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Articles of 2002

WHEN NO ONE'S MINDING THE STORE

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Let me tell you a little story about what can potentially happen when you've got no supervision, or supervision that is lacking, for a professional boxing match in a state without a boxing commission.

Several chapters ago, we briefly made reference to the May 31 show in Birmingham, Ala., where former world champion Meldrick Taylor fought. We also mentioned that Buddy Embanato – the Vice-Chairman of the Louisiana Boxing & Wrestling Commission, who also functions as Treasurer of the Association of Boxing Commissions – came in to supervise the fight, and was compensated for that purpose. I'm sure Embanato is adequate, or maybe even better than that, at what he does in Louisiana. Harry Barnette, matchmaker for the show, called him “a good boxing man”.

Indeed, by all accounts, the fight ran smoothly from an organizational standpoint.

However, there was this little matter of ensuring that a proper bout contract was signed between Taylor and Dillon Carew, the New York-based Guyana native who had come to fight as a late replacement for Willie McDonald, who himself was a substitute for Jerry Smith, in the main event.

It seems that issue was not covered.

Had there been a contract required to be signed and filed with Embanato, for example, there would be a stipulation as to exactly how many rounds the fight would be scheduled for. Carew had been under the impression that the fight was a six-rounder, because that's what Johnny Bos, the agent who booked him into the fight, had been told. This was an assumption he carried all the way up to the time the bell (er, I'm sorry, the BOWL – a bell could not be found) sounded to end the sixth round. And according to him, no one had come to him and told him differently.

“That's why I blew it all out in the sixth,” he says. “I came back to the corner at the end of the round, looking to take my gloves off. Then I saw the ring card girl walking around with a card that said 'Round 7'. At that point I really didn't know whether the fight was going to be eight rounds or ten rounds.”

The extra rounds certainly made a tangible difference in the outcome of the fight. Carew, who had dropped Taylor twice (Taylor also received a standing eight-count), was ahead by three points on one card, and one point on another, with the other scorecard even, after six rounds. Carew, who had put on what he thought was a big finish in the sixth, was admittedly dead tired in the last two stanzas, and lost them on all three cards. As a result, Taylor was awarded the split decision win.

Carew, who also never got the opportunity to see Taylor weigh in, wasn't pleased, but he took the decision philosophically. “This is America, and I guess you gotta chill,” he says. “But back home (Guyana) you'd have a lot of bottles being thrown in the ring.”

Barnette says the fight was announced as an eight-rounder when the fighters got to the ring, but concedes that Carew may not have heard that; understandably, he may not have been paying much attention to the ring announcer. “Taylor really wanted to fight a ten-rounder, but he settled for eight,” is what Barnette has told us. Indeed, scorecards for a ten-round fight had been prepared. And the fight was listed as an eight-rounder on bout sheets that were circulated earlier that day; but there is no one who can confirm that Carew was ever informed of this.

The selection of officials was a little out of the ordinary as well. One of them was Jay Deas, who runs an outfit called Skyy Promotions, which puts on boxing shows in Tuscaloosa. Another judge, Jonathan Cohen, is a full-time chemist and part-time matchmaker who was pressed into service when some judges didn't show up. Ricco Ray, who was supposed to be a judge for the Taylor-Carew fight, actually wound up FIGHTING against Luis Collazo on the undercard. The referee, Kenny Woods, formerly managed the late Stephan Johnson.

Carew, who tells us he was asking for a contract but never got one, was actually lucky he even got paid.

Barnette took $1500 out of his own pocket to compensate Carew for his performance; he was supposed to be reimbursed by Jimmy Logan, the show's promoter, but Logan disappeared after the fight and his check to Barnette bounced. Other people have been stiffed as well, including the ring announcer, the ringside physician, and the judges. And since Logan did not pay the hotel in full, all the people who traveled to the fight from out of town had to pay for the last night of their stay.

Bos complained to Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, about the way the Carew situation was handled, operating under the assumption that it was essentially the ABC governing the fight in this non-commission state. Lueckenhoff's response to us was that Bos has been around the sport of boxing long enough to know that he shouldn't have let a fighter into the ring, no matter how short the notice, without a written contract in which terms were actually spelled out.

Well, yes and no. Yes, there's certainly a point to be made there, because no one can fully substantiate how long the fight was supposed to be, at least to Lueckenhoff's satisfaction, without the presence of a written contract. And Bos has been hoodwinked by enough people through the years to know that a handshake doesn't mean much.

However, from a supervisory perspective, the fight should not have been allowed to take place without a contract. And though Louisiana may not require such contracts to be filed, and the ABC may not either, there's no question they SHOULD. There is NO WAY a fight should be allowed to take place ANYWHERE without a contract, on file, with the local jurisdiction.

What if a fighter gets stiffed? What if a thieving manager took 75% of a kid's purse? What if a manager got paid on behalf of a fighter, then took the money and ran off with it? What if one fighter's connections look at the scorecards, and then decide the fight has to go extra rounds, which is not necessarily what Bos is claiming happened to Carew, but which could conceivably happen with no supervision? Is someone going to tell me that any of those things are consistent with the public interest, and that a mechanism shouldn't be in place to prevent them from happening, without forcing someone to go to court when they may not be able to afford it?

Maybe the problem lies in the fact that we don't know who really holds jurisdiction. For example, Federal law requires that fights in states without commissions be supervised by a commissioner from another state, with rules set forth by the ABC. But does this mean that the ABC, a trade association, has the authority to sanction a fight, or enforce certain rules?

If they do, how much accountability do they have for that which results from such enforcement, and who are they accountable TO?

Louisiana was the “supervising commission”. Well, what is the real plausibility of enforcing the laws of the state of Louisiana within the borders of the state of Alabama? Is anyone in Alabama compelled to obey those laws?

And if they are, doesn't that mean that ALL the Louisiana commission's rules should have effect, including the selection of ring officials and any laws that might exist regarding contracts for bouts?

Is there any set of Federal rules and regulations that should, or could, apply here?

Most importantly, if the duration of a fight is going to be extended arbitrarily; if contracts are not going to be required; if promoters are going to be allowed to operate without being bonded, stiffing people as a result, and if inexperienced personnel are going to be inserted as officials, wouldn't one have to question the necessity, not to mention the wisdom, of even having an outside supervisor from another state?

What purpose did it really serve?

We'd like to have gotten an answer from Embanato, but unfortunately, our attempts to secure comment from him were unsuccessful.

It seems to me that we have some very poorly written law here, and as usual, it's the product of what happens when no one consults with anybody who has been in the business of professional boxing.

But then again, what else is new?

“The sport of boxing really needs an enema,” says Bos.

As for what might come out – just use your imagination.

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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