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Articles of 2002

WHAT I WOULD HAVE TOLD THE COMMITTEE TODAY

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Let's face it – there isn't anyone on that committee today who wants to hear what someone like me has to say. I guess anything I would tell them would simply be too dangerous for certain interests that are endeavoring to maneuver themselves politically as part of the process of instituting boxing legislation.

You see, I'm not there to be “programmed”; I'm not going to sit there and spew out a bunch of happy horseshit so I can be “politically correct”. If you're going to represent yourself as someone who is going affect change, then by all means, AFFECT CHANGE.

But – if I was sitting at that table, and was not too intimidated by the surroundings, maybe this is what your humble reporter would tell those politicos:

My name is Charles Jay, and I have been editor/publisher of TotalAction.com, an internet site, for the past three years. TotalAction contains THE FIGHT PAGE, a boxing section that is a preferred stop for many boxing fans, and essential for those in the boxing industry and boxing media.

Prior to my involvement in electronic publishing, I was a part of the boxing industry and had been since 1981, literally before I got out of college. Over the course of the next 16 years or so, I operated in many capacities – that of a manager, a booking agent, a matchmaker, a promoter, a publicist. I have also worked behind the scenes with TV networks, ratings organizations, and casinos which have presented boxing. I have been a broadcaster for several television outlets, serving as a blow-by-blow or color commentator for 15 world championship fights.

I was never what you would call a major mover or shaker, but nonetheless have observed what has gone on at ALL levels of boxing, from the grass roots level all the way up to the top. Now, as a member of the media, I see myself in a unique position to offer some insight as to what the industry is and does.

There was a time when boxing was a major sport in the United States – unfortunately, the effect of a number of factors – namely, the nature of corruption within the industry and the rise in popularity of sports like professional football, basketball, and others, due to the increased media coverage and the explosion of television – have left boxing in a position where, because of its lack of marketing expertise, and lack of general order, it has now joined horse racing among the list of dying American sports – a state of affairs where the participants are perhaps too self-absorbed to even be aware of it.

Over the years I have seen commissioners come and go. I have seen congressional hearing after congressional hearing purportedly aimed at remedying problems that have served to shuffle boxing toward the back of the pack among so-called “major” sports. I have seen the legislation passed in an attempt to address these problems. And I can tell you without equivocation that this effort has missed the boat, so to speak, on a continual basis.

Along the way I have begun to question whether this effort is well-meaning or whether it is just another exercise in political masturbation. Surely there is no excuse for not taking a more practical approach to the important issues – it's not as if the outlets are not available, especially now – where representatives of this Committee, if they have any concern at all for the subject matter of these proceedings, would not have access to some of the pertinent information.

Yet this information has been completely and conspicuously ignored. Recent attempts on my part to share – rather selflessly, I might add – some of the possible, and indeed, practical solutions to real-world problem areas in this industry have been met by your minority counsel with a reaction I would characterize as disdainful. As far as I'm concerned, since he is the legislative person who is most closely connected with the subject of boxing, this offers a barometer as to the real level of sincerity contained in this campaign.

The task of any responsible reform effort should be three-fold – to create an atmosphere whereby parties on all levels of the boxing industry can benefit from fair and equitable business practices; to ensure that the competitors, who take the physical risks, will be afforded all the medical protections and safety precautions possible; and, perhaps most importantly, to restore public confidence in a sport that is taken somewhat less than seriously by the majority of sports fans, not to mention the lion's share of the media that covers professional sports. If you'll pardon the pun, boxing has become a “punchline”.

But could anyone blame the skeptic?

How can anything that has been done at the legislative level thus far be taken seriously when some promoters are using the power of their contracts to grab much more than 50% of the money their fighters are supposed to earning for their sweat and toil, and no mechanism is in place, or has even been considered, to expressly forbid it from happening?

How can anyone still be content with legislation that allows a television executive to double as a boxing promoter, and, with the full acquiescence of the network, is permitted to exercise a strong influence over the success or failure of his direct competitors, at the same time using his position to extract contractual agreements and purse money directly from fighters – all in conflict with the laws governing restraint of trade?

As a so-called “agent of change”, why shouldn't an organization like the Association of Boxing Commissions be summarily dismissed when it has placed, without objection, on its executive board, a Kentucky commissioner who, with its complete knowledge, has openly flouted the Federal boxing safety laws in place, creating a set of circumstances that very well may have left a former heavyweight champion paralyzed and brain-damaged for life?

Why should anyone pay attention when the laws by which these alleged “reform advocates” propose to regulate boxing have a completely archaic view of the dynamic that currently exists in the REAL boxing world between fighters, promoters, managers and networks?

Why are “phony reformers” continuously coddled by your committee, while those who may have unconventional ideas are ignored?

Why hasn't there been an intelligent discourse on the subject of promotional contracts – the documents that have the most enduring effect on the boxing business today – aside from that discussion that concern “coercive” clauses, which in most cases are completely irrelevant?

Why isn't anyone discussing the fact that fighters spar in gyms across this country while on medical suspension, without proper supervision, under which circumstances they can get hurt from the accumulation of head blows far easier than they can in an actual fight?

Why isn't Jack Kerns, the nefarious commissioner from Kentucky, on hand to answer for himself in front of this committee?

Why aren't members of ABC, who nominated, seconded, then cast their votes in favor of Kerns' candidacy for the ABC board, here to explain their decision? Don't you think that would be important information, if you're even considering handing over the responsibility of national boxing regulation to them?

You've had people getting up here for the past couple of years and telling you there are problems with enforcement of the Ali Act, problems with uniform rules and regulations, problems with establishing a standard for contracts, but is it even recognized that those very same people are the ones who have been in a position to do something about it, yet never have?

Just last year, Greg Sirb, who was then president of the ABC, said before this committee, and I quote, “There needs to be sanctions put on those state and tribal boxing commissions that do not hold uphold the federal laws or that have antiquated rules/regulations that put the boxer in either physical or financial danger.” He went on to refer to “Such things as requiring that an ambulance along with paramedics and proper equipment be at ringside at all times, that the promoter is bonded in a certain amount to ensure all boxer and other bills including insurance coverage are paid in a timely fashion…….”

Jack Kerns, the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, required none of these things – which incidentally are mandated by the Professional Boxer Safety Act – as a general practice on the shows within his jurisdiction. On the night Greg Page slipped into a coma in a Kentucky ring, Kerns had neither an ambulance, nor oxygen equipment at ringside. He failed to have a licensed doctor present, and even the doctor he had there had long since departed the ringside area. The promoter also did not have insurance.

That's tragic. And Greg Sirb was well aware of it too, as he appeared on an ESPN “Outside the Lines” program last Easter Sunday. Approximately a month after that program, he made the statement before this Committee. Two months after that, he presided over the ABC annual convention in New Orleans. I have the complete minutes from that meeting. At no point during the entire process, from Kerns' nomination right on through to his election to the board, did Sirb raise his voice to object, or even question, the potential presence of a very dangerous commissioner on this national board. No word about “sanctions”. Nothing about “antiquated rules and regulations” that put a fighter in “physical danger”, then later, “financial danger” due to the lack of insurance. Wouldn't that have been an opportune time to bring it up?

Now, is anyone on this committee going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that this is the kind of individual you want implementing “sweeping reforms” as a national boxing “czar”?

If it is, I would sincerely question whether your intent is to accomplish ANYTHING through this particular process.

I will tell you this much – if you did nothing more through your legislation than create an atmosphere whereby at least one promoter in every major city in America could sustain a local fight club and make money WITHOUT having to have television, you would have done far more than an all of your previous collective efforts combined.

Somehow, though, I just don't see that happening. No one here recognizes that what happens on the grass roots level of the boxing industry, over the course of time, has a tremendous residual effect on what happens at ALL levels. Of course, you'd have to know something about the mechanics of the industry to realize that.

Unfortunately, you have gotten a “dearth” of intelligence in that regard, and when it is put before you, you don't want to listen to it.

Perhaps it's an aspect of this industry that is not “sexy” enough for you. Maybe the whole focus of this thing is to “get Don King”.

If that's the case – if this is all a big “show”, I would suggest you get yourselves re-focused in a hurry. There's a lot more happening than meets your eyes, and if you're going to pass judgment on any of it, it would behoove you to develop an awareness of it.

The point is, as long as we have a situation where, time after time, we continue to meet on Capitol Hill and time after time issues that are truly material and relevant are suppressed or cast aside, why in the world should anyone take YOU seriously?

I would invite your questions, although with all due respect, I think perhaps I deserve answers to mine first.

Thank you.

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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