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Articles of 2002

WHY KIRK JOHNSON MUST BE GIVEN A REMATCH

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By now, all of you know the amount of controversy surrounding the July 27 fight between John Ruiz-Kirk Johnson for the WBA heavyweight title; a fight that ended in the tenth round with Johnson being disqualified due to low blows.

If you don't mind, we're going to take that controversy to a whole different level entirely.

Forget, for a moment, about whether you thought the blows landed by Johnson were really low, to the extent that the result of the fight should have been determined by them. Forget about whether referee Joe Cortez exercised sound judgment in the penalties he imposed for those low blows. Forget about the fact that Ruiz himself may have been guilty of at least one intentional foul, yet was not penalized by Cortez.

Let's put all that aside, for the time being.

What we're about to reveal here may change the very face of this dispute.

Until he was contacted by TOTAL ACTION on Monday (in the process of preparing this story for publication), Johnson's co-manager, Ken Lillian, was prepared to file protests with the WBA and the Nevada commission on the premise that at least three, and possibly all four, of the low blows that were cited by Cortez, including the one that ended the fight, were calls of a highly questionable nature.

“Kirk was hitting Ruiz with good body shots that were called low blows,” contends Lillian.

A judgment call, to be sure.

But for purposes of this story – and this series – I'd like to bring up an issue that has heretofore NOT been explored, but which may indeed be larger, because it concerns not just this fight, but hundreds of fights that will take place in the near future.

It's the subject of the conflict that exists between state commissions, sanctioning organizations and professional fighters regarding championship rules.

The question is – which rules can take precedence, and what should be done when there is some reasonable doubt as to which rules should apply?

This question stems out of the fact that the World Boxing Association, which sanctioned the fight, seemingly didn't follow its own regulations governing championship bouts.

Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's “World Championship Regulations and Rules”, covering “Officials”, states,

“The officials appointed by the President to act in any Championship fight shall be

NEUTRAL

, this being understood to mean that they shall not be of the same nationality, residence or origin of the champion or of the challenger.”

In other words, if, say, one fighter were from America and the other were from Canada, NO officials could be from EITHER country.

Such a rule makes some sense, considering that this practice of “neutrality” in the selection of officials is followed in virtually every other country in the world.

It is important to note that nothing in the WBA regulations provides for an exception to this rule, even under extraneous circumstances ( and we were unable to secure comment from WBA officials in connection with this story).

According to his official website, John Ruiz was born in Methuen, Massachusetts. He is a citizen of the United States. Kirk Johnson trains in the U.S., but there are a lot of foreign fighters who do that. The fact is, Johnson is officially a resident of Nova Scotia and a citizen (not to mention a native) of Canada. He is in the U.S. on a “celebrity visa”, which allows him to ply his trade here in the States.

It's readily apparent the fighters are from two different countries. Therefore, Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's Championship Regulations should have taken effect.

Shouldn't it?

Clearly there is an inherent conflict with the Nevada rules and regulations.

Chapter 467, Paragraph 214 of the Nevada Administrative Code mandates that “the commission will select and approve all ring officials.”

According to Paragraph 219, “A majority of the commission will select the referee for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events.”

And finally, Paragraph 225 states, “A majority of the commission will select the judges for the main event in championship contests and for any other contests or exhibitions which the commission considers to be special events.”

It seems the WBA did not seek the enforcement of its own regulations here, and did not exactly press the issue. Of course, there are reasons for that.

Marc Ratner, director of the Nevada commission, asserts that having all neutral officials for the fight (“neutral” being defined as from neither the country of the champion or challenger) was not going to be a possibility.

“We would have given them one international judge”, he said, “but we were going to have two Nevada judges and a Nevada referee.”

Ratner refers to Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa as a judge he would have cheerfully included. But Christodoulou was in Japan, and not available for that fight.

According to Ratner, Johnson's camp did not submit anything in the way of protest prior to the fight.

“They (Johnson's camp) were very happy with all Nevada officials,” says Ratner. “And they indicated they would have been happy with Christodoulou too.”

Even though law may exist in Nevada to provide for this set of circumstances, and indeed such law was implemented, does this necessarily mean that Kirk Johnson does not have a legitimate grounds for an appeal with the World Boxing Association, an organization which should, by rights, be able to make its own ruling on the fight that is independent of whatever was done in Nevada – perhaps not as regards the verdict itself (a disqualification), but in terms of what might provide relief in the immediate future?

And even though it seems Nevada's rules concerning officials wound up applying here, does that mean that its regulations necessarily usurp those of the sanctioning body, by law, or merely that Nevada has a certain amount of “leverage” with the sanctioning bodies by virtue of its juxtaposition to the casino industry, which provides the site fees needed to put on major fights? In other words, do they name their own officials, without any interference, because it's RIGHT, or because they have the ability to do it and get away with it?

It may seem like a small point to some, but actually, there is a degree of significance to it that is not inconsequential.

It could mean the difference between Johnson's camp being able to successfully appeal the process and not being able to.

There appears to be nothing in writing to indicate that the WBA arbitrarily conceded all of its own championship regulations in favor of those used in Nevada. And according to Lillian, as well as Gary Johnson, Kirk's father and advisor, they were not presented with the alternative of having three “neutral” judges and a “neutral” referee. That assertion makes sense, in light of what Ratner has told us.

Appeals can be filed when one party feels a WBA regulation has been violated. We can reasonably conclude a couple of things —

1) That there has indeed been a violation, or at the very least, a non-enforcement, of the WBA rules; and

2) That there is no document signed by the Johnson camp in which it waived its rights and protections under the WBA rules – certainly this answers a question that would be addressed in civil court, if that's what it came down to.

Let's elaborate on this a little more. Consider that Ruiz is now a Las Vegas resident, something that is well-documented by now – he'd been referred to as such by many pre-fight newspaper stories and also by HBO's announcers during the pre-fight introductions. Cortez, the referee, is, like Ruiz, an American of Puerto Rican extraction.

Doesn't this go one step further in violatiing the spirit of “neutrality”?

After all, if this fight had been held in Toronto's Air Canada Centre, and judges from Montreal, Halifax, and Edmonton been named, with a referee from Vancouver, would Ruiz' people have stood still for it? I doubt I'd even have to call Tony Cardinale, a square guy who is Ruiz' lawyer and co-manager, to get the answer to that one.

We have discovered that if an appeal is going to be made to the WBA, it has to be made by the end of business on Wednesday. According to Article 5 of the WBA's Appeal Regulations, not only does the appeal have to be accompanied by all of the relevant subject matter and documentation, WITH a check for $5000 attached, it also “should be proposed within a term of eight (8) business days counted from the date in which the decision had been dictated or issued……….” Since the fight took place on July 27, a Saturday, the eighth business day forward would be August 7.

So if Johnson's people want to take advantage of this information, they had better hurry up.

Certainly no one can fault Nevada for wanting to enforce its own rules. And considering the state of relations between the sanctioning bodies and certain factions of the Association of Boxing Commissions, the commission there would get plenty of support in doing so.

But I don't think that should mean that a fighter, with a lot of money, not to mention a title, on the line, should fall victim when there is an ambiguity or conflict that can be interpreted to have a material effect on the process by which the contest is regulated, whether it's by the local jurisdiction or the sanctioning body.

I may get a chorus of boos on this one, but from what the World Boxing Association has presented as the way it conducts business at the championship level, and those things I know to be factual, I can come to one conclusion, and one conclusion only.

Kirk Johnson deserves to be granted an immediate rematch by the WBA.

Whether you really want to see it or not.

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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