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Articles of 2002

A HEAVYWEIGHT IMPLOSION:

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In the midst of what may have been one of the most bizarre days in the lives of a lot of people in the boxing industry, one member of heavyweight Michael Grant's camp was heard to say, “Just who the hell is Charles Jay anyway? No one reads anything that's on the internet. All that stuff's just a bunch of slop.”

To that gentleman, I certainly trust that this story, the story that preceded it, and the stories that follow, will serve to properly introduce both me, AND the medium.

Hello there, from both of us.

In this topsy-turvy story, let's begin, appropriately enough, where it ended.

As Amy Hayes, the ring announcer for last Friday night's fight show at the Menominee Bingo Casino in Keshena, Wisc. was wrapping up the evening's proceedings – which were low-lighted by a delay of Guinness-record proportions, followed by a ten-round “exhibition” match – she announced to the crowd, in what must qualify as one of the most shameful and surreal plugs of all-time, “This was not Michael Grant's idea. For the real story about this, go to Fightnews.com.”

Well, she's right about one thing – it was not Michael Grant's idea.

As far as the rest of it is concerned, Fightnews HAS no idea, believe me.

In point of fact, the whole fracas germinated out of something that was MY idea. So inasmuch as we actually seem to ba a material part of this story, I suppose I should tell you what happened surrounding boxing's latest “circus” – at least as far as I know it.

Who better, right?

By the way, if you haven't read

Chapter 28

of this series, please read it now before going any further.

The rest of you can come along with me.

Suffice to say that if anyone connected to the Wisconsin promotion had come to the TotalAction website on the afternoon of July 4th, a crisis of major proportions may very well have been averted.

But apparently, the location was so far away from anything connected with civilization that there was a scarcity of internet access, and most cell phones simply were not working at all. The casino was not just 35 miles outside of Green Bay, it was, in the words of Teddy Atlas, “Thirty-five HARD miles.”

So it's not so unbelievable that nothing posted on the website even reached people until Thursday evening at the earliest.

And even then, it came only by way of a fax transmission.

My understanding is that on Thursday, for motivations that, I imagine, were completely their own, Grant's managers were supposedly in a huff about the opponent that was to face Olympian Clarence Vinson on the show – a fighter named Sheldon Wile. When Gary Gittelsohn, the manager for Vinson, countered with the point that perhaps the opponent for Grant (Thomas Williams) should be cause for much greater concern, the angry Grant braintrust seemed not to know what he was talking about.

As the day wore on, Gittelsohn began to hear more objections about Wile – from Eric Bottjer, the matchmaker for Cedric Kushner Promotions, and Jeanie Miranda, a principal (along with Jackie Kallen) in a company called “The Fight Brokers”, which had actually sold the fight package to the Menominee group.

Finally, it got to the point where Gittelsohn, who felt the complaints from the Grant camp might just be an effort to deflect attention away from Williams, was annoyed enough to call home and have Chapter 28 of “Operation Cleanup”, a story entitled

“I CAN FIND DODGE CITY IN THE ATLAS”

faxed to him, after which he presented both Bottjer and Miranda with copies.

Later that evening, a hard copy of the story also found its way into the hands of Grant's handlers – Craig Hamilton and Jim Thomas.

By all accounts, from Thursday night to Friday morning, the reaction of Grant's management tandem gradually progressed from:

1) Surprise that such a story had indeed been written;

2) A certain degree of denial about the story's validity (hence, the “slop” comment);

3) Indignation (mostly toward Gittelsohn) that the story was being circulated at all;

and finally,

4) The hard realization that some damage control had to be implemented – sooner rather than later.

Whether or not these guys were previously aware that Thomas Williams was under a Federal indictment for fixing fights is a subject that is open for debate, but one certainty is that on Friday morning, Gittelsohn, who was upset at Bottjer's interference in particular, placed a call to New York and the offices of Kushner, who has a promotional contract with Grant. As a result of that call, Jim DiLorenzo, Kushner's right-hand man, got on the phone with Bottjer. With an understandable degree of concern, DiLorenzo directed Bottjer to investigate finding a new opponent for Grant.

At this point, enter Robert Mittleman, the Chicago-based matchmaker/agent who had booked Thomas Williams into the fight and accompanied him to Keshena.

Mittleman's name is mentioned prominently in the audiotaped conversation between Williams and former manager George Peterson – a tape that eventually led to Williams' indictment. And he is also the American agent for Danish promoter Mogens Palle, bringing over a score of opponents for Brian Nielsen (including Williams), many of whom have given performances that were suspicious at best.

Kushner's office was made aware of the status of Thomas Williams' legal situation several weeks ago. I had been apprised of that. And so, at that time, I completely discounted the participation of Williams as a possibility.

What I DIDN'T know was that, instead of killing the fight, Kushner had simply inquired, through Bottjer, as to whether Williams was indeed under an indictment. Bottjer, in turn, asked Mittleman. The response that had come back from Mittleman was a resounding “no” – there was no indictment, only an investigation.

Kushner says he took the opportunity to ask Mittleman directly “about four or five times” during the week the two were both in Atlantic City for the Klitschko-Mercer show, which took place on June 29. Time and again, Mittleman dismissed any possibility that there were indictments hanging over Williams' head. Mittleman's repeated denials were adamant enough that Kushner figured it would be superfluous to prod him on it any further.

In retrospect, he obviously should have pressed the issue even more.

In truth, not only was Mittleman very much aware that Williams is currently under indictment and facing a trial next month on charges of federal sports bribery, but Mittleman actually fears that he may end up being indicted himself as a result of the ongoing Federal investigation, to the extent that he has hired private detectives to “dig up dirt” on potential witnesses, including Peterson.

Clearly, given his nefarious history, Mittleman was not a trustworthy source of information about ANYTHING, much less one of his fighters, especially as he was to profit from Williams' appearance.

Despite the fact that they indeed wanted another opponent, the folks at CKP also realized that as the afternoon approached, accomplishing that was going to be a tall order indeed.

A call was placed to Greg Sirb, listed as “past president” of the Association of Boxing Commissions, to get an opinion. Sirb apparently told CKP that Williams was not currently on the national suspension list, which would have been absolutely true.

Then Marc Ratner was contacted at the Nevada Commission office. In substance, Ratner told them the same thing he had told me on Wednesday – that even though he felt Williams' KO loss to Richie Melito, the subject matter of the indictment, was legitimate, and would testify to that effect at the trial if asked, he would have reservations about licensing Williams to fight at this time, pending the actual results of the trial, given the fact that the alleged dive had taken place in a Las Vegas ring.

So while there was an indictment, there certainly was not a hard-and-fast suspension of Williams, from any commission in the country.

Sitting with Williams as the only opponent that was available to them at the time, such news may have, at least for a moment, given rise to hope on the part of Bottjer that he could keep Williams “alive” as the opponent, and the show might just be able to go off without any more complications.

If that were indeed the case, such hope didn't last long.

NEXT: Part 2 – Atlas in the Afternoon

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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