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Articles of 2002

HIJACKING IN THE HOOSIER STATE

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As of the close of business on Friday, Jacob Hall, a member of the Indiana Boxing Commission, was confident that he had a problem of great concern put to rest – that is, the matter of assigning officials for this Saturday night's WBC welterweight title fight between Vernon Forrest and Shane Mosley.

It was verbally agreed, in a phone call between Hall and WBC president Jose Sulaiman (“He was very much a gentleman”, said Hall), that Laurence Cole of Texas would serve as the referee, and that the judges would be Fred Jones and Gary Merritt, both of Indiana, and Jerry Roth of Nevada, who was inserted in place of Duane Ford, who had just recently worked the Barrera-Morales fight and was thus deemed to be unavailable by the WBC.

Hall, a 12-year veteran of the commission who had been appointed with the task of arranging for the officials on behalf of Indiana, was satisfied, and confident he could avoid the same problem that had taken place back in May of 2000, when, in one of the most shameful actions in the sport of boxing in recent memory, the WBC threatened to pull its sanction FIFTEEN MINUTES before Roy Jones Jr.'s light heavyweight title defense against Richard Hall, unless the commission were to remove one of its Indiana-based judges and replace him with David Harris, a judge from Texas who just so happened to have been sent to Indianapolis in advance by Sulaiman.

At THAT particular time, the panic button went off, and commission chairman Bill Kelsey rolled over for the WBC.

On Monday morning, Kelsey did it again.

In a meeting of the commission in which the voting on officials was expected to be a formality, Hall was effectively sandbagged by his colleagues.

In that meeting, Kelsey and another commissioner, Ed Treacy, voted to replace one of its own judges – Fred Jones – with Nevada judge Tony Castellano, thereby throwing the process into a state of chaos which might, before all is said and done, rival that of the Roy Jones-Richard Hall fight.

It is not known for certain how the campaign of Castellano specifically came alive, but the guess here is that it gathered steam well ahead of the meeting. According to Hall, the commission know little or nothing about Castellano's background. One can only speculate as to how much lobbying was done by the WBC behind Hall's back, or behind closed doors.

Hall told us that the group of officials who were finally settled upon late last week were not only approved by the WBC, as far back as June 7, but also met with no objection from the camps of either Mosley or Forrest; nor were there ANY objections from Kelsey or Treacy, prior to Monday's fateful meeting.

Then, suddenly, they were being treated to protests on the part of Al Hayman, a representative of Forrest, who “went on for about 35 minutes” about an objection to Jones, offering Castellano as the alternative, according to Hall.

“Information” such as this apparently influenced the commissioners, who then threw Fred Jones out of the fight.

TOTAL ACTION attempted to contact both Kelsey and Treacy on Monday afternoon; our purpose was not only to decipher the rationale behind the sudden change in their vote – after an agreement had seemingly been reached – but also to inquire as to how much knowledge they had to base this reversal on, particularly about the background and capabilities of Castellano.

Neither commissioner returned our phone calls.

Apparently, the root of the objection to Jones is two-fold: that he is considered to be “an IBF official”, and in the words of one of the parties at the commission meeting, “inexperienced”.

I find that to be an interesting contradiction – on the one hand, presumably Jones is not considered to have enough experience to be “qualified”, according to the WBC, but on the other, he is judged to be experienced enough in the “system” to be an “IBF guy”.

I simply don't buy that. The facts are that Fred Jones is neither. He has been a ringside judge for at least eight years, and has worked in seven IBF world championship fights. He would have operated more for the WBC, but after attending several seminars for the NABF, the WBC's “minor league”, he received only one NABF assignment.

Malcolm Garrett, an Indiana promoter who was on hand at the commission meeting, said Jones “is an honest guy who is certainly not incapable of officiating at this fight.”

The WBC appears to be very worried about the way its champion, Forrest, will be treated by officials who have had an IBF “association”, considering the organization stripped Forrest of its version of the welterweight title in 2001, for choosing to fight Mosley instead of top contender Michele Piccirillo. They ultimately used that to leave Jones off its list of “qualified officials”, leading to its ultimate objection.

However, that would appear to be another contradiction, in and of itself, as the other officials in this fight – Merritt and Roth – have served as judges at 46 IBF championship fights between them.

And if the WBC is implying that judges who have done a healthy number of IBF title fights would, as a matter of course, prejudice Forrest, or the WBC, in this matter, isn't that conceding that officials in general, and by nature, are biased in a political sense? And given the room for “lateral mobility” on the part of many officials from one sanctioning body to another, does that not also imply that there must undoubtedly be some WBC officials we can't trust?

Why does an organization like the WBC feel that officials must exclusively belong to them? What kind of message does that send?

What does all of this tell us about the credibility of “championship-level” officials as a whole?

You can supply your own conclusions to that one.

Regarding Castellano, to refer to him as a “Nevada judge” is actually something of a misnomer. Yes, he LIVES in Nevada, but he doesn't WORK in Nevada, and hasn't since he moved to Las Vegas with his wife Carol (also a judge) several years ago. Castellano would seem to work exclusively for the WBC, and does so almost entirely in foreign countries, something which, at the very least, should give rise to further exploration on the part of the commission.

Another disturbing thing about the Monday commission meeting was that while the objections and suggestions of Hayman seem to have been digested, considered, and acted upon by the commissioners, there was no representative of Shane Mosley present (none seems to have been invited), giving this meeting the character of an “ex parte” proceeding.

It's reasonable to assume that once Mosley's people discover that the major objection on the part of the WBC was the way FORREST was going to be treated by the judges, and that the organization took pro-active steps to correct that, there will be considerable objection to any maneuvers – covert or otherwise – the WBC may have tried to execute. Whether anything can be done about it is another question.

Just as it did with the Jones fight, the WBC has threatened to pull its sanction for this bout. On June 26 – NINETEEN days after Hall had settled upon the referee and judges with Rex Walker, a WBC official – one of the WBC's attorneys, Gabriel Penagaricano, sent a letter to Kelsey in which he demanded that the Indiana commission replace two of the judges, and NOT use Jones, but a different official – to be selected from a special list of designees the organization provided.

The last line of Penagaricano's letter was this – “In the unfortunate and unwanted event that you opt for the selection of officials deemed by the WBC to be unqualified for the judging of this momentous match, you will leave the organization with no alternative but to withhold its sanction.” Sent later that day was a list of officials deemed “qualified” by the WBC which included Merritt, but not Jones.

Six days later, an irate Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, fired off a forceful letter to Jose Sulaiman – the product of a collaboration with Hall and ABC lawyers – in which he castigated the WBC for its previous actions in the Jones fight, reaffirmed the qualifications of Fred Jones as a judge, and raised strong objection to the “requirement” that Indiana replace two judges, indicating that the WBC's insistence in that regard “has the

appearance

of being premised upon: (1) a pervasive desire to perpetuate a 'reward' system for those ring officials who pay membership dues, conference fees and seminar fees to the WBC, or, worse, (2) a desire to control the outcome of a professional boxing match.”

Perhaps the most important issue raised by Lueckenhoff was that the WBC had no authority or justification for its actions under Federal law.

Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, under the title “JUDGES AND REFEREES”, reads this way:

“No person may arrange, promote, organize, produce, or fight in a professional boxing match unless all referees and judges participating in the match have been certified and approved by the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in the State where the match is held.”

What this means, kids, is that the WBC actually has this whole thing ASS-BACKWARDS (with the emphasis on “ass”). It is not THEIR option to approve or disapprove of the officials installed by Indiana; it is actually INDIANA'S authority to approve or disapprove, and the WBC's wants and desires are strictly secondary.

This issue is something that states have struggled to establish authority over, and indeed, Lueckenhoff's letter seemed to have had the effect of creating a phone conversation which eventually produced the verbal agreement between Hall and Sulaiman. Going into the weekend, the judges – Jones, Merritt, and Roth – were solidly in place.

Those arrangements were thrown completely out of whack on Monday.

Effectively, the WBC had figured out a way to get in “through the back door”.

And as a result of their subordination, two Indiana commissioners took one more giant step BACKWARD for boxing reform.

I wonder if they even realize what they've done.

Let me weigh in regarding the subject of “experienced officials”. At this point, given the overriding political atmosphere that surrounds these selections, there is almost no other choice but to assume that politics and favoritism pervades the way judges look at these fights, to the point of distortion. Is it not patently obvious, to any judge the WBC appoints, that the organization has taken measures specifically to protect Forrest?

To my way of thinking, LACK of exposure to the dubious system by which judges are recruited, appointed, even trained, to officiate these title fights is in all probability an ADVANTAGE, since those officials have not had as much of a chance to get “polluted” by that system.

As such, Fred Jones may just be the MOST qualified judge available.

Personally, as a boxing fan, a boxing writer, and an advocate of boxing reform, I'm certainly disappointed in Messrs. Kelsey and Treacy, and greatly distressed with the message the World Boxing Council is sending my way here.

But you know, when I take a look at some of the principal characters involved, I notice that the supervisor of the Jones fight two years ago (Gerry Bolen), the supervisor assigned to THIS fight (Mario Latraverse), and the liaison for Indiana with regard to officials (Rex Walker), are ALL executive officers and board members for – you guessed it – the North American Boxing Federation, the WBC's so-called “junior organization”.

Gee, what a surprise.

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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