hidden “agenda”. I'm not going to get up there and say what HE wants me to say, and I'm not going to be “pushing any buttons” for him.

According to insiders, Nahigian's overriding interest in this process is centered around one principal objective – to, at the behest of McCain, push through Pennsylvania administrator and former ABC president Greg Sirb as the head of a proposed Federal boxing commission; in effect, making Sirb the national boxing “czar”.

We'll measure the pros and cons of that soon enough.

Meanwhile, although Nahigian would prefer not to hear from YOU – at the government e-mail address he utilizes on a taxpayer-subsidized mail system, on taxpayer-subsidized time, while he collects a taxpayer-subsidized salary pushing legislation and agendas that he hopes taxpayers will subsidize as well – that doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't change his mind, especially if he is confronted with coherent, thoughtful correspondence that demonstrates YOU care about fighter safety, regulatory control, consumer protection, and fair boxing business practices a lot more than HE apparently does.

We pretty much know where Nahigian, and people like him, stand. I would much rather know where YOU stand.

By all means, if you think what we're putting forth has any value at all, feel free to respond intelligently to any of our OPERATION CLEANUP stories, and we'd be absolutely delighted not only to pass along Mr. Nahigian's public e-mail address to you, so you can forward your comments, but to re-post your relevant feedback in a prominent way on THE FIGHT PAGE, just in case Nahigian or his colleagues choose to ignore it.

It's the least we can do.

And believe me, the least we WILL do.

Mark my words – they'll be listening soon enough.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

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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