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Articles of 2002

BOXING BILL? BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL

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A lot of people ask me why I'm not giving a lot of coverage to the “Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002”, the new legislation that is currently in circulation in Congress. No doubt it's a legitimate question. And so I like to think I have a legitimate answer for you.

Let's give a little background first, for those who haven't paid much attention. This bill, S2500, is to be “marked up” today, where it will be voted through committee and placed into a “queue”, from which it will be slated for debate on the Senate floor. How soon that happens probably depends on how seamlessly it can be fit into the schedule between other, more important bills that will take longer to debate.

From there, the Senate will vote on it. If it passes, it will then go to the House of Representatives. If the House passes it, it will be submitted to the President for signature, at which point it would become law. Then the procedure for nominating and appointing the so-called national boxing “czar” will take place.

Much has been made over the fact that Nevada Senator Harry Reid (Democrat), who has a competing bill, will serve as a stumbling block for this legislation to pass. Reid's bill, which is called the National Boxing Commission Act, is, on balance, superior to the aforementioned Professional Boxing Amendments Act. The fundamental difference between the substance of Reid's bill and the Amendments Act, which is sponsored by John McCain, is that Reid insists upon the licensing of commercial networks as “promoters”, and favors a five-person committee, rather than a single boxing “administrator”, sitting at the top of the regulatory structure.

It also centralizes authority a little more, leaving less in the hands of incompetent (for the most part) state boxing commissions. Of course, that's also the problem with the bill, in that states are not likely to be willing to give up too much in the way of sovereign rights.

Nevertheless, when all is said and done, Reid is going to have to be fully satisfied in some way, considering his position as Majority Whip of the Senate. McCain has already taken a step toward him, including a change in the Boxing Amendments Act to facilitate regulation of networks as promoters.

So why is it that I haven't paid much lip service to all this?

Because, frankly, I'm not sure any of it really matters.

First of all, the Boxing Amendments Act has to pass. And through the years, better legislation than this poorly-written mess has been put forward and died in the House or Senate.

And considering we've been through more than fifty chapters in this series, trying to bring many of the REAL-WORLD issues in boxing into the discourse, it's quite remarkable – and equally as alarming – how few of those issues, which carry serious weight, have even been addressed by this, or any other legislation. The most important matters that could possibly be covered – things like the conflicts of interests involving network employees who also promote fights and fighters (i.e., Russell Peltz at ESPN), the establishment of a practical process in the selection of officials for championship fights, the regulation of relationships between promoters and fighters, malfeasance on the part of boxing commissions, or a system for arbitrating disputes between parties that are subject to licensure, just to name a few, are avoided like the plague.

Why? Because those who put together this bill, and other bills before it, have made the conscious decision to consult with nitwits or those with only self-interest at heart instead of honest, experienced people who actually have a working knowledge of the boxing industry. And, quite possibly, because they're lazy, ignorant, indifferent, or all three.

Before “Operation Cleanup” was published, they may have had an excuse for their lack of knowledge. Now there ARE no excuses. Who could be faulted for coming to the conclusion but that these people just don't give a damn about the long-term interests of boxing, but rather a short-term interest that might satisfy a political objective?

Much of the blame has to be laid at the feet of Senator John McCain. He brought aboard a guy named Kenneth Nahigian – one of those “instant experts” who has never had a clue – to write the bill and screen the people who would be considered for the position of boxing “czar”. You should see his list of candidates (actually, you WILL, a couple of chapters from now). Some of these people, and who they represent, should actually be the SUBJECT of an investigation, rather than the ones who would be empowered with DIRECTING an investigation. But then again, that's what you wind up with when you don't know a goddamn thing.

At the beginning of this process, I was more than willing to help out. I wrote a letter to Nahigian, explaining what I would be doing and offering any assistance I could. Example – “I am not interested in detracting from the campaign to better the sport and business of professional boxing, but rather, to ensure that the correct path is taken to addressing the problems that have plagued it. I'm sure that you share my concern, and recognize that I can be of help to any sincere effort.”

I'll tell you what his response was, and I'll quote this directly:

“I don't know how you got this e-mail address, but I would appreciate if you would never use it again.”

That told me everything I needed to know about who and what Nahigian was, right there. And if that doesn't tell you enough about him, in the process of gathering information for the purposes of putting together a “boxing reform” measure, he's actually utilized Russell Peltz as a “consultant”! Perhaps that explains why Peltz, who has committed some of the most egregious violations against the best interests of boxing, not to mention the public interest, and whose case study should actually serve as a CATALYST for useful boxing reform legislation, has not, and WILL not, be touched in any way, shape or form, if Nahigian has his way.

It's one thing to construct a useless bill. It's quite another to be an “enabler”, which appears to be what Nahigian is.

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing – inasmuch as we're well past fifty chapters in this series, for which I have received unanimous praise, do you think – just maybe – that it might have done this guy any good to have a little dialogue with me somewhere along the way?

Not that Nahigian would even hesitate to take an original story of mine and transform it into some political capital for himself and his boss. On July 17, someone faxed him a copy of Chapter 35 of this series, entitled “Hijacking in the Hoosier State”, and about ten minutes later he was at the word processor, typing a letter to the WBC on behalf of McCain (which was later shown on HBO) that was completely based on the “Operation Cleanup” story, making each and every one of the points I had already made in Chapter 35, about the fiasco in Indiana which took place when it came to the selection of officials for the Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley fight.

I'm almost sorry I enabled HIM.

By the way Ken, notwithstanding the fact that your e-mail address (

Kenneth_Nahigian@commerce.senate.gov

) is public, I got it from Tim Lueckenhoff, President of the Association of Boxing Commissioners, who apparently thought it was important enough that I have it.

So now you know.

It's interesting that every one of these chapters has been sent via e-mail to a rather large mailing list of boxing people, and NOT ONCE have I gotten a reply even remotely resembling that of “I don't know how you got this e-mail address, but I would appreciate if you would never use it again.”

But maybe I shouldn't be surprised if everyone on that list cared more about the future of boxing than one Kenneth Nahigian.

Another thing that has brought up on these pages before is that what matters infinitely more than the quality of the LAW is the quality of the PEOPLE who are going to carry out that law. I don't know when people are going to wake up to this piece of reality. If you're talking about the state commission structure being responsible for enforcing the law and identifying violators, you're in trouble, because then you are trusting enforcement to a group of which 80%-90% are either incompetent, uninterested, uninformed, or corrupt. And the people they consider to be the most knowledgeable are often the ones who are the most clueless.

As long as you have the same people in place, what in the world is going to be any different about the QUALITY of regulation?

No one has to school me on any of this – I've seen it in action. And as for any boxing “writer” who thinks all of this is a wonderful thing for the game – go out and spend ten years learning what this industry is all about, THEN come back and give me your opinion, okay?

Go ahead – sit there with a straight face and tell me that you actually FAVOR a group which numbers Jack “Mr. Negligence” Kerns among its LEADERSHIP having control over ANY part of the process of regulating boxing on a grand scale, and I'll laugh you right out of this business.

Well, apparently John McCain, Byron Dorgan, and Ken Nahigian feel that way.

Think about it.

I'm too busy laughing.

I'm also tired right now. This conversation is to be continued…………..

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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