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Articles of 2002

LET THE SIDESHOW BEGIN – HERE'S TODAY PANEL

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Today is the day that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, through its Consumer Affairs Sub-Committee, holds a hearing concerning boxing legislation.

In case you're interested, here is a page with the basic info –

http://commerce.senate.gov/~commerce/press/02/2002517C17.html

The proceedings will also be televised live on C-SPAN3, beginning at 1 PM Eastern time, and will go on for about an hour and a half. You can also listen to the hearing through

http://www.capitolhearings.org/

This basically how it goes: each of the panelists will have a five-minute statement to read – something which has been submitted to the committee in advance. After everyone has read his statement, the panelists will be open for questions from the members of the committee who will be present.

It's all a big show – the objective is to generate enough publicity so that a bill can be directed for a Senate vote, then passed onto the House. The legislation concerns a Federal commission-type structure for boxing, most likely another ineffective bill unless these people get some real input. For the most part, that won't happen today. And if it does, from the guy who may be the biggest truth-teller on today's panel (see below), history has demonstrated that not much in the way of action will be taken very soon.

You can tell most of these players without a scorecard. But just for your enlightenment, I thought I might just run down today's list for you, which I suppose is subject to some change, along with what you might expect – a little editorial comment:

* MUHAMMAD ALI

— Of course, the appearance of Ali should give you an idea of what the real purpose of this hearing is. Yes, Ali is that rare athlete who transcends his sport, and he'll bring attention to these hearings. And the major piece of legislation that this committee has been concerned with bears his name. But with all due respect to the champ, who will be in the building earlier in the day to testify at another committee's hearing on Parkinson's, has he ever really concerned himself that much with the issues that are at hand? Will he actually speak at the hearing? Or is this just an exploitative way for the Senators to get some cheap publicity out of their hearing today?

* ROY JONES JR

. — Well, he came last time they had hearings – this time I think he may be a late substitute for somebody else. Jones didn't really have very much in the way of substance to offer last time, and I don't know if that situation will change. But no doubt the Committee would get a lot more if they just took a look behind Jones and chose to sit his “advisor” down for a little “Q&A” session. Brad Jacobs, who is working for Jones now, was notorious in his previous boxing life for the many dirty, conflict-of-interest-infected deals he executed while Director of Boxing Programming for USA Network, kicking off FBI and Grand Jury investigations and eventually (unofficially, of course) leading to the banishment of “Tuesday Night Fights” by the network's new, Barry Diller-led management. I think it's fair to say these episodes will be the subject of stories in subsequent editions of “Operation Cleanup”.

* TIM LUECKENHOFF

— Lueckenhoff is the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Tim's overall agenda is the seamless conversion of the ABC into a national commission, replete with powers vested in it by Federal law. Originally I was in favor of this, but I have come to distrust the organization to some degree. My principal reason for this has been well-documented before, and will be documented again in future editions of “Operation Cleanup”. Most of the ABC's leadership is suspect at best (I don't necessarily include Tim in there). But for a organization that wants to be a Federally-mandated “watchdog”, the ABC needs a watchdog itself. As far as I am concerned, the ABC will never be viable as long as it has people like Jack Kerns serving on its board, and as long as it has a mechanism that allows someone like him to serve. Kerns, in case you haven't read any of our stories before, is perhaps the most dangerous person in the United States from the perspective of fighter safety. Just read “Horse Manure isn't The Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky” in our Special Reports section. Of course, a few of the ABC board members have ring deaths under their belts over the past couple of years – deaths that may have been avoidable. I wonder if any Senator will have the insight to ask about this? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

One of Lueckenhoff's other major concerns is getting an insurance situation straightened out – something that will be the subject of another “Operation Cleanup” piece. It seems that in states without boxing commissions, the Professional Boxer Safety Act requires that a commissioner from another state, approved by the ABC, must travel to that state to supervise. The only problem is, none of the commissioners are covered by the current insurance policy the ABC has in place – oh, except for those who are sitting on the ABC board. That means Jack Kerns can spread his virus to any state in the country without a boxing commission. Interesting.

* EMANUEL STEWARD

— Steward will probably say whatever the Committee wants him to say. After all, there is a “pre-interview” that is conducted between a staffer and a potential panelist before the invitations are actually extended. Steward, besides being the trainer for Lennox Lewis, also is the national director of the coaching program for USA Boxing, which is the governing entity for amateur boxing in the United States. he also has top amateur prospects, who will presumably be competing for spots on the next Olympic team, living in one of his houses. Since Steward is an official with USA Boxing, it is mandated that he have unique access to top prospects coming out of the amateur program, which by definition gives him an advantage in the process of recruiting them as pros. We have brought up the potential conflict of interest this represents in a previous column and will go steps further as the “Operation Cleanup” series continues. Surely this subject will not be touched upon to any degree by the Senate Committee.

* BERT SUGAR

— With all due respect to Bert, who has always produced quality books and magazines, I don't know what he's doing on this panel, unless he's arranged to get on a couple of talk shows as a result. I don't know what particular knowledge he may have about the inner workings of the boxing industry that would make him invaluable as an information source. Sure, he's railed about boxing corruption, but it's mostly been of the cliche variety. Everyone knows the “surface” issues – the kind of boxing reform that is needed in America today is the kind where one has to look BENEATH the surface, way past the obvious, to the kind of things that go on that NO ONE who is not connected intimately with the game is aware of. Congress will never learn. Maybe they want to hear a few one-liners.

* LOU DiBELLA

— If there is a guy who might bring a few curveballs with him today, it's DiBella, especially if the Senators want to engage him in a question-and-answer session. DiBella, the former HBO executive, is the guy on this panel who has the most intimate knowledge of what goes on in the boxing industry on the highest levels. And at the same time, he's anti-establishment to a degree. Yes, he's got a current position in boxing, but he's already indicated to me that if they ask him, he'll tell them the truth. Some of his views on the current roles of manager and promoter in boxing are controversial, and they will serve as subject matter as we continue this series. They certainly deserve discussion, and if the Senators are wide awake they'll no doubt find themselves thinking about things. Maybe some of them should set their alarm clock for 1 PM.

* TEDDY ATLAS

— Teddy is actually going to be a no-show for these proceedings. That's surprising, since he is constantly screaming about a national commission, and, at least in the opinion of some, wants to be the national boxing “czar” himself. I don't really know if it's because ESPN didn't want him to go, or there was a scheduling conflict, or whether the people with the Committee couldn't “pre-program” what he had to say. But his thoughts are going to show up, perhaps on these pages, perhaps on another boxing page. We'll keep you “posted”, as it were.

At any rate, I hope you watch, and I hope you chime in with your thoughts, so that I can get them passed on to Ken Nahigian, the minority counsel for the committee, who doesn't really want to hear what you have to say, but may have to. Here's my address:

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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