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Articles of 2002

EFFECTS OF JOHNSON RULING WILL GO FAR BEYOND REMATCH ISSUE

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Sometime today, it will be announced that Duva Boxing, the promoter of Kirk Johnson, who was disqualified in a World Boxing Association heavyweight title fight against John Ruiz on July 27, has filed a formal appeal with the WBA, partially on the basis of a violation of Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's Championship Regulations, which calls for the presence of “neutral” officials (officials not of the same origin as either fighter) in title bouts where the fighters hail from different countries. This rule and its ramifications were covered in more detail in the previous chapter.

Johnson's people, who are seeking an immediate rematch, are also claiming that this lack of neutrality resulted in the appointment of Joe Cortez as the referee for the fight, and allege that “errors were committed by Mr. Cortez, some of them using bad judgment and some which clearly violated the written rules.” They also claim that they lodged protests about Cortez before the fight, to no avail.

Since the first story, suggesting this course of action, appeared a couple of days ago in TOTAL ACTION, I have received a minimal amount of negative feedback. Most of it filled two general categories:

“Why would we want to see this fight again?”,

and

“Johnson has no right to anything. He didn't complain BEFORE the fight.”

I'll be happy to address both of these objections.

First of all, as much of a consumer advocate as I like to think I am, this whole thing is not about whether the fight was bad, or whether YOU, the fan, want to see John Ruiz fight Kirk Johnson again. This is about a certain form of “justice” one side is seeking in this matter, as per its own perception of events. Whatever comes down as the final ruling on the Johnson appeal, the marketplace will take care of the situation, as it usually does. If the fight has no “appeal” (pardon the pun), it will sink; if enough people want to see a rematch, it will swim.

We'll get to the other objection in a few minutes.

With this appeal having been filed, the WBA now finds itself in a very interesting situation. It's both a quandary, and an opportunity, at the same time. I say that because the timing of this thing is such that it is bound to have some far-reaching effects on the way the sport is regulated on a championship level.

There's a potentially explosive situation brewing out there. Last week at the convention of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) in Miami, one hot topic of discussion was the conflict that occurred between the Indiana Commission and the World Boxing Council when it came to the selection of officials for the Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley fight; a battle in which Indiana commissioner Jake Hall was supported by the ABC, and by us too, I might add.

Deliberation on this issue got ugly, culminating in an exchange of insults between WBC officials and ABC attorneys. When all was said and done, a decision was reached on the recommendation that was to be made for inclusion into the proposed Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002 – it wasn't the compromise proposal suggested by yours truly in Chapter 41 of “Operation Cleanup”, but instead a provision which “requires that judges and referees be assigned for each match by the appropriate boxing commission WITHOUT the interference from sanctioning organizations.”

Translated, this means that war has been declared – between the sanctioning organizations on one side, and the ABC, and/or the United States Boxing Administration (if Senator McCain's bill eventually passes) on the other.

Believe me, there is going to be a tremendous amount of resistance on the part of the sanctioning bodies, who want to preserve, at least to some extent, their methods of appointing officials and implementing championship rules and regulations.

The first battleground could very well be Nevada, the only state, at least as of now, which takes sole and exclusive responsibility unto itself to name officials for world championship fights.

This exclusivity is what, in effect, precluded the WBA from implementing the aforementioned “neutrality” rule in its Championship Regulations – even partially.

I say “partially”, because in recent years the WBA has had great difficulty negotiating an entirely neutral set of officials for title fights here in the United States – something on which it has had no problem getting cooperation in virtually every other country in the world. The best they're usually able to do is get two neutral judges out of three (“neutral”, as per their definition in Rule 16.2). For the Ruiz-Johnson fight, they got none of that from Nevada.

This brings me around to answering the second objection I referred to earlier —

“Johnson has no right to anything. He didn't complain BEFORE the fight.”

There's something to be said for this, and no doubt any opposing forces would use it as a principal argument. Let me explain the difficulty with that argument, though:

To start with, Johnson's people assert that they DID protest to Nevada AND the WBA about Cortez, and claim to have some sort of documentation to back that up.

Aside from that, though……..

By virtue of its posture in this matter, Nevada was, for the most part, inflexible. As I explained in the preceding chapter, Marc Ratner told me the best he has prepared to do was to supply one international judge, and that judge (Stanley Christodoulou) was unavailable. Therefore, there were going to be four Nevada officials – no ifs, ands, or buts.

What that meant, virtually by definition, was that no protest, formal or otherwise, that was going to be made on the part of Kirk Johnson, was going to bring about a favorable result for him. There was not, under any circumstances, going to be anything other than Nevada officials in the fight; not that Ratner was breaking any of his own rules there – it happens to be part of his own regulations. However, the effect of this inflexibility was that Johnson could not avail himself of any kind of “due process” that might come with a protest, at least anything that wasn't going to be dismissed summarily, with the Nevada commission. That left him only an appeal to the WBA – after the fact.

Yeah, I know what many of you must be saying – “Well, if he didn't like the officials, he should have never gotten into the ring.”

If you don't mind, allow me to clue you in as to how the boxing world REALLY works –

Never mind Johnson's status as the mandatory challenger – that kind of thing can be changed in an instant by an organization that is so motivated. Stripped of any opportunity to file a formal protest that would have brought about anything in the way of a positive result, Kirk Johnson's alternatives pretty much came down to these –

1) To go ahead with the fight, with a team of officials that not only shared the same country of origin, but also the same state of residence, as his opponent; or

2) Pull out of the fight on “principle”, while in the process – losing a payday, possibly defaulting on a bonus, risking a blackball by the major television outlets, probably incurring more than one lawsuit (which costs money to contest, whether you're right or wrong), and quite possibly blowing his mandatory position as #1 challenger.

Not particularly appetizing.

If I had a fighter in that situation, I doubt I would have chosen Alternative #2. And I don't know too many other people in boxing who would either.

But there is something I can say with a relative degree of certainty – the WBA had better be very careful in the way it handles this matter.

If the WBA were to disallow Kirk Johnson's appeal – which, remember, is being made on the basis of the violation (or non-enforcement) of the “neutrality” rule – it will, in effect, be disavowing its own rule, declaring that it is, for all intents and purposes, moot, and unenforceable anywhere. Clearly it doesn't want to do that.

If the WBA were to turn down the appeal on the basis that its rule has effect everywhere BUT Nevada, it would be tantamount to saying that it is unenforceable in any state that will not allow it to be enforced, even partially. Anyone want to venture a guess as to how quickly all 43 states with boxing commissions might line up behind Nevada, with the encouragement of the ABC, if the WBA ruled in that manner?

Obviously they don't want to do that either.

Neither do these people want to give Johnson some kind of relief, then turn around and amend the rule on “neutrality” to make Nevada an exception to it, because that would more or less be opening the door for other states, who might wish to adopt a similar policy to Nevada's in the future.

The opportunity here exists in what may be the WBA's desire to make a statement, relative to the posture the ABC has adopted – that if need be, it is prepared to act independently of a ruling made by a local jurisdiction, if it feels such a ruling can serve to “right a wrong”, or if the involuntary omission of one of its rules may have legitimately had an impact on either the quality of the supervision of the fight, or the result itself.

Of course, such a practice can have a deleterious effect, if it is abused. So any organization – whether it's the WBA, the WBC, or the IBF – had better be sure they are indeed rectifying a injurious situation caused by factors that were out of their control, or else they're not going to have a leg to stand on with the public.

One thing that's important to remember – these parties are not going into a court of law for this process. This ruling will be made by the WBA and the WBA alone, and it will be made with a keen eye toward what is in the WBA's best interests.

And at the end of the day, the WBA and Kirk Johnson may just find that their interests are quite consistent with each other.

Is that good or bad? You decide for yourself.

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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