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Articles of 2002

PELTZ SQUEEZES FROM BOTH ENDS IN DUAL ROLE

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PELTZ SQUEEZES FROM BOTH ENDS IN DUAL ROLE – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”– Abraham Lincoln

 

On the promotional front, I’m not sure there’s a more important issue for regulators than assuring that there is as fair and equitable a business atmosphere out there as possible.

Anyone who follows boxing knows that the television networks wield an awful lot of power, and that’s it’s not an easy thing to make a living in this business.

One thing you can be certain of – it’s difficult enough for a promoter to gain a foothold in the boxing industry without having to get the seal of approval from one of his (or her) own competitors for the right to do so.

Should networks, or their representatives, be allowed to compete for talent with the vendors who would solicit them? Does that not present a conflict of interest that is, at best, alarming?

Yet that is the situation we are faced with here.

J. Russell Peltz, a long-time promoter from Philadelphia, was brought aboard at the outset of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” series as a “boxing coordinator”. According to Bob Yalen, ESPN’s director of brand management, “When we took on the Bill Cayton library (which incidentally, is the subject of a current lawsuit between Cayton and Peltz), my duties at ESPN were expanded to include a number of other sports categories, and they thought it might be helpful to bring in a consultant to lighten my load. So we brought in Russell.”

Peltz, together with Yalen, had the responsibility for fielding proposals from various promoters who sought to sell fight cards to the network.

While Peltz did not have sole responsibility for this, he had more than his share of it, and the way the position evolved, he and Yalen each had their own group of promoters they did business with on behalf of ESPN. In an earlier interview with us, Yalen said, a promoter “could call Russell or myself, depending on who he normally deal with, and we’ll weed it out and see who’s got the best show for the date.” Peltz told one reporter, when trying to explain why Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing was allowed to use Keith McKnight as an opponent for Joe Mesi on one of its April shows, “Bob has his guys, and I have my guys.”

To those of us in the business who were expecting that Peltz might step out of his role of promoter, at least for the time being, when he took the ESPN job, we were somewhat surprised. Not only did Peltz NOT recuse himself from promoting, he actually, as part of his deal, received up to seven TV dates per year of the 45 available on ESPN!

Those dates alone, plus anything else he could put together by his own devices, would afford Peltz a healthy schedule by which to keep any of his signed fighters busy.

Most people in boxing acknowledged that there was an inherent conflict of interest just by virtue of Peltz’ dual role, but it was generally concluded that his own credibility in boxing would overcome any suspicions, and that he wouldn’t jeopardize a good reputation in the business by abusing his position. And after all, at least the package of promotional dates he garnered as part of his contract was a fact that was known up front.

But circumstances have changed – considerably.

And we’re left wondering whether the old adage should be amended – whether it doesn’t take absolute power to corrupt absolutely, but if indeed, partial power is enough.

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking to believe that the conflict that everyone thought was just a possibility would never come to fruition, and have a far-reaching effect.

But results have demonstrated that the fears of some observers may have justified.

One illustrative example involved a promoter/matchmaker named Rick Glaser, whose fighter, Billy Irwin, had been used on Peltz’ shows at the Blue Horizon, and televised on ESPN2. Glaser had a promotional contract with the Canadian lightweight, and through his efforts, got Irwin rated the #1 contender by the IBF.

According to Glaser, Peltz was under the impression that he would be included as part of the promotional deal with Irwin, by virtue of the fact that he had put him into action on his own shows and featured him on the network.

Toward that end, Peltz sent a short memorandum to Glaser on December 27, 1999, in which Peltz sought a 50% piece of Glaser’s promotional interests. Glaser turned Peltz down, reasoning that “I don’t make deals like that. There was nothing to gain.”

Indeed, because Irwin was the mandatory challenger for IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora, Glaser didn’t need the help or influence of ANY promoter to secure a championship opportunity for his man. But Peltz knew exactly what he was doing.

Glaser eventually endeavored to promote a show of his own on ESPN2, featuring Irwin in the main event. He was turned down flat – first by Peltz, then by Yalen. He was given a number of different reasons – that he was inexperienced and unlicensed as a promoter, that Irwin was not enough of a name to be in the main event, that he would not “go in tough enough”, because Glaser would be protecting Irwin’s mandatory status. In an interview with Yalen shortly after our initial story broke, he expressed those same concerns to me as well.

“He (Glaser) isn’t a promoter per se,” Yalen said. “That’s not to say he couldn’t become one. We absolutely listened to what he wanted to talk about. Evidently he and Russell couldn’t come to terms on a match – about Irwin’s opponent, and the method to handle it, that’s where the problems were.”

To the savvy observer, however, the rationale seemed a bit transparent. For one thing, ESPN has, in fact, used more than one promoter without experience, including Larry McCartney, who is closely affiliated with Dean Chance’s International Boxing Association, Bjorn Rebney of Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing, and Jeff Fried, who had previously been the attorney for Mat Tinley and America Presents. Obtaining a license to promote is generally not problematic in most jurisdictions, and it is not unusual for a first-timer to wait until a show is at least in the serious talking stages before applying for the license.

As for Irwin’s status – how many #1 contenders did ESPN have an opportunity to show?

Glaser obviously smelled a rat, as did we. He went public with his grievance, revealing that he had been contacted by representatives of the FBI in connection with Peltz’ business practices, and investigated filing lawsuits against Peltz and ESPN.

Glaser’s claim was that Peltz, in effect, wanted to “freeze him” out of any involvement with Irwin, by creating the situation where Glaser couldn’t get any TV fights for him, thus paving the way for Peltz to sign Irwin himself and profit from the eventual fight with Spadafora. In point of fact, that’s exactly what wound up happening.

At the time of our original story about the Glaser/Peltz incident, I wrote:

“Peltz, in the process of being a promoter who pro-actively endeavors to invest in and guide careers, is engaged in the business of signing fighters to promotional contracts. As such, he is, in effect, in competition with other promoters in that pursuit – not necessarily the upper echelon promoters like Don King, Bob Arum, and Cedric Kushner, but certainly other mid-level promoters.

Essentially, in his current role with ESPN, Peltz finds himself in a position where he can exercise a certain level of control over whether the status of his competitors becomes stronger or weaker.

That’s a conflict of interest. And if Peltz has actively used his position to strengthen himself as a promoter relative to the industry, or weaken others, he’s in a possible restraint of trade situation.

It deserves some looking into.”

The only part I would change is the last line. It doesn’t “deserve some looking into”. It deserves immediate action.

Any extraneous circumstances that might have existed should be of no consequence at all. Maybe it would have ultimately made financial sense for Glaser to hand over 50% of his fighter to Peltz. Maybe it would have made moral sense as well, if Peltz had used Irwin on his Blue Horizon fight cards in the hope that he would be involved in the fighter’s career. Maybe cooperation with Peltz was absolutely necessary to advancing Irwin’s career at that point in time.

Still, it’s irrelevant.

Peltz was completely out of line approaching Glaser with such a proposal, so any explanations he may offer for his actions are completely moot.

Of course, he’s never offered any explanations to us. Peltz refused to comment to TOTAL ACTION regarding this particular story, other than to tell us at the time of our original story almost two years ago, “Nothing Rick Glaser said was the truth.”

Ironically, that, in and of itself, was a lie. I’ve seen a copy of the 50% agreement Peltz sent along for Glazer’s signature. It is timestamped for December 27, 1999 and has Peltz’ fax number stamped across the top as well.

What really matters, beyond all else, is that while he is an employee, contractor, or in any way represents the interests of ESPN, Russell Peltz has ABSOLUTELY no business making pitch for ANYONE’S fighters, particularly those he has done business with, either directly or indirectly, while acting in his capacity as a representative of ESPN, regardless of the circumstances.

If the people in the United States Congress are truly concerned about the welfare of the boxing industry, they’ll take steps to prevent these kind of situations from persisting.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

PELTZ SQUEEZES FROM BOTH ENDS IN DUAL ROLE / Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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

$*%@#!

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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

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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