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Articles of 2002

ABC EXECS SHARE COMMON THREAD WITH KERNS

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Somehow, I managed to get my grubby little hands on an e-mail transmission today, which reads like this:

“Vice President Jack Kerns is performing a survey on behalf of the ABC to obtain information regarding the annual conference which was held at the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming. Of the thirty-two of commissions attending the meeting only 15 have returned the survey thus far……..Thanks for taking the time to fillout the survey, it will assist in setting the agenda for the next meeting.”

The letter is signed – “Tim Lueckenhoff, President – Association of Boxing Commissions”.

Tremendous news, to say the least – Jack Kerns will be assisting in setting the agenda for the next meeting.

It's just so laughable.

If you're like me, you have been wondering why in the world an organization like the Association of Boxing Commissions, which would aspire to respectability, would allow for Kentucky commission chairman Jack Kerns to stay on as a First Vice-President and member of the Executive Board.

The answer may lie in incidents that have taken place within the jurisdictions of some of the other members of the board.

In the last few years, there have been ring tragedies of one kind or another associated with at least five of the eight members of the ABC's Board of Directors. Of course, some of them have been unforeseen – including that of Pedro Alcazar, who collapsed and died, apparently without explanation, two days after fighting for the WBO super-flyweight title in Las Vegas (Marc Ratner's jurisdiction).

Others are borderline in nature – for example, in Oklahoma, which is overseen by Steve Bayshore, the Secretary of the ABC, a junior middleweight named Dyirell Crayton had to undergo emergency brain surgery after being knocked out in a fight against Stephan Pryor on December 14, 2001. Proper medical personnel were on the scene at Tulsa's Creek Nation Bingo, but there is legitimate doubt as to whether the fight should have been approved.

Pryor, the son of former junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor, did not have a big reputation as a puncher, and sported just a 5-1 record. But Crayton had lost nine of his last ten fights, and in a bout eight months earlier against undefeated Israel Escandon, he was knocked unconscious for over 30 seconds. In the interim, he had also been suspended from Texas after a four-round stoppage loss to former Olympian Dante Craig.

On January 23 of 2000, in Venice Beach, Fla. – within the territory of ABC Vice-President Chris Meffert, Emiliano Valdez, a junior welterweight out of the Dominican Republic by way of Pahokee, Fla., went into a coma after a tenth-round KO loss to Teddy Reid. On March 23 of this year, Valdez died. The fight was competitive, as it should have been – Reid has gone on to win NABF titles at 140 and 147 pounds, and Valdez had a 10-2-1 record going into that bout, with losses only to then-undefeated Kassim Ouma and Kofi Jantuah.

At the time, there were arguments as to whether referee Brian Garry should have stopped the fight earlier, especially as Valdez seemed dazed in the fifth round and had been staggered on other occasions afterward. And criticism also arose about Valdez' trainer, Nelson Lopez, who sensed his fighter was badly hurt, but did not throw in the towel.

“How could I stop the fight?”, Lopez told reporters. “They would have said, `It's ridiculous, a trainer bringing a fighter and not letting him fight.' I don't want anyone to get hurt, but that's the sport we choose.”

Subsequently, the Florida commission became aware of another of Lopez' fighters – an amateur named Elijah Fenwick, who had died just a week before the Valdez fight, from injuries that were suffered in a January 11 sparring session at Lopez' Pahokee gym. In an astonishing revelation, it surfaced that Fenwick had a history of seizures, and that he had been hit in the head with a baseball bat before moving to Florida from Michigan. Lopez said he had no idea of Fenwick's history.

Colorado's Joe Mason, one of the ABC's regional directors, met with some misfortune in the very first fight card his commission had charge of.

This was the substance of a wire story published on April 19, 2001:

“PUEBLO, Colo. — A boxer who collapsed from a brain injury after winning his first pro bout was in critical, unstable condition Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Cresencio Mercado, 19, won the featherweight match with a first-round knockout Saturday night and climbed on top of the ring ropes, waving his arms in celebration. But when he returned to his corner, his legs started shaking and he fell to the canvas.

Mercado, a former state Golden Gloves champion, sustained a brain injury and was listed in critical, unstable condition at Parkview Medical Center, spokeswoman Tressa Panepinto said.

Originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, Mercado is the sixth of seven brothers and is well known in Pueblo. He attended Central High School last year.”

Two days later, Mercado died of a brain hemorrhage.

Once again, we weren't dealing with a fighter who, on the surface, was not capable – Mercado was a good amateur, who had lost in the quarterfinals to Brian Viloria in the U.S. Amateur Boxing Championships in 1999.

It's not that we find any particular fault with these commissions. But it would offer a sufficient explanation if there were, say, a certain level of sensitivity to the kind of non-enforcement of safety laws that has put Kerns squarely in the hot seat.

Lueckenhoff, the ABC president, may have a higher level of sensitivity than anyone.

In Missouri, where Lueckenhoff serves as director of the commission, two fighters have met with tragedy in the ring – one of them died, the other suffered extensive brain damage.

The fatality involved Randie Carver, a world-class light heavyweight who died as a result of injuries sustained in a foul-filled September 1999 bout in Kansas City against Kabary Salem. Subsequent to that fight, questions were raised – originally by Salem's manager, Scott Massoud, and later seconded by others – about the role played by Ross Strada, the referee.

Massoud claimed that a close personal relationship between Strada and Carver prompted the referee to let the fight go much longer than it should have.

“If he had stopped the fight and Randie lost, due to the stoppage, he would have been blamed for his loss,” Massoud told the Associated Press. “And that's something the referee didn't want. I'm not bad-mouthing (Strada), but we could've been out of there a lot sooner.”

A lawsuit later filed by Carver's family names Strada as a defendant. And despite working on behalf of a state regulatory agency, Strada was in no way protected by state law when it came to liability – a fact he wasn't made aware of at the time.The state of Missouri has not stepped forward to offer him any protection whatsoever. Obviously, that's not a good message to send when your state's administrator is head of the national trade organization. But such is the way of boxing regulation. And it's not too unusual. Officials usually have to go to an outside agency, such as the National Association of Sports Officials, to get any insurance coverage at all.

The other Missouri situation brings its own degree of intrigue, for different reasons.

Fernando Ibarra Maldonado, a bantamweight, was knocked out in the sixth round of a fight on January 29, 1999 (just 7-1/2 months before Carver) against Thailand's Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, in a fight which took place at the Regal Riverfront Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Maldonado was able to get up and out of the ring but was unaccompanied by any medical personnel on the way to his dressing room. No doctor came back to examine him, as might be considered routine, in order to determine the extent of injury. A few minutes later, he collapsed, and it took a full THIRTY-FOUR minutes to get him to the hospital, simply because there was no ambulance on the premises.

Maldonado suffered a torn vein in his brain, which caused swelling and permanent brain damage. He fell into a coma, and though he thankfully survived, he had to spend two months in the hospital before being released. He later sued Gateway Holdings, owner of the Regal Riverfront Hotel, because it had a contract with the promoter requiring that an ambulance be present, and apparently the hotel did not make sure that the clause was enforced.

It was the contention of Maldonado's attorneys that had an ambulance been available, intra-cranial pressure would have been relieved and brain damage may have been prevented.

The week-long trial resulted in a $41.1 million judgment for Maldonado, the largest in Missouri for the year up to that time (until the same firm won a bigger judgment against Bridgestone). However, since the judge failed to adequately instruct the jurors on the matter of punitive damages, it was taken away, and the plaintiff (Maldonado) held onto $13.7 in compensatory damages, a figure that is now on appeal.

Why wasn't the Missouri “Office of Athletics” sued as well? Good question. The answer is that Missouri did not require that an ambulance be present for safety purposes at a professional fight, so therefore they weren't violating state law in the course of their own supervision.

“From the day I started working on this case, I thought that was outrageous,” said John Simon, who served as lead attorney for Maldonado. “I was shocked to hear that the ambulance wasn't a requirement.”

That's correct – the commission headed by Tim Lueckenhoff, who now also heads the ABC, didn't feel it important enough to mandate an ambulance, for reasons that, in part, can be interpreted from Lueckenhoff's testimony at the trial, which he entered on behalf of the defense.

“He (Lueckenhoff) testified in court that it was a matter of money; that there were local, small promoters who couldn't afford to pay a few hundred bucks for an ambulance on site,” said Simon.

Fortunately for Lueckenhoff, there were Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) on the scene, so there was no violation of the Professional Boxer Safety Act on the part of his commission.

But it's a poor example nonetheless.

Does Missouri require an ambulance NOW? Sure it does.

What's sad is that it seemed to take an incident like this to persuade Missouri to change its rules to promote safety. Of course, that's not much different than the way it unfolded in Kentucky, is it?

It had been reported that Maldonado's manager had been suspended in Mexico after another of his fighters died in the ring – that fact may or may not be material to the discussion. Mexican suspensions are generally not recognized by commissions in the United States.

What IS important is that the wisdom of approving this match in the first place must be questioned. Maldonado, who fought under the name Francisco Ibarra, came into the fight with a record of 5-3-3 with no knockouts, and only 47 rounds of professional experience. The furthest he had gone in a fight was six rounds. He had also been matched questionably just a couple of months earlier, against contender Will Grigsby, in a fight that ended in a one-round technical draw.

By contrast, his opponent, Sor Vorapin, sported a 35-3 record, with 303 professional rounds under his belt. He fought Mark Johnson for the IBF 115-pound title in his very next fight and subsequently challenged Tim Austin for the IBF bantamweight crown.

Clearly two completely different classes of fighter in the ring.

Clearly a lack of proper safety provisions present at the site of a professional show, regardless of the prevailing law.

Clearly a tragic result.

Clearly something that could have been avoided.

Clearly an awful example being set.

Clearly an item for the “agenda” when the ABC meets again.

Go ahead and put THAT in your survey.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

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

$*%@#!

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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

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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